Whose and what life cycle?
The life cycle is that of the customer. It involves all the stages that the customer goes through in developing relation with a brand. According to Annette Franz (CX journey), one of the top Cx influencers, it involves following stages:
- engagement and raving fans
What exactly is customer experience (Cx) then?
It is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer (Harvard Business review). It may be mentioned here that 72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority (Forrester).
What is the relationship between customer life cycle and Cx?
Cx is the score card of customer life cycle. Cx is sought after in each stage of customer life cycle. Cx achievement is an aggregate of all stages otherwise a customer who may be taken aback by a smart marketing digital experience may be put off with the delayed delivery of a product and may return it, failing prospect conversion chances. In order to relate the two, organizations must devote a lot of attention to Cx GEM or Customer Experience Growth Engine Manager. As identified in the Walker study earlier, customer experience is going to be ‘key differentiator’, Cx is set to fuel the growth engine of any company.
This brings us to the question,
How Cx may be delivered through the stages of customer life cycle?
Outbound marketing calls, one for all messages are long relegated to oblivion. To capture the imagination of hyper informed tech savvy customers, it is essential to come up with more targeted marketing communication. Customer information richness is second to none in crafting customized communication to customers. This has to be done most effortlessly so that customers themselves may not realize their interest developing in the brand. Therefore, a company has to cover all customer touch points- email, phone, chat, messages, social media- establishing an omni channel presence. Consumers prefer assistance over the following channels: Phone (61%), email (60%), Live Chat (57%), online knowledge base (51%), “click-to-call” support automation (34%)- (eConsultancy).
When a prospect makes first footprint on the product spectrum, it is essential to keep their attention glued for serious consideration by the prospect. This requires a company to come up with best offers, some amount of predictability to quote the best offers, knowledge of customer’s purchase/refund history, demographic positioning, location, in short, 360 degree view of customer. The sales team must also be aware of inventory status, product delivery team’s status and the like. Therefore, it is essential to have seamless communication among various customer experience operations in which all contribute to real time update of tasks and their status. Efficient ticket management, real time dashboard solutions are compelling technological necessities of this phase.
This is certainly not the end of customer journey. There is always a chance of return/refund/ negative review which is disastrous for the brand not just in terms of losing one lead conversion. This is because 48% of people who had negative experiences told 10+ people about it (Harvard Business Review).On purchase, begins the journey of various business operations. Apart from seamless communication, ticket management, skill based routing of agents go long way in sealing the selection process with minimum time. While customer information is empowering, sensitivity of such information must be safeguarded at all stages. Also self service has become the norm of ‘new customers’. FAQ pages, user case, informative user experience come in handy and are founded on the research of customer data.
At this stage, the opinion of customer on the purchase decision starts taking shape. A well synthesized customer data enriches customer experience with personalized dealings, offer, upgradation post sales and the like. Despite much internal coordination, things may go wrong – delayed or damaged delivery, defective product, irrelevant service, etc. However, complaint may be an opportunity . A prompt response (omni channel), thoughtful compensation based on customer history may turn the dissatisfied customer to a return customer. In fact, accurately analyzed data may predict the issues and solve, or at least notify operations well before it actually takes place. This is a crucial stage as it may translate to customer relationship solidification or dissolution, altogether. 84% companies expect to increase their focus on customer experience measurement and metrics (Temkin).
In the age of customer driven growth, a satisfied customer is basic minimum. 20% of satisfied customers intend to leave the company (Harvard Business Review). In order to get higher ROI, happy customer must act as loyal partners. The scope of their role must get expanded from that of a buyer to a brand participator. Customer loyalty needs to be rewarded to make it enduring. For this specific customer information, real time visibility of customer actions, intelligent analysis of trends and patterns of customer behaviour goes long way in securing customer loyalty by offering them customized deals, membership, loyalty coupons, etc. The organization must have a Cx GEM orientation and this culture must permeate across operations through seamless communication. If this may be achieved, a loyal customer is likely to overlook minute glitches with their journey with the brand. On a cautionary note, eighty-one (81%) of consumers who switched loyalties say the company could have done something differently to keep them as customers (Accenture).
This is a step ahead of customer’s partnership with the brand. In earning more referrals, customers constitute an extended arms of the salesforce or marketing team. Thus the business is run ‘by’ them and ‘for’ them. 23% of customers who had a positive experience told 10+ people about it (Harvard Business Review).A company having omni presence, a competent digital profile begins delivering customer experience through mutli touch points in faster manner. Also an intelligent IVR would be helpful in initial inquiry of any customer. Not to forget, 72% blame their bad customer service experience on having to explain their problem to multiple people (Insightsquared).
Engagement and Raving Fans
Here the relationship takes off and gets reconstituted as an emotional bond. The customer begins entrusting the brand with major purchase decision, identifying themselves with the brand. This may be achieved by mesmerizing customer with wow moments across all stages. Customer then become brand fans, taking pride in being a customer of the brand and following it.
Although we talk about various stages, no stage is important by itself. A best of class customer experience depends on consistency being achieved through all stages in making customers happy and loyal to brand. Life cycle of customer needs to be unified and the unified 360 degree view must be visible to all customer facing operations. With the advent of Cx-GEM, a 360 degree customer experience must be the ambition of any progressive business. This will enable a company to manage customer journey effectively and augment customer acquisition and retention, thereby, making it a market ruler.