by Jonathan Hurvitz. The importance of a customer’s end-to-end journey is well-established in a number of industries, particularly those in the services space. These businesses know that, once they’ve landed a customer, they have to work hard to retain them. By contrast, retailers have been slower to adapt.
For home appliances especially, most of the work goes into making the sale, with little thought going into the after-sales service. Certainly, retailers will try provide a good enough experience that customers come back to them for future purchases, but that’s about it. If a product breaks within its warranty period or needs to be exchanged, for example, the onus is still on the customer to take it back to the store. It doesn’t matter how good or efficient the in-store returns process is, it’s still a headache that most customers would rather do without.
In a world where online is taking an increasingly large slice of the retail pie (data shows that South African online sales jumped 55% in 2020 and 42% in 2021), it’s simply untenable. So, if retailers are to remain competitive, they need to realise that the customer journey starts long before they decide to buy something and ends a long after they’ve walked away from the till with their purchase.
No linear journeys
Indeed, the process between these two points is a great deal more complex than previously assumed too. We now know that there’s no such thing as a neat, linear customer journey. While that’s always been true, it’s even more so today when customers have a wide array of technologies and purchasing channels available to them. In between becoming aware of a product and purchasing it, a customer can go on several tangents, make mistakes, abandon the process before picking it up again, and switch channels. It’s still a journey, but more of a complicated path with twists, turns and detours, rather than a straightforward A to B.
Think about it. If you want to buy a washing machine or television, how likely is it that you’ll go straight to your nearest appliance store? Chances are you’ll start with a search and compare reviews and prices across multiple sites. You might check the brand’s social media pages to see whether other customers have praised or complained about the product in question. From there, you may have gotten as far as putting the item in an online basket before deciding you need to see the product in-store to get a real sense of whether or not it’s worth buying.
Beyond the purchase
Of course, there are a number of things retailers can do to ensure that customers have the best possible experience throughout that journey. Journey orchestration, for example, entails organisations using all the available data to ensure that they send the best possible message on the best possible channel at whatever point in the journey they’re on. There’s no reason that the customer experience should end after a purchase has been made either. You can follow up with the customer and congratulate them on their purchase and inform them about any after-sales services on offer.
At Teljoy, for example, we offer maintenance and repairs on our products for the lifetime of the term, as well as risk cover on the appliance and we make sure that the customer knows that these benefits are available to them. The key, for brands and retailers alike, is to constantly look at how they can offer real customer lifetime value, with a special focus on being there if and when the customer needs them.
Reaping the rewards
The rewards for ensuring that customers have the best possible experience at every point in their journey are significant. Research shows that not only are customers willing to pay more for a great customer experience but that they’ll remain loyal too. That’s crucial, given that up to 65% of a company’s business can come from existing customers. Customers are also more likely to recommend brands that have given them a good customer experience to friends and family, making it a crucial way of growing the customer base and revenue.
Companies can reap those rewards if they put in the effort to ensure that the customer has the best possible experience throughout their journey and beyond. And in a world where customers have a massive array of online and physical retail choices available to them, providing those kinds of experiences isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s an absolute imperative.
Main image credit: Pixabay.com.
Jonathan Hurvitz is the Group CEO of online retailer Teljoy and a registered Chartered Accountant in South Africa.
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