Experiencing the Lifecycle

experience-sign.jpgYesterday, I urged you to think about the customer lifecycle in your industry and how you are addressing the customer experience at each stage.  Today, let’s look at the customer lifecycle itself a little more closely.  Beware — I am not discussing the product lifecycle here.  I am also not discussing how that lifecycle looks from a company’s point of view.  Rather, we will have on our customer lenses today and look at the lifecycle a customer goes through with a product or service.

Companies tend to list lifecycle stages such as prospecting, acquisition, service, and retention, which are all internally-focused.  Often when marketers (and other corporate functions) look at this customer lifecycle, they only try to figure out which messages are most appropriate to send at which stage.   These are not the lifecycle stages from a customer’s perspective. 

Looking through the customer lenses, the lifecycle stages are these (in simple terms):

  • Research – everything having to do with learning about the need and how best to meet it, including looking at internet ratings and reviews, asking friends and colleagues for recommendations, reading up on blogs, seeking expert opinions
  • Purchase – everything having to do with buying the product/service and taking it home/to the place of business
  • Usage – everything having to do with set-up/installation, actual usage of the product or service, and getting help when things go wrong or there is a question
  • Repurchase – everything having to do with buying the product or service again, including renewals, buying again from the same company, or switching brands/companies
  • Retirement/disposal – everything having to do with getting rid of the old one, including return of equipment, recycling, or selling it to someone else

Each of these stages can be broken down further, and I will endeavor to do so in future posts!

Back to the customer.  From a customer perspective, they begin with their personal or business needs and then look for products and services that will help them meet those needs.  There are many facets to understanding customer needs.

The needs may vary depending on what “life stage” a customer is in.  For consumers, this may be similar to the stages of personal life: student, single, married, divorced, has little kids, has big kids, is a big kid them self (!), kids grown and left home, kids grown but still at home, retired, widowed.  For a business customer, this may vary depending on either the stage of the company (start-up, growth, acquisition, decline, bankruptcy) or on the needs of the customer within the company (C-level, line of business, admin, HR, purchasing).

The needs may also vary depending on the reason for seeking out this product.  Here is where we can start to break down our customers into segments based on what drives customer behavior.  For example, one set of needs in someone looking for a restaurant may be a quiet environment conducive to conversation, a great menu with lo-cal choices, and their favorite wine, while a different set of needs may be a fun environment to party with friends, good music, and cheap drinks.  These needs are not necessarily based on the demographics of the customer.

The company’s goal should be to craft the optimal customer experience at each stage of the customer lifecycle, taking the needs of the customer into account.  Put simply, for each place that customers touch your company, ask yourself what you can do for your customers to help them achieve their goals. 

You may find it necessary to craft differentiated experiences based on the lifecycle and needs of your customers.  It can be accomplished very simply, such as asking customers a single question which helps you differentiate their needs, or it can be more involved through the smart use of data and analytics.  However you decide to do it, this type of treatment strategy will go a long way towards helping your customers be successful and, in turn, it will bring them back for more. 

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