Optimising The Customer Journey To Build Fantastic Customer Relationships
There are many corporate leaders who want to try optimising their customer journey, and for many reasons. The primary reason is that customer journeys are no longer the same linear experience as they used to be, but there is a secondary reason – they can almost always be improved for both the customer and the brand creating the business process.
Let’s consider the traditional customer journey. This should make it clear just how much has changed in the past few years.
The customer journey is really a series of touch points that begins when the customer first hears about your brand and hopefully continues long after they have made a purchase. So a traditional journey looked like this:
- Customer sees an ad or other marketing campaign and becomes aware of the product
- Customer seeks out more information or reviews so they have information to support the purchase
- Customer purchases the product
- Customer possibly calls the customer care line for help if they have doubts or questions
- Customer stays in touch with the brand through outreach and updates – a loyalty programme
What is clear is that this is a very linear view on the world. A customer cannot make a purchase without being aware of the product and they are unlikely to make a purchase without first seeking more information. So these steps are sequential and have to be followed in order.
Now think about a modern customer journey:
- Customer engages with search and social media – active viewer of YouTube and TikTok
- Customer swaps WhatsApp messages frequently with friends and family and often shares tips and ideas about interesting new products
- Customer engages with blogs, articles, review sites, and social media focused on comment – such as Twitter
- Customer buys products via app, online, or visits a store
- Customer documents their experience with reviews, videos, blogs, social media posts – what is the expectation against reality?
- Customer stays in touch with brands they appreciate through frequent social media engagement
It’s more like a circle now. You can start almost anywhere because customers are learning about new products from social media, from apps, from reviews, and from friends. The modern journey is very different to the one-way communication and then purchase of the past. Now the customer consumes ideas and information from a number of different sources, but they also contribute back into this pool of information with their own reviews and YouTube videos.
Obviously a purchase will still only take place after a customer becomes aware of a product, but there is a lot more messaging and research that can take place far more easily. The distance from awareness to purchase can be far shorter and for brands that are appreciated there is the opportunity to build an ongoing relationship using social media channels.
The real story here is that our approach to managing customer relationships has to dramatically change. We are not designing contact centre solutions that only ever interact with customers two minutes at a time – and just for complaints. Each individual interaction can form and reinforce a part of an ongoing relationship over many years.
A customer that buys shoes from Nike and shares an image online that is then appreciated by Nike – through something as simple as a ‘like’ on the photo – will often enter into an ongoing dialogue that creates advocacy. The customer stops considering other brands because they now have a relationship with this one.
Too many companies that design contact centre solutions are still looking at the traditional model of a customer journey. They are designing contact centres that are ready to handle post-purchase complaints or questions. Try throwing a question at one of these contact centres, such as “which of your sports products is best for long distance running” and they will struggle – an ongoing relationship and dialogue isn’t included in the KPIs.
This is a lazy approach. The world has changed. Any partner that is hired to provide a customer service solution has to be interacting with customers in the 2020s.
Some traditional contact centre companies will argue these points:
- If we optimise customer processes then that means fewer calls and fewer calls means we need fewer people and that means we have to charge less. Why would we actively optimise the process so we can earn less?
- We are not measured on how many times we share recipes or road race training tips so we can’t afford to engage in this dialogue.
This is how you can really determine what kind of customer service partner you are talking to. Ask them if they will benchmark your existing processes and recommend how the same number of customers could be served with fewer resources? Ask them how your existing processes could be improved rather than just replicated?
A partner with a long-term vision will advise on these strategic questions and will almost certainly offer this advice free. Because there is a value to customer service specialists in optimising how customer service can function – just it doesn’t work if you are going to use the same metrics and measures you applied a decade ago.