Using your journey map to capture and anticipate customer needs

  • Aim at reducing customer effort while ensuring that employees are aligned

Every business aims primarily at delivering high-quality services (and/or products) consistently to keep customers satisfied and more importantly get them to come back and even tell others to enhance and grow its market. The customer journey is an effective way of achieving the goal of understanding the needs of the customer from their perspective and committing to meeting the needs effectively and efficiently.

The Customer Journey describes the interactions people have with your company over time as they engage your brand through all available channels (phone, digital, in-branch, mail, broadcast media, face-to-face, etc.). The customer journey focuses on what people do, what they experience, what their expectations are, and how they generally feel about your company through their interactions with you. This can be a focus on a specific task (e.g. buying a product) or the entire customer lifecycle.

In all this, the goal of the service provider is to deliver value by anticipating and meeting customer needs (being relevant). As is the case in mapping the journey you begin the process where the service and communication start. The triggers are driven internally (reducing cost, increasing sales) using insight to balance customer needs and business needs ensuring you nurture more valuable customer relationships.  Customers will respond to your efforts by giving rave reviews (both online and off) and generate business for you, often for free.

Since your goal is to deliver the brand promise at every touchpoint you must ensure therefore that both front-line and back-end staff understand what it means to them and how they can deliver the brand promise in their everyday interactions. The journey map will help you give the brand values tangible, meaningful expression. A customer journey map is a visual representation of the customer journey (also called the buyer journey or user journey).

What does the journey map help achieve? It helps you tell the story of customers’ experiences with your brand across all touchpoints. A touchpoint is any moment a customer interacts with your brand. From advertisements to a thank you note they receive after a purchase, the company’s email, website, social media, or in-store whichever way a customer interacts with your brand. These touchpoints are included within your map to enable you to collect feedback and identify patterns on how they are feeling at each interaction. When employees have a common understanding of the customer journey they are better aligned and motivated to deliver the experience.

Here are some key considerations for mapping the customer journey and leveraging its benefits: first, it allows you to optimize the customer onboarding process; Second, it enables you to see the experience from the customer’s perspective; Third, it helps you understand the buyer personas as they journey across your touchpoints, and fourth, it eliminates silo thinking, It pays to understand the customer’s experience at every stage of the journey. By dealing with their needs, you gain valuable insights to enable you to improve their experience and address pain points.

Customer onboarding

Onboarding is generally an end-to-end process for the customer that encompasses the following; helping prospective buyers understand the features and benefits of the offering, educating a wide range of both buyers and users, on the product or service that has been purchased, providing guidance, helping on how to get the most out of the product while avoiding potential pitfalls and problems, and detailing the low-effort procedure for securing assistance if and when they encounter problems or challenges. This is handholding to ensure that the customer gets optimal value from the product or service.

It is an iterative (continuous) process that encompasses the marketing and sales steps of the journey. This underscores the need for a collaborative understanding of the journey across the business to ensure that all touchpoints are primed to engage the customer insightfully. The individual elements of this process are available to customers throughout their lifecycle as they add or upgrade additional products or features. This is particularly important in the purchase of technical products and services. When customers lack a full understanding of how to install newly acquired equipment you must be ready to provide the needed assistance.

By providing a smooth onboarding process you mitigate the profoundly negative effect on the customer. Note that not all customers have the patience to carefully read through the technical notes or videos that come along with your product. It is an opportunity to make a great first impression with customers, while also laying the groundwork for a long and fulfilling relationship. This is where your buyer persona will prove valuable. It presents an innovative method for motivating and delivering fit-for-purpose onboarding services. The phases of your customer journey bring essential elements to light and empower you as a business to address customer needs more proactively. How you onboard your new customers determine your ongoing relationship with them.

When clients have a great experience right from onboarding them and providing a satisfactory journey you hand yourself a good chance of retaining them. Studies have shown that successful customer onboarding will ensure long-term customer loyalty. Gaining customer trust is one of the most critical priorities and this helps in building a loyal customer base.

Benchmarking the customer expectations

According to recent research, consumers have high expectations for seamless omnichannel experiences (omnichannel – streamlining all the customer interactions across multiple touchpoints in a unified way to deliver a consistent brand experience), when moving from one communication method to another such as from phone to text or chat to phone as part of one interaction journey. The numbers tell the story of what customers expect from companies. 96 percent expect companies to make it easy without the need to repeat information.

94 percent want seamless access to a customer service agent even if they use self-service. 95 percent expect companies to direct them to the channel for the quickest resolution, and 83 percent say that if they use a chatbot, they expect to switch to chat, text, or phone in the same interaction.  This tells the story that if your business can provide customers with seamless access across different touchpoints you are on your way to a potential customer journey with a high rate of customer retention.

The 2020 global pandemic has precipitated customers’ urge for omnichannel interactions. During the 2020 global pandemic, interaction volumes for contact centres surged across all interaction types. One in four consumers increased the number of times they reached out to businesses compared to the months before the pandemic began. Consumers reported using the website more frequently (42 percent), as well as phone (33 percent), online chat (32 percent), and email (32 percent). Overall many consumers reported that the quality of customer service was about the same, however, 28 percent experienced more negative interactions. Meeting the high expectations of customers will increase their trust in your brand.

Understand the buyer persona

Today’s sophisticated world provides the average buyer with many more ways to interact with businesses as they source for and acquire their products. Accordingly, in their interactions, they explore various channels and platforms. This notwithstanding, one thing all customers have in common however is the desire for a positive experience. Michael Gerber in his book E-Myth (also known as the Entrepreneurial Myth) tells a personal story of how an understanding of his persona led him to patronize a hotel’s services consistently.

He describes a scenario where on his early visits to a specific hotel he quickly discovered that they had observed his routine such that they knew which paper he read, what his breakfast preference was, and his room setting. This caught his attention quickly and soon settled in for their services anytime he was on a business trip in their state.

Here is a caveat about omnichannel access in the customer journey. It is said that 22 percent of the consumers feel the average retailer understands them as an individual, and only 21 percent feel the communications they receive from the average retailer are “usually relevant.” The availability of various touch points across multiple channels and devices can make the experience of customers more taxing. Your goal is to overcome this and make their interactions less taxing for them.

As far back as 1984 in a small town in the UK called Gateshead Tesco, the supermarket chain began home deliveries of groceries. What started as a basic service for an online shopper, a 72-year-old grandmother, who ironically had the name Mrs. Jane Snowball purchased groceries from her local Tesco store in a pioneering online shopping transaction. This experience led to the snowballing of online shopping within the UK.

Here in Ghana online shopping has become very popular among young folks. This notwithstanding skepticism remains as most Ghanaians worry about their safety when it comes to shopping online and about the quality of the products sold on online platforms. Fortunately, these online shops through hard work are now providing high-quality goods at par with the quality of goods found in physical stores.

It eliminates silo thinking

Many organizations are comfortable with functional silos. Silos may be a great way to store grain but can cause problems when a silo mentality runs unchecked in a company. In a siloed context, individual departments, regional offices, different channels, and even in different management levels are highly visible within the organization.

In an ideal world, silos are useful as they often foster expertise in different areas and promote a sense of individuality, accountability, and responsibility. Unfortunately, in the real-world silos are costly, and avoidable and could lead to poor communication between different parts of the company. Ultimately this leads to a loss of sales because the customer will go elsewhere, where it is easier to do business. Our goal is to create an outside-in customer-centric culture, one that has the interest of the customer at the heart of its operations.

To focus on the customer, we must bring people together so they begin to understand the interdependencies between departments and the impact it has on customers. When we stay close to the customer we learn how we are missing, meeting, or exceeding their expectations.

By having a common view of the customer we share information freely across the enterprise and deliver it into the hands of those people who impact the customer. It also discourages information hoarding and improves collaboration. we create an atmosphere where we work collaboratively through cross-functional teams. Visibility of the customer journey across the organization is seamless.

When the organization has cross-functional visibility of the customer journey, the journey mapping process is a cross-functional activity that brings all employees behind the customer experience and prepares them to engage the customer at any touchpoint empowered to deliver an out-of-the-world experience for the customer. More importantly, when the customer journey is the focus of the whole organization it paves the way for an internal culture of customer centricity where the employee experience aligns with the customer experience ultimately leading to an increase in the number of satisfied customers.

The Writer is a Change and CX Management Consultant. He can be reached at 059 175 7205, [email protected],

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