(As part of our Throwback Thursday series, we're resharing an excellent article from 2015 on Forrester's concept of engagement across the customer lifecycle. It explains why companies should rethink their strategy from a customer-obsessed perspective.)
Is a customer someone whose behaviors and business patterns you can track like a parcel? Can customers’ relationships with vendors and service providers become so focused that they can, for the most part, be automated?
After all, what good is it for businesses to be transforming to an all-digital world if those digits can’t be programmed?
Just two years ago, Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Sheryl Pattek was one of the early practitioners of the concept of “mapping the customer journey.” Today, the concept has become mainstream, or at least there’s a lot of people swimming in this one stream who appear to be saying the same thing.
Pattek’s vision of what this “journey” is actually comprised of, has matured since that time. It was a good idea to begin with, but it’s not such a far off, lofty vision like a distant fairyland castle.
The details are clearer now.
Defining the Customer Lifecycle
In recent months, Pattek and Forrester have been discussing more and more a concept they call the customer lifecycle.
Lifecycles are agendas that marketers attach to product campaigns, and that software developers attach to point releases. In both cases, it’s with much the same reasons: Gaining control over the process of managing them, is one reason.
Developing best practices for dealing with contingencies, is another reason. Accepting and responding to their eventual termination, is another.
So is Forrester’s next customer focus framework really a method of dealing with... shall we say, churn?
“Although products die, you try to avoid them dying by doing changes and updates and kickers, to give them a longer lifecycle,” Pattek reminds me.
“But when you apply that same concept to the customer, it’s very different in a few key areas.”
In what Pattek calls a “post-digital world,” for both B2B and B2C, all customer relationships need to be considered ongoing, open channels, she said. “Because if you think about it, nobody makes a buying decision on the B2C side, without checking ratings, reviews, and recommendations.
“On the B2B side, the same thing is occurring, but it’s occurring from comments and touchpoints within customers’ personal networks, to be sure.”
The digital aspect of customer experience — the “D” in “DX” — has already begun, three or four steps back in the customer journey from where your participation in it actually begins.
So Forrester is focusing on the “life” part of “lifecycle,” keeping the heartbeat ticking as long as possible.
“The reason that we talk about it from a lifecycle perspective,” the Forrester VP said, “is that historically, we used to think about customers’ buying journeys as being very linear. And if you think about that old ‘funnel,’ it was like, ‘Awareness,’ ‘Interest,’ ‘Consideration,’ ‘Close,’ and then you were kinda done.
“But the reality is, that’s not the way customers buy today. They bounce all over any parts of that lifecycle, from discovering they have a problem, to exploring options, to actually buying a product or service, to using it and asking for help or support, and then becoming an advocate and engaging further with the organization.”
There are discrete stages to this lifecycle, to be sure. But Pattek notes that customers may be engaged in more than one stage at any one time — thus satisfying the “cycle” end of the “lifecycle” metaphor.
“It’s important that CMOs move beyond the customer acquisition mentality, to really engaging customers across that entire journey.”
When a metaphor becomes popular, inevitably marketers will seize upon it, each in its own way.
Some in the content management industry use it as a framework for pushing the idea of dynamic layout and Web site personalization. Some in the CRM industry use it to prescribe the discrete steps a customer should be coerced into taking.
“It might be helpful to think of the customer as a character in a board game, and the company the designer leading the way,” wrote CRM Magazine Associate Editor Oren Smilansky last June. “It’s the company's duty to make sure that character proceeds though the board successfully and meets their ultimate objective.”
If we’re doing this right — if we’re treating the metaphor, and all its offspring, the way they were originally intended — then is there such a thing as “off-course?”
“I think of it this way,” responded Pattek: “If you think about understanding your customer’s lifecycle, and where they are at different touchpoints across that journey — what questions are they trying to answer and what content do they need to answer that question? — the way CMOs should be thinking about their go-to-market strategy is actually, anticipating what customers need at each stage of that lifecycle, and being there to answer the question.”
Put another way, the customer isn’t really a passenger on this journey, a wooden token in a modern extrapolation of the “Game of Life.”
“What you do want to avoid,” she continued,” is what I think of as leakage.
“If you’re not providing the value that customers need at each stage of that process, they will turn away from you and disengage. ‘Leading the journey’ is more the way that I think about it: How do you keep customers engaged throughout that entire process, so that you are able to advance the process, and meet customers’ needs with a positive customer experience, to then drive them further through that journey?”
Defining every point of the customer journey is actually not the point of mapping at all, said Pattek, defying most third-party extrapolations of the concept.
Rather, think of the mapping process more the way Lewis & Clark may have considered the exploration of the western half of the continent: as several successive acts of anticipation, which coalesce into a strategy about how best to respond, and a tack for responding to where the journey is led next.
This metaphor itself will have a next stage, as Pattek revealed to CMSWire. At a forthcoming Forrester executive client event, she and her firm will reveal what’s being called the customer-obsessed operating model.
“It’s aligning the organization to, what are the cultural, people, process, and technology areas that need to be addressed,” she explained, “to now start shifting the way an organization operates and functions across all the different areas, to anticipate and understand how customers work, and respond to them.”
Forrester Research will be developing this model around the four elements Pattek listed, with technology (or, as we put it here, DX) being just one of these pillars. The firm will be examining the various digital tools that organizations can put to use at each stage of this reformed journey mapping itinerary.
Then Pattek and her colleagues will be producing what could prove to be a milestone piece for Forrester, which she describes for now as, “rethinking the strategy from the outside in... that talks to the roles that CMOs, CIOs, and business unit leaders play in redefining what the company strategy should be, from a customer-obsessed perspective.”
Journey’s End: Update
This Nov. 14 to 16, at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago, CMSWire will sponsor three solid days of all-out discussion and introspection on the topics related to digital customer experience delivery.
DX Summit 2016 will feature Forrester’s Mark Grannan, plus numerous other industry leaders in the DX space including: Tony Byrne, founder and CEO of Real Story Group; Bruno Herrmann, director of Globalization at The Nielsen Company; Deb Lavoy, founder and CEO of Narrative Builders; Meghan Walsh, senior director, Global Marketing at Hilton Worldwide; and Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet company.
We hope to see you there.
For More Information:
- DX Digest: Mark Grannan on Digital Experience Integration
- DX Digest: Mike Hughes on Customer Journey Mapping
- DX Digest: Mark Grannan on Core Services Architecture
- Forrester: Move Faster on App Development