“Today’s customer journey is an iterative, complex, pinball of touch-points” – David Louis Edelman
We have discussed several times in the past that collecting and analysing customer data is extremely important for any business. This has clear advantages – basing the company’s decisions on the expectations, needs, and behaviour of customers allows a company to allocate budgets accordingly, put together tailored solutions, customized products, and build better relationships with their customers. Despite the number of tools and technology available to access and monitor customer data, there still exist disconnects between what customers believe a company does for them, versus what a company believes it does for its customers. In order to do away with this gap in understanding, companies could use the help of customer journey maps – a record of every transaction and interaction customers have with the company via any of the touch-points, devices, and channels of communication available. Research shows that at least 63% customers have disagreed with companies – they believe that companies, including their favourite brands, do not understand their customers. With such a large number of customers having a diametrically opposite view, it would be prudent for companies to put together robust customer journey maps in order to keep a close watch on the needs and expectations of customers, and keep a check on what the company is doing to meet those expectations.
As mentioned, there are several tools and technology that companies can use to build customer journey maps but they still face challenges because they do not utilize these resources. Instead, they tend to rely on ineffective reporting mechanisms and various channels, which make it tough to gauge what is working for customers, and for the company. Another factor that inhibits a clear understanding of customers is the fact that companies continue to work in silos, with departments remaining unaware of how their actions affect customer’s buying decisions. The fact is that customers want to have the flexibility to connect with a company through any channel and touch-point. Prospective customers connect with a company through an average of about 6-8 touch-points before they actually decide to buy. Before buying, customers read and compare prices on various sites and a company cannot control their actions. However, putting together customer journey maps would enable companies to make the all-important shift from being internal focused to completely customer-centric companies, since they would gain an in-depth understanding of what customers expect versus what their company is providing.
Customer journey maps allows a company to gain vital analytics and information about customers, even beyond what they do when they on your company’s website and connecting with a company. It is important for a company to gain insight into the complete browsing and searching activity of a customer, including those they have offline with the brand. These analytics and figures show how a customer maybe thinking, and what approach they use before actually connecting with a company. Understanding clearly, how customers behave and would react, would help a company to market and communicate in a way that would be compelling enough for prospective customers to turn into buying regular customers. In addition, by using customer journey maps, your company would know exactly which customer base to target, when to do so, and what kind of messages would be successful in getting their attention and business. There is no use of collecting heaps of data that does not add value to your customers and to your company, instead a company must invest time and effort in gaining insights into the ‘journey’ of their customers, in order to gain a holistic view of their customers.
In the formation of customer journey maps, the first step for a company would be to put all the customer data in a one centralized location. This seems obvious, but many companies continue to juggle and go through complicated maze of reporting platforms, social media analytics, and other in a bid to understand customers and evaluate the costs to the company. Consolidating data in a centralized location allows for more control, easier access, and the ability to update and tweak the data as required.
Customer journey maps should include the actions that customers take when they visit the company’s website. This means that a company must focus on how much time a customer spent, how many pages they viewed, what method they used to search, did they ultimately buy from your company, or from the nearest competitor. Such online ‘actions’ provide a clearer and more in-depth understanding of the customer’s motivations, experiences, behaviour, and feelings toward a company. Some companies make the mistake of counting number of visitors to their website – this is an incomplete metrics, since it does not elaborate on what actions the ‘visitors’ took and whether they would ‘return’.
The best part of centralized information is that vital customer data is easily shareable to all the departments that would need it, and would be able to contribute better to convert prospects to customers. This in turn accelerates information sharing with customers, reducing the amount of time and effort they would need to get it, which would give rise to happy customers, who would become loyal and more profitable over time. Timely sharing of information, also serves to break down departmental silos, and enables each department to understand the timelines and deliverables of other departments. It would be a lot easier when everyone in the company would be working towards customizing and tailoring everything that goes out to customers.
When building customer journey maps, it is essential to do so from the customer’s point of view. This means using the customer’s experiences as the base, and learning exactly what customers do, how they feel when interacting with your brand, do they have consistent experiences across multiple touch-points, and do they ultimately choose your company. The fact is that building customer journey maps based on the views and feedback of the customer, makes them actionable, tangible, and lends them a concrete purpose. Actionable customer journey maps take into account both negative and positive perceptions and feelings of customers while interacting with the company. These would enable a company to identify the areas that need improvement, enhance what is working well, and figure out the impact that these current experiences of customers would have on their future behaviour with and expectations from the company. It is a very critical for a company to join all the interaction a customer has, when building customer journey maps since for customers every interaction with the company is connected some way, and together drive their perceptions of a company. If a company were to view every interaction in isolation, they would end up irritating and frustrating customers enough to leave.
Customer journey maps bring out the opportunities that the various departments have to positively influence the customer experience, and ensure that customers always have pleasant and memorable experiences with the company. We know that customer service and experiences are the top reason for any customer now, to stay or leave a company. Effective building and utilization of customer journey maps ensure that most customers become loyal and profitable, and engage in active brand advocacy. Customer data has huge potential and every company can learn and gain immensely by utilizing it well.