4 Stages of the Customer Experience Journey: Real-Life Lessons in Retail


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Where does your customer experience stand? It’s a broad question that any business owner, large or small, must answer if they want to truly differentiate and engage with customers.

Customer Experience Journey AnalyticsWhether your business is retail sales, IT solutions, or manufacturing, there are always demands to be met – demands coming from the customer. Though many businesses will have varying degrees of interaction with their client base, ensuring that the customer experience is as structured and maintained to the highest level is what will influence stability and growth, even in some of the most volatile markets.

In this brief analysis, I want break down my thoughts on the customer journey into some key factors on each stage of the customer experience.

I propose that the customer experience can be based on the fundamentals of discovery, engagement, usage and persuasion. Though not always linear in their application, we can easily deconstruct and possibly reform our customer experience based on this proposed analysis.

Tools like iPerceptions Customer Experience Analytics provides insights to improve the digital customer experience, with 24/7 access to your customer feedback and advanced reporting.

Customer Discovery

A customer’s contact with a product or service has varying levels of interaction, the first of these articulates around the principle of discovery.

In retail, we can insist that the discovery process is essential to the customer service experience on the level of service. However we can also apply this principle of discovery to brand recognition.

Creating a sense of awareness of the business is essential to attracting and creating loyalty amongst your customers. It’s not enough today to just be open for business, you have to be an attractive business. Being appealing to your customers visually, emotionally, and financially is key in developing the customer experience.

Flavio Martins, VP of Operations, DigiCert, Inc.

If we use retail for example, discovery is a factor in customer service strategy as previously mentioned but also visibility of your brand, product or service. One might ask:

  • Is my store front appealing to customers?
  • Am I making the customer aware of promotions, new or hot product, events customers care about?
  • How do I represent my business within the community?
  • Do I participate in charitable causes?
  • Am I advertising in the locations that will attract the customer I want?
  • Where do I appear in Google search?

User Engagement in the Customer Experience

Once upon a time, when I trained sales staff, I found it made a profound difference when customers were asked open ended questions. “How are you today?” as opposed to “Can I help you with anything?” garnered two reactions;

  • a) Customers were slightly taken aback by such unusual forthright inquiry into their feelings
  • b) They were prone to dialogue which was then transformed into a more personal customer interaction.

With engagement, it’s possible to fall back into a discourse regarding accessibility of services or product, which, as mentioned before, none of this is linear. Engagement flows naturally from awareness, but takes this concept of awareness a step further. This is where we meet our customer; we determine their priorities, their needs, what their perceptions and expectations of our business happen to be. Nowadays customers also expect to communicate and engage with your brand online.

Industry and communication changes have now lead us to what can either be your best friend, or your worst enemy; SOCIAL MEDIA. In a retail setting you can’t help but try and listen to your customer, while maintaining control of where the interaction is going. Social media  poses a potential PR problem for retailers because of lack of control they may have over the content produced.

For example, I’ve had the misfortune of butting heads with a company for which I managed a local Instagram account; though submissions of content were crucial to having a well rounded social media strategy, censorship took over and I was unable to produce a coherent message as a result of restrictive measures. Social media is a constructive approach to marketing and it all depends on on how you use it. In some cases social media becomes an extension of the customer service strategies already in place.

Persuasion in the Customer Experience

Before we touch on usage, I would like to explore the dynamic of persuasion in the customer experience, quite simply because it would be beneficial to look at this component of the experience as the concrete element of establishing a business relationship with the customer.

Persuasion is that final step leading up to the signing of a contract, an agreement or a sale of any kind. The customer has choice in almost every sector of activity, and almost every contender for their business has built their success on elaborate customer service strategies; however, it’s by strategic application of persuasion that we achieve the final goal of establishing a relationship and creating fidelity, we solidify our bond through this process and we aim to achieve the almighty “YES”.

Persuasion of course isn’t limited to convincing our customer that the yoga pants she is trying on make her legs look fabulous, because the customer isn’t simply looking at a product. The customer wants value that goes beyond what they see. An informed consumer of your brand will have done their research as to the social, political, economical and various other sectors of activity of a business before they decide to adhere.

Of course one could easily negate that the customer isn’t always informed (take for example the woman in yoga pants who may have quite simply seen a cute color in the window) but let’s focus on the customer who is likely to become a brand ambassador. The customer who becomes loyal to your brand will be more interested in the relationships that we build throughout the other phases of the customer journey. Customer persuasion at this level is actually providing support to any size enterprise.

Usage (The Impact of Your Service/Product on Customers)

It was in considering the varying degrees of contact a customer will have with a product that really got me thinking of usage in our analysis here and as the final point in the customer journey. If I stated earlier that the customer experience isn’t necessarily linear, I’d like to make an exception when it comes to usage.

Beyond persuasion is the actual experience the customer will have using your product or your service, this goes beyond the sale interaction and the customer is now free to form their own views first hand. WARNING; you have now lost control! This isn’t to say that having created a solid foundation on the basis of customer engagement that all is lost if dissatisfaction arises.

Anyone experienced in customer retention will tell you that by maintaining a dialog and following up with your customer, you achieve even greater loyalty from what could be considered unpleasant. It is entirely likely that your customer will feel dissatisfaction with service provided or product purchased. However if we maintain that the customer life cycle does not come to an end simply with a purchase, we create a more well rounded customer experience susceptible to growth and a more forgiving customer.

“Where does my customer stand?” is a questions that not only challenges a business operator to examine their affairs through the perception of the customer. Breaking down the customer journey into the stages listed above allows us to separate out areas that we would maybe group together and helps us to put our customer interactions under a microscope.

Being able to deliver a customer experience that includes all the specific actions along the way will result in a business more apt to attract, and keep, the customer life cycle going for many years to come.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Flavio Martins
Flavio Martins is the VP of Operations and Customer Support at DigiCert, Inc., a leading provider of enterprise authentication services and high-assurance SSL certificates trusted by thousands of government, education, and Fortune 500 organizations. Flavio is an award-winning customer service blogger, customer service fanatic, and on a mission to show that organizations can use customer experience as a competitive advantage win customer loyalty. Blog: Win the Customer!


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