Managing the Customer Life Cycle

“Once a purchase is made, the user enters the customer lifecycle. Now they are sent data-driven emails based on their behaviour and product interests.” -www.ecommercepartners.net

From the stage of being a prospective customer to actually becoming a customer of a company, there is a relationship between these two sets of people. The actions taken are sequence of events that lead from one to the next. This series of events eventually becomes the customer life cycle and managing it is the company’s responsibility. Managing the customer life cycle is about keeping the relationship energized and engaged and getting the customer from being only a customer to a brand advocate and making the relationship mutually beneficial. A customer life cycle is the entire process from consideration to remaining loyal to the company and includes the stages of buying, using and maintaining a rapport with the company.

In the fierce business environment, managing the customer life cycle has become even more critical. Unless a company is focused on creating and continually improving the relationship they have with their customers, they could find themselves losing customers to their competition. It is therefore extremely critical that every company focuses on managing the customer life cycle through a robust and efficient process. A proper management of the customer life cycle will ensure that customers feel valued and taken care of by your company, which in turn will trigger enhanced business and referrals. It starts from the customer acquisition stage by first getting potential customers to pay attention to your company and its offering. Post a customer query it becomes about educating the customer about the benefits of the company’s products and services to convert them to regular profitable customers. The customer life cycle can be considered complete only when the company succeeds in retaining the customer – turning them into loyal customers and willing brand ambassadors. Since it is known as a customer life cycle, the premise is that the customer would continually move within this cycle and the company would do whatever they can to ensure that the cycle never breaks.

Managing the customer life cycle requires a company to monitor and analyse customer behaviour and their needs and then put together objectives and strategies that will best manage these behaviours and satisfy the needs. Managing the customer life cycle means that a company would first and foremost focused on the customer and in turn is able to translate this focus to long term profits and success, making it beneficial for both parties. Managing the customer life cycle in reality is part of the company’s commitment to customer service, which means that it is the responsibility of each person in the company. We already know that if customer service were thought of in the vacuum of a single department, it would hamper service to customers resulting in lowered levels of customer satisfaction. To ensure value to the customer throughout the cycle the company must ensure that each person understands that they have a vital role to play in enhancing customer service levels and they must interact cohesively with each other to achieve this.

Managing the customer life cycle means that the company is in the cycle too and hence the service levels and mind-set of each person must be such that the customer believes that no one else can ever provide higher levels of service. Being able to create such an impression on customers will keep your customers with you and leave your competitors fuming at their inability to take your customers away. As part of managing the customer life cycle, companies must also focus on the data and customer information they gather as material for continuous improvement, learning and anticipating future needs and requirements thus building a base for repeat business.

As mentioned, the basic premise of customer service is that it will simplify a customer’s life by reducing the effort they need to exert to conduct business with your company. Managing the customer life cycle would mean that the customer data would be stored in a central place, would be continually updated such that there are no overlaps and duplication. This data should serve as a source of intelligence such that those responsible for making customer focused decisions are able to do so effectively and ensure that everyone in the relationship is happy. For customers it means a reduction in – unmet needs, poor communication, lack of information and other such negative aspects. For companies, managing the customer data translates to more business, higher customer satisfaction levels, reduced costs, lower customer churn, more customer referrals, better customer testimonials and other such factors that lead to increased revenue and wider customer base.

To attract and retain customers, companies often run loyalty programs. Managing the customer life cycle from this perspective is about fine tuning the features of the program such that along with the customer, the company is also able to monetize and capitalize on these programs and get the ROI they expect. Customers become and remain satisfied with a company when the company is able to provide consistent, real and measurable value for them. Managing the customer life cycle is about creating this value and also putting in place robust processes and using updated technology to ensure that a customer can see the value in doing business with the company long term. Creating value will be consistent when the company’s culture and vision are focused on exceeding customer expectations and making memorable experiences for customers at every touch point and in every interaction.

We have discussed previously that without understanding who the customer and prospective customers are, a company would be unable to put together strategies to sell and will even be ineffective in anticipating the needs of their customers. It is the onus of the company to reach out their target customer base and build relationships with them. With continued interactions it would become easier for companies to put together customized messages that would have a better potential of translating to actual business. Post the initial buying transaction, it becomes crucial for a company to ensure that the customer is completely satisfied with the product or service by reaching out and directly asking them. With such attention, customers are more likely to trust the company’s commitment of long term service and high quality products.

As part of managing the customer life cycle, it becomes a continuous process to keep the customer happy, ask for their feedback and opinion, translate that information to better products and service and reach out to them to thank them for their feedback and continued patronage. Using the customer’s feedback and opinions to improve the product quality and service makes them feel like they are partnering with the company and creating opportunity for success for themselves and the company. When you keep the customer in the centre of your business, customers will respond with repeat business, positive comments via social media and by referring their friends and associates to your company. The best form of advertisement and marketing of a company’s products and services is through its existing customers – as potential customers tend to believe the opinion of customers rather than the company –it is more authentic and is undisputable proof of the great job the company is doing.

In managing the customer life cycle, what a company is actually doing is solving problems, reducing the opportunities for errors and overall improving the kind of experiences the customers have with their company. Over time this builds trust and confidence in customers and loyal customers tend to be the most profitable and prove to be the pillars of any successful company.

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