The Evolution of Post-Purchase Solutions to Create a More Holistic Customer Journey
With the importance of customer experience (CX) firmly entrenched in their psyche, most successful retailers now understand that if they want to retain customers long term, they need to think about what happens after shoppers hand over their credit card numbers. These retailers get that they need to think about customer journeys and not one-off transactions. They know that it's the customer, with a wealth of competitor options at her fingertips and a proclivity for hopping from channel to channel as part of her buying process, who holds all the cards.
Where many retailers are going off-course, however, is in their post-purchase experience. Make no mistake, e-commerce retailers in 2019 understand at a strategic level the importance of providing a retention-focused post-purchase experience (or will at least feign that they do), but the way that they're contextualizing it and attempting to optimize it still leaves much to be desired.
One of the biggest mistakes we see retailers make is failing to think about post-purchase as one state in a larger, holistic relationship with their customer. A satisfying post-purchase experience is actually a pre-purchase experience for the next time a customer buys from you. Instead, retailers treat post-purchase as a stand-alone set of potential interactions that they can optimize in a vacuum. They invest in one or more point solutions that are meant to handle one aspect of post-purchase (logistics, order lookup, live chat, email, etc.) well and then feel like their work is done. Unfortunately for these brands, the customer journey isn’t about hopping from one unconnected, individually optimized, decontextualized moment of engagement to another. It’s about providing a seamless, easy-to-navigate landscape of engagement options and opportunities and letting the customer explore it on their terms. To quote a kitschy wall plaque you might find in a home goods store, “It’s about the journey, not the destination.”
Customers don’t want to deal with a handful of point solutions that are siloed from one another and where every interaction lacks the context of their previous engagement with the brand. This frustration costs retailers billions, as buyers aren’t shy about cutting ties in the face of poor customer service. Simply optimizing individual post-purchase touchpoints and attempting to string them together doesn’t get to the heart of meeting evolving customer expectations. Furthermore, it doesn’t build the customer loyalty that leads to greater profitability.
What does support a customer experience offering that yields a competitive advantage is customer care automation. Gartner predicts that, by 2020, 25 percent of customer service will feature intelligent automated assistants. Forrester has been urging B-to-C businesses to adopt a digital-first customer service strategy since early 2018. Done right, automation provides the GPS to that wide-ranging engagement landscape, leading customers where they want to go on their terms and allowing retailers to program a bespoke customer experience that fulfills the explicit and implicit goals of their target market.
Customer care automation makes it possible to deliver a seamless and personalized customer experience across channels. Unlike with individual point solutions, all customer data resides in a single record and can be leveraged to inform each subsequent engagement with your brand. An automated customer engagement platform is also able to share data in real time with other systems within your customer care tech stack. An automated assistant can walk your customer through the process of initiating a return, while also using the information on previous successful purchases to recommend replacement items (e.g., maybe another shade of lipstick or a brand of sneaker that comes in wide widths) that might be a better fit for the buyer’s tastes.
In contrast to point solutions that come with pre-built features meant to address specific use cases and channels, customer care automation uses a modular architecture that enables its automated assistant to easily add additional capabilities and services as needed. You can deploy automation across social, SMS, live chat and voice assistant and feel confident that customers will receive a consistent experience. You also feel that the automated assistant is equipped to handle a range of customer service support, including post-purchase support, loyalty program assistance, product recommendations, reordering, etc.
As brands increasingly turn their attention to what happens “beyond the buy,” the temptation is to think about the post-purchase experience as a discrete challenge that can be optimized in isolation of the rest of the customer journey, which leads to investing in singular solutions that don’t integrate well and aren’t able to provide the level of consistent, responsive, contextual engagement that customers long for. Instead, retailers that truly understand the landscape of channels across which the modern customer journey takes place are focusing on finding a holistic solution, like customer care automation, that's built to cover all corners of this landscape.
Fang Cheng is the CEO and co-founder of Linc Global, a customer care automation platform that helps brands differentiate themselves with automated services and experiences across the channels shoppers prefer.
Fang Cheng is the CEO and co-founder of Linc Global, a customer care automation platform that helps brands differentiate themselves with automated services and experiences across the channels shoppers prefer. Linc Global has served over 15 percent of U.S. shoppers, creating a competitive advantage, reducing customer service costs, and turning service interactions into new engagement and revenue. Linc Global's clients include Carter’s, eBags, Stein Mart, Lamps Plus, JustFab.com, Tarte, Hugo Boss, Vineyard Vines, and P&G Shop.
With a passion and relentlessness for improving the customer experience, Fang brought together a seasoned team of technologists and product-minded people to empower brands with the ability to serve and engage shoppers and to drive profitable growth in the face of rising competition and customer expectations. With a Ph.D. in bioinformatics from NYU, Fang previously co-founded a business acquired by Amazon, and prior to that, she worked as a hedge fund manager.