Are you familiar with McKinsey Loyalty Loop? It diagrams—from the company’s perspective—how customers go through the process of buying things. Anything.

Now, we all intuitively know and live this process and the stages that comprise it. It starts with an initial set of brands to consider, followed by an active evaluation of their products and options, that leads to the moment of purchase. Then the post-purchase and product experience begins until the next purchase decision, or trigger, to buy again—hopefully from the same company—creating a loyalty loop.

The McKinsey Loyalty Loop

However, from the customer’s perspective, the loyalty loop actually looks and feels much different, especially when you consider how long your customers spend in each of these stages.

Customers spend a lot of time in the post-purchase experience

The research and evaluation stage for a considered purchase could be anywhere from a few minutes to a few months. The moment of purchase could be minutes with a few clicks to a couple of hours (for example, in a car dealership).

However, post-purchase and product experiences go on for a very long time. Consider the below examples of the average life expectancy—aka post-purchase experience—for various products:

Life expectancy and support cycles for certain products

Thus from the customer’s perspective, the Loyalty Loop would look like something like this:

Who owns the post-purchase experience?

Notice how lengthy the post-purchase experience becomes. Also, note how these journeys are the last and most recent experiences a customer will have with a brand before they go into another purchase cycle, or decide to renew if in a subscription-based model.

Unfortunately, the majority of support journeys today looks something like this:

Examining customer experience gaps in self-service

With 25% of customers saying they will defect from a brand after just one bad experience, and four out of five customers reporting that they’ve switched brands because of poor experiences, the lights should be blinking red for Companies to prioritize resources and initiatives to re-orchestrate these journeys. Further according to Harvard Business Review, 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before contacting a live representative.

It’s important to also factor in the customer’s expectations for digital experiences today. Simply stated they want to be able to find or buy just about anything in three clicks or less, and for their search box experiences to deliver top-ranking, authoritative, and relevant links. Given this, it’s no wonder customers are now making purchase decisions based on their post-purchase support experiences.

With such strong data points, and customers clearly expecting to take matters into their own hands by starting their journeys digitally, it’s curious then as to reason(s) why these needed improvements to support journey’s across so many company websites aren’t happening?

Drum roll, please …

The root cause can be correlated to a company’s CX maturity!

What your company’s CX maturity can tell you

Only 5% of companies have evolved to the highest levels of CX maturity, with many of these companies now possessing a Chief Customer Officer. Some other traits that distinguish these companies include a well-articulated CX vision and strategy at the board level that is executed by cross-functional teams with defined processes, budgets, metrics and governance.

But if your company isn’t at the pinnacle of CX maturity, who owns these customer journeys when they traverse channels and touchpoints externally, and internally they traverse the digital team, marketing team, and customer care?

Marketing clearly owns the top of the funnel through to the sale, along with all things digital. However, they typically have little interest, time or resources to devote or focus on digital support journeys or journeys where customers are looking for deep product content.

And customer care, support, and customer success care a ton about delivering great customer experiences but are typically engaging with the customer via voice, email, chat, and social channels. Thus there’s this internal canyon customers are falling into when they seek to engage with companies digitally for their support needs. Why? Because no one team is stepping up to address these convoluted high friction journeys.

Connect with Customers Start to Finish

Why today’s customer self-service journey requires next-gen knowledge management

As we engage with enterprise companies daily, we experience and now categorize companies as Doers, Strivers or Luddites.

The Doers possess high company-level CX maturity and have deployed cross-functional teams, processes, initiatives, and measurements. Usually, these companies have or are in the process of rebuilding these experiences.

The Strivers have departmental CX maturity over the journeys and touchpoints they own, but it starts and ends there. They also recognize the customer support shift to digital; however the lack of an executive-level sponsorship leaves them to do their own thing, or try to start grassroots cross-department projects with bootstrapped budgets and resources.

Finally, the Luddites are ignoring the customer problem entirely and only focused on transactional sales to continue to propagate their top-line revenue targets while continually looking for ways to reduce cost and ignore process improvements to the post-purchase experience.

Key steps to improve your customer self-service

It’s well known the majority of all searches begin with Google. Brands spend considerable resources to ensure top-ranking results for research of products and features, evaluations and comparisons, and where to buy locally or online.

However, too few brands have optimized their support content for Google.

Firstly, many won’t make content public at all, or will gate their content behind a login or with questions like, “what’s your model number?” Often, customers don’t know this information and don’t have it handy.

In addition, as Google begins to serve up more and more video in search results, companies are failing to place authoritative and branded videos. Instead, customers are seeing videos from a competitor or third-party media source that may be using an older or different model the customer doesn’t have, serving up more friction. Sometimes, it’s just a local Joe looking to expand his influence or fame—not the kind of person you want making an impression for your brand.

All of these search experiences are outside the brand’s control, thus they lack visibility and analytics into these customers journeys who would welcome authoritative results and engagement from the brand they purchased from.

Make it easy once they’re on your site

After the customer has several of these false-positive results and failed experiences, they may go directly to the brand’s website. Here, they might find basic FAQs or a section to download PDF manuals, but all they really want is the answer to their question or their information need.

Unfortunately, PDFs are not easily searchable and if the customer is on their mobile phone, they are stuck pinching and zooming while their frustration increases. If they know what the problem is, they may type words, phrases, or questions into the onsite search box. However, most content management systems aren’t designed for support, so customers might be lead to a marketing product detail page, causing even more frustration.

Thus, while the customers are trying to self-serve, the experience they typically run into ends up being high-friction, low-value.

Closing the loop and keeping customers coming back

For the past decade, there’s been a hyper focus to improve customer experiences and companies are differentiating and competing on the experiences they are putting out there for their customers.

For example, recently T-Mobile spent millions on their Rainn Wilson campaign telling their customers they would not get the standard, awful IVR experience anymore, but a live agent.

As the T-Mobile ad underscores, the challenge companies face to improve their experiences is an internal one. It requires a company to take a customer-centric approach that is top down and bottom up, focused on delivering great customer experiences across every journey.

Now more than ever, having successful post-purchase experiences is not only vital to building loyalty and recommends but essential to putting customers back on the pathway to purchase.