Customers’ expectations about their experiences they get from brands has evolved greatly over the last few years. Understanding their journeys and keeping up with those expectations across every stage of the relationship are both critical to ensuring that customers have a great experience.
How do brands do that? Well, by managing the customer journey, they can better understand their customers, improve satisfaction, and build long-term loyalty.
Let’s start with some definitions, and then I’ll go into a bit more detail about managing customer journeys.
What exactly is a customer journey? How does that differ from customer experience? Customer journey refers to the series of interactions or the end-to-end process that a customer goes through when engaging with a brand or organization. More broadly, it encompasses the entire lifecycle, from initial awareness to post-purchase interactions to exit. In addition to all of that, customer experience importantly includes the feelings, emotions, and perceptions about those interactions.
When we talk about customer journeys and meeting customer expectations in order to design and deliver a great experience, we have to think about the concept of customer journey management. In simplest terms, it refers to the process of understanding, mapping, and optimizing the experience customers have as they interact with your brand.
It involves tracking a customer’s path from initial brand awareness to decision making, the purchase, and beyond. The goal of customer journey management is to create a seamless and positive experience at every stage of the customer’s relationship with the organization.
Brands take a holistic view of customer interactions and optimize them to create a seamless, engaging, and valuable experience. It’s a strategic effort that not only leads to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty but also provides organizations with a competitive edge in today’s customer-centric business landscape.
A well-managed customer journey is one that is seamless, consistent, and positive across the many different interactions the customer has with a brand from the moment they become aware of the brand to well beyond their purchase. It’s about delivering a cohesive experience that meets customer expectations at every touchpoint, every channel.
A well-managed customer journey revolves around understanding and meeting customer needs at every stage of their engagement with the brand. It’s about creating a memorable and positive experience that builds trust, loyalty, and advocacy. The journey is designed and optimized with the customer at the center, ensuring that each touchpoint contributes to a coherent and satisfying overall experience.
As you can tell by now, managing customer journeys is great for customers. When done right. (More on that momentarily.) Clearly, customers benefit by having a better experience; by understanding the customer journey, organizations can deliver personalized and seamless experiences, thereby meeting and even exceeding customer expectations. Some of the experience optimizations include:
As I mentioned, when done right, both the customer and the business benefit. But what does it mean, “done right?” What are some of the critical steps in implementing customer journey management? Assuming you already have executive commitment for the resources needed to implement, you’ll need to do the following.
Journey management is an ongoing process that requires regular monitoring and optimization. As customers change – and as customer needs and expectations change – you need to adapt the journey accordingly.
You can’t execute customer journey management without the right tools or technologies. The specific tools and technologies that you’ll need will depend on the size and complexity of your business and your customer journey management goals for customer journey management.
Keeping up with customer expectations is more challenging today than ever, but you’ve just read about a great concept that can keep you in the game and, better yet, provide a competitive advantage. Remember that journey management is an ongoing process that puts the customer front and center, ensures that customers achieve their desired goals and outcomes as they interact with your brand, and brings them back to continue to do business because customers like to do business with brands that understand and care about them, make the experience simple, and personalize for their needs.
Annette Franz, CCXP is founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. Having started her career in this customer experience profession at J.D. Power and Associates in 1992, she’s got 30 years of experience (both client side and vendor side) helping companies understand their employees and customers and identify what drives retention, satisfaction, engagement, and the overall experience – so that employees, customers, and businesses reap the benefits and achieve their desired outcomes.
Customer service success requires constant innovation and a commitment to continuous improvement. To deliver this you need to be able to deploy new technology quickly to meet the changing needs of customers, employees, and the business.
Customers, more than ever, expect an omnichannel experience. They want the convenience of being able to move seamlessly between different digital and human channels.