Self Service is the New Full-Service.
How many times have you opened up an internet browser and started researching something you were interested in purchasing? It’s become a standard practice over time as more information makes its way, daily, onto the Internet. Now, “doing your own research” is the first step to making an informed buying decision.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has accelerated this trend and forever changed the way we do business. As public health procedures reduced opportunities to interact in person, people turned to digital avenues to connect. The Internet swelled with the increased traffic as more people moved to shop and connect online. For the first time in the history of customer experience, digital channels have become the number one way people reach out to a company. According to Gartner, it’s 86% of the time.
System providers recognized quickly that enhanced and simplified user experiences are needed to improve these virtual interactions. Today, we expect online shopping to be a frictionless experience where we can research products we are interested in, and then buy them.
At some point, the buyer may need to interact with someone. It is important for sellers to understand that these interactions, too, need to flow smoothly. That contact may come in from over 60 available channels, including: such as email, instant messages, texts or phone calls, Whatsapp, iMessage, Telegram, etc. In order to be ready to meet the customer where they are, many companies are turning to use cloud-based CX solutions.
Death of a Salesman?
Over the past few years, the way businesses conduct sales has shifted rapidly too. Whereas people used to walk into stores and showrooms, they can now make some purchases from start to finish online in a “Seller-Free” environment. Customers have learned how to use technology in conjunction with the web to make quicker and simpler transactions.
Connecting with and convincing potential customers that salespeople had both expertise and their customer’s best interest in mind was one of the first hurdles. Salespeople had to know their products well enough to answer questions, and sometimes walk the thin line between a genuine acknowledgment of the pros and cons of competitor offerings without looking like they were putting down the competition.
Today, when potential customers walk into a showroom, call you on the phone, or browse what you have to offer, you can assume that they have already done some homework and have a good idea of what they want. They are not looking for someone to “sell” them anything. In fact, according to this survey of B2B buying practices, Gartner found that close to 80% of a buyer’s time is spent researching and information gathering, while the remaining 20% is split between competing sales teams.
If you’re only going to get 5-10% of a customer’s time, it’s imperative that once they get to you, you’re the one most likely to close the deal. How you develop your ‘Seller Free Strategy’ is one way to make sure that when your sales team is inserted into the opportunity, your customer is placed with the right person, the right product, and the right value message, at the right time.
What Does ‘Seller-Free’ Mean?
Being Seller-Free is a strategy that meets your customers where they want to be and brings the sales rep into the conversation at the right point if and when they are needed. Research shows 75% of both buyers and sellers say that they prefer digital self-serve and connecting remotely with sales reps. One-third of customers prefer a completely Seller-Free experience. Clearly, creating a system that allows customers to engage with your sales team on your customers’ terms is a winning strategy.
With the advancement of AI and machine learning, sophisticated applications exist that will guide buyers to the information they need. It’s efficient and accurate, and it can handle much more volume than a traditional sales team.
There are three major components needed to move toward a Seller-Free experience and they are all of equal importance. Each step of the way should be easy on the buyer and allow them to dictate how they wish to interact with your sales team.
1. Self Selection
Your buyers know how to work a search engine. They can find you online, and they can access your product descriptions and online store if you have one. What buyers are really expecting is a user experience that guides them to the information they want to see.
No matter if you have a web store or simply product descriptions, the key here is that you design your digital presence with the user in mind, anticipating as many questions and functions as possible. Make sure all of your products and services are fully detailed so that customers can easily compare and see the variety of features and benefits you have to offer.
In today’s digital landscape, your website is doing a big part of the job a traditional sales team used to do. Make sure it is as full of easily accessible knowledge as your best salesperson.
2. Self Pricing
One of the most important pieces of information a customer is looking for is: “How much will this cost?” It’s important to provide this information, or at least a price range upfront. Base price, list price, or even price ranges give your potential customers a solid framework to compare benefits vs. price.
The buyer often needs to identify the vendors who can solve their problem and find out how much it will cost. Those that can provide a solution and also share how much it will cost are more likely to receive further consideration. A great, feature-rich product set with an unknown price will be less likely to attract customers than one that will do the job at a known price point.
If you have ever been shopping and had the choice of two items, and then selected one because it had a price tag while the other didn’t, you’ve proven the power of self-pricing.
3. Self Scheduling
With many buyers only spending about 5% of their time with any one seller, it’s vitally important to give your buyer control of the closing process. If your digital marketing has won the customer over, some sales can be completed without a salesperson. In other cases, a sales staff will need to be involved.
By utilizing technology such as online calendars, and self-service scheduling apps, your customers can let you know when it is best to meet with them. In doing so, they say they are ready to decide. Buyer-driven scheduling also offers your business an opportunity to get more information from your potential customer which will give them a better experience when seeking your help. Getting upfront information about the buyer during the scheduling process can help you create a better buying experience for the customer and also help you close the deal.
It’s not just buyers telling you when they want to talk, It’s an opportunity for you to have a deep understanding of where they are on their buying journey so you can walk them to the finish line.
A Modern World Requires Modern Tools
There isn’t much worse from a buyer’s perspective than getting stuck in an endless self-service loop. Poorly designed websites with hard-to-find information or messaging systems that don’t answer in a timely manner trap your customer in a loop that frustrates them to the point they will seek what they need from your competitors.
Most people are familiar with call centers. They came about as a way to share the costs of telephone infrastructure amongst a number of organizations. Instead of having to staff your own 24/7 department, call center employees are trained to handle the calls from customers of multiple companies. The phones are always ringing, and the customer is always able to find someone to talk to.
The next step in this evolution is a Modern CCaaS offering. Today’s environment encompasses more than phones. You need to integrate text, emails, instant messaging, and social media into your communication channels. Robust, all-in-one reporting of each interaction is a must. For many businesses, monitoring all of these inputs is cost-prohibitive.
Yet, this sort of availability is what the customer wants. Changing your plan, upgrading a plan or equipment, and other simple transactions need to be intuitive, fast, and easy to navigate. There should also be options to speak to an employee whenever needed. By utilizing CCaas, you are able to purchase the amount of support you need, in the areas your customers communicate with you.
As your business expands, you can easily scale up or down the services you need depending on the customer channel preference that you find in your data. These systems can automate the buyer’s journey and lead them to where they, and you, want them to go, a closed deal.
Being able to interact with the content of buyer email, text, social media messaging, or phone calls allows you to put them at the heart of the process. It also offers opportunities behind the scenes for you to increase automation, get better data for decision-making, and tailor the customer experience to be exactly how your customer needs it to be.
In-person sales and availability by telephone are still important, but other communications channels have become important too. No longer is sales the main channel of interaction, it is now one channel of many. At Symplicity Communications we specialize in helping you find the right CCaaS platform that will fit your needs. We can help you get the right set of tools in place to put your buyers in the driver’s seat and on a road to a great buying experience.