In a previous post, I mentioned that you need to outline the customer experience lifecycle – from Need through Departure – in order to understand the relationship stages or phases that customers have with your brand. (Note: this is the customer experience lifecycle, i.e., from the customer’s point of view.)  In this post, I’ll describe the various stages in the lifecycle. The image below depicts the lifecycle, minus the start and end point, which I’ll refer to as Need and Departure and define below, as well.

Before I begin talking about the stages that are shown above, I must first talk about the glimmer in the customer’s eye before he/she even reaches brand awareness… that first spark is Need. It’s not part of the traditional customer experience lifecycle, but Need (i.e., a solution to a problem) often begets the rest of the cycle. (I say “often” because sometimes Need happens after Awareness.)

Here’s how the rest of the stages of the lifecycle are defined, from the customer’s perspective. Note that this lifecycle is not necessarily linear and could potentially circle back on itself. That’s an important consideration to keep in mind.
Awareness: This is when customers first become aware of your brand, which might happen as a result of your marketing or advertising efforts or word of mouth/referrals from a friend.
Consideration: Now that they are aware of your brand, it becomes one of the brands in their consideration set. This means that they’ll research and investigate your products and services, along with those of your competitors.
Selection/Purchase: Once customers have done their homework, they are ready to select and purchase your products or services.
Experience: During this stage, customers learn how to use and consume your products or services, training, support, etc. Ultimately, if they are satisfied with the experience because you’ve met their basic needs and expectations, it leads to the next stage.
Loyalty: During this part of the the lifecycle, customers feel comfortable with the brand experience, and, as a result, continue to use your products and services and will even broaden their purchases to other products or services that they haven’t used in the past.
Advocacy: If your customers reach this point, you’re starting to get into exciting territory. This is when customers become an extension of your sales force and recommend your products and services to their friends and colleagues. They’ve had nothing but exceptional experiences to this point.
Note that a lot of customer experience lifecycle definitions stop here. I’m going to add two more.
Engagement: While you’ve reached a pretty solid stage in the relationship when your customers hit Advocacy, Engagement brings in that emotional bond. Now we’re talking Love and Trust. They can’t live without your products or services.
Raving Fans: And finally, I believe that the ultimate customer experience yields Raving Fans. These customers have gone beyond Engagement, beyond that emotional bond. Is that possible?  Yes! Consider those brands where customers feel they are part of something bigger, where they show an outward expression of their devotion to the brand: they tattoo their bodies with the brand logo or even name their children after the brand!! You know the examples: Apple, Zappos, and Harley Davidson are just a few!
A man who has never lost himself in a cause bigger than himself has missed one of life’s mountaintop experiences. -Richard Nixon

OK, after all that happy talk, I do still have to bring up the the very last part of the customer experience lifecycle: Departure. Obviously, this is the one stage of the lifecycle that companies hope customers never achieve, but, as you know, it happens. Departure can take many forms: churn, cancel, die. (But know that, short of death, it really doesn’t have to end here; a customer who has left or has stopped using your products or services may consider you again in the future!) You can’t control the latter, but the former two are in your hands. How will you ensure that your customers never reach that stage?