39% of buyers continue to avoid mid-sized companies 2 or more years after a bad experience*. Let that one sink in for a while. 2 or more years. Does that make you want to rethink your customer service strategy?
The number of ways customers can engage with companies and brands almost seem infinite, doesn’t it? A visit to your website, a call to customer service, an interaction on social media, an email exchange, online chat support—each touchpoint along the way defines their customer journey and ultimately defines their customer experience.
As company/customer interactions continue to get more complex as a result of emerging technologies, real-time access to product and pricing information, and increasing competition, understanding the customer journey will become paramount for all companies, regardless of size.
And it’s up to you whether that customer journey is an incredibly smooth and enjoyable experience that leaves them wanting to tell everyone they know how awesome your company is. OR one that leaves them incredibly frustrated—wanting to tell everyone they know they think your company is terrible.
Understanding Your Customers
It might sound simple enough, but to truly understand the customer journey you need to first understand your customers—who they are, what they care about, and how they engage with your brand. What are their expectations? What types of information are they looking for when they are considering making a purchase?
Whether you create full-fledged buyer personas or just spend some time objectively trying to define who you think your customers are, those insights will be incredibly helpful as you start to understand their customer journey.
Mapping the Customer Journey
Once you know who your customers are, then it’s time to start thinking about all the different ways they can possibly engage with your brand before, during, and after they make a purchase. Their journey begins the second they experience a touchpoint with your business (no matter how big or small) and continues throughout their entire customer lifecycle.
Here’s a quick video on how to get started on creating a customer journey map. I think you’ll find it really helpful.
At each and every point, you need to identify both the good experiences and the bad—looking for ways to make sure those good experiences continue to happen while also trying to eliminate any of those bad experiences.
That’s one of the reasons I’m hell bent on companies rethinking their use of automated call trees. Nothing says “We don’t care about our customers” like automated call trees. Stop and think about your own customer journey when you engage with other brands—do you get all warm and fuzzy when you navigate an automated call tree?
Knowing Where Your Customers Are On Their Journey
Just as important as understanding their overall journey is your ability to understand where they are on that journey at each point in time. Back to the phone tree example, if they are a prospective customer that could be a huge miss as it could be their first and only point of contact.
The key is personalizing each experience based on each unique journey. That means you need to differentiate first-time customers from returning or former customers. Power users from casual consumers.
That also means you need to engage members of your team from across your organization. Understanding the customer journey and creating a culture of customer service is going to require having the right strategy, content, technology, and operational and organizational structure in place.
*Zendesk survey of 1046 respondents on the impact of customer service on customer lifetime value
[Image: Flickr user David Bleasdale]
Ready to start mapping your customer journey?
Here are 4 questions about the customer journey every marketer needs to answer.