Customer Life Cycle definition

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Guide to customer experience management best practices, technologies

In customer relationship management (CRM), customer life cycle is a term used to describe the progression of steps a customer goes through when considering, purchasing, using, and maintaining loyalty to a product or service. Marketing analysts Jim Sterne and Matt Cutler have developed a matrix that breaks the customer life cycle into five distinct steps: reach, acquisition, conversion, retention, and loyalty. In layman's terms, this means getting a potential customer's attention, teaching them what you have to offer, turning them into a paying customer, and then keeping them as a loyal customer whose satisfaction with the product or service urges other customers to join the cycle. The customer life cycle is often depicted by an ellipse, representing the fact that customer retention truly is a cycle and the goal of effective CRM is to get the customer to move through the cycle again and again.

This was first published in March 2007

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