Customer experience is similar to the concept of customer lifecycle, in the sense that it looks at creating value at multiple channels (or touch-points). But whereas the customer lifecycle is concerned mainly on selling an individual product or service, the customer experience lifecycle is a view of all possible interactions with a company, and extends beyond the product or service.
The customer lifecycle, from marketing and CRM perspectives, describes a process through which the customer discovers and evaluates the company through marketing, selects and purchases its product or service, uses it, and maybe interacts with customer support. If the experience throughout the customer lifecycle was great and relevant, the cycle may repeat itself with loyalty.
But the customer lifecycle is a linear concept. It presumes customers will follow a pre-determined path from awareness to purchase and repeat the purchase. From a customer experience perspective, touch-points with a company can be encountered independently, in any order -and for different reasons. For example a customer might buy a product without any previous awareness of a company; another one might call a company’s customer support before even buying any of their products or services.
Recently I went to a shop of mobile phone service provider "3", to which I had just switched from another provider. I wanted information on my bill. The sales staff pointed me to a telephone tucked away in a corner labeled “Customer Hotline”. The company made the assumption that if people need post-sales service, they want to do it through the phone.
Companies that understand customer experience make efforts to convey a good and consistent customer experience at all channels, and for different purposes.
And while the customer lifecycle model is mainly concerned with the touch-points that most companies share, such as marketing, point-of-sales and call center, some touch-points are unique to specific industries. For example ATMs are specific to banking, prescriptions to medical and pharmaceutical, waybill forms to shipping, and so on. As these touch-points are designed differently even between companies of the same industry, the customer experience lifecycle research and design efforts need to be adapted to each company’s specific context.
Extending the Customer Experience Lifecycle
Many companies have already started looking to create a consistent customer experience at all their existing touch-points, but the customer experience lifecycle starts far before and ends long after the relation covered in the classic customer lifecycle model.
The challenge and immense opportunity for companies is in extending their presence in the customer experience lifecycle by providing value beyond the standard company touch-points, and beyond the product or service. This can be done a few ways.
- Through new touch-points within the standard customer lifecycle
This means providing value to the customer to support the selection, purchase and use of a specific product or service through new touch- points.
- Additional value not related to the specific product or service
This is done by providing additional value not directly related to the product or service within the customer lifecycle.
- On a wider scale, outside of the standard relationship
This means providing value to the customer far before she is even aware of the company’s products or services, and far after the life of the product or service.
Here are a few examples that, although focused on only one touch-point, are not part of the usual customer lifecycle relationship;
- Helping customers make better decisions by providing non-biased peer reviews in store or on a Web site could be considered outside the normal scope of the customer lifecycle, but provides value to the customer’s purchase experience;
- An airline that provides airport maps with the tickets provides value at a touch-point that is normally not their concern (wayfinding in the airport) and enhances the traveler’s experience.
- A car rental company that provides customers with parking passes for key downtown locations, or public transport tickets, provides additional value to the product;
- A credit card company that provides emergency cash and passport renewal assistance in case of loss or theft overseas provides enormous value beyond the normal relationship;
- A gym chain that provides a Web site with a wealth of personalized exercise, nutrition and other health information provides value to the fitness experience beyond the gym.
Extending the customer experience lifecycle first requires being able to map out where the experience starts and ends, and to uncover areas where new and relevant value can be created.
For a more detailed example that illustrates the breadth of the customer experience lifecycle, let’s look at the the holiday travel customer experience.
David Jacques is Founder and Principal Consultant of Customer input Ltd and a pioneer in the field of Customer Experience Management. He has created the first Framework that brings together cohesively every aspect of Customer Experience Management. He is also passionate about having an in-depth understanding customer values to create emotionally-engaging customer experiences not only at individual interactions but also seamlessly between them.