Many companies tend to think of customer service as a reactive approach, one that is only put into practice in order to salvage a customer relationship following a negative experience. This is true, of course —addressing customer needs following a disappointing experience is a crucial component of customer service. If your company views customer service as a last resort, you may be able to rescue relationships with dissatisfied customers, but you’re also missing plenty of opportunities to convert good customer relationships into great ones.
Today’s customer has plenty of companies to choose from when it comes to the products or services they purchase. As a result, customers are placing more value than ever on the quality of the service they receive, and in most cases, customers prefer to work with companies that offer a great customer experience. Companies can no longer afford to treat customer service as the last line of defense — the customer experience has to be a main focus in order for a business to succeed.
Proactive customer service is an excellent way to set your company apart from the competition; if you can address customer needs before they become a problem, you’re almost guaranteed to improve customer loyalty. The trick is knowing how to identify your customers’ needs ahead of time, and fortunately for your business, there’s a tool you can use to make that process as simple as possible: the customer journey map.
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Customer journey maps can unfold in a variety of different ways depending on your customer base and the product or service your company offers. But in all cases, as the name implies, a customer journey map tells the story of your customer’s experience with your company from start (when the customer first hears about your company and decides to try it for themselves) to finish (when the customer and your company have established a long-term relationship with one another).
The purpose of a customer journey map is for you to gain insight into your customers’ thought processes when working with your company. In the early (i.e., engagement) stage, this means understanding what brought a particular customer to your business: How did they hear about the company? What drove them to check out your company for themselves? In the later stages, the customer journey map will help you understand not only what brought customers to your business, but what elements of your business determined whether or not they stayed there. By gathering data on the end-to-end customer experience, you can also identify the things that are most important to your customers to ensure a great experience at every touch point; in doing so, you’ll be able to adjust the direction of your business accordingly.
Customer journey maps aren’t just useful for anticipating the needs of your satisfied customers, either — they also provide valuable insight into the pain points of the customer experience. As studies have shown, the average business only hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers. There may be pain points in the customer experience that you simply aren’t aware of, and unless you know about them, how can you ever hope to address them? Most of these pain points are known as “gaps”; that is, areas where the customer experience is disjointed. This caninclude gaps between devices (for example, if your desktop site is beautiful but your mobile site leaves a lot to be desired) or gaps between departments (for example, between your sales and troubleshooting departments).
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In order to build a customer journey map, the first step is to collect and compile all the data you have on your users. An easy way to do this is by pulling all of your site analytics. Analytics can tell you where on your site your customers are lingering — which can indicate confusion on their end — or where they drop off completely, a clear sign that there’s a section of your site that’s too difficult for your customers to navigate.
But while analytics can help you put together some educated guesses about your customers’ experience, that only tells part of the story. In order to get the full picture, it’s also important to solicit feedback through surveys and customer interviews. This can mean asking your customer experience team for some of the most common complaints or points of praise they receive or, if you have a large enough customer base, asking your customers directly what they like about their experience and what can be improved.
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In order to ensure your business operates at its maximum potential, you have to have a clear understanding of everything that happens in your business, both internally and externally. No matter what product or service you offer, if your customers’ experience contains too many gaps, there will always be a ceiling on the success of your business. By compiling customer journey maps, you can not only identify the internal processes that can be improved, but you can also gain a clearer understanding of what your customers want during their interactions with your business.
More than ever, customers want to feel as though their needs are recognized and understood by the companies with whom they work. Customer journey maps are a phenomenal way to show your customers that you’re putting their needs first.