Ever since the late 20th century, when access to the internet became more widely available, technology has fueled democratization of information. Through websites, apps, phones, streaming services, media and other advancements, the everyday consumer now has open access to more information than ever before! A consumer can go online to read reviews, price shop, or decide to do business with you based on any number of other interactions that are readily available to them — whether they’re initiated by you or not. This has led to heightened customer expectations and the necessity of organizations, no matter what industry they’re in, to adopt a customer-centric focus in order to remain relevant.
Meeting Expectations = Satisfied Customers. Exceeding Expectations = Loyal Customers.
However, just meeting customer expectations with satisfactory service is not enough. In order to be successful, companies must instead focus on delighting, connecting, and having more meaningful interactions with customers. The more cohesive and significant your interactions are, the more likely you are to generate loyal customers and repeat business.
Map Your Customer Journey
Just as you may use a map to guide yourself on a road trip, having a map of your customer journey can enable you to understand what route to take when interacting with customers and how to exceed their expectations. But remember, like a road trip, it’s not just about getting from Point A to Point B — there are a lot of other factors involved. You have to remember to look at the journey holistically — where can I stop to get gas, where will I spend the night, how much do I need for tolls?
Similarly, you must think of your customer journey map realistically and realize the many touch points and interactions you have throughout a sale and beyond. While you may think you know your customer, only by shifting your perspective to an outside-in approach and stepping into your customers’ shoes will you really be able to understand their journey and deliver on it with more meaningful connections.
Where to Start
Every company is different, but no matter what approach you take, mapping out your customer journey will be futile unless you first establish a goal. You need to know where you’re going before you start. Goals can include anything from generating more sales, launching new products or upselling current customers. Once you have established this goal, you should focus on the following to get started with your Customer Journey Map:
Define customer personas
This first step can be overwhelming, especially if you have many different products or services that are targeted to a variety of customer types. However, understanding your customers through personas is crucial. Instead of worrying about all your different customer scenarios, first focus on a straightforward journey that can be used as a baseline for future maps. Think of who is most likely to spend time with and buy from your brand. Step into their role. What information do they need in order to buy, either now or later? What about their background may affect their purchasing decision? By defining personas, you can better design your processes to meet the customer where and how they want. And remember, don’t discount real-life experiences when thinking about your customers; they’re humans too!
Gather data from across the organization
Even if you don’t have the technology or tools to properly gather data to analyze your customer journey, you probably have more actionable insights at your fingertips than you think. Post-purchase surveys, Net Promoter Scores, in-person interactions and digital marketing channels can all provide important insights into how your customers like to work with you. And while your role may focus on a particular business unit, other units within your organization may have access to different insights that you have never considered; it’s worth examining data available to you from other internal sources as well. Don’t worry if the data you have is not perfect or scientific at first — by implementing a journey map, you’ll start gathering more factual data throughout the process. The most important thing is to accept the data you do have as valuable and act on it appropriately.
Look at the bigger picture with touch points
Touch points are any point of interaction between a brand or customer. So again, although you may have different business units across your organization, if you’re all working with the same customers, it’s important to look at customer interactions more wholly. You shouldn’t consider looking at the customer journey from just a channel level, but instead at a touch point level, and be consistent. If a customer loves going into your stores to interact with your knowledgeable and friendly sales associates but has a horrible experience with wait times when calling customer service, you could lose the interest of the customer because you’re not meeting their needs throughout their journey.
In the end, having a great customer experience is dependent on having great relationships. These relationships emerge over time through meaningful and consistent interactions that meet the customer’s needs at the right place and time. Successful companies use customer journey mapping to not only identify opportunities for growth, but also to address gaps in their customer relationships.
Engaging customers consistently on a deeper level across all touch points, whether they be digital or in-person, establishes trust and reliability. Most importantly, businesses need to be just as committed to serving their customer needs as they are their own — only then will they truly be customer-centric.
Jason Lichon is President and a founding partner of BlueBolt, a digital agency that enables manufacturers and distributors to support their customers, sales teams and service representatives through innovative digital solutions for creative design, enterprise search and ecommerce implementations. Lichon is responsible for company business operations, revenue generation, client success, and defining and executing growth strategies that deliver significant value to both clients and employees. Prior to BlueBolt, he worked for Fry Interactive, a pioneer in ecommerce consulting and technology. Based in Chicago, Lichon holds a degree from the University of Michigan and enjoys working on his salsa dancing skills when not behind his desk.