The 8 phases of customer experience

In his book, Never Lose a Customer Again, Joey Coleman describes how focusing on providing delightful and pleasant customer experience makes customers and clients stick around longer. That’s what the title of his book is getting at: put in an effort to retain customers and they will stick around forever. The best way to keep your clients coming back is by providing an exceptional customer experience for your clients at all points of the relationships with you.

In last week’s posts, I shared with you the importance of customer experience for businesses and three tips on how you can improve it right away. In today’s article, we’ll go over the 8 states of customer experience and how they relate to service-based businesses like ours. This way you can really get into making your clients feel cared for! The biggest goal is to make sure your clients stay loyal and become advocates to keep generating business for you instead of you always looking for new leads.

1. Assess phase

This initial phase is when a customer is assessing whether or not to do business with you. Here is where you must position your company as the only option to solve the client’s problem. If a prospect feels your services can fulfill their goals, that’s a great start. However, they also have to feel an emotional connection that you’re the perfect and only solution to their problems. You do this by designing a good customer experience.

Now, the assessment phase is most commonly known as the sales and marketing stages in a customer’s journey. This is your opportunity to come up with ways to improve your sales and marketing so that your potential clients feel appreciated and cared for.

For example, you can spend some time and do a little bit of research on your prospect before an initial meeting or call. It will not only show them you care enough to look them and their business up, but it might give you the necessary information to start building a bond and a relationship.

Additionally, you can send a little gift to your prospects. Even something like sharing an article that addresses their current problem which reminded you of them will go a long way. Or ask them for their address because you just have to buy them a gift for their little girl or their cat. Even these little gestures are unheard of still today. Give it a try.

2. Admit phase

The second phase of customer experience is often referred to as closing the sale. Here, the client will realize they want to work with you and will buy. This is an important phase because the client is feeling all sorts of positive feelings. For example, that they finally found what they’re looking for. They are happy, joyous, and excited to get started working with you. They are also pumped to get the problem fixed too!

Unfortunately, Joey Coleman says that most businesses stop giving a shit about their customers as soon as the sale has been made. And, if you think about it, it’s true! So, listen up!

You must keep the excitement going! They are feeling all sorts of positive emotions to finally have found the answer to their problems, so join them in their celebration too! You’re not celebrating them giving you money; no, you’re celebrating them finding a solution.

“Use playfulness, humor, and unexpected surprises (that may have nothing to do with the actual product) to make the experience remarkable. Your customers are human, and so are you. Remind them with your actions and behaviors and in the process give them a taste of your company culture.”

— Joe Coleman

For example, you can publicly acknowledge your newly found working relationship or partnership together. A quick shout out on Facebook, Instagram or even your newsletter will do just the trick. Join in their excitement too, if you see them tweeting about booking a much-needed massage, retweet it, respond that you’re grateful to be giving it to them. As soon as they book your services, email them a quick, personalized thank you note. If you can send them a little physical gift that would resonate with them (I don’t mean company swag, that’s self-promotion, not a gift).

3. Affirm phase

Unfortunately, this is the phase that most often comes with buyer’s remorse. You just signed up for a service, you just brought your purchase back home and you’re feeling regretful or unsure of having done the right thing. Those feelings are natural. And it’s your job as a company to make sure they are addressed quickly and dismissed. Keep the focus on the excitement and the end goal of the purchase. This is where a client needs to be checked upon to see how they are doing and for you to instill a sense of happiness and satisfaction!

This phase mostly refers to big corporate handoffs between the sales and account management teams where the handoff is jarring and unpleasant to the client. For smaller businesses, it’s still relevant. You don’t want your client to feel forgotten about, or like you’re too busy to take care of them now that you have their credit card. No, no, no, you need to give them a warm welcome to the company whether you’re a one-woman show like myself, a small team of 25 or a large corporation of 25,000.

Allow your clients to have the time to ask questions. Allow them some time to take in the fact they just made a purchase with you – this is especially crucial for companies selling high-ticket items. Reassure them of what’s to come. Whatever you do, don’t allow their doubts and uncertainty of what’s happening next to linger for too long.

4. Activate phase

As the name of this phase suggestion, this one occurs on the first use of a product or the kickoff to the services being provided. For example, my web design clients get a kick-off meeting right after signing with me to get the ball rolling on their new website. It’s the first post-sale interaction between a client and a company. That’s meaningful as it sets the tone.

A good way to make this a positive and delightful experience is to have automated systems in place. I’m going to keep going with my own example here. Before the kickoff meeting is even set, I email my clients an onboarding/welcome package as soon as their contract is signed. In it I have a welcome message, I explain the process and so on. It’s a nice, private gesture that lets them know I welcome them.

Additionally, the kickoff meeting email is fired off automatically too. This way, I will never fail to get it scheduled. I have reminders in place too. It’s nice and automated on my end. Activate phase is all about keeping the exciting energy of working with me going! I’m going after a vibe between me and my clients that says “LET’S DO THIS!!”

How about you? How do you onboard your clients and kickoff your services with them? Your first time working together must pack a punch. Be on time, be prepared and do your research thoroughly on the problem they are trying to solve.

“Ideally, you want to paint a picture of what life is going to be like now that the customer is working with you”

— Joe Coleman

5. Acclimate phase

During the acclimate phase, clients get to know how things are going to go down. It’s your job as a business to make sure they acclimate to your way of doing things with ease. During my onboarding and kickoff meetings, I reiterate what the process is going to be like, what deadlines are set and what I expect of them and by when. During those first few days, I make sure to be always readily available to answer their questions if they are stuck or unsure how to provide me with the necessary information and so on.

For you, it might be a little different. If you’re a fitness coach or personal trainer, you still should set firm expectations going forward. But it also might be holding your client’s hand for the first few days or a week. This is just to make sure they get the hang of your requirements as certain changes can be a lot for many people. It’s super crucial to keep their energy and motivation going while they are trying new things.

Don’t forget, you’ve been there a bunch of times before. They are doing this for the first time (for all types of clients). Don’t forget to set up clear milestones as well. It could be losing 5lb in the first month and 12lb in the second. For me, I set milestones based on different web design project milestones such as branding, user flow, and landing page design.

6. Accomplish phase

When you deliver on your service, this is the accomplish phase. Under no circumstances should the client not receive what they paid for. In order for the relationship to move on, into bigger and better things, the client has to accomplish their goals. Whatever results the client was looking for, whether it’s losing 5lbs or finding a morning yoga routine that works best on their joints, deliver on it! If you don’t you will lose them as a customer due to unmet expectations. Of all of these phases, this one is the most self-explanatory (and kind of given).

Celebrate every milestone as the client hits it! Most importantly, celebrate hitting the last milestone that achieves them their goal too! Acknowledge any challenges they faced along the way. For example, their difficulty giving up soda for water or being able to find time and commitment to do meditations during their lunch break. The milestones you’ve established during the client’s onboarding process will let both of you know whether you’re hitting them on time and on budget – or not. It will also prevent you thinking the client is on target while they feel miles behind in their progress.

7. Adopt phase

The adopt phase refers to the customer reciprocating in your relationship together. It’s when they start owning it too, which will only increase the bond between them and you. Within the adopt phase, the client decides whether or not they are going to embrace you and your services and keep coming back. This is the perfect opportunity for any company to make them feel extra special for having worked with you and for accomplishing your set out goal together.

I do want to make it clear that the client doesn’t have to return the next day. Although that does happen for some professions more than other, like coaches. But, people don’t need a web designer right after completing a project with me. It’s okay, they will come back in their own time if they are, in fact, committed to continuing the relationship with you.

How can you ensure they adopt? You could invite them into an exclusive club of high achieving clients. This could be a weekly newsletter or a Facebook group designated for resources and access to your clients. They key is to make them feel special and appreciated. Let them be part of a community so that they feel like they belong. Don’t forget to reward your most committed and loyal customers for coming back too! Give them presents, discounts, throw in a bonus service here and there. Offer them a free massage for their significant other, throw in an extra month of website and SEO maintenance or a free business coaching session.

8. Advocate phase

The last and final phase of a customer experience is the advocate phase. This one simply refers to a client loving you so much, they will not hesitate to talk about their experience with you any chance they get. This is where they will start publicly fangirling over you like crazy, promoting you and sending you referrals. Honestly, isn’t this just every company’s dream? This is your opportunity to encourage them to keep talking about you by delighting them further. Just because you’re done working with them doesn’t mean you can’t keep the relationship going!

Set up a referral program that is informative on your services and outcomes. The easier it is to follow the more people will participate. Flat out ask for a testimonial and a referral. It doesn’t have to be awkward and complicated; be honest with your client and ask them to tell a friend. And, don’t forget to reward them with valuable and useful rewards for their efforts. Don’t give free meditation classes to a client who is only interested in tapping/EFT.

“The best referrals come from happy current customers. Make your referral programs easy to understand, even easier to participate in, and worthwhile for the referring customer’s investment of time and effort”

— Joe Coleman

Go so far as to provide a customized gift/reward for your best customers. Maybe a fancy yoga mat with their name on it for their birthday (or just because) if they have been a loyal customer of your studio for years and have been bringing friends along for just as long. Get creative! Don’t forget that giving back to these people that are helping your business grow is indispensable.

The takeaway

I do think that today’s article was information heavy and a lot to think about. Being a small team gives you more opportunities to get personal. That’s a key element in providing your customers’ with an incredible customer experience. If you’re interested in learning more about creating a fantastic customer experience, go ahead and pick up Coleman’s book, Never Lose a Customer Again.

I want you to go through your current customer journey. Make sure you note opportunities for you to make the 8 different stages of customer experience exceptional, pleasant and memorable. If you get stuck call me; I’ll help you design one hell of a customer experience for your online business 😉