How can the customer experience be improved? Smart brands ask this question all the time, of everyone—employees, partners and customers themselves. It could be something simple, like the need to explain something more clearly on a brand’s website. It could be more involved, like a brand making it possible for customers to initiate contact via different channels (social and SMS in addition to phone and email), no matter what the inquiry is about. It could even be a customer need that exists without the brand being aware of it.
Every interaction a customer has with a brand provides information about that customer. Every interaction is part of that customer’s experience. When those interactions and experiences are combined, they tell a story—the customer journey. The customer journey is the sum-total of a customer’s lifetime of experiences with a brand.
The benefits of mapping the customer journey are limitless. A customer journey map helps brands gain a better understanding of the customer experience; ensure the customer journey is the same no matter the channel; eliminate confusion; remove inefficiencies; reduce costs; improve customer satisfaction scores; move toward only positive customer word-of-mouth; create loyal-for-life customers and ultimately, increase customer lifetime value.
With all of those benefits, it makes you wonder why so many customer interactions are still treated as single, siloed transactions, unrelated to other interactions. Why do customers experience fragmented interactions with brands? Brands are dependent upon loyal, repeat customers to stay in business…so why aren’t brands making things easier for customers?
The simple answer is that brands are not outfitted with the tools needed to leverage historical and real-time data to create a seamless customer journey. As a result, customers get frustrated. Agents get frustrated. And brands ultimately lose out—potentially losing not only a transaction, but also a customer. As I’ve said before, customer interactions can no longer be viewed in this disjointed fashion.
In 2015, I predict that customer journey mapping will finally rise to the level of being a driving force in improving the customer experience proactively and in real-time.
People—and brands—are essentially drowning in data. Every interaction, whether by phone, online, via social media or in person, creates data. Transaction receipts, conversations and notes, inquiries, questions…it’s all saved. There is no shortage of data available—brands just need to figure out how best to use it. There are tools available to slice and dice data in millions of ways to demonstrate millions of different things, from First Call Resolution stats to the number of customers who leave a website without completing a transaction to the number of customers asking the same questions. With all of these tools out there, there are NO excuses for brands to ignore or not use that data. Brands, harness those volumes of data and use it to your advantage: to create the best, most positive and pain-free customer journey possible. Keep those customers happy and coming back for more.
But brands need something in addition to those data mining tools to benefit from all that data: passion. I know a brand can’t actually have passion, but the people behind the brand must be passionate. Passionate about customer service and passionate about the customer experience. It takes the people behind a brand—the management team, agents, product developers, everyone—to put the lessons learned from customer journey mapping into action. It’s pointless to figure out how to improve the customer experience and then not do anything with what you’ve learned, so a brand also needs passion about implementing customer journey mapping to help illuminate the future.
Yes, the future. Mapping the customer journey enables a brand to gain a holistic understanding of its individual customers, which is important. Perhaps more importantly, customer journey mapping provides insight into the collective customer experience. Whether the brand uncovers a common issue experienced by a group of customers or simply one customer’s experience that can help improve the overall customer journey—it’s worth it. Taking a look at pain points and determining solutions before issues arise for more customers makes each and every customer journey better.
I strongly encourage all brands to take a look at how their customers’ experience can be improved. Try mapping the customer journey—you might be surprised with what you find. Use technology and your people to determine the best path to take. You might be pleasantly surprised with how that undertaking can vastly improve your customer satisfaction and retention.
Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.