2017: The Year of The Customer Journey

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Neil Armstrong’s journey on the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 redefined where a journey could take us. Marketing is about to take a similar step. 2017 will call in a new dawn when the customer journey becomes the primary lens through which brands evaluate and measure customer experience. Here’s why.

The Overview Effect

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has just successfully flown its first test flight for VSS Unity. Branson is trying to open up the possibility of space flight for everyone to enjoy what has been called The Overview Effect. This is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight viewing the Earth from space. Similarly, in 2017 many, many Marketers will become voyagers able to enjoy an overview effect of their customers and brands. They’ll be able to see what they’d previously considered as borders between different channels are just imaginary lines. There is no ‘us and them’ between customers and brands. Marketers will be able to see all of the connections, all the points of interaction. The most forward-thinking brands will be able to build rich, insightful profiles of customers over multiple journeys, joining insight into a comprehensive overview of their customers.

The end-to-end Journey

Captain Cook didn’t successfully circumnavigate the globe by looking at each shoreline and continent in isolation. He had a complete end-to-end world view.

CMOs in 2017 will become accountable for the complete end-to-end customer experience. Industry research has proven the link between customer experience and business value. We know customer perceptions and feelings are based on the many interactions that customer will have with that brand. The CMO is responsible for making sure the brand delivers value at every point of interaction across the customer journey. CMOs have to take responsibility for the end-end customer experience to ensure they build longer-term and more profitable relationships with customers. The end-to-end customer experience joins into the whole customer journey and ultimately the complete customer lifecycle.

It’s Marketing, Jim, but not as we know it.

Major Tim Peake in 2016 became the first British European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut. He lived on the International Space Station, participated in the first spacewalk by a British astronaut and was the first Human ever to run a marathon in space. Tim didn’t achieve all of this by copying the other kids at school. He had a different vision. Pioneering CMOs also need to think differently. They need to think beyond traditional marketing campaigns and touchpoints. They need to think about every point at which the customer or prospects touches the brand, digital or human, agent contact, in-branch. The CMO needs to find out how to create value for the customer at every interaction. To build long-lasting resilient customer relationships CMOs will need to think about the entire customer journey and personalise every interaction based on the individual needs of their customers at that moment.

Marketing will also be judged by different metrics that better reflect customer lifetime value, retention, advocacy and referral, influencer value and brand engagement. As a result, the customer journey will become the fundamental lens through which brands understand, evaluate and measure customer experience, and ultimately marketing and business performance.

It’s the Customer’s Journey, not yours

The fact is, as a marketer, you’re not the captain and your customers are not your passengers. It’s entirely the other way around. This might sound risky, even reckless.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes said: “Some will doubtless say it is bonkers and irresponsible, as we simply cannot be sure of success. But had NASA followed that logic, Neil Armstrong would never have set foot on the moon”.

Rather than designing, mapping out, prescribing customer journeys, Marketers need to give up the controls and take a more adaptive approach to see where their customers take them. The role of Marketing becomes an invitation into a relationship, and enabling their customers to take the lead on their own journeys, journeys where the Marketers serve their customers. It doesn’t require a big risky leap of faith into the unknown either. The right kind of journey visualisation and real-time journey insights will mean marketers can keep up with their customers, and they can take this leap in full confidence they’ll fly.

The shift in this relationship dynamic between Marketers and their customers might feel humbling for some but will be hugely rewarding. As Neil Armstrong said when he saw the world from the moon: “I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” But wow, who wouldn’t want to stand in his shoes?

What’s the cost of ignoring the journey?

“Houston, we have a problem.” When journeys go wrong all hell breaks loose. Whether it was Apollo 13 or Piccadilly Line tube failures, or Southern Rail strikes, sh*t journeys are miserable. The impact on your brand is toxic.

As Customer Experience becomes the new battleground for competitive differentiation in 2017, being able to provide a relevant, personal, and seamless experience between the many channels and touchpoints on any customer journey becomes crucial. CMOs will not be able to compete unless they’ve got a clear view of their customer journeys.

How do we get ready for great journeys in 2017?

Marketers are going Star Trekking in 2017, to explore strange new worlds of customer journeys, to seek out new customers, to boldly go where no marketer has gone before. Are you ready for blast-off?

  • Start looking at the actual journeys your customers are really taking.
  • Use Journey insight to take appropriate action to ensure that they consistently deliver what the customer wants and needs at every interaction.
  • Listening to the customer journey is the key to understanding and how you can serve them better. You’ll need to listen in real-time and in a way which is aware of the customer’s context.
  • Keep up with the latest thought-leading thinking, follow the Customer Journey blog

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Make sure you don’t miss the boat and get left behind, make sure you take that step in 2017.