Customers’ expectations about their experiences they get from brands has evolved greatly over the last few years. Understanding their journeys and keeping up with those expectations across every stage of the relationship are both critical to ensuring that customers have a great experience.
How do brands do that? Well, by managing the customer journey, they can better understand their customers, improve satisfaction, and build long-term loyalty.
Let’s start with some definitions, and then I’ll go into a bit more detail about managing customer journeys.
What are Customer Journeys?
What exactly is a customer journey? How does that differ from customer experience? Customer journey refers to the series of interactions or the end-to-end process that a customer goes through when engaging with a brand or organisation. More broadly, it encompasses the entire lifecycle, from initial awareness to post-purchase interactions to exit. In addition to all of that, customer experience importantly includes the feelings, emotions, and perceptions about those interactions.
What is Customer Journey Management?
When we talk about customer journeys and meeting customer expectations in order to design and deliver a great experience, we have to think about the concept of customer journey management. In simplest terms, it refers to the process of understanding, mapping, and optimising the experience customers have as they interact with your brand.
It involves tracking a customer’s path from initial brand awareness to decision making, the purchase, and beyond. The goal of customer journey management is to create a seamless and positive experience at every stage of the customer’s relationship with the organisation.
Brands take a holistic view of customer interactions and optimise them to create a seamless, engaging, and valuable experience. It’s a strategic effort that not only leads to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty but also provides organisations with a competitive edge in today’s customer-centric business landscape.
What is a Well-Managed Customer Journey?
A well-managed customer journey is one that is seamless, consistent, and positive across the many different interactions the customer has with a brand from the moment they become aware of the brand to well beyond their purchase. It’s about delivering a cohesive experience that meets customer expectations at every touchpoint, every channel.
A well-managed customer journey revolves around understanding and meeting customer needs at every stage of their engagement with the brand. It’s about creating a memorable and positive experience that builds trust, loyalty, and advocacy. The journey is designed and optimised with the customer at the centre, ensuring that each touchpoint contributes to a coherent and satisfying overall experience.
What are the Benefits of Customer Journey Management?
As you can tell by now, managing customer journeys is great for customers. When done right. (More on that momentarily.) Clearly, customers benefit by having a better experience; by understanding the customer journey, organisations can deliver personalised and seamless experiences, thereby meeting and even exceeding customer expectations. Some of the experience optimisations include:
- Needs anticipation
- Smooth, seamless transitions
- Reduced pain and friction
- Relevant content and recommendations
Of course, the brand benefits as well. Some of those benefits include:
- Increased loyalty and retention: meeting customer needs at each stage of the journey cultivates loyalty and encourages repeat business.
- Improved satisfaction and advocacy: a positive experience fosters satisfaction and turns customers into brand advocates who recommend the organisation to others.
- Competitive advantage: brands that effectively manage the journey gain a competitive edge by differentiating themselves through superior experiences.
- Increased revenue and business growth: satisfied and loyal customers make additional purchases and contribute to revenue growth.
- Cost savings: eliminating unnecessary touchpoints and removing inefficiencies helps the brand save time and money.
How is Journey Management Done Right?
As I mentioned, when done right, both the customer and the business benefit. But what does it mean, “done right?” What are some of the critical steps in implementing customer journey management? Assuming you already have executive commitment for the resources needed to implement, you’ll need to do the following.
- Understand your customers. Take the time to do the work; talk to customers. Then develop your customer personas, which will allow you to tailor experiences for your customers based on those personas.
- Map the customer journey. Identify the various touchpoints and interactions customers have with your brand throughout the various lifecycle stages. Define their goals for each interaction and stage of the journey.
- Gather customer data. You have a lot of it, from surveys, purchase transactions, customer service interactions, website analytics, social media interactions, etc. Make sure you document customer needs, emotions, and pain points at every touchpoint.
- Analyse the data. Identify pain points and areas for improvement along the journey. Look for opportunities to optimise the experience.
- Design the experience. Align touchpoints with customer needs and expectations to create a consistent experience across channels. Ensure that each touchpoint supports customers in their journey.
- Personalise. Use the data to create personalised interactions, content, and recommendations. Ensure there’s consistency in messaging, branding, and the experience across all channels and touchpoints.
- Foster collaboration. Ensure that there’s cross-functional alignment so that all employees understand their roles and responsibilities in delivering a cohesive experience.
- Test and iterate. Track customer interactions and behaviours. Look for opportunities to streamline processes and enhance experiences. Implement changes and improvements based on feedback and insights. Continuously test different approaches to understand what resonates with customers.
- Measure success. Implement changes and measure success. This means you’ve defined your objectives and what success looks like when you started.
Journey management is an ongoing process that requires regular monitoring and optimisation. As customers change – and as customer needs and expectations change – you need to adapt the journey accordingly.
What Tools or Technology Do I Need?
You can’t execute customer journey management without the right tools or technologies. The specific tools and technologies that you’ll need will depend on the size and complexity of your business and your customer journey management goals for customer journey management.
Here are just some of the tools you will need.
- Journey mapping software: to visualise the customer journey, collaborate on improvements, and track changes over time.
- Customer feedback platform: to gather feedback from customers to identify pain points and areas for improvement.
- CRM system: to help centralise customer data and interactions, enabling organisations to track and manage the customer journey effectively.
- Analytics and data visualisation tools: to provide insights into customer behaviour and user interactions; data visualisation platforms help present complex data in a visually understandable format.
- Marketing automation platforms: to automate and personalise timely messages to customers at different stages of the journey.
- Content management system (CMS): to create and manage content for different stages of the journey, content that is consistent, timely, and relevant.
- Customer service software: to streamline support interactions and manage customer inquiries.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI): to automate tasks, personalise the experience, and predict customer needs.
Keeping up with customer expectations is more challenging today than ever, but you’ve just read about a great concept that can keep you in the game and, better yet, provide a competitive advantage. Remember that journey management is an ongoing process that puts the customer front and centre, ensures that customers achieve their desired goals and outcomes as they interact with your brand, and brings them back to continue to do business because customers like to do business with brands that understand and care about them, make the experience simple, and personalise for their needs.
About the author
Annette Franz, CCXP is founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. Having started her career in this customer experience profession at J.D. Power and Associates in 1992, she’s got 30 years of experience (both client side and vendor side) helping companies understand their employees and customers and identify what drives retention, satisfaction, engagement, and the overall experience – so that employees, customers, and businesses reap the benefits and achieve their desired outcomes.