A key part of the customer experience is tracking down where to purchase the product or service they have decided to buy. This is not always a pleasant or stress-free experience.
Habitual purchases are usually not a problem. You buy them on a regular basis, you know where to purchase them and they are usually available. Occasionally, I discover one of my favourite items has disappeared from the shelves and I have to run all over town to find another supplier.
Locating the item or service you need is more often a case of expectation than anything else. If I expect to be able to find it easily, then a difficult search can become frustrating. If I anticipate having trouble tracking the item or service down, I am forearmed and anticipate having to spend time doing so. If it turns out that I discover a source of supply quickly, I am delighted.
My expectations may come from prior experience or simply from the difficulty I had in obtaining information on the item in question. The smart vendors anticipate your need to know where the item can be purchased and list their locations, shops, outlets, distributors or offices or provide a link to an on-line shop.
Our frustration level increases when the information is not easily available, is incorrect or out of date or where the vendor fails to answer the phone, reply to a voicemail or email message or the information on the supply source is vague or incomplete.
How many times have you given up on a purchase because you cannot find information on where to buy? Once is more than enough.
How many times have you driven around looking for a location only to find that the address was incorrect or the street signage inadequate, or you have arrived at the location only to find they no longer stock the item?
Do you have the experience of going to a manufacturer’s website to buy an accessory only to discover there are detailed product specifications about the item but no information of where to buy it?
As a vendor we need to ensure that we are very clear on where and how the item can be purchased and recognise that a key part of the consumer experience is making this step easy.
The pre-purchase experience
The pre-purchase experience is as much a part of the overall customer experience as the use of the product or the consumption of a service. In fact, it can be so important that a bad experience results in no sale at all.
If the prospect can’t find information about what you do, easily evaluate your product or service or find where to buy it, you have lost the sale. Furthermore, if this part of the buying process is inadequately supported, consider all the money spent on marketing as wasted.
Basically, you have handed prospects to your competitors who have problems and needs you could satisfy because you did not make the pre-purchase process easy for the customer.
Even a customer who does finally buy may resent the frustration and effort they expended in the pre-purchase stage of their buy decision. That being the case, it is not hard to imagine them complaining to others about how difficult it was. Any poor customer experience can impact on your reputation and this can impact future sales.
Tom McKaskill is a successful global serial entrepreneur, educator and author who is a world acknowledged authority on exit strategies and the former Richard Pratt Professor of Entrepreneurship, Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia. A series of free eBooks for entrepreneurs and angel and VC investors can be found at his site here.