Be Where the Customers Are: from Customer Centricity, Customer Experience to Customer Ubiquity.
Don’t waste time on Customer Experience if you can’t get the customers visiting your virtual or physical stores. Try to be where the customers are and use Customer Ubiquity sending the services or products in front of them anywhere and anytime.
Use buying sneakers as an example to see the three stages in Customer Relationship Management (CRM): (1) In the old days the customers all go to the shoe stores when they look for a good pair of sneakers, Customer Centricity has all in-store clerks focus on helping them during the purchasing process; (2) Later the customers collect information and compare the prices online before going to the sports goods stores to find the jogging gears, Customer Experience places the runway in store so that they can try on different sneakers on the runway as if they jog on the road; (3) Recently the joggers run in the sports center every day and ask their jogging pals to recommend the best gears for indoor tracks, Customer Ubiquity spreads the sneaker comparison sheet to the joggers’ online community, invites the happy users to share their testimonials of jogging on the sneakers, opens stores in the sports center, the sports consultants (a.k.a. in-store clerks) help the joggers try on every sneakers to find the best fit, and most importantly the joggers can always go back and ask for support when they use the product on the spot without leaving where they jog.
In the beginning the customers need to go to the stores to buy the products or services they need so the CRM ensures all functions in the store focusing on the customers to retain them as long as possible; Later on the stores attract the customers to visit the branches (physical or virtual) so the CRM provides great experience to attract the customers to enjoy their journey; Recent years the stores can’t attract the customers to visit the branches instead they send the products or services in front of the customers so the CRM makes the products or services available at the location and the timing based on the customers’ needs. As the relationship between the stores and the customers changed, the CRM evolves into three stages: from Customer Centricity, to Customer Experience, and now it’s time for Customer Ubiquity.
First stage: Customer Centricity or Customer Focus
The customers go to the stores to buy the products or services they want rather than the stores approach them. The CRM ensure all functions in the store focusing on the customers to extends the relationship with the customers as long as they can.
The below Customer Lifecycle describes CRM starting from Identification, Acquisition, Retention, to Growth with the customer in the center and repeat from Acquisition again.
1. Identification (Target Prospects)
Many people think it’s “the chicken or the egg causality dilemma” between the products or services and the target prospects. In the mass production era, everyone needs the same products or services without any difference. Nowadays the companies know their products or services are not cut for everyone so they design for the specific target prospects. Among all prospect customers, the companies identify the target prospects they want to satisfy the needs. They key of Customer Identification is to position the products or services to target the specific prospects and know their needs to be satisfied by the products or services.
2. Acquisition (Target Prospects)
After the target prospects are identified, the companies want to know where to find them and how to bring their interest to visit the stores (virtual or physical) to place the orders. Knowing the target prospects’ behaviors along the buying cycle from Aware, Research, Comparison, Purchase to Use, the companies want to interact with the target prospects during the cycle so as to increase the probabilities of buying. The companies can promote the products or services to interest the target prospects; provide the information to them; help them to compare with different alternatives; lower their transaction cost; offer them good price to value; support their usage; and service their needs along the usage. The key of Customer Acquisition is to attract the target prospects to place the orders.
3. Retention (Existing Customers)
Once the target prospects purchase the companies’ products or services, the companies want to keep the customers long as they can in order to maximize the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). The CLV has three dimensions: the length of sales volume, the width of different product or service lines, and the depth of relationship. The CLV followers believe the companies striving for the length and the width of CLV all for the ultimate goal, the depth of the relationship. As long as the relationship exists, the companies always sell more or different products or services to the customers. The companies try all ways to serve the customers so as to keep the relationship alive. The key of Customer Retention is to satisfy the existing customers’ needs to maintain the relationship.
4. Growth (Existing Customers)
Finally the companies want to grow the customers’ value by increase the sales volume the customers contribute and the referral the customers bring to the companies. Usually the more width of different product lines are purchased by the customers, the more difficult the customers will switch to other competitors. The key of Customer Growth is to find all ways to increase the opportunities to sell more products or services and to increase the probabilities to refer the products or services to other customers.
Second stage: Customer Experience or Customer Journey
The customers has many choices online or offline to buy the products or services and no longer go to the stores to reduce their transaction cost on window shopping. So the companies need to attract the customers to visit their stores and the CRM needs to provide a great or at least smooth experience to attract the customers to enjoy their journey with the stores.
Omnichannel Experience (OE) including online and offline channel is part of the Customer Experience to extend from one side to the other and make sure the experience at the both sides are seamlessly connected and collaborated. The companies from one side finds the customers want more at the other side: Online companies want the customers have a place to see the products or services physically; Offline companies want to provide the customers the convenience to check the price, inventory stock or any information they care. OE make the customers feel more comfortable about their buying behavior.
1. Customer Attraction
In order to interest the target prospects, the companies need to provide them great experience along the buying cycle: Inquiry, Comparison, Purchase and Installation. In the aware stage the companies need to remind the customers with specific needs on the products or services; In the research stage the companies need to provide product or service information on product site or third-party site so as to attract the target prospects; In the comparison stage the companies need to provide the target prospects a considerable amount of alternatives with the products and services so the prospects ensure they can pick what they want; In the purchase stage the companies need to create timely and effective purchase experience with out of expectation experience; In the use stage the companies need to provide different kinds of support or service to maximize the value of the products or services owned by the customers. In short, the companies need to create an attractive customer experience so as to acquire target prospects and convert to customers.
2. Customer Growth
If the customers are attracted along the customer journey, they will build up emotional connection with the companies more than just the transactions on the products or services or the relationship between vendor and the buyer. This emotional connection can lead to the more contributions to the companies and then increase the direct consumption of the products or services or indirect recommendations to other customers. Customer growth is the end state every companies look for from the customers. From the attraction leading to the growth, two pronged approach will be taken: the customer loyalty inside the companies and the customer advocacy outside the companies.
3. Customer Loyalty
Both the customers’ attitudinal and behavioral tendency to favor one brand over the others, customer loyalty encourages consumers to shop more continuously, spend more share of wallet, and feel positive about the customer experience. Unlike the customer advocacy is expressed to outside of the companies, the Customer Loyalty as part of Customer Care, is more expressed inside the companies. The way to build up customer loyalty is to interact with the customers more frequently and persistently. It can be as simple as ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘Happy Anniversary’ message to create the sense of belonging, to complicated program to reward the customers to buy more.
The Loyalty Point Program not only reward the customers to accumulate their contributions to the companies, the more involvement the customers have with the companies, the more reward they will get from the companies and the more difficulty they leave the companies to other competitors. The best example is Frequent Flyer Program by the airlines, credit card providers or other retailers: as more and more points being accumulated, the customers have the tendency to accumulate even more so as to advance to a higher level of rewards, they then unlikely to choose other companies’ products or services unless they don’t have such choice. The customers are kidnapped by the loyalty point program once they involved deeply enough. Such difficulty to switch to other companies after the customers accumulated enough points and get used to such brands is what every companies look for to build up the loyalty point program.
4. Customer Advocacy
It’s more a culture or attitude inside the companies to serve the customers so that they not only want to use the products or services, but also the customer experience provided is so good to make them to recommend the companies to others. The companies not only provide the products or services to satisfy the customers’ needs but also listen to the customers’ voice and go extra miles at every touch points so as to create an unique customer journey that the competitors can’t offer. The unique customer experience will differentiated the companies from other competitors even though the products or services provided are similar.
The customer journey create the sense of privileged treatment that builds up the emotional connections between the customers and the companies. The emotional connection makes the customers want to share such unique experience to others. Depending on the extent the customers feel, their advocacies can be from Satisfied Customers, Repeated Buyers, Recommenders, Fans, Evangelists, to the end become the Shareholders. People always think only new technology companies can build up the customer advocacy with the customers. On the contrary, many traditional products or services have a loyal fans to support them voluntarily. Some even think the consumption of such products or services is a way to maintain some kind of tradition or belief. The more emotional they feel about the experience, the more involvement they want to build up and the more influence they want to make outside the companies.
Third stage: Customer Ubiquity
Now that the customers usually buy product or services not in a store but in a ecosystem. The companies can’t keep the customers simply by attracting them to visit the stores but need to make the product or service as part of the ecosystem and during a scenario the customers need them. The CRM needs to make the product or service available at the location and the timing based on the customers’ needs. Use the banks as an example, people keep saying in the future the banks will become extinct. However, the people’s needs to use financial services won’t. Only people don’t need to go to the banks to use the financial services so the banks need to make themselves available wherever and whenever the customers need.
1. Identify the Ecosystem
The companies found the Customer Lifecycle can’t explain the behaviors because it’s hard to make the person to buy, instead, the companies found that User Experience (UX) can fits better to explain the behavior and helps to find the usage scenario where the products or services can fit in to solve the Users’ problem. The companies try to find the persons will use their products or services and try to find their ecosystem, i.e. their living environment, both physical and virtual.
All kinds of roles exists in the Ecosystem with a person in the center: the a Vendors sell other products or service; the Suppliers provide the resources; the Coworkers help to accomplish tasks; the Influencers try to affect other people’s decisions; the Users want to use of the products or services needed; the Neighbors try to maintain a good relationship; the Friends want to share the good or bad news; the Partners wants to live with others. Many other roles existing in the ecosystem and may have different effects to the person in different time. Knowing the target prospects’ ecosystem is the first step. Instead of dragging the users outside of the ecosystem, the companies should try to fit their products or services inside the ecosystem.
2. Define Usage Scenario
In the Ecosystem, the persons need such products or services will Use them; they may Buy before or after they use; they may Refer to the experts’ opinions; they may Recommend others by Sharing Own Usage or even Out-of-Box Experience (OOBE), which nowadays more reliable than the influencers; they may want to Share with others instead of owning the products or services in order to meet the minimum scale requirements; they may Resell to others once they no longer need them; they may even Recycle the products in order to save the earth. In an user’s ecosystem, the usage experience is no longer linear or sequential, but more a circle or multi-directional, it can start anywhere and end anywhere.
3. Make Available to the Ecosystem
The companies need to understand the usage scenario of the person, so as to fit the products or services into any point of the circle. The more involvement the companies can get with the person, the more opportunities the products or services can be known by the person. The products or services should be engaged in the circle of Aware, Interest, Research, Consider, Purchase, Use, Service, Replace or Upgrade. The companies don’t make their products or services in full cycle from the beginning to the end. Instead they should make the products or services available to any point.
For some products or services, the companies need Open Interface for the products or services to fit them in at any point. The companies make the users aware of the needs of the products and services; demonstrate the values so as to interest the users; provide detail information for the users to satisfy their needs; offer pros-and-cons comparison between the products or services and other alternatives; share the usage experience in the user community; offer extra services along the usage; and help the users to upgrade or replace current products. By making the products or services available into the usage circle, the users can choose them any time or anywhere needed.
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