A Guide to Mastering
Customer Lifecycle Management
Evolve the way your professional services teams define and track customer success
How does your professional services organization define customer success? Is it when a customer makes a single purchase or is it when a customer comes back again and again? If you didn’t choose the latter, get ready for a bit of a pep talk – because creating the kind of loyalty that brings customers back for more is completely attainable when you master customer lifecycle management.
Customer lifecycle vs. customer journey
Before we jump into the ins and outs of customer lifecycle management, let’s clear the air around what can be pretty confusing jargon: customer lifecycle vs customer journey. It’s important for professional services organizations to delineate between the two processes, so we want to be clear on their differences.
The customer journey (also commonly called the buyer journey) refers to the experiences a prospect has with your brand as they move through the stages of becoming a customer.
What is the customer journey?
A traditional customer journey consists of three stages that each address different experiences the customer is having with your brand at a specific time.
Depending on your organization, you may have different titles for these stages, but in general, they make up the marketing and sales funnel for a customer journey.
It’s called a funnel because while numerous prospects may enter it, fewer and fewer complete each stage as they go through their customer journey, leaving you with the cream of the crop.
- Awareness stage: When the prospect becomes aware of your brand through a search, ad, or backlink on a related piece of content.
- Consideration stage: When the prospect begins to learn about your products or services and how they can solve their specific pain point.
- Decision stage: When the prospect makes a buying decision and becomes a customer.
While it looks like a nice, linear path on paper, the real customer journey is full of twists and turns as they conduct research, read reviews, and explore competitors. A brand’s level of control over the customer journey is only as good as the different touchpoints your customers encounter and how well they cater to your customer’s specific needs.
In short, the customer journey refers to how the customer interacts and engages with your brand. It’s important for marketing and sales to work together and be on the same page about what each stage looks like and how to leverage the resulting data – because that data is what drives the customer lifecycle.
What is the customer lifecycle?
While the customer journey is experienced by the customer and viewed from their perspective, the customer lifecycle is how your organization views and responds to the customer’s activities – and this is primarily done using metrics.
For example, the “awareness” stage of the buyer journey would be the time during which your company is tracking activity like impressions and reach on search, social media posts, and advertising.
The “consideration” stage would be considered the “acquisition” stage for your company, during which time your teams are tracking on-site activities like page views, asset downloads, or form submissions.
In the “decision” stage, your team is now focused on conversions, which means tracking site traffic sources, new and return visitor conversions, bounce rate, and exit pages to understand where you need to make on-site optimizations for continued conversions.
To summarize, the customer lifecycle refers to how your organization tracks and optimizes in response to the customer journey.
However, keep in mind that the customer journey and the customer lifecycle are deeply intertwined. You can’t really have one without the other; the customer’s journey drives your organization’s activities, and your organization’s activities help drive the customer’s journey.
That being said, there is one glaring and important difference between the lifecycle and the journey that we will be focusing on for the remainder of this post: the lifecycle continues after the customer becomes a customer.
The biggest customer lifecycle difference:
What happens post-purchase?
If you’re concerned with creating repeat customers (and you should be), then your customer lifecycle activities must also be focused on providing exceptional experiences beyond the purchase.
There are, of course, names for the post-purchase stages as well:
Loyalty: How long a customer remains a customer. Typically called the retention period, this metric is important for quantifying a customer’s lifetime value.
Evangelism: We sometimes call this the “nirvana” stage – where a customer is so enamored with your brand that they tell others and help generate new customers for you. These customers are loyal and then some.
Let’s delve into the entire customer lifecycle so you can learn how to master it at your professional services organization for greater customer success.
Breaking down the key customer lifecycle processes
1. Starting a relationship with your brand
At the first stage of the customer lifecycle, your prospect is in an exploratory phase with your brand – they may have heard about your company in any number of ways, but once they begin checking you out, your concerns should be focused on:
- Providing ample educational and informational content for them to access to learn how your company can help solve their problem
- Making their experience with your brand as seamless as possible, which includes your web presence, social media, and customer service
2. Entering the Sales and Marketing Funnel
Once the prospect takes any kind of action to engage with your brand, whether that be filling out a contact form, downloading a piece of content, or reaching out via phone or email, they officially enter your sales and marketing funnel. You now have some information about them and can begin the customer lifecycle. There are a few different classifications for a prospect at this stage:
- Lead: The prospect becomes a lead when they provide information about themselves to your company
- Marketing Qualified Lead: The prospect becomes a qualified lead when their actions indicate they are ready for targeted marketing based on the information they have provided about their needs
- Sales Qualified Lead: The prospect becomes a sales qualified lead when their actions indicate they are ready to make a purchase
As the prospect moves into different lead statuses, your organization should be taking actions as part of the customer lifecycle to appeal to their needs. Critical here is being careful not to jump ahead. Using sales tactics on a lead in the marketing stage, or treating a lead like they’re ready to buy, can quickly send them in the opposite direction.
Get marketing and sales teams on the same page with complete visibility into the customer lifecycle and buyer journey. With a single source of truth, there will be no confusion about what actions to deploy and when.
3. Hooray – You Have a New Customer!
Once your sales qualified lead decides to make a purchase, they are a new customer – and the customer lifecycle really gets underway.
Post-purchase, your organization’s primary focus is on the “loyalty” and “evangelism” stages of the buyer journey. What actions will you take to ensure the customer keeps coming back again and again?
Best practices for customer lifecycle
Your organization likely has multiple departments and teams that become involved at different stages of the customer lifecycle. How smoothly a customer is transferred (or “handed off”) from one to the other plays a significant role in their loyalty.
Be sure that your sales team, services team, and customer success team each understand their individual roles, and how those roles fit into the big picture of the customer lifecycle. Some tips include:Establishing goals and objectives for each new customer engagement Ensuring you have a single source of truth for customer data that can be easily accessed across key departments Build milestones into the customer lifecycle, so at the culmination of each engagement with your teams, the customer is given proof of value and opportunities to increase their engagement
No matter how intuitive or turnkey your product or service may be, some if not all customers need or prefer some assistance with onboarding. This experience can make or break a customer’s loyalty to your brand. Master the onboarding process with these tips:
- Take the time to understand your customer’s situation, challenges, and environment to anticipate and prevent any issues
- Provide an automation onboarding approach that puts the customer in the driver’s seat and eliminates time-consuming back-and-forth
- Implement easy-access customer or help desk services
With your customer now paying for and fully using your product or service, your organization must continue ensuring an exceptional experience. We consider an exceptional experience to encompass these criteria:
- Transparent and open communication
- Efficiencies that provide value metrics like ROI
- Enhancements that add value
- Attention to risk management and compliance requirements
- The collection, analysis, and use of customer data to measure their experience and identify room for improvement
If you do not use customer lifecycle software to measure and manage customer success, you might be putting a customer’s loyalty and evangelism to your brand at risk. Being able to access customer data and information quickly and easily across your organization allows all involved teams to better serve the customer at all lifecycle stages.
Customer lifecycle challenges specific to professional services
Professional services organizations work differently than other businesses, and when it comes to customer lifecycle management, there are a few standouts:
- Customers typically need customized or highly tailored solutions rather than an off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all product or service. Even product combinations or configurations require a more high-touch approach.
- Planning and resourcing often need to happen quickly to meet tight deadlines and customer demands.
- Project margins need to be closely tracked and monitored to ensure the work is staying within scope.
Professional services automation software can provide the visibility necessary to manage these common customer lifestyle challenges and elevate customer success.
PSA software allows your teams to view customer success criteria in a holistic way – it should be part of every step of the lifecycle from the beginning, and drive the continuation of the lifecycle well past the purchase stage.
Only by focusing your efforts on the customer lifecycle can your organization successfully keep customers and expand their engagement with you. Cross-sells and upsells are far more successful when a customer is already loyal, and growing your business through referrals and reviews is much more likely when customers feel cared for.
Schedule a demo and learn more about how you can master the customer lifecycle and put your customers at the center of everything you do.