Customer experience starts BEFORE THE SALE!


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This blog was originally published here.

My husband and I were in the process of purchasing our first car together. We were very sure of the model of the car that we wanted to purchase. However, being new to the city, we were unsure of where to buy it from. And we looked up over the internet for all the dealers in the city of that particular car. Needless to say, we found quite a few. The next thing we did was check up the customer reviews and customer ratings of those dealers. We were able to zero down to a handful of them. Now, with both my husband and me having crazy work schedules, none of us could afford the luxury of taking a day off work. Hence, we decided it was best to call the dealers, get an appointment fixed and then visit them; this would save us a lot of time. So, we quickly began looking out for the phone numbers and websites of the dealers. To our surprise, we could not find the websites or any contact numbers for quite a few. A few others that we called did not pick the call. Finally, we had only the last two dealers on our list and were wondering if we’d have to take a day off from work to visit them personally.

I was quietly wondering to myself all this time as to why buying a car should be such a hassle. I thought it would be a pretty simple and straightforward process, but just narrowing down on the dealers had taken a good deal of time and effort. Not expecting too much, I dialed the dealer number 1. Thankfully, my call was answered this time. I was spoken to politely, was asked relevant questions, and was given an appointment for a working day at a time of my convenience. After the harrowing experience that I had earlier, I was satisfied with this level of service.

I dialed dealer number 2 just because I wanted to have a backup. However, never in my wildest of dreams would I have expected that I would be greeted so cheerfully. I was congratulated on my decision to buy my first car! I was asked those basic questions and after understanding my schedule, the executive offered that he could have an employee sent to my place to discuss this further. To my astonishment, he said that we wouldn’t have to come to the showroom until the day I wanted to pick up the car. Everything else could be done online! I really could not hide my happiness as well as my relief. I knew exactly where I wanted to pick my first car from.

This experience got me thinking that the customer experience starts much before the actual sale!

Let’s first understand what ‘Customer Experience’ really means. Now, while the common perception is that customer experience is the experience that a customer has with the product/service that he has purchased, this perception is actually flawed. Customer experience is much more than that. In reality, it is the totality of the experiences that a customer has with a particular brand across all touch-points. Don’t you think the experience that I faced in purchasing my car was a perfect example of how customer experience does NOT come only after the purchase of a product?

I believe that all the touchpoints of a customer with a brand can be classified into three categories:

  1. Pre-transactional phase
  2. Transactional phase
  3. Post-transactional phase

The pre-transactional phase is, as the name suggests, the phase of customer experience before a sale. The transactional one is when the customer is making a purchase with the brand. Finally, the post-transactional phase is the CX that a customer receives post the sale. Customer experience, then, is the sum-total of all the experiences across these three phases.

It is increasingly important that organizations make their pre-transactional experience a great one so that customers would want to do further business with them. Here are a few pointers for brands to do so effectively.

1. Be visible on channels that matter to your customers

As a brand, you must be present where your customers are. Now, this could be either social media, email, or the internet by means of SEO. For this, it is imperative that you understand your customer-base well and reach out to them. Being present on multiple channels today is also expected. Unless a business offers an online-only product/service – meaning the communication and the product/service is consumed online – it is important for the business to have designed a frictionless online to offline transition for customers.

For instance, the experience that I had in purchasing my car clearly shows that dealers that were not present on channels relevant for a potential customer lost the opportunity to increase their sales. While I searched for dealers online, I wanted to speak to someone on phone before deciding to visit the showroom. However, only two dealers on my list answered my call! It’s evident that the other dealers had not planned an online to offline transition well.

2. Educate and train the sales team with a CX orientation

In most organizations today, unfortunately, sales targets are still achieved in numbers – the number of customers or dollars in revenue. Hence, the sales team is looking to increase numbers, without focussing on other parameters that could, indirectly, increase the sales significantly. Customer experience stands on number one on the list of those parameters.

The sales team has to be trained and educated on the importance of customer experience. For instance, in the story that I was narrating earlier, it is evident that the sales team of dealer number 2 was educated on the fact that it might be a hassle for customers to visit the store. This certainly enhanced the customer experience!

3. Measure and incentivize the sales team on CX

Apart from educating the team on the importance of customer experience, incentivizing them by using CX as a Key Performance Indicator will motivate the entire team to focus diligently on this goal. However, to be able to incentivize the team, the first step is to measure the customer experience. Hence, customers must be asked for their detailed feedback at this touchpoint – the pre-sales one.

While the transactional and post-transactional phases of customer experiences are important too, it is the pre-transactional phase that will ensure that you have converted a potential client into your customer. Are there any other pointers that you would recommend to delight your potential customers even before they make a sale? Do let us know!

Sonal Jaiswal
I head the content creation team at Customer Guru, a boutique consulting firm that helps its clients become customer-centric. From implementing the best customer experience metric to supporting change management, Customer Guru also sets up the right team structure and processes. Along with consulting, it also specializes in implementing leading customer feedback management tools.


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