What Is The Future Of The Customer Journey?

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Intelligent Sourcing magazine recently hosted a dinner in collaboration with Teleperformance in London where Mike Havard, CEO of Ember Group, and Julian Herbert from Everest Group discussed the future of the customer journey. The team from Teleperformance was also there to give feedback on the role of the customer experience (CX) supplier in managing modern customer journeys.

The phrase “customer journey” has been discussed and argued over so much now that it’s in danger of becoming meaningless – which is a shame because at its best, analysis and understanding of it can improve client relations and ultimately make the bottom line healthier.

Ultimately each business is unique and in many cases today the customer journey will be unique because we have moved so far in just one decade that it is now impossible to draw a simple step-by-step description of how a customer first hears about your brands and then moves all the way to making a purchase and (hopefully) becoming a fan.

Mike explored the big picture. In the past decade we have seen the introduction of smartphones, the always-on culture of mobile Internet access, and the dramatic growth in the use of social networks. Customers became publishers, with access to blogs, reviews, and price comparison information. These tools have combined to create a much more circuitous customer journey. In many cases it is other customers, rather than the brand, controlling the flow of information about products.

For example, think about the way an electronics brand would launch a new model of TV a decade ago. A marketing and advertising campaign would create customer awareness and retailers would need to be briefed on the capabilities of the new TV, so that when customers came to a store researching their TV choice, the retail staff would have the right information and be able to advise. So it was first all about awareness, then research and comparison, then a purchase. It was step by step and you would never imagine a customer jumping between steps – it had to be one after the other.

Customers have now changed the way they communicate with each other, let alone communicate with brands, so a similar product launch today might feature some supportive advertising, but it will probably not be traditional print or TV adverts. The electronics company might invite a group of influential bloggers who are interested in electronic products to a party where they can play with the new TV. For the price of some drinks and the fee for a celebrity or two at the party, they can see their product talked about on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the influencers can potentially reach millions of people with an interest in those products.

Customers today are no longer waiting for adverts to be pushed at them – they are much more likely to see a new product mentioned by a friend on a social network post and brands are now starting to understand how this changes the traditional step by step customer journey.

Julian Herbert explored some of the technologies that are redefining the customer journey and how this affects enterprise planning. For example, think about your customer service team. If their role a few years back was to just answer fairly repetitive post-purchase questions then you could recruit for the team within some strict parameters. If that team is now managing all customer interactions, such as sales, marketing, pre-sale questions and research, as well as post-sale comments by fans, then that team needs better supportive technology and a different recruitment profile.

Because as both Julian and Mike described, the modern customer journey means that what you used to call a customer service team, or contact centre, is now at the heart of your business. Every customer interaction, from an initial question about product availability to a long-time fan sharing a video they made featuring your product, is handled by this team – they define the customer experience your brand offers.

Where will this go in future? It is clear to me that the most important change is that brands need to be customer-centric at their very core. Practically this means that they can no longer think of CX as a separate team managing their own metrics. The CX team needs to be closely coordinated with all other teams that interact with customers – Gartner has advised that companies need to create a ‘CX hub’ inside the business where marketing, sales, CX, and any other team with customer interaction are working together as one team.

Sharing metrics is the first step and the majority of companies have not even reached this stage so there is some evolution of the customer journey still to go. It’s an exciting time and this was a great dinner discussion hosted by Intelligent Sourcing – I look forward to the next one!

Photo by James Marvin Phelps licensed under Creative Commons

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