After-sales service: 10 strategies to keep customers engaged
After-sales service is the support provided to customers after a purchase. Learn how these after-sales activities can increase customer lifetime value.
Published June 30, 2022
Last updated June 30, 2022
Pop the champagne! You’ve just closed a major deal and you’re ready to pack up, head out on the town, and celebrate by crossing that client off your never-ending to-do list.
You absolutely deserve a night of Beluga caviar and the finest of wines after closing a hard-earned deal (if that’s what you’re into), but don’t assume your work is finished. That client isn’t going anywhere. In fact, you’re just beginning the real work of maintaining that relationship and keeping them satisfied and loyal.
Gathering and converting new leads might feel fresh and exciting, but client retention is just as important to your company’s bottom line, if not more so. After all, acquiring new customers is expensive. Converting brand-new leads costs anywhere from 5 to 25 times more than retaining existing buyers. Additionally, investing just 5 percent in customer retention has been shown to boost profits by a minimum of 25 percent.
It clearly pays to retain your customers—but how, exactly, do you keep them coming back for more?
The key to customer retention and lifetime value is after-sales service. In this guide, we’ll explain what after-sales service entails and reveal 10 core activities that can improve your after-sales statistics. We’ll also share five overall best practices, so you know you’ll be killing it with your customers even after a sale is concluded.
What is after-sales service?
After-sales service is the follow-up support and resources provided for customers after they’ve purchased your product or service. Giving customers attention after a completed sale lets them know you truly value them—not just their wallet.
High-quality after-sales activities may include promptly answering customer questions, providing set-up or onboarding support, maintaining contact through customer loyalty programs, or even writing personalized thank you notes. No matter how you show your customers love, the purpose is the same: Keep your customers happy, coming back for more, and singing your praises to the world.
Why is post-sale service important?
Sales reps naturally focus their time on making sales—that’s kind of the point. While neck-deep in that process, however, it’s easy to lose track of what happens to customers after the deal is done. Too frequently, reps move on to the next sale and their old prospects disappear into the ether.
Investing just 5% in customer retention has been shown to boost profits by a minimum of 25%.
Garnering new opportunities is important, but it’s also crucial to continue nurturing your existing customers. According to Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent while the chances of selling to a new prospect are only 5 to 20 percent. If you were making bets at a casino in Las Vegas, it’s pretty clear which sale you’d bet on.
That said, even though the odds of repeat customer sales are swayed in your favor, you can’t just cross your fingers and wait for success. You have to put the work in. Follow up with stellar post-sales service that delights customers and keeps them coming back. Beyond the simple benefits of making additional sales, top-notch after-sales services:
- Enhance customer satisfaction rates
- Deepen brand loyalty
- Increase customer retention
- Drive repeat and higher-value sales
- Raise brand value
- Boost word-of-mouth referrals
These are all incredible outcomes for your business. They’re also all contributors toward increasing a customer’s lifetime value with your company—and value is the name of the post-sales game.
10 after-sales activities that increase customer lifetime value
How you treat customers after a sale is crucial for building loyalty and trust. Simple acts of outreach go a long way, so try out these post-sale service activities to wow your customers and show them why you deserve 11 out of 10 stars.
Send a personalized thank you
If you’ve ever sent a thank you card to your grandma for that comfy pair of holiday socks, you’re already familiar with this tried-and-true gratitude practice. These days, it’s a rarity to receive a real card in the mail, so when you send one, it stands out.
Sending postcards or notes doesn’t have to be complicated. Trigger a “thank you” reminder in your workflow so it’s just another step in your automated sales process. Depending on the nature of your business, consider a personal phone call, follow-up email, or even a quick text message. Never underestimate the value of a sincere “thank you” message.
Cross-sell with paired products or services
Pairing your product with the perfect add-on can improve a customer’s experience. Suggest a pouring spout for that Italian olive oil, a hand-crafted dipper for a jar of acacia honey, or a wireless controller with a new gaming system. Warranties or special maintenance services can also optimize the experience.
You can incentivize with real-time gifts, too. If you have customers waiting for appointments or shopping onsite, offer complimentary WiFi or soft drinks to improve their visit.
Don’t think of “cross-sell” as a dirty word. When done right, it helps your customers fully enjoy your products and ensures they’re getting their money’s worth.
Provide product training materials
Got a product that’s a little tricky? Make training a part of the purchase. Help your new (and old) customers learn the ropes with online tutorials, videos, apps, or online appointments with a specialist. New purchases aren’t any fun if you can’t figure out how to use them.
For non-software products, ensure each purchase comes equipped with installation manuals, technical sheets, or booklets. After all, where would we all be without those IKEA stick figures to help us count nuts, bolts, and screws?
Whether your training materials are virtual or physical, seriously evaluate what your customers will need to make their post-purchase experience easier and more enjoyable. You want them to get the most out of your product right out of the gate. Head off frustration by providing the materials they’ll need and letting them know how to get in touch with customer service if they have questions.
Offer support services
Sometimes, things go wrong. It happens to everyone. Make it easy for your customers to figure out how to get help when things go south by providing multiple avenues of contact. Different demographics may prefer different services. For instance, older customers frequently prefer to call a sales support line and talk to a real human, while younger folks are more likely to hop into a chat with a bot or rep. More DIY-type customers may seek out troubleshooting guides on your website to address the issue independently.
Anticipate issues ahead of time so you can be prepared to address questions smoothly and swiftly. Customers expect immediate results. In fact, more than two-thirds of consumers equate a positive customer service experience with a fast resolution. It’s not enough to solve issues. You need to solidify your customer service infrastructure so you can solve them as quickly as possible.
At the end of the day, positive customer service experiences cultivate brand loyalty. According to a survey conducted by Microsoft Dynamics 365, a stunning 95 percent of respondents say that customer service is important to their choice of (and loyalty to) a brand. Make sure that when your customers reach out for support, resources are easy to find and efficient to use.
Upgrade your packaging
Packaging may not be the first thing that comes to mind for after-sales service improvement, but as tens of thousands of YouTube videos prove, the unboxing process is a great opportunity to delight customers. Make it fun to receive your product. A plain box gets the job done, but adding a little sparkle can drive brand recognition and word-of-mouth referrals.
Use packaging as a chance to lean into value selling. Consider packing materials that are eco-friendly or that can be repurposed. Minimalist packaging not only improves your customers’ carbon footprint but also reduces yours. Let your customers know what you’re doing to be more green.
Remember, your packaging is always an extension of your brand. Make sure it suits your business. High-quality, good-looking materials can greatly influence a purchasing decision, and a clever design generally has high brand recognition value.
Don’t keep yourself in the dark when it comes to customer satisfaction. Send follow-up surveys with clear questions to learn how your customers feel about your products and what suggestions they have for improvements.
Develop a clearly defined objective for each survey you send so you can ask the right questions. If you want to know how likely a client is to refer you to a friend, ask them questions about company rating—don’t ask how often they’d like to receive emails from you. Targeted questions bring in useful data. Plus, ingenious techniques like offering 10 percent off their next purchase can both encourage customers to complete surveys and increase the likelihood of future sales.
Repair mistakes quickly and generously
Mistakes happen. When they do, don’t brush them off or ignore them. A mistake is an opportunity to demonstrate great customer service.
Let’s say you sell high-end body care products, and a customer has received the wrong scent of the quad-milled French bar soap. When they reach out to customer support via live chat, be empathetic and apologize for the inconvenience. Empower your service reps to replace the order and throw in something extra—like sample-size soaps or a travel candle. Customers take note of this level of care and share their stories with friends and family, as well as on social media.
When you can, simplify the process for customers to replace or return items. A no-fuss return policy, especially for online orders, makes your company stand out from the competition and can tip the scales in your favor.
Establish a loyalty program
Customers who return to your business again and again deserve your appreciation. Reward customer loyalty and encourage repeat business with perks, discounts, free merchandise, or early access to new products. Many businesses utilize a points system with graduating levels of incentives the more a customer buys. Consider a small “freebie” sample product or add-on service with a purchase. After all, who doesn’t love free stuff?
However you choose to reward loyalty, be generous with benefits so your clients want to join the program. Customers who are part of a loyalty program typically spend up to 18 percent more than those who are not. Crafting a unique, on-brand loyalty program is well worth your time and resources.
Share event-focused offers
The sales landscape shifts quickly, and certain sales trends can be tough to predict. But there are some events we can always count on. Birthdays, holidays, and even tax season give you the chance to connect with customers.
While not every event calls for an all-out celebration, your customers will take note of a timely message wishing them “Happy birthday!” with a small discount or free item. And this process doesn’t have to be labor-intensive. When events are consistent, you can automate annual messages through your customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
For other events like holidays or back-to-school season, reaching out to customers keeps your brand fresh in their minds. Use these messages to let them know about any changes to your hours and what promotions you have in the works. Adding a coupon code to your message is another chance to boost your chances for a repeat purchase and start the sales cycle over again.
Ask for referrals
Don’t be shy about asking for referrals. According to sales legend Dale Carnegie, an overwhelming 91 percent of customers are willing to give referrals, but only 11 percent of salespeople actually ask for them.
Consumers who find your business through word of mouth are four times more likely to buy. If you’re not already asking your customers to spread the word, you should start. Be sure to show your appreciation by offering incentive discounts or coupon codes. While it feels good to share a positive experience, it feels even sweeter when you get a little something extra for it.
5 after-sales service best practices
With all these activities in your toolkit, you’re nearly ready to revitalize your after-sales efforts. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind as you test out your new activities and tactics.
Remember, you’ve already made the sale and established a relationship—don’t ruin it by being pushy. Now is your chance to really show you care about your customer. Create opportunities to solicit feedback from customers before they reach out with questions or concerns.
Preempt frustrations and impress customers by always being one step ahead. Contacting a customer before they make a return or post a bad review can head off a negative perception about your brand. By getting in touch first, you can address issues quickly and perhaps even convince them to stick around.
If a customer reaches out to share that something’s not going the way they hoped, listen attentively and be empathetic. Don’t sound like you’re just reading from a script. It’s important to be authentic and genuine. Your clients want to feel that you care, not that you’re reluctantly faking it.
When things take an unfortunate turn and a customer has a legitimate grievance, be swift and generous in making things right. It’s smarter to invest in repairing the client relationship than to lose that revenue stream for good and be faced with negative word-of-mouth.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to wait for something to go wrong to show your generosity. This also goes for how you set up customer loyalty programs, referral incentives, and thank yous. Free samples, discount add-ons, or coupon codes all show your clients that you care about their experience, not just how fast they can enter their credit card number.
Provide multiple opportunities for customer feedback
There are more avenues than ever for people to share their views—positive and negative—about products, services, and experiences. If you provide multiple channels for feedback early and often, you can reach customers before they angry-Tweet about their new MMORPG expansion not downloading.
Don’t forget that people like to share great experiences as well. Make it easy for your happy clients to post reviews online and share stories on social media.
Use automation tools
Service doesn’t need to be hands-on all the time. With a plethora of digital sales tools and technology available for B2B and B2C companies, you can choose what’s right for your company’s unique post-sales process. A robust software package streamlines after-sales services by automating activities like sending emails, requesting survey feedback, or celebrating birthdays with special offers.
Increase lifetime customer value with improved after-sales service
A dependable sales process is cyclical. You’re not done with a client once a transaction is made; the cycle simply starts all over again.
Keep customers happy for many years to come. Sign up for a free trial of Zendesk Sell today and experience what an industry-leading, all-in-one CRM can do to upgrade your after-sales service.