A bad buying experience can cost your organisation in a big way! We’ve all had the experience of trying to buy a product but abandoning the purchase out of frustration! I don’t have a figure for the UK, but in the US, poor customer experiences result in an estimated $80 billion loss by US enterprises each year. Interestingly, 80% of businesses believe they provide excellent customer service, but only 8% of customers agree.
The buying experience is also relevant to companies selling in a business to business environment (B2B), for example, business goods, business technology, utilities, telecommunications, etc. It is so important to get right, so when a manager from a small-sized B2B company asked for a quick piece of advice, I wanted to help. She needed to improve the buying experience but wasn’t clear about how to approach the task. This is what I suggested – I hope you find it useful.
- Clarify the business rationale for wanting to improve the buying experience. For example, is it to acquire more customers, improve retention rates, or increase the order value, etc.? This will focus your efforts on which parts of the buying experience to improve
- Define the buying experience as it is today. Be clear on who the buyers, users and decision makers are. If you sell through different channels, include this too.
- Gather information by conducting calls, face-to-face interviews and surveys with customers to (1) sense check the ‘as is’ buying experience and (2), to understand customers’ needs (rational and emotional), their frustrations and their improvement suggestions. Make sure you talk to the correct people, ask the right questions, listen carefully to their answers, and observe their body language during the interviews!
- Also, ask your sales and customer services staff for input. Three useful questions are:
- What are the biggest frustrations facing our customers?
- What questions do new customers repeatedly ask?
- If you could change anything about our products, the packaging, the instructions leaflet, the website, invoicing, after-sales service, or anything else, what would it be?
- Research examples of best-in-class buying experiences in your market and other markets (B2B and B2C). Use this as a baseline for what ‘good looks like’ and as a creative stimulus in an ideas workshop – see step 7 below
- Collate all the above information
- Run a creative workshop to come up with ideas for new ways to improve the buying experience based on the needs of customers. Invite the right mix of staff to the event including people who will be involved in implementing the changes.
- Prioritise the improvements based on business impact and feasibility
- Visualise the new buying experience and sense check it with customers. Iterate based on their feedback
- Implement quick wins asap followed by a full implementation of the new buying experience. Let customers know about.
- While you enjoy the business benefits, never stop putting yourself in your customers’ shoes!
If you are a startup business, two key questions are:
- Do customers know about you?
- Is it easy for them to find information about your products, and trial and buy your products?
Remember, revenue only comes from one place – the customer.
What can you do to improve the buying experience for your clients?
About the author
Gerard Harkin is the founder of 3inno – an innovation consultancy based in Brighton. He holds an MBA from the University of Brighton. Since 2008 he has been a visiting lecturer on innovation management for the University of Brighton’s MBA programme.
With twenty-five years’ experience in innovation in both consulting and commercial roles, Gerard is a recognised expert in innovation and revenue growth. He has worked with organisations of all sizes in over a dozen industries, building new propositions, businesses and products, and facilitating innovation workshops with a practical and down-to-earth approach. He is the author of Innovation Unplugged.