Managing the Customer Journey

Well, the customer experience is a journey, too. It’s a never-ending journey. You must always strive to deliver that ultimate customer experience, not only at a single touch-point but also – especially – along the entire journey.” – Annette Franz (Gleneicki), CCXP

What better way for a company to gain success than by delivering top class experiences for their customers. The important thing to remember though is to deliver these throughout the customer journey and not just a few interactions. A company that can leverage its culture, values, emerging market trends, updated technology and other such factors, would be able to create value and interest throughout the customer journey. Most customers would like to have long and successful ‘journey’ with a company and are becoming more aware of what they want. Retaining customers is therefore becoming a challenge and hence it is in the best interest of companies to manage and make every customer journey interesting and engaging. The customer journey is acquiring a central position and is critical to the experience a customer has with a brand. It is becoming as important and vital as the company’s products and brand in giving it an edge and competitive advantage.

When speaking about the importance of managing the customer journey, we are not indicating that each experience and individual contact point is not of consequence. Rather, each individual experience counts towards the complete customer journey. The overall journey of the customer counts and currently not many companies are able to manage this overall experience across the multiple contact points. The customer journey can be considered successful if along with business value, a company can create sustained value for the customer. This comes about by truly, and consistently understanding the needs of the customers – both current and future. Managing the customer journey should be central to the business’ core customer strategy, in order to attract and retain customers. It is about understanding the individual emotional reasons due to which a customer would buy and continue to do so. Of course, the reasons and expectations would change, and that is why managing them during the entire customer journey is necessary.

The current customer journey situation is possibly not the best, since most customers have disconnected and unsuccessful journeys with companies. These journeys weave through different departments and touch-points in a company, with no semblance of uniformity, leaving customers frustrated and searching for a different company with which to do business. These breaks in a customer journey cause the company inconvenience too – it means a loss of revenue, wasted resources, and money spent on attracting that customer, the possibility of a customer negatively influencing others and the additional cost of acquiring new customers. It makes sense therefore, for companies, to design strategies to ensure that each customer journey is happy and beneficial for both the customer and the company. Customer journey encompasses the experience of a customer through multiple channels and the touch-points in every channel, and the kind of messages and updates the customer receives. The aim of managing the customer journey is to mould customer behaviour, improve efficiency, and lower the amount of effort a customer would need to exert for the association.

Organizing and managing the customer journey is critical to the achievement of results. It is about managing the process before the actual interactions, during the interactions and after every interaction, such that improvements can be implemented along the way and before the next set of interactions. Without monitoring the customer journey, it would be difficult to understand how each customer and customer segment perceives its association with the company and which channels and touch-points work well and, which ones require revamping. The company can then use this data and insights to correct the flaws in the respective customer journey, which in turn would serve to enhance customer satisfaction levels.

The more commitment a company can display to enhance the individual customer journey, the more engaged and connected they can make their customers. The current ‘breed’ of customers is a lot smarter, informed, and aware of the happenings around them. This in turn has made them more empowered and demanding. Mapping and monitoring the customer journey has therefore become more urgent and imperative, as it helps to understand the evolving behaviour and customer mind-set. This effectively means, for companies, that in order to be perceived as and become truly customer centric, every experience of the customer journey must evolve and keep pace with what customers expect. Each touch-point and each channel must work in unison and must complement each other – gone are the days when working in silos still allowed a company to succeed.

The future and success of any business would begin by defining the kind of experiences your company would like its customer to have, in order to think only about your brand when they have a specific need. Once a vision and path has been defined, it would be easier for a company to gather its resources, methods, people, and technology to give shape to those experiences and consistently reinforce them at every step of the customer journey. Putting together such set patterns and methodologies, would allow for easy and unambiguous communication between each department and members of a team. Each person would know what the ideal customer experience would be and, the sum total of all these positive experiences would make for one happy customer journey!

Given that how a customer perceives the experience with a company is highly subjective, it would be important for the company and its representative to focus on each customer individually. The customer’s goals and expectations should drive every experience, which will make the mapping and managing of the customer journey easier and a lot more enjoyable. The ultimate goal for the company should be to become more customer-focused, centred round the customer’s needs and consistently seek to understand the customer better, such that every experience is elevated and improved from the last. Of course, this does not imply that your company would learn everything about the customer all at once, or be able to elevate the standards overnight. This should not be a cause for frustration or giving up on your efforts to managing the customer journey and over time, turn each customer to a raving fan.

As customer’s and their needs evolve, it is a given, that the customer journey would become more complex and it would be tougher to match and achieve the standards of service that customers would expect. It may be tough, but not impossible, and in any case, doing so successfully could gain abundant benefits for the company, including repeat business from existing customers and higher ‘conversion’ rates from prospective customers. To achieve sustained engagement and consistent attention, companies need to think creatively and move beyond traditional and set methods of interacting with customers. Every aspect of their business must remain centred around increasing customer engagement through elevating every step along the customer journey. The silo approach will not work any longer – customers have made that amply clear. They want top quality service at every touch-point and through every channel and anything short of this could mean that they cut short their customer journey with the company and seek to begin a new one with another. It is up to a company to ensure that every customer has the best journey such that they never leave.

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