Last updated: Death of the laggard: How customer service is reshaping the product adoption lifecycle

Death of the laggard: How customer service is reshaping the product adoption lifecycle


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At some point in your educational career you likely fell upon the product adoption lifecycle: The popular bell curve which divides customers into five distinct groups based on their rate of adoption for new products or services.

Product adoption types

Let’s quickly recap how this breaks down.

Innovators: The Risk Takers. Innovators are the first to adopt a new product or service. They are willing to try something before a single review of the product or service is out. They are the group who will step in head first and adopt a new product, even if it has a high chance of failure.

Early Adopters: The Leaders. Not so far off from the Innovators are the Early Adopters. Within the infancy of a product or service, they are ready to support an innovation. That is, after that small percentage of innovators have already taken the plunge and weighed out the risks.

Early Majority: The Followers. The bulk of customers fall into the next two categories: Early majority and Late Majority. Individuals in the early majority category adopt a product or service after some time. They follow behind the Early Adopters although the time until they are willing to adopt is significantly longer.

Late Majority: The Skeptics. Late Majority customers have taken a significant amount of time and thought before deciding to take the plunge. They look at a new product or service with a lot of skepticism and only after most of society has adopted the product, are they ready to commit.

This brings us to the Laggards, or The Traditionalists. This group will not commit to a new product or service unless they are forced to do so.  They change, not really by choice, but by forced submission.

And like most things in their life, the Laggards are becoming a dying breed—and keeping with their style, it is not by choice but by force. More and more, companies are offering products and services with less wiggle room to support laggards. Though this group tends to have an aversion to change, they are being forced into it through the level of customer service they are unable to achieve without change.

Adopt or have fewer services: The “motivation” factor

More companies are intentionally pulling the plug on service and maintenance for older products, to push these laggards into the late majority group of product adoption. Continual service for what a company considers a dying brand is costly and more companies are recouping the costs and putting them toward customer service efforts for their newer, more revenue generating products and services. The risk is a protentional loss to the customer base, but since the laggards tend to be a smaller, more “resistant to change” portion of society, the costs are often more expensive to try to keep them by supporting maintenance of older products and technologies.

Companies are finding a more successful option is to “motivate” this group of customers to adopt the next level of products or services at a quicker rate than they have before. This “motivation” often comes through decreasing service and maintenance for older products and offering incentives to move to the next level of the product category.

Whether this is a good or moral method is debatable, but it does emphasize how the availability of customer service has the power to motivate consumers to support or reject the adoption of products. Customer service that is readily available can elevate the buying experience and exceed customer expectations, therefore strengthening a product’s claims and leading to quicker adoption.

As companies work to influence the shape of the curve to the left, toward the more profitable consumer bases, we’ll continue to see how customer service plays a larger role toward product adoption. To learn how to strengthen your front office strategy, to influence all customer bases of the product adoption lifecycle, visit us here.

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