The Power Of A Connected Customer Journey
Co-Founder and CEO at Edify, leading a team to elevate business communications with its new cloud-native, unified, omnichannel platform.
The concept of customer journey mapping began in the late 1980s when the method of service blueprinting was developed. It refers to what customers do at each stage of their life cycle: before, during and after they buy from a brand. This isn’t the same as customer experience — everyone’s favorite catchphrase — as that’s about how customers feel when interacting with a brand. The two are intertwined, however, as the customer experience is fully dependent on the success of the journey. Everyone knows the ultimate journey will birth happy and loyal brand advocates. However, the “how” of achieving this holy grail has stopped most brands in their tracks.
Legend says that in the ’80s the customer journey happened in the physical store or showroom, via phone or (gasp!) mail order. Current customer life cycles have lots of avenues and can take place in brick-and-mortar locations, online, on mobile devices, over SMS, on email and more. We can even shout an order into the abyss, and Alexa will make sure it’s delivered.
Today’s Journey Is Complex
Covid-19 brings unforeseen complexity to the customer journey, but one we as business owners must address. A recent Adobe Digital Economy Index revealed that retail sales rose above holiday levels in May 2020 to $82.5 billion in total online spending, a 77.8% jump year-over-year. The months of November and December 2019, by comparison, saw online retail sales grow 12.2% year-over-year. Chain Store Age summarized the Index, saying consumer buying patterns differed state-by-state as Covid-19 spread affected some states more than others.
While brands try to decipher customer needs and desires in a world where health and safety guidelines are ever-shifting, one thing is certain: It’s more complicated than ever.
A Seamless Customer Experience Is Key
I believe brands can improve the customer journey by utilizing an omnichannel platform, rather than a multichannel one. This is a topic I’ve discussed before and one I’m unconditionally committed to. Omnichannel and multichannel platforms both offer a customer experience through any avenue, but from my perspective, a multichannel platform experience is more fractured than an omnichannel experience. This can put your brand on the fast track to nowhere.
I’m a customer as much as I’m a CEO, and my experience has shown that most customers are seeking out a simple, seamless, harmonious journey.
Just as the customer journey has evolved since its conceptual origins in the ’80s, the way we communicate has changed, too. We actively engage in omnichannel communications with friends and family all the time. Of course, we don’t use that word, but the omnichannel experience is what we’re enjoying when we (voice) call a friend, then switch to a video call and send a picture in the next breath while we’re still talking.
A brand utilizing a multichannel experience might have solid phone customer service or excel in online chat — perhaps even both. But behind the curtain, everything is siloed. These silos can produce a fractured result that’s opposite of a connected customer journey.
Transform Your Business With Journey Mapping
In my experience speaking with colleagues in my field, I’ve learned customers want options and to feel important. The brand should meet customers where they are to make them feel important, using agility and mobility to do so. You must apply what you know about customers — how they behave, what they respond to, what makes them mad and what makes them buy. This is how to deliver the connected journey they want and deserve.
Here are steps to start delivering your own connected journey today.
1. Appreciate the data. Customers leave breadcrumbs everywhere. Don’t let that data go to waste. Instead, use it to generate insight. Analyze those findings to develop the best strategy and tactics for surprising and delighting customers at every stop in their journey.
2. Don’t treat everyone the same. Customers might have similarities, but their exact needs, requirements or demands aren’t the same. As you analyze, be sure to segment people to create customized CX strategies. The more specific you can be to show people you understand them, the more exceptional their journeys will be.
3. Leverage all the channels. Today’s customers like to talk, text, chat and maybe even use video, so don’t limit them to just one or two channels. You need the tools to serve people across all channels. Ensure your employees are prepared to thrive with the right training and power to make real-time decisions in the interest of the customer and your brand.
4. Stay in touch. The best brands track their customers’ journeys carefully. They discover roadblocks and make adjustments before chaos erupts. Ask for customers’ thoughts and feedback regularly. You never know what intel and data you will uncover.
5. Tap into and support your frontline. Your agents, the folks working directly with customers, have more ideas than you think. Tap into their insight on what makes customers happiest, the pitfalls they keep coming across, and the tech tools they want to help create happy, loyal, long-lasting customers.
The concept of the customer journey isn’t new, but the ways you can track and optimize it are. Your contact center platform — mission-critical to your business — should include these tools. It should be the hero of the exceptional customer experience you’re capable of delivering. Choose wisely.
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