Bridging The Gap: How To Turn Potential Customers Into Brand Advocates

Michele Hackshall

It’s a great time to be a customer. There are so many ways purchase—whether it’s a researching new smartphone or planning a big vacation, the process of making a decision offers a huge variety of options to consumers.

Usually, the customer journey starts with online research. This is where customers brush up on information about the product or service they wish to buy: Is that smartphone’s camera high-grade? Does the hotel offer free wi-fi?

From there, they can narrow down their search. Reviews are read on social media and on forums, simple questions can be answered by chatbots. Purchasing can be done easily online. For more tactile retail goods, visits to bricks-and-mortar stores come into play as well.

But while it’s simple to describe in these terms, the customer experience is rarely simple and straightforward throughout the journey. Of course, as a business you want it be easy at every stage. You want to support and help customers choose your product or service as much as possible.

Johann Wrede, global vice president of audience, brand, and content marketing for SAP Hybris, explains that the most common pitfalls companies make are in the customer experience. Many people think the buying journey stops once the customer has made a purchase, but the reality is the longer part of the customer journey is what happens after the purchase.

Studying and recognizing the gaps between the various stages of a customer journey shouldn’t be overlooked. “The most fragile moment is when the customer transitions,” he says. “If that gap isn’t seamless — if the experiences before and after the gap aren’t the same — you break the customer’s journey.”

Here are four examples of where to bridge the gap:

1. “I want to buy it before I hold it.”

Does the retail experience match the online one? Will a customer walk into a store after checking online for stock, only to be disappointed that it’s not available? Will the staff be as helpful as the online experience?

To achieve a frictionless experience for your customer, departments must work together. E-commerce needs to talk to retail, and vice versa, to ensure that both are meeting customers’ expectations.

2. “I’d like to get more information.”

This is about making sure leads get to your salespeople so they can provide a quick response. If leads are getting lost in the process, or are taking too long to get a response, you will lose that customer.

Provide salespeople with context for the callback as well. Which offer is the customer responding to? What product page were they on? By transferring the intelligence, the responding salesperson can have a conversation that will add value to the caller.

3. “I need help.”

Does your customer’s experience match the experience of their purchase?

The longest phase of the customer journey is the use phase. A good example is buying a car. The purchase will most likely last for years, so they’ll be interacting regularly with you. When they service the car, make it seamless and easy. Does post-sales service match the great sales service they received when they test-drove the car, or when they purchased it?

It’s important for information captured from the marketing process and the sales process to feed into customer service. That way, when a customer calls for help, customer service will know what they bought and why they’re calling. This saves time and frustration, while also adding value.

“Marketing should care as much about what customer service is saying to your customers as you do about what’s going into an outbound email,” Wrede says. “If that experience is different and disconnected from what you say across marketing and sales, it will break that customer journey. You will never bring that customer to the final phase of advocacy.”

4. “Help me share my experience.”

You want your customers to become your advocates, and to share their fantastic, seamless, and positive experience with everyone they know.

“If you don’t bridge that gap to go from use to advocacy, you’re damaging your business,” Wrede says. “How does your organisation work to cross that big divide from saying  ‘I bought it’ to ‘I love it.’?”

Respond quickly to customer feedback and reviews. Have systems in place that flag both positive and negative feedback. Train your customer service to recognise and foster potential advocates.

Overall, it’s about minding the gaps and looking into your business—not just in your department, but across the whole organisation. Go beyond marketing, sales, and customer service. Understand what the gap looks like from the customer’s perspective, and base your solution around that.

For more brand advocate strategies that get results, see In 2017, Customer Experience Management Should Be Your First Priority.

Michele Hackshall

About Michele Hackshall

Michele Hackshall is a writer who helps global brands hone their marketing communications. Over the past two decades she’s managed product launches, strategized campaigns and written everything from scripts and adverts through to annual reports and press releases. Since becoming a freelancer in 2013, she’s focused on project managing the case studies program for Twitter’s emerging markets, through digital marketing agency Wings4U.