Why improve the customer journey?

Many brands have focused on trying to improve specific touchpoints, such as the shopping basket or check-out on an e-commerce site, to improve customer experience. However, to really improve CX, looking at the customer journey view gives you the picture over time and multiple touchpoints and is the foundation needed to build customer engagement. The boffins at McKinsey Research revealed this bigger picture has greater impact on business performance:

  • Journey performance has a 30-40% greater impact on customer satisfaction than touchpoint performance.
  • Journey performance has a 20-30% greater impact on value and business outcomes than touchpoint performance. *

So, how do you go about improving the customer journey? A lot of Marketers start with customer journey maps and customer journey mapping. Many walls of many offices have been covered in Post-It notes and threads of string to create epic murals. You only need to take one look at Google to find a wonderful display of office graffiti on customer journey mapping. 3M, makers of Post-Its, should be sponsors of customer journey mapping.

 

Since these traditional customer journey mapping methods began (about 15 years ago) times have changed. The consumer is far more empowered and savvy and have far more channels they can choose from to interact with your brand. The world is faster and more complex. That’s a lot of Post-It Notes, and a huge amount of wall space.

This means journey mapping needs an update.

Here are 10 tips on how to think about customer journey mapping today.

  1. Remember, you don’t manage customer journeys. Your customers do. Shocking? Ok, ask yourself, honestly, what is a customer journey? The customer journey is the combined set of things customers do when they meet your brand. What they do, or their interactions with your brand, happens at different touchpoints to address their requirements, like in your shops, or your call centre, or on your mobile app or website. Their needs and behaviour will be based on choices they make which cannot be managed. But, they can be understood. So remember, your job isn’t to manage the customer journey. Instead, it’s more about enabling each customer to move effortlessly from interaction to interaction, while you provide the appropriate value at each point.
  1. Walk in your customers’ shoes – it’s about the customer, not you. Make sure your view of the customer’s journey is from the customer’s perspective, an outside-in approach and not the static ‘inside out’ view of what you hope or want a customer to do based on your own objectives, systems or processes. This means you must understand who your customers are and their needs, what their goals and expectations are and what contexts they’re likely to be in. You will already have several sources of data for this but it all needs to be brought together into one place. Personas are a helpful tool to help you pull this together. Having a view of the customer journey in real-time is vital to your understanding, it will give you insight into what they do in specific contexts interacting with your brand.
  1. Be honest. Focus efforts on understanding the truth of actual customer behaviour. Insight into real customer journeys will enable you to create relevant conversations that address real customer needs at the right time in the right way. The mapped customer journey assumes the journey is static, a controllable process and people behave accordingly. It’s theory, not the truth, so in practice not all that helpful. Customers can be on multiple journeys at the same time and switch between them.
  1. Check your view of the customer journey is fact not theory. Make sure it’s ‘in the moment’ or live in real-time, based on what your customers are really doing in real interactions that are happening across all your channels. It’s now possible to see journeys live, across channels and touchpoints. For example, drop-offs aren’t something to hide from, they reveal a great deal about what’s happening at a given point in a journey that needs to be fixed. When you see them you’re a step closer to fixing the problem making customers drop away.
  1. Make sure journey insights are actionable. The output of any effective customer journey map is insights – an understanding of customers’ pain points, and seeing the opportunities to make changes to build the relationship. You must make sure the insight or data you have about journeys exists in a way which enables you to take real-time, live action in response to individual customer needs. Being able to see a customer journey is one thing, being able to apply that insight at the right time is another.
  1. One single customer view. All the customer data you have in all those separate systems needs to be brought together into one unifying layer which can analyse all of the customer data at once, and also provide your team with a single view of the customer, right across your business, so everyone has the same view, and are empowered with this customer insight.
  1. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Customer journey maps don’t need to be discarded, but they can be used in conjunction with the actual, live, customer behaviour and journey(s), so you can test the truth vs. your theories and hypotheses. The customer journey map is the model against which you can understand the actual customer journey. Having a shared view of the customer journey also helps to bring different teams and departments together to help you all focus on the customer.
  1. Get up to speed with tools available to help you. Traditional customer journey mapping is a bit like painting the Forth Road Bridge, except with post-it notes instead of paint. No sooner have you finished the task, you’d have to start it over again, to have any hope of the result being useful or relevant. This is soul-destroying and a waste of time and effort. Give yourself a break, technology exists today which will give them the real view of the true journeys customers are taking with your brand and make them actionable.
  1. See the whole customer journey, look up from individual touchpoints. See the different interactions across different touchpoints (channels, devices) and how customers move between these. Evaluate all touchpoints to understand if a customer interacts with your brand what possible value you can deliver to them at a point in time. See the journey map as a visualisation of an ongoing conversation, of the steps to build a better relationship, where the customer can gain value from your brand whenever and wherever they want.
  1. Get emotional. The customer’s emotions throughout their experience need to be understood and layered onto what you can see from their actions which you can get from a live journey analytics tool. Market research and survey tools can help you to achieve this, and you can deduce emotions from certain behaviour. (Drop-off might suggest unhappy). You can collate this understanding through tools and workshops. Workshops are useful to break down internal departmental silos, focus everyone on the real facts about customers’ behaviour and introduce other insights you have into how customers are feeling, their emotions as they move on their journey with you.

What difference will this make?

In addition to what the Boffins at McKinsey reported, Thunderhead’s Engagement 3.0 research among 2,007 consumers revealed:

  • 52% of customers surveyed say that they’ve seen no improvement in their relationship with businesses in the last three years, and 25% say it has become worse
  • 83% of customers appreciate receiving personalised and relevant information
  • 89% of customers have an improved opinion of businesses that remember previous interactions with them
  • 29% will trade their customer purchase records to get through to the contact centre first time round

Customer journeys are not about the map. They are about the insight your brand gains when it understands and can act on the actual customer journeys. They are the road map to better customer relationships and increased customer engagement. It’s time your brand moved beyond the map and towards actionable customer journey insights.

*The Truth about Customer Experience, McKinsey Research, Harvard Business Review 2013.

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