Organisations usually start their customer journey initiatives by mapping the different journeys that customers take during their buying experience. These maps typically define how customers first engage with the brand, and then plot a course through interactions with online content, contact centres, retail or online shopping and so on.
A customer journey map shows us what is happening with our customers right now.
And that’s the problem.
Customer journey maps are a record of what has happened and what will continue to happen.
These maps should not be treated as a finished document, but as a tool in efforts to improve the customer journey and optimise the customer experience. Because although a map shows us the customers journey, it tells us nothing about the frustration customers feel when they first try to buy, or the large numbers of customers who never manage to place an order, or the angry screeds written in online reviews because our online support is difficult to browse.
Customer journey maps are a vital step in optimising the customer experience, but they are just the first step; organisations must then use the map to understand the qualitative composition of the experience. How do our customers feel about this journey? Was it satisfactory? Or difficult? Is it the journey our customers choose? Or did we force them to take our preferred route? And how successful is the average customer journey? Do we have roadblocks, or points of high attrition?
Optimising customer journeys
Having mapped your customer journeys, it’s time to optimise. In most cases this means:
Adding data to journey maps. The map alone doesn’t show you where customers are abandoning orders, making complaints or getting frustrated with your support. This additional data will bring your customer journey maps to life and highlight areas for improvement.
Referring to agent feedback. Your agents know where customers encounter problems and get frustrated. And while you could argue that agents have just a small window on your entire company, they are hearing from your customers every single day and their insights are priceless.
Reviewing customer feedback. Make sure you listen to what your customers are saying and look for opportunities to improve the customer journey. Interaction Analytics supports this type of research and gives you a clear picture of your customers’ true feelings, so you can get beyond the superficial comments typically left in customer surveys.
Compare rates between channels. Is voice delivering better results than web chat? Perhaps email is outperforming SMS. Look for discrepancies, as they may suggest areas for improvement. Of course, there may also be an inherent difference between channels – and some divergence may be unavoidable.
Repair gaps. A common problem with customer journeys is transitions between types of query or processes that require different applications – or customers switching from a laptop to a mobile device. Identify these gaps and build bridges so fewer customers fall through the cracks. For example, our TrustCall Webchat/SMS service allows your contact centre agents to take payments seamlessly, without incurring any compliance risks.
Avoid repetition. Customers frequently cite ‘repetition’ as a source of frustration when interacting with brands. If your IVR system takes customer names or order numbers, why ask for it again when they get through to an operator? Wherever possible, use information you already have to make the customer’s life easier. Your customers already have 191 passwords to remember (source: LastPass) so look for ways remove the burden from them when they get in touch. Or use a service like ID Me which uses biometrics to accelerate the ID&V process.
Review the exceptions. Many of the challenges identified during your mapping process will be connected to edge cases; those less-common scenarios that don’t fit our standard journeys. For example, you might have a handful of customers who swap between Microsoft and Apple devices, or customers who use a mix of old and new technology, or customers who sometimes call from work, or customers who want to call you during the evening but use web chat during the day. Look for these exceptional cases and develop patches so that every customer gets a positive experience from your brand.
Insist on consistency. Even if your contact centre channels are managed by a centralised team, it’s easy to fall into silos of operations, with each channel gradually evolving differently, so that eventually standards fall away, and each channel has a different approach and different capabilities. The experience for customers can become frustrating and confusing – just the kind of experience that sends customers running to your competitors.
Optimisation is an ongoing process
Customer journey maps should never be a static record of what’s happening, they should be a guide to where you need to go. And the optimisation process must be continual. After making improvements, monitor the analytics and the feedback coming from customers and agents. And then prepare to deploy a new raft of improvements.