While many a company takes into consideration the customer lifecycle when designing their customer experience strategies, few consider that they need to cater to the needs of customers during transitional lifestage moments or spontaneous events.
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The traditional approach used by companies across most service sectors in designing their customer experience has been to do so around the customer lifecycle, examining all interactions with existing or potential customers along a typical route that goes something like this:
- A consumer has a need arise for some given reason
- The consumer explores alternative suppliers that can satisfy that need
- The consumer picks one supplier
- The consumer goes through an application or purchase process
- The consumer uses the given product or service
- The consumer assesses their satisfaction with the experience relative to the given product or service
- The consumer disengages with the supplier to choose another one the next time they need the given product or service, or, continues with the relationship they are already in due to their satisfaction
While this approach is a smart one in that it considers the typical interactions most consumers have with a company, it does not take into account those which occur on a less frequent basis but may be of much greater importance. These interactions can be categorized into two general groups:
Lifestage moments are those which most individuals experience a few times a decade, but are moments that are of critical importance. They are memorable, usually joyful, sometimes stressful. They are moments that companies often ignore, failing to be there for their clients when they may be needed the most. These lifestage moments represent a wealth of opportunity for companies wanting to better their customer experience, as their competitors are likely doing little around them.
While it may be difficult as a company to know when these moments occur in their client’s lives, it’s not impossible. Every interaction with a client is a chance to capture information about the moments throughout the year that will be important to them. Some sectors will be able to know much more about when their customers will have lifestage moments then others.
Some examples of these lifestage moments and how to know when it will happen in a client’s life, and what could be done for the client:
- Graduating from high school or college – Based on birthdate, captured by most companies in the service sector.
Example actions – A telecom sending a congratulatory SMS and gifting free celebratory minutes, or designing and offering a university student bundle catering to this segment’s specific needs
- First or new job – Based on changes in service usage, as in the case of a bank being able to tell when a customer has a new job due to a change in the company giving the direct salary deposit.
Example actions – A bank sending a congratulatory SMS, or a retirement planning guide/ an investor’s guide (based on the amount change in the person’s salary).
- Marriage – Based on customer profile changes, as in the case of a request to change a last name or their title to Mrs.
Example actions – An airline sending a congratulatory fruit gift basket celebrating the client’s nuptials.
- Having children – Based on usage changes, as in the case of a customer buying diapers and baby food for the first time, recorded on their loyalty card, or, on their credit card.
Example actions – A bank sending a “How to Save For Your Child’s Education” booklet, along with a gift toy piggy bank, or a congratulatory cigar to dad.
- Moving into a new home – Based on an address change request.
Example actions – A telecom sending a mover’s checklist to the client, reminding them of all the issues they need to still possibly resolve related to their move.
- Child graduating from high school or college – Based on information that could be obtained through a loyalty card application, regarding children’s birthdates, or, through a request from the client to change an account holder’s name at a bank or telecom firm.
Example actions – A bank sending a brochure discussing the financing alternatives available for putting a child through college.
- Retirement – Based on the discontinuity of a direct deposit along with the client reaching retirement age.
Example actions – A telecom sending a congratulatory SMS and a book about hobbies, celebrating their newfound time.
Some companies have already begun realizing the need to cater to customers during these lifestage moments. TDS Telecom, a company based in the United States with over 1 million subscribers, has a Mover’s Resource Center on its website, designed to make moving easier for its customers. Not only does it offer a one-stop solution for moving the customers phone line and internet service, but also provides a wealth of information and links around moving, with a Moving Guide, Moving Solutions, and Moving Checklist. Citibank financial planners, as another example, congratulate their clients who are getting married, and use the opportunity to discuss with them the importance of financial protection.
While some of the actions taken can be directly aligned around cross-selling or upselling, most of them are relationship-boosting efforts, meant to let the consumer know that their company is with them during the critical times in their lives. As such, the aim is to increase customer satisfaction and retention, not ramp up sales.
In some cases, the actions that can be taken are one-time in nature (i.e. sending an SMS or a gift), while others are more permanent and lasting, and as such, can be used over and over again (creating a booklet on how to invest, or a university student bundle). Regardless, companies should attempt to address these lifestage moments their customers experience in the most relevant manner possible, based on their customer portfolio.
Spontaneous events are those which most individuals also experience a few times a year, but are much more negative in nature. They are memorable for the wrong reasons, usually resulting in anguish and frustration for the individual. These events are also often ignored by companies, as services can be offered to the client base to make these experiences less painful for them.
These events, unlike lifestage moments, do not have to be predicted beforehand. Rather, companies need to offer a set of products and services that will be turned to by customers at such times.
Some examples of these spontaneous events and examples of what could be offered include:
- Car Broke Down
Example offerings – A telecom providing a hotline for tow truck service, with global positioning utilized to locate the individual.
- Had an Accident
Example actions – A bank offering low interest credit to clients who are faced with large hospital bills they may not otherwise be able to pay. Or, a telecom offering operator assistance to individuals to locate the closest hospital.
- Lost a Job
Example actions – A bank allowing a customer to delay credit payments up to 3 months throughout the length of a given loan without any penalty. Or, a telecom offering a payment delay or tariff usage cap service for a small fee, aimed at helping the individual manage their finances during difficult times.
- Lost Cell Phone
Example actions – A telecom offering a customer cell phone insurance, or, at a minimum, a phone number backup service, intended to help individuals quickly get up and running with a new phone.
Turkcell, Turkey’s leading mobile phone service provider, has an excellent service that lets customers back up their cell phone numbers through their phone, free of charge. With the push of a button, the most recent numbers recorded on the phone are wirelessly sent to be stored in a server. Customers are thus assured that even if they lose their phone, the phone numbers on it can easily be retrieved. Turkcell also benefits from this service, as its customers can begin dialing their contacts as soon as they purchase a new phone. HSBC Bank in Hong Kong also is there for its customers when they are most needed. The bank allows customers who have recently become unemployed to not worry about their life insurance premium payments. The bank allows for insurance premium payments to be deferred for up to two years (or until the individual resumes working) without any interest accumulating on the delayed payments.
The actions that can be taken around supporting customers during spontaneous moments can be revenue generators, aimed more at providing protection to the customer for a small fee. The appreciation of the customer who relies on the service in a time of need will more than outweigh any negative feelings they may have for paying a small fee.
Companies should examine their own customer base to determine the right mix of actions and offerings that can be conducted and developed to cater to their needs. Customers will truly appreciate the fact their company values them, leading to deeper, longer, and more profitable relationships.