In many product and services situations, the post-sales support given to the customer is key to the effective use of the product or service.
These can take many different forms and be passive or active. They can range from online self-help to intensive customer training.
The vendor should see after sales support as a means of assisting the customer to gain the most benefits from the original purchase. That is, to enable the vendor to assist the customer to make the best use of the product or service, solve their needs or problems efficiently and enhance the customer experience in some manner.
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Many products are not that simple or obvious to use and customers often need support to take advantage of the various features and functions of the product. Many vendors provide user manuals, Q&A webpages, help desk support, online videos, case studies and user classes to assist customers to learn how to use their products or to apply them to specific circumstances. In most cases, these support facilities are provided free of charge but those which provide training or support beyond the basic usage of the product are normally fee based.
Providing a range of support options is key to ensuring customer satisfaction, even if fee based. If customers fail to understand the product sufficiently to solve the problem for which they made the original purchase, they are going to have an unsatisfactory experience. If the aim is to sell additional products to the same customer, encourage them to repeat buy or to recommend the vendor to others, ensuring they gain maximum benefits from their purchase is critical.
Many vendors feel that their obligations to the customer are over once the sale has been made. These vendors provide minimal after sales support and, as a result, have low customer satisfaction rates, few repeat sales and low referral rates. Vendors who see the customer experience extending for the life of the product, who provide excellent after sales support and assist the customer to maximise the benefits from their product, tend to have high levels of repeat sales and referrals.
After sales support is an important conduit for customer relationship building. A customer who is engaged through the after sales program is connected to the vendor and periodically reinforces the original purchase decision. When the customer has a positive support experience, they reconfirm their original decision. This positive experience will positively influence their decision to buy again or to recommend.
Once the customer has used various forms of customer support and understands how to most efficiently use them, they have built up knowledge of how to optimise their relationship with the vendor. If this works for them, they will be reluctant to move to a new vendor and have to go through that learning experience again. This switching cost effect can be very beneficial to the vendor.
Customers who are engaged in after sales support activities and have a positive experience are more likely to be receptive to cross-selling or promotional offers and are more likely to recommend the vendor to others.