No matter how the marketplace defines the customer journey, it’s still a tangled map of an infinite number of pathways to the final transaction. Some shoppers think long and deep about their investment, relying on reviews, consumer reports, and gut instincts. And there are others who go through the process hopping across multiple pre-purchase and post-purchase steps before they even set foot in a store. Very rarely do customers follow the buying process most companies prefer.
Nevertheless, there is one common thread to every pre-purchase experience: The desire for self-service information that moves the buying decision forward. It’s true that customers expect a lot from the products and services they purchase, but, more important, they want even more from the buying experience itself. They want a process that enables them to interact with peers; find relevant, insightful content quickly and easily; and build a brand relationship on their terms.
Three ways a community experience can build your sales revenue and brand advocacy
A July 2016 commissioned study, “Supporting the Buyer Journey with Customer Service,” conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of SAP, concluded that making product and service information more readily available through pre-purchase channels can be a simple, yet valuable extension of customer service. Why? It’s your customers’ affinity for searching for information on their own. In fact, 59% of them prefer self-service options, such as a community, when looking for product information or support.
In a social community, buyers can learn about the brand at any point in the purchase process. Shoppers can get an immediate impression on how your brand and customer base interact with each other and find the content they need to make a final decision. By providing product catalogs, commerce sites, and a repository of responses to frequently asked questions, your business can add value to the experience – from discovery and exploration to purchase, use, and advocacy.
However, this is not where the impact of a customer-centric community ends. According to Forrester, some advantages extend well beyond purchases:
- Increased sales volume and buyer loyalty. Shoppers who are supported and given answers on demand throughout the pre- and post-purchase process tend to trust the brand more. Not only does this element of the overall relationship increase the likelihood of a transaction, but also better customer service interactions and greater brand affinity.
- Higher post-purchase satisfaction. When customers have the information they need to make a decision, they are more likely to know upfront what to expect when they use the product or service. In turn, the risk of surprise during the post-purchase experience is lower – leading to a higher rate of customer satisfaction.
- Fewer complaints. Knowledgeable buyers are empowered customers. Access to information and content reduces uncertainty most people feel when making an online purchase. And when shoppers are confident with their choice, they are less likely to call the customer service hotline to report a complaint.
Companies are always searching for new ways to engage customers. But many companies miss this one detail: The transaction doesn’t solidify a customer relationship; it’s the customer relationship – which starts long before the first content – that triggers the transaction.
Buyers are unmistakably digitally connected and empowered to search for answers. And through social communities, there’s a significant opportunity for all businesses to build that relationship as soon as awareness sets in to support informed purchasing.
Kick-start your customer service revolution today. Download the entire Forrester Consulting study, “Supporting the Buyer Journey with Customer Service,” to get started.