What is a Customer Buying Process?

Also known as a customer purchasing process, a customer buying process is the series of steps that consumers employ when it comes to making decisions about and following through with making a purchase. A number of different models for this process are touted by various experts in different industries, and often focus on the essentials of customer service and support. While most models do provide strategies that are unique to the setting where the process is addressed, there are a few basics that are found in each incarnation.

With most customer buying process models, the approach begins with the determination by the consumer that he or she has a need or a want that must be fulfilled. At this stage, the consumer may have a general idea of what type of good or service is required to meet that need or want, or may simply be aware of the need and be interested in identifying a product that will fulfill that need. At this juncture, the consumer is not interested in hearing sale pitches, but in finding out what products are available, and how those products would meet the identified need.

Once the consumer has some idea of what he or she wants, the customer buying process moves on to the information gathering stage. Here, the consumer will begin to amass data about possible ways to fulfill the identified need or want. This phase often involves seeking opinions and recommendations from others in the consumer’s social network. At the same time, the consumer initiates research on their own, using resources like the Internet, promotional material published by different businesses and organizations, books, magazines, and newspapers.

With needs defined and information gathered, the customer buying process moves on to evaluating the various options discovered along the way. It is at this point that sales and customer service personnel become important to the process. Their goal is to shift customer perceptions so that these potential clients see the value of the products the salesperson is offering, and why those products are the best way to fill the stated needs of the consumer. In order to be truly effective, the salesperson must listen to the voice of the customer, ask clarifying questions when appropriate, and identify the best ways to make positive connections with that consumer. Doing so will help to increase the consumer’s sense of being valued, and increase the chances that he or she will give the salesperson time to convince them that a purchase is the next logical step.

The customer buying process culminates in the consumer making a decision to buy one or more of the products that were discovered, researched, and found to be viable ways to fill the stated need or needs. Here, the customer service support of the seller becomes extremely important. If the service and support is unable to successfully build a rapport with the customer, the chances of the customer returning again for additional purchases is greatly minimized. For this reason, effective customer service demands that representatives know how to identify and interact with various types of customers, handle customer complaints and questions successfully, and in general offer support that would be hard to find with a competitor.

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