The Customer Relationship Journey (CRJ) is the macro journey. The CRJ consists of seven universal stages. A customer can advance to, stay in, or return to any or all of the stages of this Relationship Journey. The stages are the same whether the customer is selecting a can of soup, a home, an accountant, or enterprise software. The primary difference in a Customer Relationship Journey to purchase a home verses a can of soup is time.
- The Awareness Stage
There are two components of the Awareness stage – need/want, and availability. Customers must be aware of a need or want to be filled in order to progress to subsequent stages. To engage with your specific company or product, a potential customer must be aware that your organization can potentially meet their need or want.
Awareness of availability can also come as a result of the next stage – Knowledge. After a need or want surfaces, the prospective customer may enter the Knowledge stage and become “aware” of an organization that can meet the need or want and/or that has availability.
- The Knowledge Stage
The Knowledge Stage is critical to customer decision-making. This can be a highly dynamic stage of information gathering. Customers may interact with many different types of touchpoints to gain the knowledge or information they seek. The most common Knowledge stage touchpoints include advertisements, product packaging, websites, brochures, white papers, blogs, consumer reviews and other sources of written information as well as referrals from the prospect’s circle of influence.
Today, customers can gain vast amounts of knowledge about your organization and its products and services without your awareness. This increases the importance of the touchpoints you develop and deploy to meet or influence Knowledge stage needs.
The duration of the Knowledge stage is typically tied to the importance or sophistication of the selection decision. Gathering information and gaining Knowledge in a grocery store about which can of corn or soup to consider is a process that typically requires far less time and investment of energy than purchasing a home or enterprise software or selecting a building for office space or a store.
Whether selecting the right size of bucket of chicken for dinner or an agency to develop a new go-to-market strategy, the Knowledge stage serves to help create awareness of a prospect’s options. The prospect gathers the information needed to determine which options progress to Consideration.
- The Consideration Stage
The Consideration Stage is where potential customers vet the options they are aware of and that appear to serve their need or want. Customers will weigh these options against their hierarchy of needs.
These three stages, Awareness, Knowledge, and Consideration, can be linear or repeated. The Knowledge stage can bring awareness of new or different options. The Consideration stage can highlight the fact that none of the current options satisfy a prospective customer’s needs, returning the prospect to previous stages or prompting them to leave the journey altogether.
- The Selection Stage
The prospect weighs the options against their hierarchy of needs, and makes a Selection. For some products or services, the Selection stage can be complicated, time consuming and actually not end up with a completed deal. Think about purchasing a home. Making an offer on your chosen house is just the first step. As a part of the Selection stage you submit the offer, which can lead to negotiation back and forth. If a price is agreed upon, there is the whole process that can include appraisal, inspection, securing the loan or loans and closing the deal. This varies dramatically from selecting a can of soup from among the options and promptly paying for it at checkout.
- The Satisfaction Stage
Once a selection has been made, a customer can become satisfied or dissatisfied. This stage is not so much about product or service performance, but product, service or organizational performance versus expectations.
Expectations of new car owners include that the car will function problem free for quite a while, and if a problem arises, it will be quickly addressed by the dealership. So, while everyone is satisfied with their selection when they leave the dealership, the performance of both the car and the dealership versus expectations can, and will, impact satisfaction.
- The Loyalty Stage
Advancing to the Loyalty stage implies that the customer becomes resistant to competitive options. They are much less likely to be open to competitive marketing messages or to return to a competitive evaluation in the Consideration stage. Instead, loyal customers of repeatable or additional purchases can go directly to Transactional Journeys.
Loyal customers who repeatedly purchase or who make additional purchases are typically highly profitable. The cost to generate additional purchases from a current customer is typically significantly less than the cost to generate a new customer.
Much of customer behavior in the Loyalty Stage is dependent on the nature of loyalty for your organization.
Truth: Loyalty is not the same for all organizations.
An important aspect of loyalty is that it is not the same for all companies. For some, loyalty means the customer only uses your product or service. For others it may mean that your products or services are the offerings of choice, the go-to offerings, or are always given first consideration.
A commercial building developer’s loyalty to Tylenol, his preferred pain relief medicine to address his headaches, may be absolute – he doesn’t even consider another brand. His loyalty to his preferred lender may not be as absolute. His loyalty to his preferred lender may be that he always goes to them first with his commercial development deals, but based on rates and other factors, may choose another lender for any given development project.
- The Advocacy Stage
The holy grail of the Relationship Journey is Advocacy. In this stage the customer is not only loyal to your organization or product, but promotes it to others. An advocate’s ability to drive prospects into your organization’s sales funnel (the “Getting” stages of the Customer Relationship Journey) can be a key to growth, and can become a growth strategy. This source of new customers is almost always the most cost effective as referred prospects are likely predisposed to select your organization or product.
While the benefit of motivating customers to the Advocacy stage is self-evident, not all customers are potential advocates. In my experience I have found that a percentage of customers are not comfortable as advocates. It has less to do with the organization or product, although that can be a factor, and more to do with the nature of the person. Some customers are just not comfortable advocating, referring, or promoting companies, products or services to others.
Truth: Not all loyal customers are potential advocates
It is important to consider how to coordinate touchpoints along all of the stages of the Customer Relationship Lifecycle as we examine how to get and keep more desired customers.
Remember, to your customers, you are your touchpoints.
This post an excerpt from my book, TOUCHPOiNT POWER! Get & Keep More Customers, Touchpoint by Touchpoint (William Henry Publishing, 2013). Now available! For information and to order, visit TouchpointPower.com or view the TOUCHPOiNT POWER! listing on Amazon.
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