Manage customer journeys, not customer lifecycles

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher November 23, 2015
Organizations continue to struggle to manage the entire customer lifecycle when they could see more success focusing on one journey at the time.

Customer experience management is a beast. Most of the time organizations talk the good talk, extolling the virtue and necessity of great customer experience across the entire customer lifecycle, but some things are easier said than done. CX is one of those.

Customer experience management is on the top of every C-Suite executives’ list. Surveys across the board show that marketers expect to compete on the basis of customer experience by 2016. But as Tim Walters, Partner and Principal Analyst at the Digital Clarity Group says, we’ve been talking about CX for years, but we’ve seen more failures than successes.

We hear more about unhappy customers, about the challenges and roadblocks to delivering on CX strategies, than we do about how to approach CX to achieve success.

Look at the Forrester CX Index for Q3 2015. Of the 92 brands scored from one period to the next, seven of them got better, the rest scored worse:

Six months ago, 26% of brands received an OK score. This time – just 15% did. And for brands in industries as diverse as auto manufacturers, credit card providers, and parcel shippers, more consumers told us that their CX was anything but good.

Why CX success is so elusive

Why are so many organizations challenged to deliver a great customer experience? Walters provides four possible reasons:

  1. They don’t do enough - They claim it’s a strategic priority, but they don’t give it enough budget, or they don’t invest in the knowledge and skills required.
  2. They do too much of the wrong thing - there are plenty of ways to reach out to customers, and most of them are really bad. Walters says organizations don’t pay enough attention to the “customer’s experience.”
  3. It’s impossible to fundamentally change priorities, processes or culture. This is a reality many can’t seem to recognize. “Organizations are hard to change because they are organized. They are intended to express and execute a certain form or (business) model.”
  4. They are trying to solve the wrong problem. Managing the customer experience within the entire customer lifecycle is virtually impossible, but that’s how many do it.

It’s not that great customer experience isn’t possible, or that organizations can’t change at all to support better customer experience; it’s simply that they have to recognize it requires a fundamentally different approach than what most are use to. It also means they have to pay attention to the customer and what they need. And that, Walters, points out, is where customer journeys are key.

CX should focus on one journey at time

Customer journey mapping is also not new. I work with organizations who build customer personas and attempt to map out purchase journeys to support marketing initiatives. Some do a better job than others, but everyone “tries” to put the customer in the driver’s seat.

I talked about personas and journey mapping for content marketing, but journey mapping is perfect for more than marketing. It’s also a great way to understand how to best provide customer support or customer service, and to define the best internal processes.

Customer journeys map a particular customer problem and how they solve it. They follow the customer’s interactions as they attempt to solve their problem or meet their need.

Every organization can have dozens or more different customer journeys, so thinking you can map them all and support them all is the wrong approach. Walters suggests determining which ones are the high-value journeys that provide the most revenue opportunity or the biggest potential to influence the customer experience and focus on those.

Within these high-value customer journeys, look for “hotspots” or moments of truth. These are the areas that have the biggest potential to influence the CX positively or negatively. It’s these moments of truth you want to spend your time and effort improving.

Benefits to customer journey mapping:

  • Limited in number
  • Cross-functional
  • Measurable business impacts
  • Manageable
  • Provides framework, business justification and requirements that have been desperately needed by intranet, enterprise social and managerial change initiatives.

Want more reasons to do customer journey mapping?

Walters offers two really important reasons to do customer journey maps that should make sense to every marketer, sales and support executive in an organization.

Mapping customer journeys show you clearly where personalization is useful, and they tell you exactly what data you require to deliver the best experience.

Personalization is critical to great experiences, but not every interaction needs to be personalized, and interactions that do need to be personalized may require different levels of personalization. Journey mapping shows you where in the customer’s journey you need to provide personalized interactions and to what extent.

Then there’s data. Organizations collect more data than they can handle. They sometimes ask for far too much information from customers, and they don’t even explain what they plan to do with it. That makes customers wary and less inclined to continue their journey with you.

You only need to collect enough data to support the customer as they move along their specific journey. Use this data to personalize the right interactions and maintain it to support connected journeys, so you aren’t asking for the same data over and over again.

Journeys up make the customer lifecycle

A series of customer journeys should make up the customer lifecycle, which means you are, in effect, managing the entire experience across the customer lifecycle. You are just doing it in bite-sized chunks that make sense to the customer, focusing on key areas that have the most potential to influence the customer experience.

I’ll leave you with Christine Crandell’s advice on journey mapping she gave me a while ago:

Document your customer journey maps - the more detailed, the better. Don’t stress over the format. It’s NOT how pretty the picture is, but how well does the content capture what buyers do, who they talk to, what they look for, and how they make their internal decisions.

Image credit: girl with multicolored balloons and bag © Masson

A grey colored placeholder image