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Industrial buyers increasingly evaluate post-sales service

Two co-workers look at a tablet while standing in a storage room filled with boxes.

The post-sales experience your company offers is increasingly important to industrial buyers across all age ranges.

Millennial buyers, now the largest group in the workforce, place a particularly heavy emphasis on the quality of a company’s post-sales service, from returns policies to repair management. 

This is one of the key findings from UPS’s 2019 Industrial Buying Dynamics study, which surveyed purchasing behavior among 1,503 industrial buyers in the United States between the ages of 22 and 70.

The importance of post-sales support

As distributors, manufacturers, and online marketplaces aggressively compete for the industrial buyer’s wallet, the quality of a company’s post-sales support is proving a growing differentiator for purchasers everywhere.

In a finding that should give industrial suppliers pause for thought, almost nine out of every ten Millennials surveyed (87%) say they are inclined to take their business elsewhere in the next three to five years to access higher quality post-sales service.  

While only half of Boomers surveyed (52%) feel the same way, that figure is up 30 percentage points from the last survey in 2017. That’s a remarkable shift in attitudes, and one that suppliers must be careful to recognize.

Developing your post-sales services

What are some of the ways suppliers can differentiate themselves from the competition in an increasingly crowded space for industrial procurement?

While buyers of all ages are inclined to review a supplier’s returns policy before deciding on a purchase, this is not the only service area that warrants attention. Millennials value on-site maintenance and repairs, for example. They also have high expectations around sustainability and are eager to evaluate a seller’s disposal practices before committing to a sale.

It’s true that buyers in the United States, Mexico, and western European countries such as Italy, Germany, and France place a high premium on the returns services offered by suppliers. By contrast, buyers in Asian countries such as China and Thailand put less emphasis on returns and more on the quality of on-site maintenance. On-site support is an important post-sales factor for European buyers, too.

What many industrial suppliers may not realize is they don’t have to figure out how to provide this on-site maintenance service on their own. There are third-party logistics companies who specialize in this area and can offer either centralized or local parts inventory, along with efficiently expediting parts to a site either the same or next business day. This allows technicians to get equipment up and running with little downtime.   

Optimizing your returns policy

In an age of convenience and as appetite for international purchasing strengthens, the quality of your returns services will be an important factor in the decision-making process of most industrial buyers. Purchasers of all ages are buying online, and an easy-to-follow returns policy is a must nowadays.

Indeed, the conditions of return are a primary consideration when it comes to a buyer’s willingness to test out a new supplier. Almost three-quarters of Millennials (74%) say the quality of a seller’s returns service is an important factor to protect themselves against risk when buying from new sources.

Large distributors may already have a head start on the field when it comes to returns. While Millennials are inclined to buy directly from manufacturers and online marketplaces rather than large distributors, there is a feeling among buyers of all ages that the bigger distributors offer the most robust returns policies. This is something for smaller distributors, who are otherwise doing good work in attracting business from Millennial buyers, to note.

Developing your process for reverse logistics is something that businesses of all sizes should plan for at the earliest opportunity. Buyers are reading your returns policy closely and allowing this information to influence their purchase decisions. Focus on offering a clear and competitive returns policy as part of your post-sales support.

Key takeaways for post-sales service

Offering robust post-sales service is an excellent way of optimizing your industrial operations and turning one-time sales into repeat business. Distributors should be particularly eager to raise their game around post-sales service to better differentiate themselves from manufacturers and online marketplaces.

And while focusing on your returns policy is an important step, remember to pay attention to other aspects of your post-sales support—from on-site maintenance to product training.

Communicate your company’s sustainability plan, including such aspects as repair services and recycling, to stand out in a busy marketplace. The environmental component is particularly important to the Millennial buyer and may help you win sales. Think about how your company’s commitment to sustainability is conveyed on your website and elsewhere in your marketing materials.

The modern industrial buyer is more active than ever in researching products before committing to a purchase. Provide comprehensive information online about your post-sales service to assist the buyer’s research process. Share examples of your post-sales service in action. Customer testimonials and case studies are a great way to build confidence in the mind of an uncertain buyer.

Providing plentiful information on your website is not only good for spurring sales but may also drive down your rate of returns. Your customers will be more informed at the point of purchase and more confident they are buying exactly what they need.

Whatever you do, ensure information about your post-sales service is easily accessible on your website and not hidden away. Keep a close eye on site visitor behavior and make sure your services pages are getting viewed at an appropriate rate. There’s little point in offering supplementary resources if nobody sees them.

Adapting to the modern industrial buyer 

The behavior of the industrial buyer is shifting, and the buyer of today is very different from the buyer of a decade ago. With the dominance of digital communications and the demand for self-serve information, the market belongs to those companies that not only provide strong post-sales service but do an exemplary job in communicating how their service works in practice.

UPS’s 2019 Industrial Buying Dynamics study, now in its fourth edition, is rich with insights into the changing attitudes among industrial buyers as generational differences in the workplace take hold. Get the white paper now and learn everything you need to know about the current outlook for industrial procurement.

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