This month as we examine the customer experience lifecycle, there's no doubt that we'll ponder the marketer's most pressing, philosophical question — when does a customer become a customer? Just as the 24-hour news cycle has impacted the way users stay informed, the 24-hour always online lifestyle of users has impacted the way they learn about and engage with brands. The potential customer is always on the look out for new brand experiences and their word of mouth is louder than ever. So how can organizations make sure that they attract new customers and keep the ones they have?
The Customer Experience Lifecycle
Conceptually the infographic we created isn't hard to understand. All the elements make sense, but because for most brands, each one of these customer touch points is orchestrated by a different department there are lots of moving parts, which if not perfectly aligned can undo the entire process rather swiftly.
As well, thanks to the power of social media, whether your customer experience process works or fails, other potential customers are likely to know about it right away. Therefore, your customer experience process, like a Rube Goldberg, has only one chance to make it work before things go completely berserk.
It Starts With a Need, It Ends with Loyalty, But It's All About the Experience
Need & Awareness
Lots of companies have cool products, but their utility is not always clear. How many times have you ever said to yourself (or another) "that's cool, but so what?" The 'so what' should align itself to a specific need the customer has, whether it be business efficiency or personal convenience.
Once the customer has a specific need, the product or service will likely come into focus. It happens all the time — "how did I not know this existed until now?" — it's because they weren't paying attention until they had the need to look for the solution.
Once a solution is found to a need, the customer is likely to kick the proverbial tires. That most likely means a visit to a website or Facebook page. If that initial experience isn't easy or inviting, the interaction ends and they're onto to find another potential solution.
If the first interaction passes muster, then it's off to find reviews about the product or perhaps preliminary engagement on social channels, or quite possibly an introductory email or phone call. Considering there are a lot of variables, how confident are you (as a business) that any one of these interactions will be positive?
Lucky for you, they are positive experiences so with credit card in hand, the customer is ready to purchase. How easy it for them to get exactly what they want when they want it? If they have questions, how readily available is a representative? Do they need to send an email or a follow up Tweet to get your attention?
If they are able to make a swift transaction, then what happens? Are they bombarded with emails telling them about the same product they just bought? Or are they sent a thank you note or follow up call to ask how everything is? Many companies assume that once you've completed a transaction, the customer experience cycle is over. But it's still only just beginning.
That's because if they like the product, they'll tell their friends or colleagues about it. But if they are dissatisfied about it any way, and didn't have the opportunity to talk to a company representative about it, they're going to shout it from the rooftops, by which I mean social media. For some companies, these complaints are ignored or met with hostile comments, because they have incorrectly assumed there is nothing they can do about it. The lifecycle is over.
But it's not over. Companies who are committed to continuing the customer experience beyond transactions, learn from their mistakes and use these opportunities to salvage bad experiences. It's not about getting stuff for free when complaints are made (although it never hurts), it's about being heard. When a company listens to after they have the money, it can be very powerful. It can lead to loyalty.
Many loyal customers have become so not because they loved the product 100% from the beginning, but because the company cares and is just as committed to the experience as they are the product. Companies that offer rewards and discounts often need to talk more about the rewards and discounts they offer to make up for their less than stellar product and experience. Companies who have great products and experiences, don't need to brag about their rewards, because it's already part of the experience. For the customer, the reward is the experience. For the company, the reward is the customer's loyalty.
CXM: Always On, Always Moving
The customer experience is always on. But, unlike the Rube Goldberg, you can tweak it as you go, provided that all your moving parts are flexible enough to adapt.