Customer journeys. Customer satisfaction. Customer experience (CX). We’re all familiar with these terms in some capacity, but what do they really mean for businesses? Just what kind of an impact could a considered customer journey have on revenue? Client lifetime value? Customer satisfaction?
The expectations of customers, and business responses to manage this, are rapidly narrowing the gap between B2C and B2B: customers in professional service industries are expecting the same level of service, contact, personalisation and punctuality as their consumer counterparts, with the onus being on B2B companies to keep up. Of course this is easier said than done, with many still overlooking and undervaluing the journey of their customers – and in turn, the customers themselves.
Why is the customer journey so important?
We’re all emotional creatures that base decisions on how we feel. This doesn’t change when we sit at a desk, regardless of how much we try to convince each other of the contrary. The way we convince our bosses and peers that our decisions are good and justified is actually through post-rationalisation. In this way, the consumer customer and professional service customer is one and the same, and B2B companies can no longer rely on product information alone to win them over.
A considered, personalised and consumer-inspired customer journey is an effective way of not only encouraging the emotional buy-in of your customers, but improving lead conversion and customer relationships. And what do customers do best when they’re happy? They tell others about their experience. A double win.
Where are companies going wrong?
To find a solution, you need to get to the root of the problem. There can be many challenges and barriers to creating a great customer journey. The most common include:
- Outdated systems: to build and maintain a considered customer journey, the tech supporting it needs to keep up. Legacy systems are often without the capabilities to create, manage and correctly analyse multiple customer journeys at once. They’re also unable to support the level of reporting that’s required, both in terms of speed and accuracy, to manage not only the journey itself, but customer expectations.
- Lots of data, few ways to utilise all of it: no matter how much data you have, be that operational or customer, disparate systems make it difficult to access and even harder to use. Without a single holistic view of who your customers are, where they are in the sales funnel, who they’ve spoken to, outstanding enquiries etc, you’ll be orchestrating the journey blind. This information is also critical for customer journey analytics, journey optimisation and understanding how customers interface with a business.
- No customer journey roadmap: without a clear roadmap of the journey your customers are taking, including the number of stages, key touch-points and wider communication, you’re totally disconnected from the experience they have with your company. A sound customer journey requires careful planning, taking everything into consideration from the moment that a user first engages with your company to customer after-care. This information is critical to establish and support a great user journey.
Exactly what a great customer journey looks like can vary depending on your industry, products or services, but there are some universal best practices.
1 – Unify your data
There’s no end to the benefits of having a single data source.
For one of our charity customers, their challenge was creating a better experience for their donors, or in other words, customers. We were able to integrate their finance and fundraising data into one system to provide greater visibility of donations and projects to donors to ultimately provide them with a better experience, cement relationships and ensure future donations.
Aligning data pockets across the organisation reduces the risk of human error and makes it easier to enforce consistent data governance at key data capture points. Unified and reliable data empowers your people to deliver a better service and experience for your customers.
In addition to quicker, more accurate reporting, you’ll also better understand your customers through a single customer view (SCV): an aggregated, consistent and holistic representation of the data known by an organisation about its customers.
A recent survey revealed that 48% of enterprise Customer Experience leaders agree that lacking a single view of the customer and customer journey is the number one barrier for effectively measuring customer experience.
As a single source of information, an SCV allows companies to better understand and engage with their customers, affording them the ability to analyse past and present customer habits and behaviours to predict future ones for better targeting and increased personalisation. Unifying customer data in this way enables you to capture each customer’s activities across all your channels and devices, use this information to seamlessly engage with each customer across touch-points and provide data for additional insight.
2 – Update the tools
The application of RPA (Robotics Process Automation) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) are enabling businesses to create and take control of their customer journeys in a way that they would never have been able to with previous legacy systems.
Chatbots are an excellent example of how software applications can use AI and natural language processing to alleviate manual work. They’re able to answer FAQs, capture data and ask additional qualifying questions, all while giving consistent responses, maintaining tone of voice and accurately recording all the details of those valuable customer interactions.
‘Updating the tools’ can be as simple as your team working from a Cloud-enabled central system, such as Microsoft Teams or the Google Suite. At Creative, we’ve considerably improved our customer experiences by using Microsoft Teams to bring greater teamwork to our projects. As a result, we’re delivering a much more collaborative and transparent project in true partnership with our customers.
Larger-scale software implementations, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365, enable you to create and personalise entire customer journeys within one central system. With a number of add-ons available for Dynamics 365, such as the Power Suite, Customer Service and Customer Data Platform, you’ll have access to all the tech you need to realise the experience you want your customers to have with your company.
3 – Make it personal
Advancements in AI technology also enable the personalisation of customer journeys – a nigh-on silver bullet to making customers feel seen, valued and understood.
Simple features such as using a customer’s name in communications and having their details to hand for quicker, more streamlined responses can make all the difference to a customer’s experience, but this is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible with AI technology.
Unifying your data is only the first step to being able to predict future customer behaviours. To really extract the value from this data, the second step is employing AI powered software to be able to predict these behaviours for you, and offer customers hyper-personalised results that have discerned their needs without them even having to communicate it.
“It’s like a self-driving car using knowledge of your preferred routes, entertainment options, and climate settings from past behaviour to optimise a new road trip. Artificial intelligence will truly transform every aspect of customer engagement.”
Founder & Chief Experience Officer, CX Journey Inc.
4 – Map out your customer journey
A customer journey map can take many forms, from infographics to diagrams. A visualisation of end-to-end customer interactions with your company, these maps allow you to pin down the steps in this process, identify sticking points and better understand the experience of your customers.
But a customer journey map isn’t just about creating an aesthetic document to tick a box and roll up at the end of the day. It’s an ongoing process and an incredibly useful tool when applied correctly. So before you embark on mapping out this journey, you’ll need to:
- Identify your buyer personas – customers at different buying stages behave and interact with your business differently. Distinguishing between those who have been researching for some time and are ready to make a purchase, and those who’ve only recently started to think about solving their particular needs with your product or service, ensures that you account for the experience of your customers at every buying stage.
- Understand the goal of the roadmap – what do you want to learn? How are you measuring the success of the customer journey and how does this roadmap ensure this success?
- Establish KPIs – are you looking to increase conversion? Customer referrals? Improve customer satisfaction? Measure success accordingly.
Once this customer journey has been visualised, it’s then an ongoing process of addressing roadblocks, updating the journey to address changes in customer habits and general optimisation.
5 – Consider your metrics
Determining your KPIs begins with defining your desired outcomes. As we’ve touched on previously, how are you looking to improve the customer journey? What are your goals for making these changes?
For some companies, this could be through traditional KPIs, for others, non-financial metrics. To accurately measure the impact on revenue, process efficiencies, customer retention and customer satisfaction, it’s increasingly becoming a balance of both for many businesses. In short it’s the combination of quantitative and qualitative data that reveals the true value of nailing customer journeys.
Additionally, it’s worth considering what employee metrics could reveal when viewed in conjunction with the above: the employee experience, especially if they’re customer-facing at any point in the journey, has an impact on the customer experience.
A final note…
There’s no simple way to define the experiences of your customers, especially when industries, products/services, customer expectations and buying habits can be so nuanced. That being said, these considerations should bring you a step closer towards not only establishing resilient customer journeys, but building great relationships with your customers.
Until next time,
Creative Computing is a specialist Microsoft Dynamics 365 partner with over 30 years of experience in streamlining business processes. Get in touch to discuss how our services and solutions could help you create and manage customer journeys designed specifically for your business.
Contact us today.