Even though we all recognize the role of word of mouth (WOM) in building brands and delivering marketing results, customer journey models routinely omit any consideration for the impact of brand advocacy. Many of the journey frameworks used today to guide customer experience (CX) initiatives fail to account for the ways happy customers champion the brands they love and how others value WOM as they discover, evaluate and select products and services.
In the era of always-on, personalized information and trusted WOM at scale, it is time to update our customer journey models to recognize how great customer experience drives WOM, and great WOM drives business outcomes. Marketers need a new and better framework–one that considers the entire virtuous circle from buy to own to advocate and back to buy, again.
The customer journey model we use on the Gartner for Marketing Leaders team–the Buy/Own/Advocate framework–recognizes that strong brands aren’t merely better at acquiring customers; they are better at keeping them and motivating them to tell others. This is why improving CX isn’t just the right thing to do for your customers; it is also the right thing to do for your organization and its stakeholders.
The goal of many customer experience management efforts is to improve customer satisfaction, but great brands aim for more–they succeed at creating love (or if you find that term too demonstrative, call it an immense feeling of affinity for the brand.) Our model recognizes that Love is the stage in the journey where true loyalty and advocacy are created, two objectives that some organizations understand and measure poorly.
Decades of research validates that mere satisfaction is not enough. A famous study in the 1990s revealed that customers of Xerox, a company in a highly competitive marketplace, were six times more likely to repurchase Xerox products if they were totally satisfied customers (5 on a 5-point scale) compared to those who were merely satisfied (4 on a 5-point scale). More recently, an MIT Sloan study found that the correlation between companies’ customer-satisfaction levels and stock performance explained only 1% of the variation in a company’s market return.
As demonstrated in the Buy/Own/Advocate journey model, strong brands with great customer experience don’t settle for satisfaction. They build additional steps to move customers not just to Use but Love.
If we can deliver customers to the Love stage, we keep them in the Own cycle, deepening the relationship, decreasing churn, lifting share of wallet and increasing customer lifetime value. And if we invite customers to Love our brand, we also earn the right to shepherd them into the next cycle, the one so important in the era of always-on information, social media and trusted WOM: Advocacy. It is here where today’s customers help the brand attract tomorrow’s.