Complex Levels of Customers

by Jeannie Walters

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I was sort of fascinated lately by this new app called “Gratafy” which is a new app where users can send a drink to a friend via the app. The gift recipient receives notice via social media and/or the app on their phone that next time they go to the local bar, they can choose a drink and it’s paid for by their friend. The idea is to bring the idea of “let me buy you a drink” (to celebrate, thank, or just toast) to the virtual communities where many of us live now.

It’s fascinating because the creators of the app had to think on several different levels about who their customers were. For the whole idea to work, several bars had to sign up to be a part of it. The gift buyers are the true customers in the sense they are the ones paying for the drink and using the app, however the gift recipients are customers, too. They are the ones experiencing the end result of the app – a drink or food at a favorite place, courtesy of their friend.

While the whole ingenuity of this intrigues me, it’s not the first company that has many layers of customers. With my work in financial services and healthcare, I see this ALL the time. There are actual debates over who the true customer is. Take healthcare, for example. Customers could include:

  • Doctors/Practitioners
  • Nurses
  • Office Support Staff
  • Insurance Companies
  • Patients
  • Medical Building Personnel
  • Patient Families/Advocates

This is a totally partial list. It actually goes on and on and on.

What’s necessary in complex customer lifecycles like this?

Step one – know thy customer!

When was the last time you mapped out who your customers truly are? Are their specific needs being addressed? More than once, I have sat in a room during an initial “let’s just map out the experience” session and discovered entire populations of customers who have been ignored. Those insurance brokers are great as customers, but what about the people in their offices who hate working with you? Continue to ignore them and they are likely to influence those brokers to go another way.

Step two – no, really, know thy customer!

Identifying who your customers really are is half the battle. Now, get to know them! Find out what makes them tick, and not just by sending the occasional survey. Understand who they are by using specific journey maps, personas, segments or whatever tools you have to really feel connected to each group.  (Not sure what these tools are? We can help.) 🙂

Step three – track the experience by customer.

If you know the grand experience your generic customers are supposed to have, great! It’s time to go deeper. Understand what the experience is for each customer you actually have. Walking through the experience with the lens of your suppliers, partners or distributors can be oh-so-enlightening.

And we haven’t even discussed communities, social media followers or blog readers! Content produces a whole other set of customers.

Step four – put it all together now.

Once you understand what the experience is you deliver to each customer, you have the opportunity to improve it. Go in knowing there will be dark holes and shadows looming which are difficult to face. Keep an open mind when Johnny from sales tells you “customers don’t get it.” Take that as your cue to figure out what they don’t get and why. Then fix it.

Companies are becoming more, not less, complex. Org charts are starting to look like treasure maps, with strange dotted lines and too many boxes, and individual job descriptions that read like wish lists. No wonder it is becoming more complex for our customers. The diligence to take a solid look at who your customers actually are and then create the experience around them will pay off in greater simplicity all around.

Next time someone asks you “who is your customer?” think carefully before you answer.

Photo credits: Christiana Care and deepwarren

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker. Learn more here.

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