Rethinking The Value Of Customer Service – From Post- To Pre-Purchase

Steve Hamrick

There’s a strong misconception about customer service. Nearly 50% of buyers consider it a post-purchase troubleshooting tool, according to recent Forrester Consulting research. So for years, companies have leveraged their customer service departments to operate in that capacity.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

What if organizations reimagined how they view and use customer service? What business outcomes could they achieve by using customer service as a pre-purchase resource tool?

Make customer service an ever-present aspect of the buyer journey

In the July 2016 commissioned study, “Supporting the Buyer Journey with Customer Service,” conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of SAP, Forrester Consulting explored the variety of ways customer service could provide value throughout the buyer journey. By getting customer service involved earlier in the purchasing process, companies can increase sales and reduce product dissatisfaction.

A recent Forrester Consulting study found that prospective buyers typically abandon their purchases during the discover and explore phases of the buyer journey – mainly due to a lack of information.

Organizations can remedy this by empowering customer service to provide better pre-purchase decision-making support. Since customer service is often the bearer of product knowledge at a company, it’s critical that your business enables its reps to deliver the right information to customers at precisely the right time – before the prospective buyer decides against making a purchase.

Supporting The Buyer Journey With Customer Service

Support customers across channels – quickly and easily

Today’s customers seek out product information in a number of ways, whether dialing up a call center, browsing a company website, or visiting an online customer community. As such, it’s incredibly important to offer a diverse set of customer engagement channels to support your buyers’ needs.

Giving people ample opportunity to engage with your company’s customer service department in the early phases of the purchasing journey, through the customer’s channel of choice, can potentially drive sales, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce post-purchase customer service engagement.

Time is also of the essence. People want their questions answered and issues resolved as quickly and as effortlessly as possible. Most companies seemingly recognize this, as 63% of surveyed organizations are in the midst of adding online chat and/or video features to provide buyers with more immediate customer service support.

Generate results with the help of a customer community

One of the fastest-emerging channels for pre-purchase customer service engagement has been customer communities. An online customer community serves as a one-stop shop for prospective buyers to view product ratings and reviews, read frequently asked questions (FAQs), participate in online discussions, and, ultimately decide to purchase products.

It’s no wonder why companies are embracing customer communities, either. They’re generating results, including:

  • Increased post-purchase satisfaction: Seventy-one percent of companies believe that buyers who read community content experience greater product satisfaction than those who don’t.
  • Increased sales volume and buyer loyalty: Sixty-one percent of companies see improved customer service support via a community as a driver of sales. Sixty-three percent of companies believe that customer communities lead to brand loyalty.
  • Reduced volume of buyer complaints: Fifty-three percent of companies believe they’ll see fewer customer complaints during the post-purchase phase if buyers research their products on a customer community.

Three steps to reimagining customer service

Historically, customer service has been relegated to serving in a reactive role. Reps have been responsible for fielding calls to resolve customer issues post-purchase – and not much else.

Today, customer service employees need to be proactive, providing relevant and timely insight to prospective buyers in order to influence decision making pre-purchase.

Reimagining customer service will require an enterprise-wide shift in philosophy. To spur this change, Forrester Consulting recommends that organizations:

  • Rethink customer service as a purchasing tool, not a troubleshooting resource
  • Leverage existing digital channels to promote pre-purchase customer service support
  • Share helpful information to drive sales and reduce the likelihood of post-purchase support

Kick-start your customer service revolution today. Download the entire Forrester Consulting report, “Supporting the Buyer Journey with Customer Service,” to get started.