The secret to great experiences lies in the ability of a business to develop empathy with the customer. By understanding the needs of your customer you will be better able to design memorable experiences at your touchpoints with the potential to turn your customers into advocates. The key is in adopting the ‘outside-in’ ‘customer-first’ perspective in planning the experiences your touchpoints deliver. Touchpoints refer to the points where the customer interacts with your brand name, TV ads, web blogs, the showroom, the product itself, marketing emails, apps, checkout counter, consulting, packaging, and even invoices, bills, and payment systems to mention but a few. Customer experience protagonists have said that ‘too many companies make their decisions based on intuition rather than on smart Customer Experience focus strategies.’ To be oblivious to the experience expectancy of your customer is to risk a disengagement with their needs with the obvious consequence of lost business.
Stages of Consumption
The three consumption stages customers pass through are pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase. To deliver exceptional customer experiences aimed at fostering loyalty, you must examine each stage carefully. The stages are broken down into smaller actions or micro-stages as depicted below:
|Recognition||Receipt / Delivery||Fixation|
Credit: Tarvsan and Edem (2018)
Each micro stage can potentially influence a reaction from the customer which may help pursue the journey through to its conclusion or not. Consider this from your perspective. If you find yourself in need of a pizza meal for example you will pass through the three phases in the following manner. Under Pre-Purchase, you will consider and search, under Purchase, you will order, wait, have it delivered and consume. Under Post-Purchase you will dispose and perhaps share on your social network. Going through these phases will help you identify the ‘persona’ of your customer. A customer persona is a generalized representation of your typical customer. So for example in your community, the wise old lady everyone goes to for counsel and advice is one who is always price-conscious when she goes shopping. The Housewife or lady of the home is deemed to focus on how she can feed her whole household, a younger customer, is looking to buy in bulk, therefore, seizes every opportunity to win some juicy deals or discounts. The single young lady, a professional or business woman buys fewer groceries and focuses more on health food than price. Your awareness of the steps each segment of your customer goes through about your brand enables you to create several journey maps that accurately reflect the needs of each segment.
Each customer consciously or subconsciously pursues a goal at each micro-stage. The goal is to keep the customer engaged at each of the micro-stages such that they complete each stage and are guided to the next stage until the customer reaches a single desired end-goal. The provider of the service and/or product must therefore account for all the micro-goals along the experience journey. According to a customer engagement and loyalty survey conducted in 2018, 80% of consumers indicated they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences. Those who believe in personalized experiences are 10 times more likely to be a brand’s most valuable customer and are likely to make more than 15 transactions in one year. Amazon is exploring a drone delivery service that provides a way to track its prime air deliveries. Operations were meant to start in select cities in late 2019 however it remains in the pipeline. The service uses delivery drones to autonomously fly individual packages to customers within 30 minutes of ordering. I have shared this story once, of a British retiree I flew back to Ghana with some two years ago who was visiting Ghana for the first time and had located a hotel in Elmina that was offering him a range of personalized service from pick-up from the airport to visiting several places of interest while in Ghana. He found this hotel on the internet and chose them having been impressed by the cocktail of services they were offering.
By providing a personalized services you will potentially develop and keep loyal customers who will cherish the convenience your service offers and remain true to the brand. Note that at each stage of the journey, customers develop ideas, have feelings, and perform key actions in response to the touchpoints.
Good and Bad Experiences
The principle of transitional volatility was first described by David Danielson (2003). According to him, it is the degree of reorientation a person experiences when moving from page to page on a website. A high degree of transitional volatility exists when your touchpoints are inconsistent. My daughter had to go through an ordeal once when a transfer of her stipend ended up in the wrong account a mishap caused by her employer’s Accountant. Due to her young age, the unprofessional Accountant responded to my daughter’s promptings rather very sluggishly and naively referred to her as being greedy when all she was yearning for was to get paid for work she had performed. Anyway, let me focus on the lesson here to desist from unleashing any more venom in this matter [sic].
To begin with, after enduring the ordeal of the unprofessional Accountant she later found herself at the mercy of the bank who insisted on her presenting the pay Advice from her Accountant. That took some time for obvious reasons however what was even more disconcerting was, that the bank seemed to disagree on who was responsible for that transaction. Her experience spanned a few months of going back and forth using different approaches from emails to letters, phone calls, and onsite visits. Eventually, she met a listening Manager who, having understood the issue rectified the anomaly to have her account duly credited. In the end, she received no compensation for all her troubles.
The advice is clear: don’t compel people to bridge gaps in your offering. That’s the job of your business. According to renowned author, speaker, and instructor in user experience design, Jim Kalbach (2019), “Mapping experiences allows you to locate transitional volatility within a broader system of interactions and find innovative solutions to address it.” The imperative here is the need to understand the multiple factors that make up an experience to allow you to determine which part to focus on and as well avoid negative experiences even if beyond your control. We might ask what emotions would my daughter have gone through had she been openly received by an official of the bank and been given prior attention in resolving her payment challenge. During those conversations, her emotions took several turns from sadness to hope, satisfaction, and then disappointment when ultimately the bank failed to compensate her for several months of discomfiture even after she had written to them to complain. Suffice to say she uses less of their services today. By capturing customers’ wants and needs at each stage of their experience a business can learn very effectively ‘outside-in’ how to address nagging issues. Your focus must be ‘I the customer’, bar the word ‘we’ to help think ‘outside-in’ in your journey mapping.
Moments of Truth
The moment of truth is the moment of decision. It is a customer’s first interaction with a brand, product, or service. This is where the customer decides whether to go on to the next stage with the brand or not. In reality, the customer experience journey should be perceived as a timeline rather than separate actions at each touchpoint. The reason being that the customer is in a continual process of valuation and assessment that triggers changes in his/her attitudes, emotions, and behaviour as s/he interacts with brand-related stimuli.
The moment of truth has several common variations namely; Product, a myriad of options available to the customer, and clarity of the message given online, depicting a hotel’s service range. Additionally, a customer encounters a new electronic gadget while window shopping and takes a look. Service, a customer visits a hotel for the first time during a holiday tour. My personal experience where a self-checkout machine malfunctioned and led to the store manager handing me the items for free on that day was a moment of truth scenario. My brother’s story about the hotel staff calling him by his first name anytime he entered the restaurant and taking the trouble to usher him was a typical moment of truth scenario. Brand, a customer’s first encounter with your brand be it accidental or discovered by referral or other means. I recall the British ex-serviceman’s discovery of the Hotel at Elmina online as a classic example. He had never been to Ghana or Africa for that matter and Ghana was the choice he made from his research a real moment of truth scenario.
The term Moments of truth was popularized by Joe Carlzon, the then CEO for SAS Airlines in his book titled ‘Moments of Truth’. He starts the book with a story of a customer who arrived at the airport without his boarding pass. The SAS agent personally drove back to the hotel where he left it and delivered it to him at the airport. This left an indelible impression on the customer. There are four phases or ‘moments’ of truth that a customer goes through when exposed to a brand. In each phase, they summarize their experiences, evaluate them, and decide whether or not to continue with the brand.
First, the Zero Moment of truth, this is gained by the customer through secondary research. It normally includes online reviews, visits to the company website, vendors’ websites, social media, advertisements, and word-of-mouth among others. The phrase was coined by Google, according to them at this stage the customer does not directly interact with the product or service. The zero moments of truth are NOT the beginning stage of consumption! If the customer decides to go on to the consumption stage i.e. online or going to the store, then it means the brand has planted the ‘purchase intention’ into the mind of that customer. Second, at this stage, the customer experiences the first moment of truth where s/he becomes aware of a brand’s products. The customer at this stage makes one of two decisions: ‘Purchase Conation’ (s/he intends to buy) or ‘Purchase Behaviour’ (s/he makes a purchase).
A good example here would be in a showroom where you have gone in to purchase a laptop. The salesperson may suggest a lower-priced competing brand with features that your original choice doesn’t have. Conversely on your way to the store you see an ad on your mobile phone for another brand. There is also a possibility of rebounding to Zero moments of truth if you find yourself confused an=bout which choice to make you might want some more time to reflect on a final solution.
Third, this is the second moment of truth. As a consequence of the second moment of truth, customers form what is known as the ‘expected value’. This is the value they expect the service or product they purchase to produce. After purchasing customers experience the ‘received value’. The comparison between these two will influence future buy decisions. Companies that provide customer satisfaction and customer delight foster ‘attitudinal loyalty’ and/or ‘behavioral loyalty’ in their customers. Fourth, not all customers pass on to this level from the second moment of truth. This involves a considerable amount of emotion: they are either frustrated or delighted with what they experienced with the brand and choose to share their feelings.
The key is not to assume that each touchpoint for your offering operates flawlessly. The need to verify that your operations support each consumption stage is paramount to ensure that they are operating properly. Keep a keen eye on your background operations behind your customer journey stages. By doing so religiously, you may prevent your customers from having an unsatisfying experience with your brand and switching to your competition. This is why customer journey mapping is so essential.
|The Writer is the Managing Consultant at Capability Trust Limited a People and Learning Organisation serving the market with Talent Acquisition and Management, Leadership Development, HR Outsourcing and General HR Advisory, Training and consulting services. He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected]/ www.linkedin.com/in/km-13b85717|