Customer journey management: The key to better customer engagement

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Today’s empowered customers, choose their path and view the entirety of the experience with your brand across all touchpoints as one connected experience. Your customers interact with you on their own terms, shift preferences, flow across channels, and take unpredictable routes to a fluid destination. As a result, your sales, marketing, and customer experience organizations need to deal with broader issues: customer’s demand for transparency, shorter consumer attention spans, ubiquitous connectivity and access, and traditional channel fatigue. On the other hand, the back-stage functions need to know where the technology and systems issues lie, to understand where individuals customer’s “get stuck or lost,” and drop off the grid altogether.

To script out a seamless experience and build the perfect journey, you realize it is not an easy task to pinpoint and monetize the most critical paths in the customer journey in the digital era. However, an effective customer journey management program, helps you eliminate any disruption in the customer purchase process and uncover the critical success factor.

What is a customer journey map?
A journey map puts the customer front and center of your organization’s thinking, enabling your ability to hear and act upon the voice of your customers, employees and business needs. It describes the process of shaping your customers’ experiences (CX) at each stage of the buying cycle using the different channels, and with a broader scope, influencing their perception of your brand. It demonstrates a new way of discovering customer behavior, thoughts, feelings, and preferences.

It helps to identify gaps, disjointed or frustrating points in their experience with your brand. The barriers to retention might be, because of:
• Gaps between devices – when a user moves from one device to another;
• Gaps between channels – where the experience of going from mobile to the website could be better;
• Gaps between departments – where the user might get frustrated.
• Gaps between communication – problems in communication among employees of different departments may also be exposed if they are unable to obtain timely support from peers during service interactions.

It helps assess the impact of these gaps to redesign CX across touchpoints optimally. It is a compact visualization of an end-to-end customer experience, providing actionable insights to drive business value (increasing conversion to sale, increasing lifetime value, increasing order value and reducing the cost to serve).

Eliminating Missed Opportunities
Customer journey maps allow you to anticipate these moments of truth and are much more efficient than using traditional, decontextualized or aggregated information. It provides an excellent opportunity to sense and respond to actual sequences of events, in real-time:

• Build trust and keep them coming back – possibly analyze the customer’s mobile data usage, and proactively verify whether they are on the most suitable contract for their needs
• Helping customers set up products or services – for example, observing that a user is unable to use a new feature in the SaaS product after multiple attempts, by calling to offer support for the process, or anticipating possible issues and addressing them proactively. It can be done using FAQs, instructional videos, and forums to the knowledge base.
• Upselling or cross-selling in real time – for example, providing overdraft protection to a bank’s customer who has recently overspent and has been informed via an SMS that there are insufficient funds.

The Problem With Customer Journey Mapping
As your customers advance along hundreds of possible paths at the same time, they expect you to understand them at each step. To effectively manage their journey, you need to be aware of every interaction a customer has with your brand, whether it is a response to an email offer, a visit to your office or website, a video conference with the sales executive or a live web chat or phone call to your support center. Although, what might appear in the beginning as an unconnected series of events is, over an extended period is often a predictable sequence of events occurring across multiple business channels and processes. Each of these events is as“moments of truth,” and it offers a clue to a customer’s true purchase intentions.

Figuring out a typical customer’s route from start to finish requires an enormous amount of data – both qualitative and quantitative. For this reason, the majority of the problems in mapping the customer journey is linked to data. Hence, if your brand builds rigid journeys, you quickly realize that you are scripting a journey to nowhere – as it breaks down when the customer does the unexpected.

1. Acquiring customer data
It means collecting customer’s behavior and interaction data bit-by-bit (orders, forms, surveys, online, research, competition and so o) to build up an accurate, complete picture of your customer gradually and in an unobtrusive way. In addition to attributes and events, it also needs to include their channel preferences to understand the history of their digital channel behaviors. It enables your business to build models to recommend other products/ services or offer a new range of goods.

2. Accessing customer data
If you are fortunate to have high-quality customer data, you may have issues accessing it. Often there are ‘data silos’ both across geographies as well as in a single office – where one department claims ownership of part of the customer data and another department ‘own’ another part.

3. Using customer data (appropriately)
If you have all the data you need, using it can also be a challenge, if no single view of the customer exists within the organization to taking action during a moment of truth. Multiple legacy technologies and tools often lead to numerous dashboards and reports holding you back from understanding your customers and their journeys. To analyze the compounding data, to trace and process hundreds of thousands of events each second, you need to invest in artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and machine learning. It helps to create predictive models or algorithms that, detect thought-provoking sequences of events and enables highlighting segments in which these paths are most vital. As the software systems gather data, it “learns” and becomes more intelligent linking information about events with the broader customer context. It determines the most optimal action about how to interact with customers effectively – so every interaction is more likely to convert than the one before it.

Customer Journey Management
Most organizations have long considered that CX is a single department’s responsibility manned by customer service experts and underlying technologies. The departmental silos result in multiple CX projects that are parallel to one another with the same objective – improving customer experience.

However, the many customer journey projects fail to deliver any sizable business benefit including, these reasons, failure to:
• set hard business metrics at the outset
• sufficiently scope the customer journey mapping project
• use the right type of customer journey map.

Other than mapping the customer journey, the management of the journey encompasses a whole series of activities. It helps you understand multi-channel customer experiences and create a single view of the customer, to drive cross-functional change, and to achieve increased profit.

Hence, to enable the continuous customer journey management, you should consider answering the following common questions:
• Do you know your customer segments?
• Are the maps strategic or operational?
• Does it represent the current state experience of all types of customer segments across multiple touchpoints?
• Do they demonstrate cyclical or linear customer experiences?
• Does it communicate the barriers, frustrations, and experiences of customers?
• Does it illustrate what you still need to learn about the customer?
• Do they look like grid maps or does it provide a highly visual depiction of the customer journey?
• Does it help identify the triggers (voluntary or propelled) into the experiences?
• Does it help develop evidence-based business cases and plans?
• Do you review (monthly, quarterly, bi-yearly or yearly) the maps as a part of your business planning cycle?
• Are the maps agile – updated and validated at least once in the financial year?
• Do you have a measurement system that captures the voice of the customers and employees on the same end-to-end customer journey?
• Do you have a measurement system that captures the ability of the internal process to deliver the experience along the end-to-end customer journey?
• Does every employee know their role and KPI’s in delivering end to end customer experience?
• Have you identified the future-state journey maps for select personas/ customer segments?

Enabling Continuous Management of Journey Maps
While customer journey maps can be extremely valuable, it is not viable (or even doable) for large organizations to undergo full-scale customer journey mapping efforts for all the different customer segments across the diverse offerings. The granularity of the maps entirely depends on your business objective. Based on our experience, we have identified, five type of customer journey management projects which your organizations can capture the benefits:

1) CX Program Buy-In – A high-level map highlighting the most significant customer pain points to the senior management. The intent: create buy-in for customer experience program.
2) Create Customer-Centric Culture – Embed thinking about customer journeys into day-to-day decisions across the organization through training, recruiting and company policies. Educating and empowering employees to actively consider why customers are interacting your brand and create a sense of responsibility. The intent: Alter employee attitude and encourage them to think about customers’ journeys.
3) CX Future State / Improvement Initiative – You will need to include specific details about what those interactions look like today – or what they will look like tomorrow. The maps will illustrate you are your customers will do, feel, think, say as they interact with your brand at some point in the future. The intent: communicating your vision for how new products/services, and experiences will function.
4) Customer Journey Mapping Project – you select few critical journeys for specific product/service lines using significant customer research. If built on a current-state journey map, journey blueprints can help you identify the root-cause of existing customer paint points. If built on a future-state journey map, they can help you determine the ecosystem that needs to be in place to support the intended experience. These projects require dedicated resources committed to this effort, structure, expertise, technology (both customer-facing and behind-the-scenes) and governance, which will span over a period. The intent: develop deep customer journey maps that drive critical design, metrics and measurement decisions.
5) Customer Journey Mapping Review Sessions – It can occur during a single meeting as long as the participants have sufficient knowledge of target customers. The goal: Enable spontaneous sessions that examine customer journeys.

Review your existing CX programs to figure out if you need to try more projects and identify which of these five has been implemented. Appoint a Customer Experience Officer and create a multi-disciplinary team to merge the efforts of multiple projects into one CX Initiative streamlining departmental initiatives.

Conclusion: A Better Approach to Customer Engagement
To acquire, grow, and retain your best customers, you need to build an engaging and actionable journey map, adapting in real-time across your marketing, sales, and service programs. The connected and empowered customer is continually changing and the need of the hour is to conduct in-depth empathetic research to create an unbiased understanding of the customer’s journey. For this reason, to innovate, your organization requires a customer experience strategy, qualitative and quantitative CX insights, right technology tools, processes, enterprise-wide customer-centric mindset and design thinking.

At Marketers Touchpoint, we know that the customer owns the journey – but it is your job to enable an incredible experience, by removing the lumps and bumps along the path. From whiteboard to roll out, an experienced CX consultancy can you build for change and innovate your digital experiences.

Let’s build a great experience together.

The article was first posted in Marketerstouchpoint blog

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