Marketers have outdone themselves.
According to Liz Miller, SVP of marketing and programs for the CMO Council, customers have gotten so used to brands personalizing every step of their buyer journey that they now expect to receive that same level of personalization in the post-purchase, product ownership phase of their experience.
“They’re going to start expecting that same level of personalization and engagement you wooed them with to buy,” she says. “They’re going to want that even more so because they’re a customer.”
Miller defines the ownership experience as everything that happens after a transaction takes place, including the delivery, installation, and maintenance. All of these experiences can affect whether an owner becomes a repeat buyer and advocate, but this requires a new way of communicating: Instead of speaking to owners like they’re a ticking time bomb counting down until their next purchase, brands need to communicate value and support this audience based on their existing purchases and data.
Unfortunately, companies haven’t made these ownership experiences a priority.
According to a recent report from the CMO Council and LiveTechnology titled “Product Ownership: Lasting Satisfaction or Painful Distraction”, less than half (47%) of the 2,000 North American consumers surveyed say manufacturers and retailers care for their customers “very well” or “extremely well” post-purchase, particularly when service or maintenance could be involved. While this figure doesn’t call for immediate panic — especially when compared to the significantly lower 21% who say their post-purchase care is not so good or “poor”— an alarm goes off once marketers see how the figure is broken down. Of that 47%, just 17% of respondents say companies care for their customers “extremely well” post purchase, meaning that less than a third (30%) care for them “very well.”
Failing to provide an optimum ownership experience can result in missed opportunities, Miller notes, including the ability to deepen a customer relationship, identify points of friction, and cross-sell and upsell other products. It can also result in lost customers. Consider: A separate study by the CMO Council and SAP Hybris found that 47% of the more than 2,000 North American and European consumers surveyed say they’ll stop doing business with a brand if they continually have frustrating experiences.
So, who’s to blame for this dissatisfaction? Both product manufacturers and retailers should be held accountable. According to the initially referenced report, just 37% of respondents consider manufacturers “extremely good” or “pretty good” at getting to know their customers personally and meeting their post-purchase needs. This number is only slightly higher for retailers and e-commerce sites (39%).
One of the main problems is the breakdown in communication that occurs between manufacturers and retailers due to a lack of shared data. While manufacturers want more data about their end customers, Miller notes, retailers don’t want to share their “secret sauce.” This creates issues when customers have problems with manufacturer-related entities, like warranties, but go back to the retailer (where they bought the product) to fix them. Miller says manufacturers and retailers need to have a “single pane of glass” that sits between the two companies, serves as a central depository for critical data points and analytics, and allows them to share insights back and forth.
A central depository could also help with the frustrating ownership experience of dealing with warranties and receipts. While 75% of polled consumers say they keep important documentation like ownership manuals and receipts, 16% admit they do not. And even though 68% of respondents complete their warranty registration, a third say they don’t.
Those who don’t take these extra steps can struggle with warranty and return programs, as well as with locations of repair centers, notes the report. Twenty-six percent of respondents consider these items confusing and 11% say they’re difficult to find and understand. Miller says this can make people feel like they’ve failed as an owner. However, 52% of respondents say having purchase records readily available would be helpful to them as owners, and 45% say the same regarding documentation and manuals.
“As customers realize just how in control they are, the expectation for connection and context for what they perceive to be their entire journey elevates,” Miller says.
But these aren’t owners’ only grievances. Respondents cite not having retailers service the product (38%) or deal with warranty claims or returns (28%) as their biggest frustrations along with getting stuck with automated voice messaging systems when trying to reach customer support (27%).
So, what are customers looking for in a satisfactory ownership experience? Put simply: They want the basics. Forty-seven percent of respondents say they want the product to be well-designed and easy to use, and 46% want the installation to be “painless.” Another 46% also say they want delivery to be scheduled and tracked efficiently.
For companies hoping to take their ownership experience to the next level, there are several areas in which they could improve. Indeed, respondents list offering technical support (51%), warranty claim processing (38%), and repairs or maintenance (35%) as some of these desired upgrades.
Thankfully, companies are starting to take note of these wish-list items. In fact, 29% of consumers polled say manufacturers and retailers are getting better at caring for their customers after they buy.
The biggest challenge for companies, Miller notes, is simply not knowing the state of their ownership experience. That’s why she encourages them to do a full assessment as an initial step.
But if companies really want to deliver an optimum owner experience, then marketers have to be more involved and not rely solely on operational departments across service and support to handle these issues. As Miller says, “Marketers have yet to take a real role in owning the ownership experience.”
Note: Figures have been rounded to the nearest whole percentage.