Here’s the truth: the opportunity to create a customer for life comes after that customer’s first purchase. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a consumer brand or a SaaS company; the product you’re offering is what makes the first sale, but it's the experience you offer after that determines whether there will ever be a second, third, or 40th.

In the 2019-2020 edition of Top Insights for the C-Suite, Gartner’s Geoffrey Campen, VP, Team Manager puts it this way:

“When organizations strive to compete on CX, their strategies tend to pursue innovation and excellence in every single aspect across the virtually infinite scope of CX. That’s an almost impossible challenge. Accordingly, especially given finite resources and the need to prioritize initiatives, the critical question becomes: Where should CX teams focus to drive the largest impact?

To be clear, driving CX impact is critical. The same report says, “A survey of more than 4,000 B2C and B2B customers found that CX factors explained 66% of loyalty, with the remainder driven by brand perception and price considerations.”

The one factor that drives the others

Speed (or efficiency), convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service are the top drivers of great customer experience (PwC). If you’re looking to focus your organization’s CX impact, the question you should ask is “What is the one factor that unifies these four experience drivers?”

PwC Future of Customer Experience Survey

Speed, knowledgeable help, and friendly service are all directly tied to a well-trained CX staff, and the backbone of training is internal knowledge. Likewise, if we look at convenience as, essentially, an omnichannel experience, the core there are consistent responses — and opportunities to delight — regardless of interaction channel. That consistency also comes back down to aligned internal knowledge.

Disorganized and unaligned internal knowledge leads to experiences like your chatbot, rep #1, rep #2, and your website FAQ all serving different answers, which slows down and confuses every touch point from time to first purchase, to time to resolution. And every one of those touch points is a chance to lose or gain a customer forever.

Post-purchase CX

The non-impossible challenge

If we look at knowledge as the unifier driving the most important factors in customer experience, then “pursuing innovation and excellence in every single aspect across the virtually infinite scope of CX” becomes much, much more achievable. The technological UX and purchase components are important, but without a follow through on the post-purchase customer experience (supported by the backbone of great training and its reinforcement through in-workflow knowledge) you’re banking on the product itself being enough. It is, in fact, in the post-purchase experience where you can best drive customer loyalty.

In a subscription or recurring buyer business, customers have to renew their support periodically, and creating a disorganized, frustrating customer experience will directly impact the bottom line (and overall corporate health) of a company — especially when there may be many, many companies that offer the same service or product, but cheaper and perhaps better.

To think that the post-purchase experience is irrelevant to that challenge is something akin to CX malpractice, as even a canceled order is an opportunity for you to create an evangelist.

Case in point, I recently had a true “surprise and delight” experience as a customer myself. On December 31st, I ordered a sweater from a direct-to-consumer women’s clothing brand that had been aggressively remarketing me. On January 1st, New Year’s Day — a Federal holiday — I decided the holiday season had been tougher on my wallet than I’d realized after my celebratory sparkling wine. I sent the company an email asking if it might be too late to cancel my order, fully expecting not to hear from them for several days, considering a likely holiday backlog.

Invest in the post-purchase customer experienceI heard back from them in two minutes, confirming my order had been canceled, and offering me a code for free shipping in the future. I couldn’t stop telling friends (many of whom are in the same demographic) about the surprisingly easy and frictionless cancelation experience. I also said that based on the interaction, I’d certainly order from this company in the future — something I may not have said if I’d had the opportunity to cancel my order without having to correspond with a rep, and certainly not if it had indeed taken the 2-4 days I was expecting (or longer)!

But the ability to create this kind of seemingly simple customer experience is really a clever illusion, one that required:

  1. a well-staffed customer support org
  2. each one of whom knew the policy of what to do in the event of a pre-shipping cancelation
  3. and who were then able to use that knowledge to respond quickly with an unobtrusive return offer

Remember, they could have simply canceled and let me go on my way. But the free shipping offer combined with the time to response indicated that they valued my business and wanted me to return. It’s an incentive that costs them nothing if I don’t, very little if I do, and gives me a reason to spread great word of mouth to other potential customers: “If they treat those who cancel this well, imagine the way they treat actual buyers!”

Post-purchase is the time to lean on your foundation to create surprising and delightful customer interactions. Invest there, and you’ll create customers for life.

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