Everyone talks about customer journeys as critical to understanding and designing the customer experience. I can’t argue with this; I’ve been talking about looking at experiences from your customers’ perspective for years. But often, we look at journeys in a vacuum: Do we understand the impetus for the contact, the customer’s mindset, or any previous experience the customer brings to the journey?
To truly understand a customer journey, take a step back and map out the customer lifecycle. This lifecycle helps put the journey in context. It helps us identify the key moments of truth for customers using your product or service, and understand how best to interact with them at these critical junctures.
Why is Customer Lifecycle Important?
A customer lifecycle represents the span of time your customer owns or uses your product or service. There’s a lifecycle for your car, your computer, your health insurance policy, and your cable service. Think about the different moments of truth you have with each, and how they all affect your ultimate decision to recommend or repurchase.
Let’s look at customer lifecycle for health insurance. This graphic illustrates different events in the course of obtaining and managing a health insurance policy. Taken together, they provide a bird’s eye view of your customers’ experience with your brand. Individually, they represent separate customer journeys: These are analyzed and designed based upon design principles we derive from the customer lifecycle and our customer experience vision and strategy.
This is the starting point for designing and evaluating customer journeys. It makes us think about issues like:
- Is there a consistent customer experience across all journeys, from sales to renewal?
- Are we branding all the journeys in the same way?
- Are we treating customers in similar ways at each moment of truth? Do we need to build different lifecycles or journeys based on how we segment customers?
- Are we offering our customers channel choice across the lifecycle?
- Are we sharing customer data across the lifecycle and across channels?
- Are we missing opportunities across the lifecycle?
- At the end of the day, are our customers likely to renew based on key moments of truth throughout the lifecycle?
Deriving Customer Journeys from the Lifecycle
Now you can map your customer journeys, armed with what you know about the lifecycle. Build a journey for each moment of truth, including sales, onboarding, the first bill, provider search, and getting duplicate ID cards. You may build multiple journeys based on customer segments. Map them as is and to be to understand gaps.
Within the context of your design principles, ask the following questions:
- What are my customers’ key questions and needs at this moment of truth?
- What are their emotional states?
- What are the task-appropriate channels to support customers?
- Are there appropriate service level agreements in place for this journey?
- What resources and tools are needed to support these requirements?
Customer journeys and customer lifecycles are often confused or used interchangeably. In your customer’s eyes, you can’t have one without fully understanding the other. Take the steps to understand your entire customer experience before mapping out individual journeys and you’ll be providing a more consistent and branded experience throughout your customers’ relationship with your company.
Elaine Cascio is a vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp. (www.vanguard.net), a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, operations and technology.
Edited by Alicia Young