Nothing is as unfathomable to a customer as a great initial buying experience followed by a terrible support experience from the same vendor. This isn’t simply perceived as the vendor having a rough day or having an unrefined process revealed – it’s seen as a slight, as a bait and switch, as a betrayal. If the vendor can sell in a way that makes the customer feel secure and rewarded for his purchase, why can’t the vendor maintain that feeling over the course of the relationship?
The impediments to doing this are many – and they all stem from processes that are attuned to the business’s needs, not the customers. In a lot of organizations, the process for developing proposals and quotes and then delivering those items is automated and geared toward accelerating the sale. While sales acceleration has real revenue benefits for the seller, it also helps buyers get their purchases completed faster, a huge benefit in this time-strapped era. To do this, many companies have a configure price quote (CPQ) solution which helps the sales staff assemble quotes, and which ties into other backend solutions to ensure that products are delivered once the contract is signed.
But what about the teams tasked with supporting customers after the initial sale? In too many cases, the systems they use are not on a par with what sales is using. Because support took back seat to sales for so long, many support organizations limp along with fewer tools and are far less capable of providing great customer experiences than sales.
A 2014 study by InsideSales found that business spent $12.8 billion in sales acceleration technology. According to research debuted at the Genesys G-Force conference around the same time, investment in customer service technology stood at around $9 billion annually.
This suggests a misalignment in many organizations between sales – the part of the company charged with finding new customers – and support – the part of the company responsible for keeping customers. That’s a dangerous misalignment, especially since keeping customers can prove much more lucrative than simply acquiring new ones. As is the case in the classic sales/marketing misalignment, the problem is driven and reinforced by the two organizations using different technology to manage the same data.
If your company derives a significant amount of revenue from consumables and replacement parts, this could represent a significant missed opportunity. Recent research from IDC Manufacturing revealed that a third of the manufacturers in its survey said that 75 percent or more of their profit came from aftermarket sales. But the same survey found that 60 percent of these manufacturers took on average two to three days to respond to service requests. Only 14 percent said they could respond within one day.
That delay would not be tolerated in the initial sales process. Why should it be permitted in the support process, where a misstep can cost a sale today and multiple potential sales long into the future?
The missing weapon from support’s arsenal is one sales already uses with great frequency ion the manufacturing space: CPQ. Using the same solution, configured exactly the same way, support can make sure customer requests make sense within the context of the customers’ existing purchases, provision replacement products or consumable materials correctly, and be guided toward up-selling opportunities.
Just as importantly, CPQ can help support offer an experience similar to the one the customer received during the initial purchasing process. A consistent experience is important – it communicates to the customer that their vendor is organized and committed to their long-term success, and helps to lengthen the customer life span with that vendor.
This isn’t true only for direct sales – it’s also true for channel sales. When a company sells through resellers and distributors, consistency of experience becomes much harder to manage if the fulfillment of spare parts and consumables is left to the various processes of channel partners. If you instead equip and coach your partners to use CPQ to fulfill requests for parts and consumables, you can move toward greater consistency and at the same time make your company easier to work with – a major plus as you compete to be your partners’ preferred vendor.
Depending on your market and your customers you may even extend CPQ to your eCommerce system, essentially giving customer the ability to use CPQ for self-service if this fits your business model.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that CPQ is simply a tool for the sales team. It goes well beyond that and can help you extend and enhance all of your customer relationships, especially when the customer needs replacement parts or consumable materials.
To read more about CPQ’s potential impact on your business performance, read our report CPQ: The ROI Argument.