As we explained in this article, understanding your customers’ journey is essential when you’re a customer/client-oriented organization. With the customer journey mapped out, you can create an effective marketing mix that contributes to your marketing strategy.
Our previous article discusses the customer journey up to the purchase (phase 5), and in this article, we’ll continue with phases 6-9 – the delivery phase to the ambassador phase.
6. The delivery phase
Delivering a product or service can take on various formats, for example:
- A product delivery: from a (web)shop to the customers’ house or a service point.
- A product bought: in a store, at a stand, or any other physical place.
- Short-term service provision: flights, electrician’s services, haircuts from a barber, etc.
- Long-term service provision: subscriptions for internet, telephone, TV, online marketing services, energy contracts, etc.
- A download button and/or webpage for e-tickets: festivals, theatre shows, concerts, etc.
Pulling out of deliveries
During the delivery phase, customers can usually pull out in two ways: by cancelling their order before the actual delivery is finished and by returning the product or cancelling the service afterwards.
Luckily, most of the pulling out can be prevented through proactive communication. For example, by sending previews or use tips of the product/service to enthuse customers, or by sending a survey to inform about the purchasing experience or the quality of delivery to anticipate and/or tackle problems proactively.
Although most long-term services are not literally “delivered” to the customer, there are plenty of ways to make the start of their new service a celebratory moment. For example, by sending a welcoming e-mail to tell a new customer that he/she is making use of your service now. This is also the perfect moment to invite questions and to further introduce your brand and demonstrate what you stand for.
These types of communication help to enthuse your customers about their purchase and hence your brand. Effective channels for this are:
- E-mail marketing: celebrate your customer’s new service, introduce your brand, anticipate questions, etc.
- Content marketing: via your website, social media, etc.
- SMS-marketing: this works better than WhatsApp because for SMS you don’t have to get approval before messages (e.g. about the delivery) are received by your customers.
- Customer service: web care and/or chatbots to answer standard questions and issues, and very personal ones.
7. The use phase
This is a crucial moment because if you perform well in this phase, you’re very likely to start binding customers to your brand and hence your product(s)/service(s)! In order to do this effectively, you need to gather information from your using customers, for example:
- The questions you get: via your customer service, web care, in the store, etc.
- Mentions of your products/services and/or brand: you can do this via online monitoring tools, such as Google Trends, Google Keyword Planner, AnswerThePublic, and Ubersuggest
- User data from your website and/or online customer environment: You can easily analyze these with Google Analytics and Hotjar.
Fostering happy customers
Subsequently, it’s time to analyze all this data so you can improve your service and capitalize upon cross- and up-selling opportunities. For example, by interacting with your customers and replying to mentions and/or complaints of your brand. Besides directly answering questions/problems that you encounter among your customers online, you can also create content that does this for you. Alternatively, you can focus on streamlining your sales funnel or delivery, or improving the actual product/service itself.
For this, you can use:
- E-mail marketing: focused on sales and information relevant to the purchase(s).
- Content and/or video marketing: infographics, user manuals, etc. about your brand and products/services. Keep in mind that besides your website, you can also spread this via YouTube, social media, and relevant forums.
- Optimizing your website: Besides SEO (Search Engine Optimization) , consider making a clear distinction between info for prospects and info for existing customers.
8. The loyalty phase
Since you’ve invested already into 7 steps of the customer journey until this point, you don’t want “just” satisfied customers, you’ll want loyal customers! In marketing, we separate customer loyalty into 2 forms, namely transactionaland emotional loyalty.
- Transactionally loyal customers stay because of competitive prices, loyalty discounts, presents, free upgrades, etc. In all fairness though, these customers aren’t loyal to your organization; they are loyal to their wallet by committing to always get the “best bang for buck.”
- Emotionally loyal customers feel connected to your brand in an emotional way. They are like fans who value the complete experience offered by your brand instead of a better price offer from your competitor(s). Think of customers of brands such as Apple, Harley Davidson and Starbucks; popular fashion brands; and all kinds of (sports) clubs and social organizations.
Understanding your (loyal) customers
In order to get a better insight into your customers, you have to analyze your customer data. This works best with a customer relationship management (CRM) system. However, if getting a CRM system is not feasible, manually collect your customer administration and your Google Analytics data and analyze:
- How long are people already customers?
- In what region do most loyal customers live?
- In what age group are your loyal customers?
- Data about your return/cancel webpage.
- How many times do people search for your terms & agreements, contract details, cancellation terms, etc.
- How many times do people search for filing a complaint?
Fostering loyal customers
Besides valuable insights into your key performance indicators (KPIs), answering these questions can help you to proactively reach out to your customers in need and help them. By proactively offering help to your customers, you can solve their issues before they become so problematic that they start looking for alternatives. Even if they then still decide to leave you, this process gives you a lot of customer feedback that you can improve your service for future customers with.
With your analyses results, you can foster customer loyalty by targeting your marketing more precisely:
- Remarketing: target customers with the products/services they already watched on your website.
- E-mail marketing: segment and personalize as much as possible so you can send relevant e-mails that are not interpreted as spam.
- Adapt your product/service line according to trends that you spot in online discussions of your brand and its products/services.
- Survey and communicate with customers: this way they can express themselves about their purchase or your brand, which can alleviate a lot of frustration already.
During the loyalty phase, it’s important that you are personal and consistent in your customer interactions. This means that your customers should never have to explain their situation or ask their questions twice. Doing so effectively, is called omnichannel marketing because customers experience that all channels lead to the same entity – your brand. Once again, CRM systems are specifically designed to optimize this process, but you can achieve the same by establishing clear internal communication protocols and a meticulous administration.
9. The Ambassador phase
Now the final stage is when your loyal customers turn into your brand ambassadors. This is the gold standard, because ambassadors are so pleased with your brand that they will bring in new customers all by themselves. There are those ambassadors who freely advertise your brand without asking for it and those that you’ll have to nudge by sending them a review request. You can count customers among your ambassadors when they:
- Recommend, praise, or defend your brand on forums, social media, and to friends, relatives, etc.
- Answer questions of others (online)
- Create usage reports or videos on YouTube or other comparative platforms
- Have a high click-through rate (CTR) on your e-mail marketing
Ambassadors who recommend your brand offline to their friends and family are of course harder to find out about. Yet, you can foster, accommodate, and reward both offline and online ambassadors by effectively engaging them at various touchpoints:
- Make content, products, and purchases easily shareable: via WhatsApp, e-mail, social media, etc.
- Ask customers to review you: on social media, Google, your own website, or important review websites.
- Offer ambassadors to participate in your content marketing: allow them to write on your blog, feature them in your newsletter, ask them to write a testimonial or make a video, etc.
- Create a referral system: generate personalized codes or sharing links for your customers and reward successful referrals with discounts, goodies, and/or other bonuses.
- Segment your marketing: leads, prospects, and “normal” customers in one mailing list and advertisement audience list, and your fans and ambassadors in another. In this, consider giving your ambassadors regular advantages, such as early access to to sales, beta versions, etc.
In sum, in the loyalty phase, it’s all about acknowledging your ambassadors as distinct customers and treating them accordingly. The way you go about this is up to you, but keep in mind that it always works best to align your loyalty programs with your company color.
Using the customer journey
Besides an overall better understanding of your organization from your customers’ perspectives, you can use the customer journey for many practical things:
- In your marketing plan to identify opportunities and challenges.
- To create your marketing mix according to any number of Ps, but more so when making use of the 4 C or SIVA Model.
- To analyze, understand, and improve your sales funnel.
- In the development of new products/services geared toward customers.
- As reasoning behind organizational changes.
- To improve the total customer experience of your brand.
If you missed the first 5 phases of the customer journey, make sure to catch up in this article, and if you want to use the customer journey in your customer journey map, then continue reading this article.