I’ve talked a lot about the customer experience cycle in the past, including strategies, different ways of graphing them and charting them, and I’ve even focused on a few different points of the cycle in greater detail and complexity. However, it occurs to me that I’ve never really explained this cycle on the whole, and how it works.
Cycles are a common phenomenon in business, with many fields following different cycles of stages and states of process. Financial circles follow fiscal cycles, production managers follow production and delivery cycles, and everyone follows the customer experience cycle, just as they all rely on that CRM core which covers large parts of the customer experience.
Let’s do a recap for a moment about what customer experience actually is. Basically, it’s all the interactions a customer has with a company, from the first time they’re aware of the product and the need for it (need generation), all the way on to use of the product or service, and any customer service and support that may be needed after the fact.
The cycle actually entails the journey of the customer through these phases, and charting or graphing these allows you to map out what you want to happen, or what strategies you want to make, to guide the customer in your favor through each of these phases.
So, let’s actually look at the phases of this cycle, and talk about what’s at stake with each part. This isn’t that complicated, as you’ll soon discover.
#1 – Need Generation
Need generation is the event in which the customer becomes aware of the need for your service’s purpose, and the awareness of your product or service itself.
This is something marketing contends with, primarily. It can happen one of two ways. Either the marketing campaign makes you initially aware of the product or service, thus also making them aware that they needed it.
It can also be that the customer knows they need something, but then become aware that your service is available to fill that need.
#2 – Consideration and Research
Sometimes, this aspect is divided into more stages, but I actually complain when this is done, as do many of my colleagues. This is a very crucial tipping point in your experience, where customers have stopped being prospects, and have become leads. Not yet customers, though.
They will study your product from your website, as well as from third party sources like reviews, lists and other such sources (primarily via blogs and social networks). They may also consult big name websites that list top products/services, and see what is said about you there.
Along with this, they will compare you to competition. You must publish as much information as you can, and you must analyze your strengths over your competition, and emphasize them loudly. Finally, in this case, you must also do your best to control your BI, and make sure third party sources speak favorably of you.
#3 – Purchase and Delivery
This is also sometimes divided up, and again, most of us groan at that. This is basically where the customer commits, and where the product is acquired, or the service is deployed. It also entails any training or installation etc. needed to make the product or service useable for the long term.
When a loyal returning customer reenters a cycle, this is where the cycle begins for them. This is sometimes annoyingly illustrated as a “loyalty curve” on graphs.
#4 – Support
Support is the final phase, and is not always encountered. The fewer times it is, the better, of course. This entails customer service, support and damage control in whatever forms are applicable to your product or service.
This final phase concludes the customer experience cycle. Again, some people divide this up into smaller units, but it’s unnecessary, pretentious and convoluted when they do that.