What can B2B learn from B2C post-purchase frustrations?

Profile picture for user barb.mosher By Barb Mosher Zinck July 11, 2017
The verdict is in: the B2C "ownership experience" stinks. Barb Mosher Zinck reviews new data from the CMO Council and asks: can B2B do a better job of this?

The CMO Council has a new report out entitled: Product Ownership: Lasting Satisfaction or Painful Distraction? It looks at how dissatisfied B2C consumers are with the post-purchase experience. There’s a lot B2B can learn from the problems B2C face.

You made me want to buy, then you forgot me

A study by Monetate found that return customers spend almost twice as much more money than new visitors online, but account for less than half of all ecommerce sessions. That means return customers are very valuable. The problem is, they aren’t treated that way.

According to the CMO Council study, 35% are unhappy with manufacturers, and 28% are unhappy with ecommerce sites and retailers. There’s a lot that goes into the post-purchase experience, including warranties, return policies, installation or implementation support and so on. These survey respondents seem frustrated across the board and state that the experience after the sale is just as important as the experience leading up to the sale.

The report refers to the post-purchase experience as the “ownership experience, ” and while I don’t like to add another term to the experience train, it is a good way to distinguish what happens after compared to before.

Consumers are saying that retailers are not supporting the products they sell and manufacturers aren’t much better. They want better technical assistance. They want manufacturers to manage their warranty information for them, and many want 24/7 service response. Are we asking too much expecting the companies we buy from to treat us well after we lay down our cold hard cash (or plastic)?

Mikaela Andersson agrees saying:

While many companies invest heavily in ensuring that their websites look and feel slick and modern, far too few examine the customer experience post-Pay Now click. Whatever your business sells, whatever services you market online, you ignore this critical aspect of the online shopping journey at your peril. With instant access to countless online review sites, forums, blogs and social media platforms, your customers can vent their frustrations and share their stories with the wider world instantly. And reputations can be made and broken on the back of what they say.

Can Marketing make it better?

I doubt anyone would argue that it’s not too much to ask to have a good relationship with a brand after we buy. And that presents an opportunity and a challenge for marketers to play a bigger role in the entire customer lifecycle. The challenges are obvious as the report notes:

  • Marketing does not always have access or insight into what happens after the sale
  • There’s no central location where the entire customer relationship is stored and managed.
  • Along with silos of customer data, there are lines drawn between departments and groups and getting everyone to share or relinquish control is hard.

But if Marketing could play a bigger role in the post-purchase experience, what could they do?

  • Provide content in a self-service environment that lets customers resolve their issues.
  • Set up and manage a customer support portal that integrates service and support requests with communities and knowledge bases.
  • Establish support programs that include the maintenance of warranty information for customers, so the information they need is readily available. Here marketing could wrap in content about products and services and known support problems and how they can get resolved quickly.

Does B2B face the same challenges?

You bet they do. It’s easier than ever today to buy a piece of software or sign up for a service and then, if it’s not working the way the customer wants, get out fast. Nowhere do we see this more than with Software as a Service offerings.

Sign up for a free or limited trial and if you aren’t happy, walk away. Maybe it’s not so easy with a bigger on-premise software purchase, but organizations are demanding pilots and trials here as well to make sure they are going to get what they need.

So can B2B Marketers learn from the failings of B2C retailers? It’s actually a lot easier, at least for subscription and hosted services.

A customer signs up for your service, and you track how they are using it. Which means you can tell if they are spending a lot of time in a particular area or if they are doing something one way that they could do easier. You can also tell if they are using your software at all.

These analytics present open opportunities to marketers to proactively engage with customers encouraging adoption in a way that best works for the customer. They can personalize support portals, surfacing content that focuses on what the customer is doing at that point in time. They can send regular emails presenting how-to guides, best practices and FAQs focused on areas where the customer is currently working or having the most trouble.

It’s simply about paying attention to how the customer is using your product or service and finding ways to help them. In the end, if the customer is still unhappy and wants to walk away, maybe it’s for the best. Not every customer is a best-fit, and sometimes companies spend too much time on a relationship that will never work.

My take

B2C or B2B, the post-purchase experience is critical. Happy, loyal customers not only are repeat purchasers, but they can also be advocates that drive even more business your way. But we don’t just want to know if they are happy, we want to find ways to help them work with our products easily and get better at using them to meet their particular requirements.

Both happy and unhappy customers can tell us a lot about our products and how to improve them. They also tell us a lot about our service and support experiences and how integrating those into the customer journey ensures we are with them every step of the way.

It’s something every company should strive to achieve - a well-rounded experience front to back. What are you doing to improve yours?