“The best journeys answer questions that, in the beginning, you didn’t even think to ask”. -Jeff Johnson
It possibly did cross your mind, but all the same we reiterate that customer experience is ongoing and continues for the entire life of the customer’s association. Since it is continued process it can be said that customer experience is a journey and not a terminus. A realization of this fact will help companies deliver better experiences and customer service excellence. A terminus by definition means that it is the end and you do not need to go further, whereas a journey implies that you are bound to discover other things and will make improvements along the way. Improving customer experiences is about understanding needs and their expectations, which most definitely change over time. The effort a company puts in to deliver great customer experiences therefore cannot stop – it is continuous.
A customer interacts with a company through various channels and contacts several people during their association with a company. These are the touch-points. Unless customer experience is treated as a journey, companies will imagine that they are doing the best they can if a customer is pleased with the interactions at one or two touch-points. This does not present the whole picture since the end result could still be that the customer is unsatisfied and has not got what they wanted. Focus must remain on maximizing positive customer experiences at all touch-points translating to the entire association. Customer Experience is a journey then given this understanding.
When you think about how a normal customer service routine goes, that in itself is a journey. It begins with possible a simple query regarding the product or query. The one customer calls the agent who has already dealt with several such queries but must treat each customer as special. For the customer it was probably just a simple product query which would have got answered. However, post the query the customer would have several more questions or issues which they would expect to have resolved in quite the same easy and uninterrupted way. A product query is not complicated as a troubleshooting problem but the customer’s expectation remains the same. It is therefore the company’s onus to ensure that from a product query stage to troubleshooting a problem with the product, the customer’s experience journey remains hassle free and leaves the customer happy. A failure to keep consistency of customer service levels up to par at any part of this journey will result in customer dissatisfaction and probably a breakdown of the relationship. Managing customer experience is a journey, Customer Experience is a journey.
Studies have shown that companies that have mastered customer experiences as journeys have managed to enhance customer satisfaction leading to reduced customer and employee attrition, bigger profits and increased numbers of loyal customers. Mastery over this aspect in turn eases internal processes and collaboration between teams and various departments. The overall effect on the company is positive, which continues to repeat the cycle of customer satisfaction. Customer experience is a journey because no one can really tell when to stop and also know that if they did stop enhancing those experiences, there would be no customers. Companies that refuse to or do not understand that customer experience is a journey are setting themselves up for failure and making it easier for competition to lap up these opportunities in the form of disgruntled customers.
Keeping customers happy does not need to be an expensive proposition. Focusing on each touch-point breaks the process down and makes it easier to achieve positive customer experiences at each stage, making it one entire journey. If the staff at each contact point understood that customer experience is like a relay race – unless each point does their bit, the next part is bound to suffer. To make it easier for them, companies must monitor and regulate each contact point and make amends immediately if there are breakdowns or potentials for lapses. The cumulative effect of each touch-point and over multiple channels, working as it should, will result in increased levels of customer satisfaction.
The vital part would be when a new customer comes ‘on-board’. Companies must take special care to ensure that they feel welcome and their experiences during this time are handling exceptionally. Failure to do will have predictably negative results and form a negative impression in the mind of the customer that is likely to last. If the customer is happy at this stage, companies must take feedback to understand what satisfied the customer and ensure that the same or better levels of service are provided during the entire journey of the customer. Irrespective of how well the on-boarding went, a company cannot afford to rest on the laurels and must continue to meet and exceed customer expectations throughout.
We know that it is much easier to keep the customer appeased than it is to bring back an irate customer. It takes many more resources and heaps of effort to make things right and if the customer remains unconvinced then all the previous history and efforts go to waste. It would also mean that the company would need to re-look and revamp the customer service processes and strategies to make things work better. It would require a re-invention of customer experience journeys.
To make it easier for companies to monitor the touch-points, it would be good to map these various points and would include interactions via customer service agents, customer feedback, company website, live chats and social media comments. Understanding each channel and the various stages of interactions via each channel would mean analyzing:
– What questions does the customer ask or what actions does the customer undertake after they get to know about your company and the product or service?
– What will motivate customers to continue doing business with your company and what will put them off it?
– During each interaction are there any parts that irritate a customer or pose a problem for them? Do they find it easy to deal with the persons concerned or are these persons unapproachable and unfriendly?
– Is your product too complicated and thus posing an obstacle in the path of the customer to move forward with the association? Is your company making things difficult for the customer to ask a question, buy a product, return a product, get troubleshooting assistance and the likes? Is there anything or many things that will make the customer give up their association with you?
The importance of engaging with customers, to keep them with the company long term, cannot be overemphasized. Knowing that customer experience is a journey and not an end will serve as an impetus to companies to work towards building relationships rather than one time transactions. Relationships of any kind take time; require focus and relentless effort to keep them successful. It is a continuous process – a journey which if handled well will remain happy and prove fruitful.
Investing time and effort in understanding the customer’s journey with your company will let you have a grasp on what you can do and do exceptionally such that competition can never catch up. Every customer’s journey must be treated separately and customized to add value for that customer. There can be no umbrella management for every customer’s journey. Each customer’s needs are different and unique and must be treated so. Monitoring and mapping each stage of each customer’s experiences is not an easy task and requires focus and dedication to customer service excellence. However, the benefits far outweigh the effort. When your company finds itself in an ongoing cycle of interactions with a customer you can be happy that the customer is with you for the long run. Customer experience is a journey not a terminus.
“We lay the stage for each guest’s own piece of interactive theatre. It’s about creating an environment and atmosphere that is quite special and then acting as facilitators for our guests’ own out-of-the-ordinary experience.” – Ho Kwon Ping