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The customer life cycle is the series of steps that identifies the dynamics of the relationship between the customer and the supplier over a period of time. While there are several different approaches to defining the stages of the relationship with a customer, most methods begin with the attempt to attract the interest of a potential client and culminate in securing the ongoing loyalty of that customer. In all its incarnations, each phase or step in the life cycle holds the potential to deepen the connection between the consumer and the provider, or to cause the relationship to deteriorate and finally come to an end.
A typical customer life cycle begins with what is known as the attraction or reaching phase. Here, the supplier takes proactive steps to secure the attention of the consumer and generate interest. It is during this process that trust begins to be established between the two parties, providing a basis for ongoing dialogue.
The next phase of a customer life cycle is focused on acquiring the customer by providing incentives to make a purchase. Assuming that the interaction up to this point has been productive, and the supplier has been honest with the consumer, chances are this initial purchase will be pleasant for the consumer. If the purchase proves to live up to all the promises made by the supplier, the relationship is likely to progress to the next level. If not, the customer life cycle is likely to end at this point.
Once the attraction and acquisition stages are complete, the next phase of the customer life cycle has to do with converting the consumer. At this juncture, the consumer makes a commitment to continue purchasing goods and services from the provider, based on the success of the initial purchase. During this phase, the consumer is also likely to become an advocate for the supplier, promoting the goods and services to others within their social network. As the consumer continues to be happy with the relationship, stronger ties of loyalty are established and the client remains connected to the supplier over an extended period of time.
It is important to note that it is possible to end the customer life cycle at any point in the process. Even after strong ties are established and the client has demonstrated a great deal of loyalty, failure on the part of the supplier to maintain quality, acceptable pricing and to exhibit integrity and honesty can undermine the relationship. When events of this nature occur, the customer life cycle will normally end, and be extremely difficult to revive.