By Fergus Miskelly, EMEA Advisory Director, Cloud Sherpas

Every single time customers — new or repeat — engage with your business, they cycle through a journey. At the same time, your business cycles through a parallel journey that both fuels and supports these engagements. Collectively, we can refer to these paths as the customer journey.

So what’s the big deal about the customer journey? Everything that happens along this journey and everyone who participates in it plays a hand in shaping your overall customer experience and, as we shared previously, the quality of that experience is critical for success in today’s technology-driven market.

What does the customer journey look like?

Both sides of the customer journey have three complementary stages. It’s important to understand what goes on from both perspectives during each of these stages, in order to optimise your customer experience.

Here’s a glimpse of what these three stages look like:

Attract & find

First, customers need to learn about your business: Who are you? What do you do? And why is all of that is relevant to their needs? At this first stage, your business tries to attract customers by marketing to them, while the customers attempt to find a solution that fulfils their needs.

Interactions during this initial stage are extremely important because they set the tone for everything else that follows. Therefore, it’s important that you take the time to understand who your customers are and what they want, so that you can share the right information with them at the right time (without overdoing it of course).

On the customer side, these interactions can be reactive — if you initiate the conversation and customers respond; or proactive — if customers are actively searching for something, then find and contact your business and you respond.

Acquire & consume

Once your business and potential customers have made an initial connection, it’s time to close the deal. In other words, you want to make a sale to acquire these new customers as they seek to make a purchase and consume your product or service that fulfils their needs.

Success at this stage requires you to make the sales process as effortless as possible, by continuing to provide the right information at the right time and by making it easy for customers to find this information. Most importantly, you need to prioritise your customers’ long-term needs over your short-term goal to make a sale. Even if it means lengthening the sales cycle or not making a sale at all this time, if you can demonstrate that you understand your customers’ needs and want to offer the best possible solution for them, you will create a strong, trustworthy relationship that will benefit your business in the long run.

Retain & remain

Last but not least, after you and your customers cement your relationship with a sale, you need to retain those customers as they choose whether or not to remain with your business going forward. While the quality of what you offered during the initial sale is certainly a factor here, the focus during this stage must be the quality of ongoing service.

To excel at this step of the journey, you need to offer both reactive and proactive service. Reactive service is what we typically think of when we hear ‘customer service’, where a customer reaches out for help with a problem. You need to make reaching out to your business and resolving this problem as convenient and efficient as possible. Meanwhile, proactive service is about strengthening your relationship with customers by providing value-add information (e.g. in the form of a topical newsletter) and/or offering support to prevent issues before they arise.

Don’t forget to rinse & repeat

Because the goal of an optimised customer experience is to increase customer satisfaction and therefore, loyalty, you want this journey to cycle through on repeat, as customers return to your business time and time again.