A Journey of One: The Future of CX

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In customer experience, we believe in the power of frontline workers. We build training and processes so that they can better engage our customers and improve outcomes for both those customers and our business.

Also, as a whole, we’re an optimistic lot. We believe, with the right systems in place, that individual frontline workers can provide an anticipatory experience that will delight customers and create the better outcomes we strive for.

It’s a laudable belief, and there are even times when it works.

USAA, Zappos, and others remind us that it’s possible to assemble and train a staff that consistently focuses on customer outcomes and does what it takes to delight customers and bring them back time and again.

But sometimes, that bias handicaps us.

Because it’s not the only way to succeed…or arguably even the most effective way. Throughout 2020, we surveyed hundreds of CX professionals to discover how many are actually improving journeys to create better customer and business outcomes. (We call the successful ones “Change Makers.”)

Technology makes it possible

Once we isolated this group, we analyzed what they were doing differently that their less successful peers. Was it the size of their organizations? Was it the way they measured the customer experience? Did they use journey managers?

Each of these factors had some impact. But one area stood out beyond everything else.

Change Makers use technology. And not just more of it. They deploy it strategically to create improved journeys. I’ve written about this several times before, so I won’t go into it again here.

The technology to create anticipatory experiences exists today. And if you’re not using it, you’re going to fall behind those who are.

Today I’m here to outline the natural evolution of where customer experience is headed, so you can get there first.

The holy grail of CX is anticipatory experiences, where your company can understand not just what customers are trying to accomplish, but also how they want to accomplish it. This enables you to build the platform required for them to succeed more consistently, more quickly, and more easily.

I call it a Journey of One.

To see how it can play out, let’s imagine two customers purchasing life insurance, Anxious Angela and Adulting Adaya.

The life insurance purchase journey

Angela hates to think about her mortality, so every aspect of buying life insurance makes her anxious. But she loves her kids more than she hates thinking about life insurance and wants to make sure they’re taken care of should anything happen to her. So she contacts her financial professional and begins the purchasing process.

Adaya, on the other hand, thinks of buying life insurance as just another “grown-up” task. No big deal, just something she needs to do, like going to the dentist or getting an oil change. She, too, begins the purchasing process.

Angela and Adaya have very different needs and desires, and the “perfect” journey would look very different for each of them. Unfortunately, most companies – regardless of what they’re selling – create and deliver the same journey for all of their customers.

In the future, that won’t be true. But guess what? The future is now.

The technology to create anticipatory experiences exists today. And if you’re not using it, you’re going to fall behind those who are.

The perfect journey begins with an analysis of past data, including both behavioral (frequency of interaction, calls to the contact center, and applications for other products) and attitudinal (surveys, open-ended texts, contact center call recordings) information. This allows organizations to assess the level of anxiety and emotional needs of each customer.

For new customers without this data, the company could set a baseline by asking Angela and Adaya how they feel about getting life insurance. This baseline informs the initial journey approach.

Angela’s Journey of One

Angela gets more frequent communications, reassuring her that she’s doing the right thing to protect her family. Early in the journey, an automated system contacts her financial professional, letting him know that many customers are anxious about getting life insurance and providing recommendations for how to work with anxious customers – but without calling out Angela as an anxious person, of course!

When she needs to schedule her health assessment, the insurance company sends Angela an email communicating why doing so is important. If she doesn’t respond to the scheduling request, the system automatically sends an email to her financial professional to ask for assistance.

As Angela’s appointment nears, the company provides tools and content to set her expectations. So that she’ll always knows what to expect, Angela has access to a “pizza tracker”-type application that shows upcoming steps, including expected turnaround times, and the company cc’s her financial professional on emails.

Adaya’s Journey of One

On the other hand, Adaya doesn’t need – or particularly want – any of that. Initial conversations are brief and task oriented. Rather than an email explaining what to expect during her health assessment, Adaya gets a simple text reminder for her upcoming appointment. She still has access to the online “pizza tracker,” but based on her baseline or an assessment of her needs, the application is not as front-and-center as it is for Angela.

Such a system isn’t static – it could learn as the journey continues. If Adaya doesn’t react as expected, the company can add more communication, as needed. As the system grows and compiles more data, the company can create multiple pathways based on success at each step in the journey.

Is this an exciting time for customer experience, or what?! The example above is possible today, but journey analytics and orchestration systems are becoming even more robust as we speak.

The primary question is, who will guide their evolution? Should we rely on our IT or Line of Business leaders? Or should CX take the reins to introduce and enhance these capabilities?

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