There’s no silver bullet for lifecycle management. Great companies find their own ways to delight and retain customers while delivering on their promises.
Recently, a friend of mine shared the three-part customer journey map he uses to do this. My friend Stuart runs a hearing-aid store. Stuart was experiencing a high level of returns, because his clients were having a hard time adjusting to their new hearing aids. It makes sense, because a hearing aid is an expensive product that potentially transforms someone’s life. Stuart believed if he could enhance his customer journey map, though, he could cut down on returns.
He focused on enhancing the customer lifecycle. And as he told me the story of his three-part lifecycle makeover, I realized he could apply this strategy to any industry. Here’s what happened.
First, he improved his relationships
Stuart made an effort to get to know his clients.
First, he issued them a print newsletter, and meanwhile he eamailed their caretakers a digital version(since the caretakers were often younger and would prefer this medium). Second, Stuart sent each customer a bag of jelly beans. You might remember that jelly beans were Ronald Reagan’s favorite candy. Reagan also wore hearing aids. The candy came with a note from Stuart: “Enjoy the sweet sounds of life.” Bam. Suddenly Stuart had touched an emotional chord with his clients, and he began to mean something to them.
Stuart even improved the experience. He listened to customers complaining about how hard it was to open the candy bag. So Stuart started sending small boxes of jelly beans. He opened a feedback loop. His customers talked, he listened, and they began to build trust together.
"Some coffee, some jelly beans, a newsletter, and Stuart reduced his return rate by 30%!"
Second, Stuart reduced anxiety about his product
Stuart wanted to get rid of the sterile experience of buying hearing aids. He got rid of the “medical device” feel of his office space. Instead, he added couches, so it felt like home. He always had a plate of fresh-baked cookies made from scratch available with fresh, aromatic coffee. Clients walked into his store and felt at home.
Finally, Stuart laid out the playbook
Stuart started better communicating what customers could expect with his product. Instead of simply selling the product, he sold the experience. He told his customers that they would first buy the hearing aid, and he would tune it. Then he would ask them back for check-ups to retune the devices. And periodically, Stuart would ship them batteries in time for replacing the old ones. Finally, Stuart delivered on all these promises. He made a big change a little easier, because he told everyone what to expect.
The results: 30 percent fewer returns
You read that right: some coffee, some jelly beans, a newsletter, and Stuart reduced his returns by 30 percent.
After congratulating Stuart, I instantly hypothesized how I could apply his three-part strategy to my team …
First, we improved our relationships
My professional services team’s success depends on communicating well with our clients. So I looked at our communication means to see how we could improve the customer experience and build even stronger relationships that way.
In the past, we had emailed a basic greeting to all new customers. So with Stuart’s newsletter and warm cookies in mind, we started including each representative’s photo and a fun fact. Instead of just having regular phone calls, we also launched more video conferencing, for a face-to-face meeting. One of my team members, Vanessa, was so successful at personalizing her customer experience, her client sent her a picture of her newborn grandchild! That’s a real connection. That’s a relationship.
Second, we reduced anxiety
Deploying new software can be stressful. I looked specifically at what happens when our clients deployed our Mavenlink software, and I wondered, could we somehow celebrate this? Stuart’s jelly beans came to mind.
I tested celebrating the use of our software and services on a very large client. To celebrate their go-live, we sent them four-dozen homemade, hand-wrapped cookies. Half the cookies had their logo, and the other half had ours. The cookies were a major hit, and to this day our client remembers.
Finally, we laid out a roadmap
A lot of software companies will sell and then pass to sales. Like Stuart, I wanted Mavenlink customers to know what to expect throughout their lifecycle with us, not just at the sale. So like Stuart, we have a transition, rather than a handoff, to services from my sales team. My team is often brought in during the sales cycle, so they know with whom they’ll work.
And that’s the three-part customer journey. Build relationships, reduce anxiety, and lay out the customer journey roadmap. Have you found another map that works? Let me know in the comments.