As we see the business world shifting towards a more remote and digital landscape, the communication between customers and service employees is playing a more pivotal role in customer experience due to the lack of opportunity for face-to-face interactions.
This rise in customer expectations partnered with ever-evolving technology means the road to satisfaction isn’t set in stone. Businesses must be able to adapt to these changing circumstances to deliver an excellent experience. Using customer journeys to develop your customer experience strategy keeps your business agile while transforming the experience.
Defining customer journey and customer experience
The difference between the terms “journey” and “experience” may seem a bit muddled, but the customer journey essentially defines the customer experience. You see, customers need to interact with systems and departments multiple times on varying levels to meet their goals, such as opening an account or solving a product issue.
These repeated interactions and the overall progression make up what is known as the “customer journey.” How well each of these interactions goes, across all the multiple channels and systems, makes up the “experience.” Capturing each of these steps of the customer journey allows organizations to accurately represent their customers’ wants and needs, enabling them to meet and surpass expectations proactively.
Think of it this way: Your customer’s journey may start by browsing your website. It could end there, and if it does— that’s a journey. If not, it’ll fork, progressing into other journeys such as learning about a deal for upgrading, perhaps followed by an email inquiry to your support team, and finally a purchase or subscription.
Though there might be some hiccups in any of the steps that make up each journey, if the entirety of the transaction is enjoyable— or perhaps more honestly, an easy one— the customer is likely to be a repeat customer as well as make a recommendation to others.
How to transform the experience by looking at customer journeys
1. It’s the journey and not single touchpoints that matter
Companies have traditionally looked to improve customer experience by focusing on particular touchpoints, which often creates misleading results. Even if a touchpoint scores high for satisfaction (perhaps because a customer-service agent was especially generous that day) that doesn’t mean it’s impossible that the customer didn’t encounter delays, contradictory advice, or a second-rate experience of some other kind. In fact, it’s common to see customers report very high satisfaction with specific channels and touchpoints, yet low satisfaction with the overall experience.
This inconsistent feedback can be confusing. How can you improve the customer experience if it’s not clear what customers are frustrated with?
One way to actively combat inconsistency in your customer journeys is to create a journey map. Journey maps help maintain a customer-centric mindset by listing out all the places a customer will interact with your business. By matching up journey maps with operational data, you can tackle pain points while also uncovering opportunities to delight customers.
There are multiple types of customer journey maps that can be used interchangeably as the company grows:
Current state: Evaluates how customers currently interact with your business. It identifies any issues or gaps so that you can develop and test alterations within the journey.
Day in the life: Analyzes your customers’ actions both outside of and relating to their engagement with your business. This analysis determines their pain points and how new services and products could address them.
Future state: Uses upcoming product releases and trends to evaluate how customers may engage with your business in the coming months or years. This map type helps identify the best methods for changing the customer journey to accommodate new experiences or services.
Service blueprint: This is the most common format and is a simplified version of the other map styles that you can layer with elements that deliver your customers’ experience, such as processes, technologies, and policies.
Read our post about customer journey mapping to learn best practices.
2. Create a journey map to see the entire experience
Whatever your current journey’s focus is, you can keep your maps on track by using this three-prong approach:
- Aligning customer journeys and setting priorities
All journeys aren’t equal, and some will require more nurturing than others. Therefore, having a clearly defined set of priorities can help simplify the process. Figure out what drives essential journeys and use them to amplify more complex ones.
These components may be things like using more digestible language or utilizing design to make demonstrations more user-friendly. Taking the time to gain customer insight can also help craft tactical initiatives and prioritizes where your team needs to spend their energy to avoid burnout.
- Utilizing a digital-first lens
As more companies shift from call centers to digital channels, they can drive down costs. Many companies have adopted a digital-first mindset in which digital channels like chatbots and FAQ portals are the first line of contact in the customer journey.
Research shows that, generally, if a customer can help themselves, they will opt for that before choosing to reach out because it’s quicker.
- Continued measurement
To cultivate a culture of continuous improvement, set clear aspirations and metrics to track performance and impact. These metrics should measure customer satisfaction with journeys and track operational indicators such as user clarity that underline each journey.
By measuring results continuously and making data available to all teams involved in the customer experience, you can improve the journey in close to real-time.
Recommended reading: Learn the most popular ways to measure customer experience.
3. Rethink your customer journeys to improve loyalty
Capturing early wins shows both customers and the company that change is possible and can be quickly, effectively implemented. When you’re thinking about making changes to your customer journey, start by attacking the low-hanging fruit.
For example, personalization is a widely beneficial trend in the marketing and support spaces. Are you using your customer’s information consistently across the entire journey? Where can you pull in more personalization and targeting? This can make the entire journey feel more unique to what your customer needs.
According to a 2020 Forbes study, 80% of the 1,000 people surveyed said they were more inclined to do business with a company that offered a personalized experience.
4. Act through cross-functional teamwork
As the saying goes, “it takes a village” to ensure meaningful growth. A cross-functional team is a team in which the members have different skill sets but work towards a common goal. It often includes people from various departments and all levels of the organization, though it can also include participants from outside the organization.
In short, everyone who touches a part of the customer journey should interact at some point. Teams like support, marketing, R&D, and sales commonly work together since any improvements are likely to require work within all areas. For example, something like a sign-up involves customer care, design and marketing, and sales.
The long road of the customer journey
Although it’s easy to spend time fiddling with details of landmarks and checkpoints to evaluate growth or progress, keeping the larger picture in mind is essential. Customer expectations will continue to rise, but by continuous measurement, clear communication, and adapting through customer feedback, a smooth journey and a wonderful experience are guaranteed.