Who Defines The Customer Journey? - Customer Journey Missteps - Part Two

By Jennifer McLeod of CMA's Customer Experience Council

I have recently been pondering, in some detail, about how we map the customer journey today and how this process has become increasingly complex in the modern service environment.

Consider how a generic customer service situation generally worked a decade ago: The brand defined which channels the customer could use to contact them –typically a toll-free telephone number and a customer service email address. The brand defined the days and times that customer service would be offered. The brand then measured their success in dealing with customers with performance indicators such as First Call Resolution (FCR) and Average Handle Time (AHT),  trying to answer the question “did we manage to deal with that question quickly and the first time that the customer contacted us?”

Accordingly, with limited communication options and the brand in charge, organizations typically divided the customer relationship into touch points that were separately managed by the applicable department.

All this was true until quite recently, but now the use of mobile Internet is common and we have so many communication channels used by various customers.   So needless to say, the journey has changed…. a lot.

Thanks to the Internet and more recently, the impact of mobile technology, think about the ways the customer journey has changed. Customers learn about products using a variety of devices from a variety of sources like customer review forums, social media, product reviews and more.  They electronically consul with friends, family and strangers around the world in real time.  With a push of a button they can see who is offering that product online or in a store nearby – and quickly see who is offering the best price. Although they may visit a brick and mortar store, they still comparison shop while in the store isles.  Brands have learned how to take advantage of this and now offer multiple channels of communication with their customers before, during and after the sale. 

That’s a very different journey isn’t it? In particular notice how it’s common for us all to communicate with brands long before we ever purchase anything today. You might ask an airline about the kind of food they offer on board or a hotel chain about the in-room movie selection. It also goes almost without saying that the customer no longer waits for a specified time to get in touch, or uses a channel defined by the brand.

This communication between the customer and a brand at any stage of the customer journey is particularly important. Brands are no longer measuring comments and complaints and measuring their own efficiency by the speed with which they can handle an enquiry. Look at the hotel example I gave. If you are thinking of booking a room, you ask about the movie selection on your favorite social network and you get no answer then you probably feel ignored by that brand. If they answer with a link to their movie choices it’s better. If they give a personal response saying ‘here are the current choices, but you tell us what you want and let’s see if we can arrange it’ then that’s even better and highly personal.

In fact these interactions throughout the entire customer journey cannot be classified as customer service alone. They involve marketing and sales and can perhaps more correctly be called customer relationship management – engaging with your customer whether they have already made a purchase or they may make one in the future.

Many brands have developed ways of engaging with their customers that are not connected to the traditional idea of customer service being the only touch point. Look at the HOG Clubs (Harley Owners Group) all over the world that Harley Davidson motorcycles sponsors and supports. For a relatively modest spend, Harley Davidson creates ultra-loyal customers who promote the brand and would never dream of buying a bike from another brand.

But how does engagement in a HOG Club fit into a customer mapping exercise? I believe that in the present environment, we need to redefine how we measure and define the customer experience and how service is provided across multiple channels.

Companies with a long heritage may feel they know their customer and this adjustment to the customer journey is unnecessary, but I would warn against complacency. The majority of employees are now from the millennial generation. They grew up with the Internet and cell phones as common place. Even if you think you know your customers from decades of experience, the customer is changing.

How would you define the modern customer journey and how can a brand map the journey when customers are defining what they want? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

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Tags: customer journey, brands, customer relationship management, customer service, customer mapping, marketing, sales