How Customer Lifecycles and Customer Journeys Interact
A Customer Journey is the series of steps a customer takes to do something with your firm - for example, to make a purchase, or get help with a usage issue.
Customer Lifecycles overarch individual Customer Journeys - a customer may, for example, have several engagements with your support team in their time as an active customer.
Seen from an internal perspective, a customer's initial purchase of your service may start only as the customer enters your sales funnel. From an outside-in viewpoint, the actual interaction is broader and starts earlier - even from when they are first becoming aware of your organisation.
Similarly, the internal view of the customer journey to get help with a service issue may start as the first incident log; from a customer experience point of view, the onset of the issue is the first time they encounter the problem.
The customer journey is a description of how each individual customer experiences discrete elements of your service - delivering excellence in customer experience therefore means incorporating the appropriate step-by-step service design and service blueprint into each leg of the journey.
Customer lifecycles help your organisation understand what to do; the customer journey describes the how.
Imagine, for example, that your customer base is segmented so that each customer is 'tagged' as being at a single point in our simplified lifecycle model.
Let's suppose that a customer who is seen as a defection risk has a support issue. They will enter a customer journey to 'get help', perhaps initially by raising an online support ticket. In these circumstances, there will be a much greater chance of retaining the customer (and an opportunity to eliminate the defection risk) if they are treated by a high touch / 'special care' support process.
Clearly, there are many potentially many intersections of customer journey and customer life cycle - but you should be able to define for your business the critical moments of truth and decision-points.
An example from the CXRM sign-up process
In common with many of our contemporaries, it is completely feasible for one of our customers to sign up fully online for CXRM and get started with our software.
Whilst nominally - from a purely internal point of view - a "sale" has been made through this sign-up, our understanding of lifecycle suggests that in reality a customer is still in the process of assessing the usefulness and appropriacy of our solutions to their business. From a CX perspective, they are still on a journey that will either end in them adopting the software, or terminating their trial.
Our own internal process therefore needs to align fully with that journey path and so we strive to engage heavily with our new customers before and after they have signed up for CXRM - our objective is to really understand the key drivers of implementation, so that we can help them to get early wins and then an ongoing increase in value over time, and so they stay with us for the long term.
To us, this is clearly a "win-win" CX interaction as we retain the customer and the customer addresses their business issues, but many other solution providers essentially abandon new customers at the point a "sale" is made.
Lifecycles and Buyer Persona
Creating Buyer Personas is well established technique for customer segmentation, which can support creating relevancy in customer communications (you know the sort of thing: "Kevin, the Power User" and 'Wilma, the Occasional Browser').
In our humble view, customer lifecycles and customer journeys are the more critical items, but considering 'What would Kevin think?' has a role to play. For instance, understanding if Kevin or Wilma represented the defection risk mentioned above may impact the exact design of the service blueprint for your special care process.
In summary, customer lifecycles and customer journeys can be extremely helpful in creating your customer service blueprint and so in building customer-centric operations.
Lifecycles can also be very useful tools when integrated with your CRM and marketing initiatives.