by Stephen Pappas
CX Connoisseur

Steve Pappas is senior vice president and head of U.S. operations for Panviva US Group. He is a seasoned entrepreneur, investor and mentor who has built and sold several companies.

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Agents! Get into the mind of the customer

 

As we embark on the path to the new Roaring 20s, look around you. Just like 100 years ago, things are changing at a fast and furious pace. If we put this into the context of today’s contact center, we are seeing their roles and responsibilities evolving from service and care to advisory and selling. I have always contended that the contact center is the true heartbeat of an enterprise. They are the first line to engage with our cherished customers and their interactions can make or break a relationship. So as their role changes, be very aware that the buyer is changing, too. What I mean by that is: Buyers have new and different paths to take during the pre-purchase as well as post-purchase phase.  

Thus, it is very important for your call center agents – as well as your management – to be prepared to deal with the Evolution of the Buyer. To do this, let’s get into the mind of the buyer By doing this, agents will have a clear understanding of the buyer’s process and where their Customer Experience may become strained. To best illustrate Getting into the Mind of the Customer, I have created a map of the buying process. After much research, I have seen that there are more steps to the process today than ever before. The steps in the path of the buyer look like this: 

  1. Consumer Need
  2. Influencer Effect
  3. Knowledge Gathering
  4. Decision
  5. Expectations
  6. Purchase
  7. Post Purchase Phase
  8. Relationship Phase
  9. Customer Lifetime Value

Now let’s examine each of these phases with an eye to determining where the Customer Experience “At-Risk” points exist. This will give you a clear understanding of what path the buyer takes and what is going on in their mind. Knowing these factors gives us a solid understanding as to how we should design, prepare and behave on behalf of the consumer. 

⦿ Note: this symbol indicates a potential Customer Experience (CX) “At-Risk” point, see the corresponding footnote at the bottom of each section.   

Consumer Need 

In this phase, the consumer: 

  • Realizes and recognizes that they have a need for something; 
  • Starts thinking about and looking at their options; and ⦿
  • Starts a list. 

⦿ Are we where they need us to be when they are looking? Is our information easily available on the channels they are using? 

Influencer Effect 

This is an area where people who can influence a thought process come in. 

  • Where do the Influencers come into play? ⦿

  • Testimonials, reviews, authority sites, Top 10 sites, blogs, videos, etc. ⦿

  • Peers, family, and acquaintances also play a role. They can’t wait to share their opinions and experiences. 

⦿ Social media is a huge influencer when buyers research. People look for other buyers’ experiences, not just product information. 

Knowledge Gathering 

As you can imagine this is also an important phase. This is where people go to get a better understanding of their possible options. 

  • Online – Sales pages, websites, videos, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Blogs and other product placement ⦿
     
  • Person-to-Person – Brick and mortar, malls, visits, phone calls, office referrals, trend awareness (e.g. long lines, people waiting outside the store, others using a particular product, etc.) ⦿   

  • Trends Effect – think about how consumers become aware of trends  
  • What is the SoA (Speed of Awareness) in your industry? 

  • What are the Awareness Channels? 
  • Chance of contributing to viral growth 

⦿ Are we where they are? 

⦿ Are we addressing the differences in experiences? 

Decision 

As the time grows nearer where the consumers think they are ready to make a decision, we as businesses need to be sure that we did what we could to win this new customer. ⦿

⦿ Are we aware of their due diligence needs? (examples of needs? They might have whittled it down to two or three options. Is the decision tipped to one or the other due to free trials? Free returns? Free upgrades?)  

Expectations 

Around this time, the consumer begins an “Envisioning” process. This is where they start to think in their mind’s eye what using this product will be like... how that outfit will look on them or how easy their customer service interaction will be, etc. This is a critical phase because it is the “make it or break it” stage that relates to Buyer's Delight or Buyer’s Remorse. 

Things to think about: 

  • When are the defining moments of a consumer’s expectations being set?   

  • When does the consumer actually start to ‘envision’ themselves using the new purchase? ⦿ 

  • How do they start their expectation list (i.e. pros/cons between your product and another)? (Or phrase this as ”What is on their expectation list that differentiates your product and another?) ⦿ 

⦿ Creating a very positive expectation builds long-term trust and relationships.   

Purchase 

The purchase process needs to be swift, smooth, effortless and enjoyable to make sure they are: 

  • Delighted rather than ⦿   
  • Remorseful ⦿     

⦿ For example: Did we thank them? 

⦿ Did we reach out to engage and help or support in any way? If they were in-person with us, did we treat them like the VIPs that they are? Remember, connection, whether it’s in person or online, must make consumers feel special, wanted and valued! 

Post Purchase Evaluation Phase 

You may not realize it, but every consumer goes through mental calisthenics in their head after they purchase. You do, I do, your consumer does. They are evaluating their decision and its value -  whether it was right/wrong, good value for the money, etc. In addition, this tends to be the time they start adopting the usage of their new purchase. ⦿

It’s critical that your consumer is delighted.  

⦿ Have we made every effort to optimize all the stages thus far based on the customer’s need? 

Relationship Phase 

It’s interesting that customers are now going through what I call the “relationship phase”. In this phase a customer either feels loyal (based on their delight!) to the brand based on this purchase or they may churn (buyer’s remorse) and go elsewhere for their next purchase. ⦿

⦿ If there’s delight, can we ask for reviews, testimonials, videos, etc.? 

⦿ If there’s remorse, you really need to find out why. Pay attention to this feedback more than any other. It will guide you to what needs to be fixed and help you delight future customers. 

In both cases, always get the reason “Why”? It helps you to stay at, or get to, the top.  

Customer Lifetime Value 

If you’ve gotten through all the phases above and the customer is “happy”, don’t assume they are on their way to being considered a good CLTV (Customer Lifetime Value). Your company is probably now tracking how they buy, how often they buy, the amount of purchases and more. They are looked at as a Loyal Long-Term Customer and deserve to be treated as VIPs at every point. Their increasing CLTV is based on: 

  • Repeat business and purchases ⦿
  • Business from household members and extended family and friends through referrals ⦿

  • In general, a long-term customer ⦿

⦿ Think “Loyalty First”. Loyal customers should benefit from deals and specials 

⦿ Create an incentive program to encourage them to pass it on to friends/family 

⦿ Develop a membership atmosphere of belonging to an elite club for their loyalty. This may include separate access or numbers for support, deals, etc. 

Keep raising your own bar for Customer Excellence to maintain your spot at the top! 

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