Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Customer lifecycle mapping helps deliver on promises made


Think about a company you like to do business with. Have you ever thought of what your lifecycle as a customer is with that company? First, you probably identified a need for something, and you investigated your options for addressing that need. Once you found a company you think could fulfill that need, you started a conversation with them, found their features and benefits they offered satisfied your need, and you bought from them.


From there, the company often becomes less involved, but your relationship still continues, because you begin to use the product or service they offer. You might go back and talk to them if you have a problem, and there might be periodic payments you have to make. Finally, you exhaust the service or product or you sell it to a secondary market. At that point, you either return to renew your relationship with the company, or you stop your relationship with the company.    

Customer lifecycles change depending on the specific relationship the customer has with the company, and the company’s business model, but the customer always sees this as a fluid experience.  Companies usually break up how they address the different needs of the customer inside of that lifecycle by functional areas, and that siloed approach creates miscommunication that can result in a negative experience for the customer. As a result, since we aren’t operating our businesses as a whole, our way of doing business actually hurts our customer relationships!

If we instead think of our company as one organization working to provide a cohesive customer experience across the lifecycle, we can integrate our different resources to create a stronger competitive offering. But first we have to map that customer experience lifecycle.
We do this so we can define the current state of the customer experience, which will help us identify where that needs to be improved. Once this is developed, we have a map to identify gaps in experience, and can also identify where the siloes need to be opened up for a cohesive experience.

Start by mapping out the main stages of the customer lifecycle with your firm. What is important is considering the main stages of interaction from the customer’s perspective. On its most basic level, there are 4 major stages:
 
No company will ever have a customer experience lifecycle that is this simple. For example, this changes depending on if your company provides a service or a product, if there is a B2B relationship, or if there are third party distributors, as well as many other ways it might change. Think about it in terms of how the customer experiences your company, and map the process accordingly. Here are some examples of other approaches (there are many others!):  

Confirm/Validate Lifecycle Next, take your lifecycle to your front line employees and use it to start a conversation about the true customer lifecycle. What is missing? What should be changed? This conversation helps in two ways:
  1. You can adjust your lifecycle based on what your front line employees hear from their customers.
  2. You can learn how you front line employees view your customer in relation to the company. What are the preconceived notions they bring to their interactions with your customers? What shift is needed to make them think about how your customer experiences your organization?

Hypothetical BoP customer touchpoints
when seeking help with a faulty product 
Identify interaction touchpoints After you have identified and confirmed the lifecycles stages, identify each touchpoint where the customer experiences the company inside of each lifecycle stage. In this case, a touchpoint indicates an interaction between your company and the customer. It can be when the customer sees an advertisement, when you deliver a package to their door, or when a service representative arrives at their office.

Identify functional areas associated with each touchpoint Map out who controls each touchpoint inside of your organization. Is there one functional area that oversees it, or are multiple teams responsible? Do your customer experience touchpoints rely on outside actors, and what can you do to direct how that interaction should be experienced by the customer? Identifying who is ultimately responsible for how those interactions is essential for controlling the experience and defining how customers should be treated when it takes place.  

Confirm and validate this map with front line employees or (even better) customer focus groups. Most important is that it represents not how the company experiences the customer (which is how firms traditionally interact with customers) but how customers perceive and experience their interactions with the customer.    

Tomorrow, I will explain how to map out each touchpoint using journey mapping. Journey mapping is a useful tool for customer experience, and it will help identify quick wins where your customer experience needs improvement.

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