We’ve all bought a product in-store, only to return it after learning that it was available for a much lower price somewhere else. Or ordered an article of clothing online, only to be disappointed by the quality or fit once it was delivered.
These scenarios are manifestations of buyer’s remorse, said Jeff Sauro founding principal of MeasuringU, a customer experience and quantitative research firm based in Denver. While we typically think of this phenomenon as occurring with big-ticket items like a home or a car, almost any purchase can lead to regret or concern on the part of the customer. And no company wants those bad feelings associated with them.
“Buyer’s remorse is a form of cognitive dissonance in which a customer’s initial expectations about a product or service don’t align with their actual experience,” said Sauro. “This cognitive dissonance can be sparked by a perceived lack of value, lower-than-expected quality or the presence of better alternatives.”
Whatever its cause, it’s critical that you take actions to reduce any buyer’s remorse your customers might be experiencing.
Offer a return guarantee and collect data about how often and why returns are made.
Offering a return guarantee is key to alleviating buyer’s remorse. If your return rate is more of a steady stream (or a raging torrent), you need to find the source (or sources) of this buyer’s remorse so that you can take steps to prevent future returns. Specifically:
- Collect return rates, dates and details.
- Look to other clues that can predict the root cause of returns.
- Predict the return rates based on patterns in the root causes.
“Here’s an example of what this type of data collection and analysis look like in action,” Sauro shared. “I worked with a U.S.-based cellular service provider that carried a number of phones from different manufacturers, including Apple, Samsung and Motorola. The cellular service provider collected the return rates for each type of phone and then looked into the causes of the returns. One reason for the returns was that customers found certain phones harder to use. The company started collecting usability data on all its phones, then associated that with the return rates. Based on the data, the company stopped selling the phones that lacked a decent usability score.”
Rethink your product or service based on what your customers collectively say they want.
When was the last time you directly asked your customers what they thought about your product or service? Do they really believe it provides a good value? Might it be overpriced, have quality concerns, perform poorly, need more features, etc.? Be sure to keep your finger on the pulse of what your customers want by asking them a mix of open- and close-ended questions.
“Learning that you need to offer a better value to your customers probably won’t be a comfortable realization for you to make but the good news is, these kinds of changes are like low-hanging fruit when it comes to combating buyer’s remorse,” said Sauro. “Making one change, like increasing offerings for the same price or fine-tuning a feature, can drastically improve satisfaction for a lot of customers.”
Confirm the initial choice.
Sometimes, simply validating a customer’s choice to purchase your product or use your service is enough to stave off buyer’s remorse. Messaging (in e-mail newsletters, ads, social media, etc.) and follow-up calls reassure customers that they’ve made a wise choice and that their purchase is in line with their values.
“For example, you might post a positive testimony from a satisfied customer on your company’s Facebook page or publish a newsletter article suggesting additional uses for your product,” Sauro shared.
Examine customer experience at different touchpoints.
Buyer’s remorse can develop at many different points post-purchase and for many different reasons. It may not even be sparked by the product itself but by a poor service experience, for instance. That’s why Sauro said it’s important to collect data not only about the product itself, but about several post-purchase touchpoints:
- Shipping and delivery: Is the item in stock and delivered quickly?
- Unboxing (opening the product): Do the quality and style of the packaging reinforce positive brand attributes?
- Installation and setup: Is this process lengthy, confusing or overly complex?
- Customer support: Are questions and concerns addressed in a timely and satisfactory manner? Is support staff knowledgeable and friendly?
- Feature usage: Are there features that customers don’t use? Are any desired features missing?
“It’s often most efficient, and less of a burden on the customer, if you ask customers to complete only one survey at a key point in the post-purchase process – say, after the customer has used the product for some time,” Sauro noted. “Keep an open mind when analyzing the results, because you may be surprised by where opportunities for improvement lie.”
Establish a feedback loop so “remorse” data gets back to decision-makers.
It doesn’t matter how much useful data you collect if it isn’t passed on to people within your organization who can use it to reduce buyer’s remorse, said Sauro.
“Establish a feedback loop to make sure that problems, frustrations and suggested improvements are properly channeled back to product development, marketing, customer service, etc.,” he commented. “You’d be surprised by how much data stays buried in internal reports where it doesn’t do anyone any good.”
Don’t rely on just one remorse-removing tactic.
If your company is very fortunate, you may make a significant dent in buyer’s remorse after implementing only one of the previous tactics. But much more often, Sauro said, organizations experience success only when they thoughtfully blend some or all of these strategies. He pointed to Zappos.com as an example. Buying shoes online comes with some risk, since customers can’t try them on and may have to deal with the hassle of returning a purchase. So first, Zappos minimizes the risk to the customer by offering fast, free shipping; free returns; and free return shipping.
“What’s more, Zappos provides one of the best customer service experiences,” he added. “The company’s reps are known for staying on calls for as long as it takes to resolve a customer’s problems.”