Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When Does the Customer Experience Begin?

In your CX journey, have you given much thought to the customer lifecycle? 

When does it actually begin? 

Do you think the relationship between customer and company begins when a customer makes a purchase?

This is an important consideration. You must understand when that relationship between customer and company begins.

Let's consider the popular 1958 McGraw-Hill ad, "Man in the Chair." The ad depicts a grumpy-looking man ("your customer"), hands clasped, scowl on face, sitting in a chair. With that look, he might as well be pointing and shaking his finger at you while uttering the words that surround him:
  • I don't know who you are.
  • I don't know your company.
  • I don't know your company's product.
  • I don't know what your company stands for.
  • I don't know your company's customers.
  • I don't know your company's record.
  • I don't know your company's reputation.
  • Now…What was it that you wanted to sell me?
Moral: Sales start before your salesman calls - with business publication advertising.

These are profound words to read, digest, and remember. The customer's experience doesn't start when the salesperson comes calling or when your customer first purchases your product. The customer experience begins long before that, when the customer realizes he has a need. By the time you try to sell something to him, it's too late.

If you take a look at the customer experience lifecycle that I depicted in a previous post, you'll see that the lifecycle begins when the Need arises. That Need begets Awareness (sometimes it comes after Awareness). If you're communicating, if you're getting the word out (through messaging and through actions) about who your company is, what your products do, how your services differ, what value you bring, what needs you meet or problems you solve, and, most importantly, what you stand for, your customers will never recite the words from the Man in the Chair.

I think a simple, yet important, lesson here is that companies should always be doing the right thing, regardless of the time, the place, the person, or the situation. They should always be putting their customers first and their employees more first. When you take care of your customers and your employees, it shows, and people take notice. Those people may be non-customers who have yet to identify, or have just realized, a need. 

When companies act with integrity always, good things happen. The brand then speaks for itself - and your customers might even speak for you. And the Man in the Chair knows who you are when you come calling.

"Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking." -Unknown


  1. Love this post, Annette! It makes the case for companies doing things because they align with their values and beliefs (their brand) -- instead of doing them simply to sell things. -- denise lee yohn

    1. Thanks, Denise! Absolutely. If only that was happening consistently.

      Annette :-)

  2. Hi Annette. Hope you are well. Going to throw a curve-ball in with this one, but would you agree that maybe the journey starts even sooner than that? A lot sooner in fact. If we can agree that customer experience isn't just about perception, it's about expectation too (Perception-Expectation Gap modelling being a well-known part of CX Journey mapping); then a customer's experience of your business is likely to be conditioned by their expectation of your business, which starts even before they contact you OR have a need. Their expectation starts the first time they hear about your business, be that via the brand or word-of-mouth.

    I have never owned an Apple product or used an Apple service; however I have already had a lot of experiences with that organisation. I already have an expectation as to what it would be like to do business with that company.

    What do you think?

    Ian Williams

    1. Hi Ian. I hope you are well, too! I like curve balls; they keep me on my toes! And you are absolutely right. As I noted in my Customer Experience Lifecycle post, "Need often begets the rest of the cycle. (I say "often" because sometimes Need happens after Awareness.)" So, as you say, the expectation can begin as early as the first time you hear about the brand, whether there is a need or not. Thanks for calling me out on that and keeping me straight!

      Annette :-)