Getting The Digital Buying Journey Wrong

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I visited the website of a very large enterprise software provider. I found myself at this website to help me better understand some of the issues my client faced. I wanted to learn more about the issues and the things my client should be considering before they even considered looking toward solutions.

While this software provider is a major provider of solutions to the challenges I believed my client had, I wasn’t yet ready to look at the solutions. I wanted to help my client think about the problems and issues first. They needed to define those and what they expected to change, before considering solutions.

I went to this website thinking I might be able to find case studies, research data, or other information I might leverage to help my client. I wandered the website, looking for this information. I looked at their research, I looked at case studies. I looked at some of their “thought leadership.” I even looked at the investor site, thinking some of the investor presentations might discuss some of the fundamental challenges, problems, issues their customers were facing.

After a few minutes, a little chatbot popped up in the lower right corner of my screen. It posed the question, “Do you want to talk to a product specialist?”

First, that was an unusual question based on the pages I had visited in my first five minutes on the site. Nothing I visited had anything to do with products. So why did they think I might want to talk to a product specialist?

But I did need help and decided to click on the chatbot. I thought I might be given the option to reply, “I’m not yet interested in learning about products, I am interested in other things…..”

The response was very unsatisfying. They didn’t want to understand the questions I had and provide help on those questions, they wanted to send me product information. The response said, “We need some information about you so we can send you product information. please provide your name, company email, and company…”

I ignored that, I kept trying to engage the chatbot in a way to get the help I really wanted. But they kept insisting on sending me product information. I didn’t even know what products my client might need, we hadn’t even defined the problem, or the issues they needed to address. Since we hadn’t yet done that and had so much to learn, we couldn’t even begin to think about products.

Yet, the only help I could get in this digital engagement was requesting product information. I kept trying to work with the bot trying to find a way to say, “I don’t need product information now, but I have some different questions, can you help me?” But I couldn’t navigate their bot to do this. I struggled through their huge website trying to find the information I was looking for. I found some, and I’m sure there’s a lot that I missed. It sure would have been nice for me to pose the questions I had and get directed to the right resources.

I did click on the search button, I typed in my question. I got over 400 responses to my question, when I scrolled to the bottom of the page, I found I could “Load More.”

As I scanned those 400 responses, 70% of them were about products, “How to use product X to do this….” A lot of the other titles seemed irrelevant. Some announced events, others had to do with investor reports. I suspect somehow the words in my query matched words in those documents. I did find a few useful documents, learned some good things from them, but wanted to go deeper. But it appeared I’d have to skim through that first 400, then possibly , “Load More.”

It appeared that it would be very difficult to find the information that was most helpful for what my client and I were most concerned with at the moment. If only they had given me the option, “I see you don’t want to learn about our products, how can we be most helpful?”

I started thinking, “Maybe I have to go somewhere else. Perhaps their competitors can answer my questions.” Of course, I probably could have called someone, but I didn’t want to. Given the product focus in my digital interaction, I feared the same if I talked to a human being.

To be fair, this isn’t unusual. It was just frustrating because I was seeking to learn, I was looking for answers–but they were more concerned with educating me about their products.

The digital buying journey is not just to learn about how great your products are. From a customer point of view, there’s a whole lot that precedes even the ability to intelligently learn about products. If we are going to be successful in engaging our customers in their digital buying journey, we have to meet them where they are at, helping them move to where they need to be.

Technology enables us to do so much of this now, but we don’t implement those capabilities, after all, we are most interested in presenting our products.

But in this situation, the software could have assessed the pages I was clicking on, how I was scrolling through those pages. They could have relatively accurately assessed that I wasn’t interested in the products. The chatbot might have said, “It looks like you are very early on in your process and want to learn more about key issues in [this] area. Is that correct, can I help you get that information?” “Or it could have asked me, “What are you most interested in learning, it might have given me some choices?”

Sadly, while we have the capability to change the digital conversation, focusing on what the customer is most interested in, it seems we are replicating the conversations our sales people are driving, all they seem to want to talk about is the products. We are avoiding sales people because they can’t, or don’t want to, respond to the issues we are most concerned about. If our digital engagement strategies mirror our selling approaches, then we are doing something wrong.

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