Humans are on Journeys to fulfill their Needs

The Customer Lifecycle


A Few Definitions

Defining the word “Customer”

When we consider a “customer”, we like to consider a broad definition when describing any human that interacts and engages with a proposition from the organization (such as a product, service, or other offering). Examples of “customers” could also include: Guest, patient, citizen, soldier, constituent, student, or another organization (Example: A business selling to other businesses).

Considering human “Needs”

Humans are on journeys to fulfill their needs. Organizations that understand this fact and engage in a way that help customers fulfill these needs, will be able to influence customers to think and behave in a way that will yield positive financial, mission, and/or budget results for the organization (please see the Value Equation for more information).

It is possible to argue about whether an individual has a “need” or a “want”. Obviously, circumstance and frames of reference are important in this discussion. The economic definition of a need is something required to survive (such as food, water, and shelter). A want, in economics, is one step up in the order from needs and is something that people desire to have, that they may or may not be able to obtain. Still others draw the line between needs and wants somewhere in the middle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Ultimately, it is important to understand that there are different types of human needs, and that a separation exists between “functional needs” (sometimes referred to as the task-at-hand or the job-to-be-done) and “emotional needs” (sometimes referred to as the motivating reason or the emotional rational). We use a simple model of Useful, Usable, and Meaningful to describe the three aspects of human needs. By clearly understanding and identifying different customer needs, an organization can tailor an engagement strategy to help the customer fulfill those needs, ultimately influencing the customer to deliver financial results to the organization.



Useful, Usable, and Meaningful Needs

Consider this example which breaks down the different aspects of Needs:

A father takes his young teenage daughter to a fashionable store in order to purchase an elegant dress for an upcoming school dance.

In the journey to purchase a dress, the father has these needs:

  • Useful need (the “WHAT”): To find and purchase a conservative, non-revealing dress for his daughter.
  • Usable need (the “HOW”): In a way that is inexpensive (cheap) and convenient (hassle-free).
  • Meaningful need (the “WHY" it matters”): So that the father can decrease the stress of knowing his daughter is growing-up, in order for him to enjoy a special moment between father and daughter that he will cherish forever.

In comparison, the daughter has these needs in her journey to purchase a dress:

  • Useful need (the “WHAT”): Find dress that will make her stand-out and look fantastic at the dance.
  • Usable need (the “HOW”): In a way that allows her to consider many options (choice) and that are unique (personal).
  • Meaningful need (the “WHY it matters”): So that the daughter can increase her confidence and feel empowered as she makes her grand entrance to the approving smiles and looks from friends and teachers.

In the example above, the father’s Useful need and the daughter’s Useful need are somewhat similar (i.e. find and purchase a dress). However, in addition to having a difference of opinion regarding the type of dress (unique vs. conservative), father and daughter Useful and Meaningful needs are also quite different. The dress retailers that recognize these differences in needs, and then execute a segmented engagement strategy to help father and daughter fulfill ALL aspects of their needs, will be differentiated in the market - leading to positive results for the dress retailers that successfully execute this strategy.

Fulfilling Useful and Usable needs (“the thing I’m trying to do”, and the “how I want to do it”) ought to be considered the bare minimum required for any engagement strategy today. Fulfilling Meaningful needs becomes the point of differentiation and opportunity for competitive success. Fulfilling Meaningful needs requires that an engagement reduces or increases an emotion, in order for some aspirational goal to be achieved by the customer within their scoped Journey.



The Customer Lifecycle and Scoping a Journey


Customers are on a step-by-step journey to fulfill their needs. We visualize a customer’s end-to-end lifecycle using an infinite loop



The Lifecycle is made up of a Cycle where the customer acquires something to fulfill needs, and a Cycle where the customer uses something to fulfill needs. The Lifecycle can be adapted to reflect the language and perspectives of customers in specific industries or verticals.



Each Cycle (Acquire or Utilize) may be broken down into discreet Steps. Steps are high-level phases a customer passes through as they acquire and utilize something they value that can fulfill their needs. The exact number of Steps is not fixed, nor are the titles or the descriptions defined. The Steps themselves may be different across industries.



Steps may be further broken down into Moments. A Moment is understood to mean a customer’s behaviour over a brief period of time, and tending to have a well understood beginning and end. Customer behaviours can be measured.

In a Customer Experience Journey Map workshop, a Step in the customer's journey is previously selected before the workshop, and during the workshop, Moments that occur within that Step are mapped.