By Mike Crane, EVP of Services
Let's start from the beginning. The customer lifecycle is the journey each customer experiences through deploying a new solution to achieve a positive outcome for the business. A crucial part of this journey is getting started on the right foot. This includes preparation and taking all the proper steps to make sure the customer is satisfied throughout the journey. Successfully navigating through a customer lifecycle will develop a strong relationship that requires continual focus and attention. This relationship is derived from services which include; deployment, adoption, implementation, and continued support.
For a vendor to build these long-lasting relationships some elements need to be addressed. For example, the vendor must identify the key business priorities and KPI's for the customer. What keeps them awake at night? This can be driven through exploratory questions around the operations and how a solution aligns with the priorities of the customer. Being that business requirements change, the vendor should have professional service offerings that return back to the customer periodically. The vendor needs to offer recommendations and changes that can improve the overall operations and success of the solution. They can also offer up industry best practices and share key insights from their many engagements. To maintain customer loyalty, services such as a tailored training and personalized support, can be utilized to engage at a broader level and allow each customer to feel unique.
Over time, I have seen three changes that have influenced the customer lifecycle, and shifted the priorities of vendors in order to build and maintain loyalty. These changes have been enabled through a technology evolution where the doors have been opened for a customer to have more visibility into the vendor's activity and operations. The old cliche "there is nowhere to hide" comes to mind. Let's take a look at the changes and how they have impacted the engagement through a customer lifecycle.
1. Technical enablement: With the proliferation of DIY apps and YouTube videos consumers want to be able to solve problems on their own. Similarly, corporate customers want to become self sufficient in diagnosing problems and leveraging tools to solve. At times, the value of services is simply the ability to enable a customer to solve their own problems by leveraging tools that normally a vendor would provide. In this way the vendor is sharing their expertise.
2. Social media: When customers have the ability to publicly consult with a vendor, the vulnerability of the vendor is put to the test. A customer who is not satisfied will be able to publicize any issue for others to see. In turn, the vendor will also have to publicly address the resolution or response to keep up with expected engagements on social media.
3. Expectations: Social media is not the only channel where customers expect a quick response from a vendor. With mobile technology at our fingertips, the customer's expectations have shifted. Whether it's email, Facebook messaging, or a Tweet, the expectation is that the vendor is listening and will respond just as fast as a direct phone call.As you can see, supporting evolving technology is essential for vendors to stand apart from the competition. While it's not easy to keep on top of all technical shifts, by keeping up in these three areas, vendors will be able to enhance their engagement through the customer lifecycle. This will in turn drive loyalty and establish a partner relationship versus a customer vendor transaction.