Hopefully your worst experience with a company isn’t anything like this guy’s. But the fact that things like this happen—even with very large and established companies—makes you wonder how they could have gotten the whole client experience thing so wrong (and whether your company is as susceptible).
To explore client experience, let’s do a thought experiment.
We focus a lot on the sales lifecycle here (this is, after all, a marketing blog). But, as a foundation for this thought experiment, it’s worth revisiting. The sales lifecycle is basically a track along which your prospects build stronger and stronger connections with your brand until they become customers. It’s a tool for focusing your perspective on your customers.
The Sales Lifecycle
Here you use demographic, consumption, market and other data to figure out who will most likely respond to your marketing efforts. You decide who you’re audience really is. This helps you make marketing efforts more efficient and effective. You can’t know what to say unless you know who you’re talking to.
This is where you introduce yourself to your target audiences through paid and earned media. You’re delivering your message through channels that your audience uses.
This is when the audience talks back. Those whom you’ve targeted start saying things about your brand and ask more questions. They’re interested in you and you’re offering information and advice.
The audience, having heard your message, understood it and engaged with your brand are now ready to become your client.
At this point you compare the people you originally targeted and the people who converted and see if there are any patterns. Adjust your marketing to account for these differences. This helps you better communicate your message and increase marketing ROI.
The Client Experience Lifecycle
The Client Experience Lifecycle is pretty similar to the Sales Lifecycle in that they share a few key phases. The fundamental difference, however, is that the Client Experience Lifecycle is based on the client’s perspective of your company, its products, and services.
That little spur that exits the lifecycle represents all those customers that you lose when things don’t go right. Even though it shows customers leaving after a customer service interaction, the reality is that customers can check themselves out of this lifecycle at any point.
Also, there are three new steps:
The first three steps in the Client Experience Lifecycle are identical to the Sales Lifecycle. To save ourselves some time we’ll pick things up in the middle.
Here your client first gets to use your product or service. Delivery can be as straight-forward as an email with an activation code or as thoughtfully crafted as opening the box for a new iPhone. It’s your chance to make your client feel good about the purchase they just made with you.
The client starts to build habits around the use of your product. Is it easy to use? Does it break frequently? Does it work the way that the client expected? Is it fulfilling all the hopes and dreams that the client had for it way back in step 3 (Engage)?
And then it breaks.
Your client needs your help. This step is a lot like step #3 except that in stead of seeing you through rose-tinted glasses your client is seeing red. How will your customer support people handle the issue? What do their conversations sound like? And how frequently do your clients get a positive resolution to their problems?
Why do the big boys get it wrong too?
We saw how the Sales Lifecycle is a way for a brand/company to look at its relationship with its audience, prospects and clients. And then we see how the Customer Experience Lifecycle is the way that audiences, prospects, and clients look at brands. To see where things go wrong in this thought experiment, we have take the Customer Experience Lifecycle and look at it like we’re looking at the Sales Lifecycle.
In other words, look at who in your organization own each of these steps:
Typically, there are whole separate departments dedicated to each step in the Client Experience Lifecycle. This means that, if your customer support people and marketing people never talk to each other, clients can hear completely different messages when they connect with your brand at different phases. Or worse: your sales team has no idea what sorts of promises are being made in your advertising.
Ultimately, if your people don’t understand your brand, your clients will feel like they’re talking to a completely different company when they engage with your brand at different stages of the Client Experience Lifecycle. Then they’ll get confused or fed up and leave the cycle. Forever.
Keep clients inside your Client Experience Lifecycle.
This boils down to a few must-have building blocks that you should equip everyone in your company with—even the people that don’t have face-to-face relationships with clients.
1. Brand Story and Promise
Does everyone in the company know what your brand promises to its clients? Or the stories that support that promise? This is a bit higher-level than just the benefits that your product or service offer. This is the deep emotional or physical need that your clients have and you’re promising to fulfill. Jaguar doesn’t promise to deliver cars. They promise to deliver a lifestyle. All of the interactions that their clients have with the brand reinforce that lifestyle idea because each step of Jaguar’s Client Experience Lifecycle gets filtered through their brand story and promise.
2. Framework for Communication
Does everyone in the company know that they can cross departmental boundaries to ask questions about how your company may be helping or hurting clients? Internal solutions for fostering communication about your clients’ experiences can be as complicated as an interdepartmental client advocacy congress to something as simple as an annual client experience review. However you handle it, simply give people permission to speak up for the client and you’ll see surprising results.
3. Quality Control
Does everyone in the company have access to the data? When you look at the companies who consistently get high marks for their client experience you’ll find that what they have in common is one tool or other for tracking client satisfaction and then feeding that data back into the product design, marketing, customer service and internal management of the company.