You made the sale. Now what?
We typically put a lot of money and time into making sales. We invest in market research and advertising campaigns. We run promotions, print nice catalogs and brochures, and spend hours training our sales staff.
But for many companies, the effort stops or is significantly reduced once the sale is made. Instructional materials are typically an afterthought, packaging designs that look great on the shelf are an origami puzzle once you open the box, and customer support is virtually non-existent.
Companies are willing to spend a lot of money to win over a customer in the first place, but seem to avoid investing more than the bare minimum into keeping that customer. Considering the value of repeat customers and word-of-mouth advertising through brand advocates, this whole neglect of the post-sale world seems, well, silly. In a recent post by Andrew Kokes in the Forbes Community Voice, he states “Customers with successfully resolved issues are more likely to interact or transact with that brand again.” Doesn’t it make sense to show your customers that you also appreciate them after they buy?
So how do you improve the post-purchase experience for your customers? Here are a few tips to get you started. Some of these may not apply to every product, for example, a service or downloadable product typically doesn’t need packaging, or a super simple product may not require assembly or operating instructions.
1. Think about your packaging design
Typically, packaging is intended to serve two primary purposes: Protect the product from damage or theft during shipping and in-store, and to provide useful information to the consumer on shelf. However, packaging should not leave a customer frustrated and angry.
Some helpful considerations include:
Provide important information such as assembly instructions or packing lists on top.
Package parts so that they are removed in the order they are needed for assembly.
Protect parts from damage – but don’t overpackage them.
Consider including useful information such as unpacking instructions or “help” information on the inside packaging flaps so that consumers see it as they open the box—it’s often unused space!
2. Provide clear and appropriate instructions
In many cases, the instructions you provide with a product are the last communication you have with your customer. Shouldn’t it be something that makes a positive and lasting impression of your brand? I have seen too many high-quality products cheapened by poorly executed instructions. If a customer gets frustrated trying to assemble or use the product, odds are good it will get returned or put in the next garage sale box – and anyone who asks will hear about it.
What do I mean by clear and appropriate? Well-written copy, supported by helpful and relevant illustrations, can make a huge difference in how well customers will understand and follow any instructions you provide. Ensure that the content is useful and organized in a logical sequence—don’t get into technical details that don’t matter, and keep information in the order that users will need it. If it’s a product that requires assembly or installation, think about how the reader will need to interact with the both the product and the instructions, by using larger type and images, or minimizing page turns.
In addition, think about your brand and the image you want to portray. You are willing to invest in colorful brochures printed on nice paper, so why reduce the user instructions to something that tells the customer “Well, you already bought it, so why should I care about you now?” Let your customers know you value them by providing them with a positive experience through quality content and materials.
3. Connect with your customers
Hopefully you have already captured contact information from your customers. If you haven’t, encourage them to connect with you. This can be done through product registration, which helps you better understand who is buying your products, as well as providing a way to support warranty and service coverage. Many products suffer from extremely low registration rates, which means a lot of consumer information gets lost. Give them an incentive, like a free gift, even if it’s something as simple as an ebook or a discount on accessories or supplies.
Or it could be done by encouraging them to join a community of people with similar interests, for example, to share recipes or project ideas. Establishing an “official” Facebook or Pinterest profile for your brand or product, for example, can help encourage discussion and make consumers feel like they are part of a special group.
Showing your customers that you are interested in them and their interests, and creating conversations around your product can help immensely with planning new products and planning, and can alert you to potential product issues before they become a crisis.
4. Provide solid support if something goes wrong
Standing behind your product after it’s sold usually feels more like an unfortunate necessity, rather than an opportunity. And you did provide a warranty, whatever the terms may be, so can you check off that box, right? Sure, if you really don’t mind losing customers, and even worse, losing potential customers from customers sharing a bad experience.
So what do I mean by solid support? It can take a lot of forms, depending on the product you are selling, what kind of resources you have, and your overall business and communications strategy. Some of the most common solutions include a dedicated customer service line, an FAQ page on your website, or email.
However, if you really want to make a positive impression, take it to the next level.
For example, rather than having an FAQ page or troubleshooting tips buried on your website, create an easy-to-find dedicated landing page to provide additional information in a variety of forms, such as video and animations, downloadable documents, and easy access to additional help such as email or chat. If it makes sense for your product, support it with an app that provides them with access to helpful information at the product.
Make your customer service or help line easy to navigate – avoid the endless maze of automated menus that tend to make most customers give up in frustration. Provide real, live support, and keep in mind that your customers don’t just have problems or questions between 8 and 5 on weekdays.
Keep an eye on social media, especially if you have a page for your company. Be an active part of the discussion, and jump in to offer support when needed. By showing customers that you are listening and willing to help, you help build trust.
There are many more ways to provide customers with an excellent post-purchase experience, but they all tie back to one final concept. Perhaps this last one goes without saying, but it seems to be forgotten more and more today: Go above and beyond. Whether it’s “bending the rules” a bit by servicing a product that is out of warranty by a few days, expediting a replacement part, or simply taking the time to listen, showing people you really do value your customers will encourage them to come back to you or their next purchase. And they will likely tell others about their positive experience.