Customer experience : improving customer journeys

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Today, products and prices are no longer enough to make a difference on the market. Customer experience is key for brands to secure their position and appeal to new customers. And the quality of this experience depends on the customer journey, begging the questions: How do you design the best customer journey possible? And based on what criteria?

What exactly is a Customer journey?

Forrester website defines the customer journey as:  “The customer journey spans a variety of touchpoints by which the customer moves from awareness to engagement and purchase.”

“You have to look past this text-book definition to what the customer journey effectively is and is not. It is not an internal process, but truly a life situation from the customer’s point of view. One that involves every single action he/she takes”, explains Emmanuel Richard, Executive Director of Extens Consulting, the consulting firm specialized in Customer Relations.

“As a company, you can imagine whatever customer journey you want, but ultimately it is the customer who has control over it. At any given time, he can choose to end it… or not. […] It is absolutely crucial to think from a customer’s perspective”, adds Désirée Pels, the firm’s Senior Consultant.

To enhance customer journeys: think ease!

To enhance or reinvent customer journeys, brands need to stop thinking in terms of procedures and start thinking in terms of their customers. Everything should be easy. “Never forget your employees!” stresses Emmanuel Richard. “If it’s easy for them, it’ll be easy for your customers.”

Keeping ease and simplicity in mind is a good way to be sure you’re heading in the right direction when devising customer journeys.

Brands such as Uber, AirBnB and Apple know this only too well. They’ve successfully disrupted established markets by offering not only different products and services but altogether different experiences. No need to pay at a cash register in an Apple Store. Just take out your smartphone, pay online and walk out! With Uber, you can track your driver, know when he’ll arrive and pay via mobile on the spot.

Changing your customer journeys: where to begin and what to prioritize?

Introducing changes to customer journeys is a long-term endeavor. Brands have to focus their effort first on the most decisive steps, those that entail the heaviest consequences and have the most value: the so-called “moments of truth” for both brand and customer.

How do you chose? 2 main criteria come into play:

  • 1/ From a customer point of view: the emotion triggered
  • 2/ From a company point of view: the financial stakes

For example, in case of an accident, the emotional response can be very intense. This accident will lead to a “customer journey” with an insurance company: calling the insurance company, sending the paperwork, receiving a refund… A number of actions more or less difficult to handle. On his end, the insurer should identify the most difficult actions the insured person has to undertake, particularly from an emotional point of view. Once these actions have been identified, the insurer needs to direct all his efforts toward improving these specific customer journey moments in order to deliver a better experience to the customer.

In the case of a gas company for instance, a customer can encounter problems understanding his/her bill and call the company as a consequence. These calls will cost a great deal to the company but won’t amount to anything (as the company simply informs the customer and that’s it). Identifying such an event within the customer journey can help brands rethink and rework their billing templates so as to save time and money. On his/her end, the customer avoids wasting time, benefits from a smoother end-to-end experience that doesn’t involve unnecessary questions, and ends up far more satisfied.

However, the same company can receive calls from customers who wish to terminate their contract. In such cases, it’s important for the company to maintain these calls: “they are very valuable as they provide a terrific opportunity for a brand to retain a customer or understand why he/she intends to leave”, explains Désirée Pels.

Customer journeys are at the heart of Customer Experience. They have real consequences on customer loyalty and recommendation rates: “which matter considerably when you know that a satisfied customer shares his/her experience with 3 others, whereas a dissatisfied customer will let 12 others know about it”, emphasizes Emmanuel Richard.

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