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Deep Dive: The Seven Customer Relationship Journey Stages

lifecycle

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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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Customer Experience and Improving the Lives of Employees

CallCenterBrenda was one of my favorites at a client’s call center.  She was a customer service rep who was always happy and wanting to do right by customers – she had a great attitude.

Every day when she sat down in her chair and put on her head set she knew that she was going to get several of “those” calls.  You see, her employer had a number of policies that were not all that customer-centric.

This company sold its products to resellers that were mostly small businesses.  While they accepted credit cards from the small businesses for purchases, this large, prominent company did not accept the credit card favored by most small businesses.  This, despite the fact that its direct competitors did accept the favored card.

This was just the start of the reasons for “those” calls. These small businesses typically placed many orders per week.  So what did this large company do?  The company charged these small business owners’ credit card each time they ordered.  This, despite the fact that its direct competitors charged these small businesses only once per month for their multiple orders.

While these small business owners account for their business on a month by month basis, credit card statements typically don’t start from the first and run through the end of the month – they might run from the 12th through the 11th.

Ongoing irate customer calls
As a result, Brenda frequently got “those” calls.  Customers irate that her company didn’t take the credit card they preferred to use.  Customers irate that their other card was charged each time there was an order.  Customers irate that it was so hard to reconcile their credit card statement with their monthly accounting.  Customers irate that they couldn’t pay their account with their credit card over the phone.  Brenda and her colleagues have to absorb this negativity daily as part of their job.

Rule: Don’t make it hard for customers to pay your organization.

Clueless executives
Brenda and all of the customer service reps had been taking “those” calls for years by the time I was brought in.  Yet executives of this market leader had no idea this was going on.

Imagine working for a company that talks a lot about doing right by customers and employees but isn’t even aware of a major problem with one of its policies and how that policy negatively impacts both customers and employees.

The disconnect between senior executives and the lives of their front line employees has been highlighted in a television show, Undercover Boss.  In each episode a chief executive goes undercover as a new hire in a front line position with his or her company.  The epiphanies are numerous as these executives actually get to live under the policies and systems of their organization.  They not only get to see and feel the negative impact on employees of many of their policies and systems, but also the negative impact on their customers and their business.

While I work hard to improve the lives of customers, I take my greatest satisfaction in improving the professional lives of people like Brenda. It is gratifying when I know that when she sits down in her chair every day she no longer has to fret about receiving “those” calls.

Executives – what decisions have you made that force your front-line employees to bear the brunt of restrictive policies and systems and irate customers?  Do you even know?

Secret: Want to know where your organization has opportunities to improve customer experiences?  Sit with your employees who field customer complaints every day.

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.

Please post a comment or question.

I welcome your questions and inquiries.  Please connect with me via
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phone: direct  904.466.1805, text   415.515.6391
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Deep Dive: Spiderman and The Ritz-Carlton, an Organization that Empowers Employees & Lives its Identity

The Ritz-Carlton has clearly captured its Identity in its Credo, Promise and Service Values.  To help ensure that the Identity lives, each Ritz-Carlton has a full-time training director.  That’s right – each property has its own trainer.

Credo

The Ritz-Carlton is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guest is our highest mission.
We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.
The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

Brand Identity/Promise

“We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”

Service Values

I am proud to be Ritz-Carlton

  1. I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
  2. I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
  3. I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
  4. I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing Community Footprints and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.
  5. I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
  6. I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
  7. I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
  8. I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
  9. I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
  10. I am proud of my professional appearance, language, and behavior.
  11. I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company’s confidential information and assets.
  12. I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.

Reinforced on an ongoing basis to ensure that they “live”
Each shift has what is called a line-up.  The line-up is where managers cover the details of the shift for their area of responsibility. For food servers, this typically involves understanding food or drink specials and what might be 86 (on the menu but not available).  For front desk staff, the line-up can cover arriving and departing guests, etc.  At each line-up the manager goes over one of the 12 Service Values or stories of how a team member applied one of their Service Values to a touchpoint.

Ritz-Carlton empowers its employees to deliver its Values (see Service Value #3 above). Each has the ability to commit Ritz-Carlton up to a $2,000 expense in the delivery of one of its Values in the service of one of its guests.

Empowered employees advance the Identity
At a conference, the head of The Ritz-Carlton Learning Center shared this story.  A father and his young son were checking into a Ritz-Carlton in New York City, home to Spiderman.  The son looked up at the father and asked, “Do you think we will see Spiderman?”  Later that day, there was a knock on their hotel room door.  Envision the look on that child’s face when the door was opened to reveal – Spiderman.

This lifetime memory was provided by a janitor.  He overheard the son’s question as he did some light cleaning around the front desk when the father and son checked in.  Empowered by Ritz-Carlton, this employee contracted with an agency to deliver the Spiderman experience.  Wow!

What are your employees empowered to do to advance and live your Identity and wow your 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.

Please post a comment or question.

I welcome your questions and inquiries.  Please connect with me via
email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
phone: direct  904.466.1805, text   415.515.6391
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Receive tips, tricks and secrets from the front lines of customer experience by signing up for my TOUCHPOiNTER eNewsletter:

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The Four Structural Foundations Key To Customer Experience Success

What do structural foundations have to do with Customer Experience Management?  This question is at the core of what you want to accomplish.  Do you want to address some specific problems and improve targeted customer experiences, or become customer-centric?  Becoming customer-centric is a cultural play – it takes place on a foundational level.

Different foundations are called different things in different organizations. The key isn’t what they are called, but the question they answer.

IdentityPyramid

Don’t get caught up on whether you have all of these individual pieces.  To best achieve our purpose of getting and keeping customers we need foundations, whatever they are called, to address these questions:

  1. What do we stand for?
  2. Who are we – what is our desired customer perception of us?
  3. Where are we headed?
  4. How do we get there?

Current direction and objectives build on foundations
To turn these foundations of Values, Identity, Vision and Mission into results, we need strategies and plans – the top of the Identity Pyramid.  To get and keep more customers, strategies need to at least cover:

  • ■ Operations
  • ■ Customer experience
To achieve these strategies we need plans. The business plan typically focuses on accomplishing the operational strategy. Our Customer Experience Management plan needs to accomplish our experience strategy. This is a strategy most organizations are missing. 

Does your organization have a defined customer experience strategy? A compelling experience strategy answers:

  • ■ Why – The overarching purpose of our customer experience efforts
  • ■ What – The objective – what we are specifically seeking to accomplish
  • ■ Where – Our experience position within our competitive set
  • ■ How – The way in which we live our foundations and experience strategy on a day-to-day, touchpoint by touchpoint basis

See TOUCHPOiNT POWER for a step-by-step guide to developing your compelling experience strategy.

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.

Please post a comment or question.

I welcome your questions and inquiries.  Please connect with me via
email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
phone: direct  904.466.1805, text   415.515.6391
  linkedin
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Receive tips, tricks and secrets from the front lines of customer experience by signing up for my TOUCHPOiNTER eNewsletter:

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For Email Newsletters you can trust

Keys to Customer Council Success

OfficeMeeting

A Customer Council (or whatever you call it) is typically of group of managers and a customer-facing employee from each of the disparate customer-facing departments or groups.  The Council meets regularly to improve internal cooperation, communication and metrics, and resolve issues with customers and touchpoints.  

Secret.  Position participation on the Council and the Workshops as a development opportunity for future leaders.  This positions you to secure participation of motivated individuals who will work hard and smart to produce positive results.

Holding Customer Council meetings in a “customer room”

.In her book, “Chief Customer Officer,” Jeanne Bliss promotes the advantages of building a “customer room.”  A customer room is a conference room where marketing communications targeting customers are posted.  As these communication touchpoints are developed, they are put up in the room.  This enables staff to “see” the totality of the communication targeting customers.  This can help improve the continuity of both the visual and message components of the brand.

A customer room is a great idea and if it can be done, is the perfect place for the Customer Council to meet.

Your Customer Council, and any team, can benefit from a charter.  A charter sets out the scope, personnel and objectives of the group.  Refer to the Customer Council Charter sample below. To download, right-click the image and choose "Save Image As..."

CustomerCouncilCharter

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.

Please post a comment or question.

I welcome your questions and inquiries.  Please connect with me via
email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
phone: direct  904.466.1805, text   415.515.6391
  linkedin
facebook twitter youtube

Receive tips, tricks and secrets from the front lines of customer experience by signing up for my TOUCHPOiNTER eNewsletter:

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Hank Brigman

Hank Brigman

President & TOUCHPOiNT Strategist
Customer Experience Strategies, Inc.
Qualified Member National Speakers Association
Keynote Demo Video
Best-Selling Author of TOUCHPOiNT POWER

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