This cycle defines the customer buying process from initial need recognition through to post purchase review. It applies in whole or part to all 4 stages of the Customer Relationship Cycle.
The political, economic, social and technological changes are creating a sea-change amongst consumers, not least with regard for the need for consumers to take greater responsibility for their financial well-being. There is an unprecedented opportunity to assist consumers as they face these new challenges. Even consumers who have previously been cognitive of financial services such as insurance and mortgages will come to recognise the need to expand their knowledge base to new areas such as pensions, equity investments, and legal insurance.
Financial Services companies are ideally placed to
raise consumers awareness in such areas as:
The established and new interactive mediums
are ideal for making people aware of these changes. For example:
The industry has a responsibility to help people understand these possible trends and changes without unduly alarming them. A positive approach is to help consumers with suggested sources of information and for those wishing to take some personal action some suggested responses. If this can all be personalised, then this will help to established a meaningful and productive relationship that should result at some future point in sales.
Having been made aware of these changes consumers are at first likely to be confused and even alarmed. They will then seek out information so as to better understand the implications for themselves and to find the practical coping strategies and actions they can take to minimise their risks.
Initial sources of information are likely to include the less threatening ones such as families, friends and TV consumer programmes. But unless these are experts and can provide further details, then other sources will be needed. An increasing technological society is turning to the Internet and other mediums as a rich hunting ground for anonymous fact finding.
This is basically
a learning stage that will encompass information
An example is the Intuit Quicken site that provides information on insurance basics and tools for evaluating risk, as well as the facility to purchase (click screen shot to enlarge).
A number of interactive mediums and technologies can be used to deliver this
information. As this stage is not usually urgent, then the less intrusive
mediums are usually more appropriate. Some examples are:
All these types of information could be delivered by post, e-mail, visits to web sites, or via the so-called push channels. etc.. Examples from different industries are given under each of the interactive mediums or you can reference the Database of example companies or you can view a mock-up presentation comparing endowment and repayment mortgages. Remember, in Strategic Interactive Marketing, consumers should be free to choose the delivery medium.
This stage may be one off, but invariably there will be an extended learning period. With the interactive mediums consumers should be able to log-on and pick up from where they were. They should also to be informed of material changes to information they have already reviewed.
Our consumers are now ready to define to a fair degree their specific requirements that will satisfy their needs. This information needs to be captured, and typically this is done via questions and answers. Using telesales operations this will be a person-to-person dialogue; via the Internet typically a "complete the form" process. Nether-the-less, other interactive mediums and forms of user dialogue need to be considered in the light of the product or service, the type of user and their personal preferences.
For more complex offerings, a suggest product or service could be offered as a starter. This is derived from the customer's profile. Such a profile may have already been built or may now be acquired through some initial questions. An example of this can be seen at Myski,a company that lets customers design their own skis. Myski asks customers for their weight, height, type of skiing and level of expertise. It then suggests a few products from its range. Customers can then go on to define the colour scheme and various emblems like flags and their names. To help visualise the outcome, the designed product can be viewed in 2D or 3D. (click screen shot to enlarge).
With financial services we need to find ways of communicating an intangible product. This could be achieved by illustrating the risk covered and the resulting payment in the event of a claim. For example, for car insurance showing a damaged car and the speedy loss assessment and repair. A further challenge is to provide alternative dialogues depending on the knowledge and expertise of the customer and then to steer the customers to the most appropriate dialogue. Many of the techniques described under Information Search are also applicable in this and the following stages.
This stage of refinement, as well as the next of Evaluation, may well be undertaken over a period of time. Customers should be allowed to save any specification and then to call it up at another time and continue. Myski allows customers to save their various ski designs, giving each a descriptive name. Customers may also want to have advice on their design so far, so they should be able to easily e-mail it to your company.
Having designed their product or service, the customer (for now we have gained our consumer's involvement, he or she is almost a customer!) may find that their needs are met but that the price is too high for their budget. They need to be able to tweak the specification and weigh up one set of options against another.
Customers may also wish to compare the product or service with competitors.
If you are sure of the value of your own products then you will help customers
by pointing to your competitors web sites or even sending off agent tasks
to get price comparisons. But you must ensure that the evaluation is not
reduced to commodity products and price alone.
|Be aware of agent tasks from competitors making pseudo inquiries. One way to thwart these agents is to regularly alter the screen layout and user dialogues.|
Customers making any major investment will want to mull-over the decision and discuss it with friends and their partners. Again, they should be allowed to save any specification and then to call it up at another time. Before moving into purchase customers should be able to run a verification check to ensure that no mandatory requirement or important facet has been overlooked, or that the various options make sense. This verification check will have access to the rules engine and although key rules should be checked as they go, a final check gives an air of confidence. Also, where a customer is working off-line, then a final check is needed against the latest version of the rules.
|All our efforts should now pay-off. The customer has been intimately
involved in designing his or her own personal product. Now they want to own
what they have made. It goes without saying that customers should not have
to repeat any information, and that this should apply whether they purchase
in-line, by telephone or by post. Many consumers are still wary about purchasing
on-line and giving their credit card or bank details. One way is to have
a Call-me button which requests your company to telephone the customer. Another
is for the customer to submit an e-mail with a linking reference number.
The customer service clerk that responds to any of these methods needs access
to the customer's design and any customer records.
Purchasing on-line does not apply to the Mass Information stage, where the new interactive mediums are purely used to help customers make their purchase choice . Nether-the-less, what ever medium is used, customers should be direct to another medium or distribution channel for the actual purchase and delivery.
Call Me Button
It is important to ensure that from the customer's viewpoint the whole process is seamless, easy and supportive. So, for example, an Internet page could have a "call me" button. After making his or her selection the customer clicks on this button, disengages their Internet line and then receives a telephone call from the sales department, who of course can see the items that were selected.
Try it! Go to RealCall™ and click on the "call me" button to see a demonstration. It's free! Don't forget to come back :-)
Before finally accepting the design the company should make its own verification check as often it will be accountable in law. To raise their confidence, customers could be given a purchase reference number. Where purchases are made online it may well be beneficial to use a trusted third party.
Consideration now needs to be given as to the product delivery. For intangible products like insurance, electronic delivery may well save cost, but for the foreseeable future it is expected that some form of paper document will be produced. In many cases this could simply state the variable information, refering to on-line terms and conditions. However, for long term contracts that comply to the terms and conditions at outset, then customers should be able to access these in an on-line archive. Of course, using the customer and product reference, all this could be made transparent to the customer.
We all want reassurance that we have made a good decision. The interactive mediums may well induce spontaneity but for some people this could lead to too hasty decisions, especially in the case of complex products. For others who take a more considered approach, they will continue to mull over their decision or may indeed be wary of the final commitment. This is a behavioural issue and we need different dialogues and offers for different people. For some it may mean offering a 10 day money back guarantee, or the ability to change their design.
This stage provides an ideal opportunity to call the customer to make sure that they are pleased with their product, with the acquisition process, and to see if they have any queries. TSB Life and Pensions now regularly follows up customer purchases.
Customers who have followed this acquisition process and have designed or personalised their own product will hopefully be proud of their achievement. They may well want to tell others, which will be an excellent advertisement of your products and for your embracing of Mass Personalisation or Mass Customisation. Customers should therefore be able to retrieve their product design. This facility may well be required on an ongoing basis for the servicing as well as the further purchase of identical or similar products.
We have outline a number of stages, with this the Acquisition stage perhaps being the most complex. We have emphasised that customers should have choice, not just in the product or service design but also in how the product or service is acquired, i.e. the process. Customers should be able to see the overall process and were they are at any point in it. They should be given help and instruction as to what process options are available, how to proceed, and how to back-track.
Each stage in the Acquisition Cycle may be conducted in a single interaction but the more complex the product or service the more likely that there will be a series of linked communications conducted over a period of time. Multiple communications are further explored in the Communications Cycle on the next page (there is also a VCR link button at the end of this page).
Also, not all of these stages will necessarily be handled via the new interactive mediums. Depending on the customers' profile, the product involved, the Customer Relationship Cycle stage, and the customer's preferences, then some could continue to use the more established mediums and distribution channels. These include post, media, telephone, and High Street outlets.
There are also other aspects where customer preferences need to be met. These include time of day, type of user interface, task approach, and cognitive thinking. These, together with further illustrations, are also explored on the Communications Cycle page.
There will be particular sensitivities where your company deals through distributors. Choices will need to be made whether to:
These options, as well as geographical issues, are explored on the Distribution Issues page.
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