Make Customers Pay Extra With a Great Customer Experience

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Just click your heels together and say, “There’s nothing like higher prices …” Photograph by Ellenor Benton.

When sales managers dream, how many fantasize about taking the products and services they already offer and getting customers to pay more for them?

This doesn’t have to be a fantasy. In fact, a study found that 85% of consumers would be willing to pay more, provided they were also buying a superior customer experience. That finding comes from a recent survey from Harris Interactive, sponsored by RightNow Technologies, of more than 2,000 adults in the United States.

Pay Now or Pay Later

How much more will people pay? Half of respondents said they’d pay 10% more, one in four said they’d fork out 15% more, and 10% of customers said they’d part with at least 25% more.

Who doesn’t want a piece of that action? It’s easy, provided you focus on the customer experience. When customers are happy, they share that satisfaction with others. Indeed, more than products or price, customer service remains the number-one reason that a consumer recommends an organization. (What will your salespeople think of that?)

Losing Customers Is Bad Business

What’s the alterative to providing great customer service? Losing your customers, and that’s an expensive proposition. Indeed, 82% of survey respondents said they’d stopped doing business with an organization due to having a negative customer experience. Particular grievances: rude staff (for 73%), slow issue resolution (55%) and unknowledgeable staff (51%).

Owing to human nature, spurned customers also tend to become highly vocal ex-customers, with 4 out of 5 warning others to stay away. Malign Twitter and Facebook for bringing power to the buying masses all you want, but that’s the new reality. Furthermore, some organizations are succeeding quite well at this “keep customers happy” paradigm, thank you very much.

Free Stuff Doesn’t Always Make Consumers Happy

Just not Facebook. In another quirk of human nature, people still judge products and services, even when they’re free. For example, according to the 2010 American Customer Survey Index conducted by ForeSee, Facebook received 64 out of 100 points. “That’s lower than any other business in its category,” said Samuel Axon at Mashable. What’s scuttling Facebook’s mojo? Try “privacy concerns, frequent changes to the website, and commercialization and advertising,” says ForeSee’s CEO, Larry Freed. In other words, just because Facebook is free doesn’t mean it provides users with a great user experience.

Notably, the opposite is also true: people oftentimes attach greater value to products or services that cost more. For example, look at Salesforce.com, the leader in cloud CRM. It charges nearly double what Oracle asks for CRM On Demand. How does Salesforce.com get away with it — because they’ve got a better product? Perhaps. Is it because people perceive it to have more value? That’s a more likely answer.

Memo To Sales: Sell the (Excellent) Customer Experience

Demand a better experience for your customers. Just imagine: fewer outbursts, happier customers, better retention, easier acquisition, less time spent on service, and seeing more spending.

To get it, it’s time for the sales group to rally behind an excellent customer experience. Otherwise, you’re shooting customer retention in the foot, creating legions of dissatisfied customers, and making it more difficult for salespeople to do their job (aka new customer acquisition).

Use the customer experience to sell your products or services. Build it. Sell it. Work it.

No ruby slippers required.

Learn More

Beyond “selling” the customer experience, sales has other crucial roles to play in building a great customer experience. For starters, there’s pricing strategy. Do this carefully, and beware letting interpersonal psychology creep into the equation.

Also offer fewer products. Because when customers face too many product choices, they freak out. So if your approach to product naming, SKUs or bundles looks like so much sprawl, don’t be surprised if customers run screaming (via social media).

Finally, to understand the role of CRM in providing great customer service, see our CRM Excellence Framework for sales and for service.

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