Customer Service In The Buying Journey: Bridging The Purchase Knowledge Gap

Filiberto Selvas

The buying journey evolution is social, expertise-driven, and complicated. Unfortunately, most companies are struggling to keep up with this new model. Here’s a likely reason why: The customer service area, traditionally the most knowledgeable about typical questions, is relegated to the post-purchase customer experience.

Every day, service reps are responding to questions via call centers or electronically about first-time product use, product capabilities, product support, and even a list of suggested product-compatible accessories. The list goes on and on, but they all signal a missed opportunity to influence the first half of the buyer journey. Very often, the questions answered during a post-purchase experience are the same shoppers have when making a transaction. However, there’s a distinct difference between the two experiences: Buyers research for the answer while customers immediately access it through the brand’s channels.

Just imagine the difference if common customer service inquiry information were readily available early in the sales cycle, as either unassisted or assisted help. How likely will your customer make the right purchase? Better yet, how much higher will your advocacy rates rise when customers choose the best product that fits their needs?

Three ways customer service can add value to the pre-purchase experience

According to a July 2016 commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of SAP, 71% of companies believe that buyers who use community content have greater product satisfaction than those who don’t. Even though buyers are making it known that they prefer self-service options to find product information or support, many brands still come up short on information that can help complete the transaction.

This is where your customer service area can add value to the buyer journey. Most answers to your shoppers’ questions already exist. Through the use of digital interactions such as brand-driven social community sites, your business can make product information and one-on-one expertise more accessible to customers.

Supporting The Buyer Journey With Customer Service

However, it’s not as easy as setting up the right experience and giving every potential customer access to your service reps. Like everything else in today’s world, customer service needs to go through its own transformation to ensure every customer is given the right level of attention with the greatest efficiency and business impact as possible.

Forrester Consulting cites three steps to elevate the value of customer service in the pre-purchase experience:

  1. Focus on immediate response methods. The ultimate goal is to give customers what they want in the moment of need. Digital methods such as chat and video are two ways to provide this level of support. Other possible routes include web-based and mobile self-services such as discussion forums, product pages, and easy-to-search Q&A content in a social community environment.
  1. Shed the cost-center view to embrace a profit-center mindset. By rethinking customer service as a sales tool, chat windows and “ask for help” buttons on brand domains can shorten the lead-to-transaction cycle and boost customer loyalty.
  1. Reduce the volume of one-on-one interactions. Day in and day out, customer service reps are fielding questions – many of them are similar, if not exactly the same. Creating a repository of all previous responses empower buyers to explore them on their own. By providing greater visibility to frequent service discussions, you can significantly reduce the volume of one-on-one customer service requests.

The new customer service mantra: Knowledge is power – and influence

No two customer journeys are the same. Some make a buying decision without the seller’s assistance. Others jump around the purchase path, keeping brands guessing along the way. Anything is possible throughout the customer experience, especially in this digital era of shopping ruled by shared experiences and opinions.

Thanks to social channels such as Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, this information is easy to access. But unfortunately for brands, much of this content is either disconnected from the brand’s customer channels or not available at all to support the customer journey experience.

The underlying theme of the new buyer journey is very simple: Knowledge is power and influence. Customers now have more interest in a salesperson with all the answers than watching the latest viral ad on their social feed. Although this realm has traditionally belonged to sales and marketing, it’s no longer their problem – it’s an opportunity for customer service.

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



Filiberto Selvas

About Filiberto Selvas

Filiberto Selvas is Director of Product Management at SAP, focusing on SAP Jam Communities. He is responsible market definition, feature requirements, positioning, pricing, go to market, sales enablement, and partner strategies for the cloud solution. Working with globally dispersed engineering, sales, and marketing teams, Filiberto manages direct relationships with customers, analysts and partners. Prior to working at SAP, Filiberto has 25 years of experience in digital marketing, CRM, social networking, support, and online communities for a number of technology companies including 17 years with Microsoft.