Reducing Delays At Point Of Purchase
The McMobile Hopes To Make Fast Food Faster. McDonald's is hoping to speed up fast food by equipping staff at its 1,250 UK restaurants with handheld devices for staff to take customers orders as they wait. [CRMDaily]
What can you learn from this fast food giant? How can you take orders from customers waiting to purchase your services? Perhaps you are saying, "Our customers don't queue up to wait for purchases."
Let's look at the queue a little differently and replace it with a "delay in the purchase interaction from the point after a customer identifies a need." The sooner you know about a customers need to purchase your product the better you can target production levels, this information trickles through your business creating stability.
Instead of customers getting in line to purchase what you offer, they:
- wait a period of time till the pain of not having your product is enough to induce purchase,
- need certain conditions to be met inside their organization (i.e. inventory levels, trigger event) before they take action,
- delay until a purchase decision can be processed by the organizations internal procurement requirements,
- wait until certain conditions produce enough want to purchase what you offer because of ROI related issues,
- are surprised by unexpected problems that make purchasing your product an immediate need,
If you can eliminate some of these in-process delays you would have a better understanding of future purchase volumes, and you could improve customer service by having customized products ready to go when they are needed.
Some ways to create a customer relationship that reduces queuing:
- Sell "insurance" to make solutions available should customers face a certain range of problems. For products that support emergency situations, provide contracts similar those in the insurance industry. Customers pay a small retainer in exchange for a guarantee quickly solve certain problems if they arise in a particular predefined cases.
- Get future orders for consumable products at the point of original purchase. Induce this commitment with discounts, accept a deposit or offer a service program. If what you offer has a cost-of-ownership, here is a good time to introduce those factors. You save the customer time, and gain a clearer understanding of future revenues.
- Reduce delivery times by using local spares on the clients site. For high volume customers, consider arranging extra units to be stored at the customer site. Let the customer do it's own fulfillment in exchange for discounted shipping and handling. The customer pays for the units they use and has zero delay on fulfillment.
- Sell hard goods as service contracts with options. If at all possible package supporting services with the original product sale to insure the customer gets the most out of what you offer. If regular maintenance is required, offer it. Partner with qualified service providers if you don't offer the services on your own. Focus on complete solutions, not simple products.
- Document what customers will need, instead of selling them the idea to buy. Keep track of customers in all phases of your sales funnel by regularly documenting their purchase readiness state. Ask customers what they will need, then work with them to determine when they will buy. From this understanding they will buy at a set future date, you can focus on helping them buy exactly what is right for them.
- Offer open ended purchase agreements for regular customers. Let customers pre-order and reserve products under a single purchase agreement. By consolidating their accounts you'll gain a better understanding of the overall value of that customer while making it easier for them to manage their side of the relationship.
- Find ways to take orders for new product at the point of usage. If at all possible integrate your customers inventory management with your own, make it easy for them to place spot orders automatically. XML technologies make this easy, let your customer engage you from their intranet under preexisting contracts.
- Always include a continuation option on all contracts to support additional purchases. Why not let customers make additional purchases tied into existing contracts. You eliminate much of the paperwork, and these cash purchases are easy ways for customers to get what they need quickly. Let customers add-on options services mid-contract when appropriate to solve their problems.
- Help customers solve future problems strategically. Work closely with customers to identify future problems that (in your experience) other companies face. Actually make the customer smarter while scheduling additional services necessary to help them reach business objectives. Even consider repackaging your internal research to help customers manage their own business.
/ customer-service | interaction-points /
By Justin Hitt at July 16, 2003 4:52 PM
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