Flawed Customer Services - Not Closing the Sale
Ask most businesses to rate how important it is to them to have satisfied customers and few would say anything other than 'essential'.
From a company's own perspective their customer services procedures might appear to tick all the right boxes but what appears to be a good procedure can sometimes fall short when viewed from a customer, or perhaps more importantly a potential customer's perspective.
Some would argue that customer service has been in decline as the growth of automation and the need to minimise overheads has eroded the human side of customer service. There is no doubt that the type of personal one-on-one customer service that was so common throughout the USA and Europe in the 1950's is a relic of the past with technology steadily replacing people.
Some automated technologies have proved more successful than others, call centres, especially when they are situated in far flung countries, can come in for criticism that may or may not be fair. Although the economics make sense it is easy to see how customers can get frustrated when the technology and savings drivers are put above customer experience.
What can often be missing from many a customer service procedure is the canvassing of regular and effective customer feedback, not for the sake of ticking another box, but because a customer's real-life experience is possibly the most important metric available to any business, large or small.
This three part article was inspired after I recently experienced first-hand problems with three separate suppliers that resulted in them either losing a sale and/or frustrating me, a potential customer.
What struck me was that all three had what appeared at first to be well established customer services procedures that would be able to handle my query and resolve any difficulties in an efficient and professional manner, yet all three failed and for different reasons.
Automation is not the enemy, but automation must be carefully thought through as being frustrated by a machine is universally despised.
This first supplier offers one of the most popular FTP applications and a thirty day fully functional risk free trial. Emails are sent to 'remind' the customer at about the halfway stage and then towards the end of the trial period to that has the effect of encouraging those that have not yet purchased the product to both fully test the application and hopefully make a decision to purchase the product.
However, for this US supplier I was working outside the USA and when after a successful trial I went to click on the link to purchase the product the price I was quoted was in US dollars.
The US dollar is a global currency, no, it IS the global currency and I, like many others, are not often put off, certainly when it comes to low value commodity items, if the currency is not our local currency but on this occasion there was a notice that stated, 'for international customers please click here'.
For anyone seeing the message from outside the USA it would naturally cause them to hesitate, which I did, thinking perhaps that I should just check that there might be benefits in purchasing the application locally.
On clicking on the option I was requested to select my country, which I did, and then I was provided with a list of perhaps a dozen or so local, but unfamiliar, suppliers.
Since none of the names were familiar and other than their address to go on I chose one, a choice based on nothing more than arbitrary reasoning.
Mistake 2 - Going backwards
Because of the extensive range of services and products they provided it took me some time to first locate a general list of available applications, then to navigate to the correct section where I found a number of the FTP supplier's applications. From the list of five products I was finally able to select the FTP application that I was interested in.
Mistake 3 - No 'buy now' option
Having spent time locating the product I was to be disappointed further because there was no price, nor 'buy now' button, just another offer to download a 30 day free trial.
Because I had already trialled the software I was ready to purchase and I wanted to know the price.
Mistake 4 - Not making it simple
I decided to go back to the list of local suppliers and choose another name from the list but my experience was the same, I was faced with the problem of locating the application and this time I was not advised of the price but instead given an offer to request a quotation for what I knew to be a $40 commodity item.
It was at this point that I thought I would just go back to the original screen and purchase the product direct from US manufacturer as had been my first intention, but because I was feeling that I had been sent on a wild goose chase I then decided that I could actually do without the product and so cancelled my order.
Mistake 6 - Not learning
The final mistake that the manufacture makes is that where at the end of the trial period when I do not take up the option to purchase the product they make no effort to find out why.
This supplier has a good and popular product. They offer a 30 day free trial of the software that can be purchased online direct from the manufacture. By offering local suppliers they would be able to provide local support that some customers might prefer, or find essential.
In failing to get feedback, they are missing an opportunity to not only validate their procedures but maintain contact with potential customers who are perhaps undecided as to purchasing the product.
Simple and clear pricing is important, especially for a commodity item and although a free trial is commendable it still requires a commitment from the customer who will often want to know the cost of a product before they invest the time needed to test the product.
Their biggest mistake is that they do not integrate their own products tightly enough with their distributor's websites. If the manufacturer has potential customers that are being referred to a local supplier they are in a position to link directly to their products on the local supplier's website and should insist that the local supplier ensures that the pricing is clear and the order process is simple.
Read part two of this three part article Customer Services - Alienating the Customer.