Customer expectations are at an all-time high.
And it’s just going to get higher.
Zappos, Starbucks, Ritz-Carlton and many other brands are continuously pushing the bar. Now, as a matter of divine right, customers expect great service not just for big-ticket and expensive purchases, but for every kind of transaction, and for every step of the buying process.
So businesses are looking at all the different ways to meet those expectations, while also creating differentiation for their brands. And one aspect of the buying process that often gets relegated to the back burner is the “after-sales” part. (This is when the customer has already made the purchase and has taken the product back home.)
As we shall soon see after the sales is where some of the most effective branding and marketing happens.
In this post, we are going to look at the keys to an amazing after-sales service.
#1 Keep Consistent Communication
So many businesses forget the customers after the purchase. And for the customer, it almost feels like they’ve pulled a fast one on you. It’s like they took your money and ran.
But by regularly communicating with customers, (you did, of course, build your email list, right?) you are saying, “I’m here!”—which makes you top of mind once the time comes for the next purchase.
Staying in contact after the sale takes time and effort, but is always worth it:
Communicating with your customers builds trust.
Communicating with your customers boosts engagement.
Communicating with your customers breeds loyalty.
There are many reasons to fire up an email to your list and stay relevant:
- Customer appreciation letters
- Greetings on holidays, special occasions and their birthdays.
- When there’s a big event, like in sports, or when a big weather system is barreling down (eg. “Stay safe!”)
- For giving genuinely useful information
- For updates
- For new product launches
- For exclusive looks and sneak peeks
- For promos, cross-selling, upselling
- For success stories and testimonials
- For surveys, polls and feedback
Go easy on the selling. Be more focused on building engagement with your base.
#2 Combat Buyer’s Remorse
The job is not done after the purchase. We can actually say that it is just the beginning, or that it sets up the next purchase.
“Buyer’s Remorse” is the feeling of regret or anxiety that a person may experience after making a purchase. It happens due to a number of reasons, from having high expectations to impulse buying.
Retailers should look at combat buyer’s remorse because if the brand is consistently paired with that negative feeling, then buyers will soon wise up and stop buying.
Now there are a number of ways buyer’s remorse can be combatted before the purchase. But some of the ways it can be alleviated after the sales are through:
- Follow-up Communication—We’ve already mentioned this earlier, but being there after the sale is a strong indication of your confidence in your product. Communication builds satisfaction. It boosts your customer’s belief that he or she made the right decision and helps them take a more positive view of the product, preventing the good old buyer’s remorse.
- Additional product training—Sometimes folks do not get the most out of the products they buy because might not have truly grasped the many ways it can be used. For example, if a consumer buys a food processor, she might have shelved it after one or two uses. Reaching out and teaching them the many different ways it can help in food preparation can open customers’ eyes and increase its usage rate.
- Group/Club/Community formation—Retailers could take the lead in forming clubs or groups for their users. Create an online group for owners of a particular car model, for example. Knowing that other people made the same purchase gives them confidence that they made the right choice and helps ward off buyer’s remorse.
(As a bonus, a club or an online community that you own is a captured audience for your future advertising and marketing efforts.)
#3 Embrace Complaints as Opportunities
After the sale has been made, happy customers are rarely ever heard from. They’re satisfied with the product or service and they just move on with their lives. But there will be a vocal group who will be calling your attention via phone, email or message, to express their displeasure or complain about this and that, pointing out how disappointed they are in the business.
Regardless of how perfect your operations may be, any business will hit some snags and is bound to get some complaints. That’s part of doing business.
But instead of looking at complaints as unwanted hassles from difficult clients, look at it as a service, marketing or branding opportunity.
In spite of any initial complaint, customers who come away from the interaction feeling heard, and believing that their issue has spurred action from the company, actually come away with a more positive view of the business.
So don’t view complaints as all negative. Handled right, it can actually boost a company’s image.
There are all sorts of opportunities during these interactions. Just think, businesses spend millions just to get people’s attention. You have this person who is giving you his/her undivided attention. When you email him back, he will definitely click that email open and read every word it contains. How many get an opportunity like that?
Complaints are chances to get genuine, ground-zero feedback from your customers. Albeit, from an irate tone, it is a spring of insights nonetheless. It is also another chance to delight your customers. You are actually given another shot to bolster your brand.
To handle complaints, you need to remember these things:
- Take time to listen. (Before acting or speaking, give enough time for the customers to vent or tell their stories.)
- Never argue with a customer. (Do not litigate or interrogate. It is pointless and counterproductive.)
- Admit to the fault, apologize and express empathy. (Oftentimes, this is what folks are really waiting for.)
- Commit to action. (If there’s a possibility for restitution or redemption, tell the customer the actions that will be taken to address the issue.)
- Follow Through. (Without any delay, have the urgency to resolve the issue.)
You can’t please them all. You can’t win them all. But these should help get many back to the fold.
#4 Honor Your Return and Refund Policies
Assume all the risks in the transaction.
Having a return and refund policy will encourage more people to do business with you.
These self-questions are stopping people from getting your product.
What if I don’t like it?
What if it breaks after a few uses?
What if it doesn’t meet my requirements after all?
What if it doesn’t fit?
Do I have to make up my mind right now?
All these questions and self-doubts get demolished when customers know that they can simply return the items NO QUESTIONS ASKED.
You’re, of course, assuming here that you will be doing business with decent individuals (which is a very good place to start.)
Let’s say you’re business is evening gowns. Even if they end up wearing the dress that night and returning it the next day, you still got free promotion for your brand. (Hey, which is what the major brands do!)
Having these policies reduce much of the friction in buying. And yes, there are limited losses for having these policies in place. But what you get in return and in the long run is so much more:
- Customer Satisfaction
- Competitive Advantage
- Trust and Reputation
- Reducing Buyer’s Remorse
With great after-sales service, you are putting your brand top of the minds of your customers, so that instead of one-time buyers, you turn satisfied customers into loyal advocates. By exceeding expectations and building trust, you offer a lasting honeymoon that keeps customers coming back for more.
But before you even get to the “after-sale,” you need the customer to trust you and buy your product or service. This requires a great marketing team that can promote your values and design an offering that stands out from the rest of the market.
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