Buyer’s remorse is a seller’s nightmare. Even the best cloud software solutions, DevOps applications and CRM systems are major failures when purchasers aren’t happy.
But research shows buyers should shift their blame and look inward to identify who is at fault.
What drives customer dissatisfaction most often is the quality of a buyer’s approach to acquisitions rather than the technology, a Gartner report found.
Most buyers find a way to get value from their purchases, said Hank Barnes, VP analyst at Gartner. “They just don’t enjoy the experience, and many find the initial stages of deployment more challenging than they expected,” Barnes told CIO Dive in an email.
Playing the post-sale blame game is as tempting as it is unproductive. Buyer remorse rebounds onto the product and service vendors, regardless of where fault lies. Ultimately, enterprise IT providers want happy customers.
Unhappy customers are easy to come by, according to the Gartner report, which surveyed 1,120 IT leaders and managers involved in large-scale acquisitions over the last two years.
The respondents regretted 56% of the purchases Gartner analyzed. Seven out of ten respondents complained that purchases fell below expectations or were less ambitious in scope than originally planned.
Poorly orchestrated decision-making by the customer, internal disagreement over objectives and delays in greenlighting purchases are three common symptoms of impending buyer remorse.
“The teams involved in buying often don’t agree on what they are trying to accomplish,” Barnes said. “This conflict drives delays and frustrations, including an increased likelihood of putting less effort into evaluations.”
Engineering a happy customer
If the customer is always right, it becomes incumbent upon the vendor to proactively intervene in the purchasing process. Enterprise technology vendors are learning this lesson.
One way for vendors and buyers to avoid unhappy outcomes is to study the profile of the happy customer. They come in three flavors, according to Bharath Vasudevan, VP of product management at the software company Quest.
Customers likely to be happy with tech purchases include former practitioners, organizations with sound procurement practices and mature organizations, Vasudevan said in an email.
“Former practitioners-turned-leaders who believe in the product because of past experiences exist within almost every organization,” Vasudevan said. “They know how to extract value and are invaluable when bringing in different technology.”
A sound procurement process involves “a bake-off, proof of concept, extended demo period or beta program,” Vasudevan said.
Mature organizations exhibit the right combination of people, processes and existing technology to implement upgrades.
“Understanding that you need to be properly staffed and have the organizational agility to work between departments for information sharing often leads to successful experiences with products,” Vasudevan said.
Often, the ideal buyer isn’t at hand. That’s when vendors need someone like Lance Phillips, VP of customer success at DevOps company CloudBees. He’s built a culture around proactively facilitating customer satisfaction rather than reactively responding to problems as they arise.
“There are a lot of variants of customer success,” Phillips said. “I look at [myself] as being the accountable party for program managing the customer through the adoption of our technology.”
“Between the Great Resignation and the cost of highly technical resources, there's this new commonality, where customers don't have the technical expertise to do what they could do 24 months ago,” Phillips said.
As a result, vendors are encountering clients who don’t have the talent for new tech. A buyer who is prepared to adopt new tech is a buyer primed for remorse.
“You’re either going to end up as shelfware,” Phillips said. “Or you’re going to end up competing back-and-forth with a customer who perceives complexities that have always been there as shortcomings in your product.”