It’s no secret that you can improve sales when you leverage an understanding of the steps customers take during the buying process. Traditionally, those steps in the customer lifecycle have included awareness, evaluation, purchase, loyalty and advocacy — but customer experience futurist Blake Morgan says the customer lifecycle is no longer so straightforward. In a Forbes article about the new “customer experience lifecycle,” Blake wrote:
“The lifecycle used to be fairly to the point, with a focus on need generation, consideration, engagement, evaluation, purchase, delivery and usage. But because of social media and customer behavior things have changed and there’s a need to re-evaluate the customer lifecycle. Additionally the stages of the lifecycle are not as linear as they once were, now they are more fluid. The customer could jump stages in your lifecycle in a non-linear fashion.
The customer is empowered and as a result the customer lifecycle looks much different.”
We recently asked Blake, author of More Is More: How The Best Companies Go Farther and Work Harder To Create Knock Your Socks Off Customer Experiences, to elaborate on her concept of the customer experience lifecycle. Here’s what she had to say.
Q&A with customer experience futurist Blake Morgan
How has social media changed the customer lifecycle?
A: Social media has turned the framework on its head. … The stages of the lifecycle are not as black and white as they once were. Today’s customer is highly engaged and empowered — and as a result the customer lifecycle looks much different. How customers find out about your products and engage with your products post-purchase has a huge impact on your ability to create new customers. You will notice that now, thanks to social media, the discovery phase leads into the advocacy phase — and the advocacy phase feeds the discovery phase.
If the brand has done a fantastic job with customers, this advocacy process is a gift that will help drive traffic to the company. If the company has mistreated customers by selling poor quality products and not fulfilling the customer promise, advocacy isn’t advocacy at all.
The entire discovery process for the customer is different, and the company is no longer in control.
For example, if I buy a coffee maker and I hate the experience I have with the company and product, I might give the product a poor review on the website, on Amazon.com and other websites. When customers are making decisions about buying a coffee maker and Google that product, they might read my review and decide not to purchase.
What specific actions can businesses take during the “Education” and “Post-Purchase Engagement” phases of the customer experience lifecycle to better move customers through the sales funnel to “Advocacy”?
A: Today there are a million versions of most products — the value is not only in the actual product; the value is in the services around the product.
By focusing on teaching customers how to get the most out of a product or service, you are differentiating yourself.
For example, Sephora offers makeovers if you purchase $50 worth of cosmetics. You are not just buying the makeup, you are given a complimentary makeover session with useful tips and ideas on how to make your look better. In post-purchase engagement the customer should always be asked if they were satisfied with the experience. The company can listen to consumers on social media and get ideas on how to improve or innovate products and services. Many companies in contract try and repel customers during this phase. They can’t wait to get rid of customers and never hear from them again. It’s really a missed opportunity.
What’s the No. 1 mistake businesses make that impacts the customer experience — and how can they fix it?
A: The biggest mistake companies make is not arming employees with the tools they need to take action to improve the customer experience. Companies have a habit of skimping on all assets of the customer experience, including the tools the customer-facing employees have to do their jobs. Companies skimp on employee-resources because they see the customer experience as equivalent to the contact center — a cost center. They don’t see it as a revenue generating opportunity.