ARTICLE: Mastering the Art of Customer Journeys

Customer journeys are at the heart  of great customer experience. In this article, we share some thoughts about why they are so critical and where to start.

Part 1: Rethinking the customer journeY

Why Are Customer Journeys So Important?

Imagine your customers getting what they want first time every time? Sounds great doesn’t it?

Whilst this remains the ultimate goal it is often not possible. Regulatory requirements, dependencies on the customer or simply not having the necessary tools or knowledge deployed lead to a multi-stage process. Customer journeys stitch together the multiple touchpoints to give an end to end view of the customer’s experience.

Transitioning to measuring customer journeys can be transformational in terms of understanding the true customer experience. Ten phone calls that were all answered quickly but ultimately didn’t resolve the customer’s problem give a false sense of achievement and service. Seeing the customer through the end to end journey helps to highlight internal dysfunction both in individual stages of the journey and in the handoffs between business areas.

Taking a joined-up view of the customer journey allows you to intervene where you can make the biggest improvements for customers. Additionally, this view allows you the opportunity to set expectations with customers upfront about the path they are likely to travel. That expectation management is a critical part of reducing frustration with unavoidable delays.

See the World from a Customer Perspective.

We all have busy lives, picking up the phone or writing an email takes effort. The majority of services we consume we see as necessities and therefore our preference as customers is to invest as little time in them as possible.

Organisations have generally accepted the importance of tracking customer satisfaction and it is a rarity to come across an organisation today that does not have a mechanism for gathering customer feedback. This feedback, coupled with complaints information, offers a great starting point for understanding customers.

The Cross 8 team have conducted root cause analysis of complaints and customer satisfaction data for both Utilities and Financial Service organisations and two consistent themes stand out:

1. Customers are generally very satisfied with the person or platform they interacted with.

2. Frustration comes from the failed promises that follow the initial interactions when their need was not resolved. 

The main challenge with complaints and satisfaction data is bridging between what the customer says and the required action to fix it. Customers do not understand your organisation and therefore they describe their experience and not the problem.

This is where customer journeys allow you to follow the end-to-end experience for the customer, identify a true root cause and rectify it for future customers. When processes are fragmented across multiple teams, for example due to regulatory separation, practical divisions (location for example) or skills boundaries, seeing through that fragmentation is critical to removing those failed promises.

Part 2: Enhancing the customer journey

Improving customer journeys starts with three key deliverables:

Executive Sponsorship

Shifting to a journey way of working will require changes across processes, systems and most importantly culture. A shift to becoming truly customer focused will not happen without the right level of visible executive sponsorship and an active campaign to promote the shift mindsets.

Process Understanding

It is critical to understand the key processes that form the customer journeys. Ideally these are mapped down to detailed process maps with local working procedure documentation for the specific stages but even high level maps can support the initial understanding.

Reporting

Gather all the information that is available, stitching together the transactional stage by stage reporting into an overview of the key customer journeys and overlaying the feedback from customers in the form of complaints and satisfaction surveys.

Building these three interdependent elements will allow you to reach a baseline view of what the true experience feels like for your customers. The effort required to reach a complete baseline is not to be underestimated but the results can be truly enlightening. On all three elements we would suggest progress, not perfection, is the byword – every step you make on each will open up new doors to customer understanding and improvement.

Improving Customer Journeys

Having created a baseline view of the customer journeys you now have the ability to improve them through:

1. Proactively resolving live journeys. Slow moving customer journeys can be identified in reporting and targeted for rectification. This may take the form of focusing the current process owners on the journey time as opposed to the transactional timetable, or more involved activities such as case clinics depending on the scale and nature of the delayed work items.

2. Focusing your improvement resources on the areas that are causing customers the most pain in the process. The improvement toolset is part of any good continuous improvement approach, but the difference is your team will be armed with a more rounded picture of the customer making their activity more targeted.

3. Investing in technology where it can be most impactful rather than where it is most visible.

The Role of Technology 

Technology has the capacity to significantly enhance customer outcomes however sometimes because of a lack of understanding it is deployed piecemeal in a way that adds significant customer and business complexity.

Every time you add a new method of transacting or communicating with your organisation, for example an online payment portal or a secure mail portal, you exponentially increase the possible paths a customer can travel to get their outcome. Customers expect to be able to move seamlessly between channels. If you don’t grasp this interconnectivity those additional options you have added may actually lead them to have a worse experience and a higher cost to serve as they drop into gaps between channels and processes, causing frustration and complaints.

Well-considered technology interventions are ones that:

1. Have a defined benefit to the customer journey in either significantly reducing the processing time in a stage or removing stages of the process altogether.

2. Have been thought about in the context of the existing journey and how they will integrate.

Digital self-serve journeys offer the ultimate combination of folding together all the stages and removing processing time if there is a high level of customer success. If a high level of success is not possible, for example, because of the level of complex data required from the customer, consider a hybrid journey such as online forms supplemented by a secure email service as an example. This can achieve many of the same impacts for a fraction of the price.

Artificial Intelligence does have the potential to significantly enhance customer journeys, principally in the role of ‘co-pilot’ now. The ability to quickly gain information and complete back-office tasks offers the possibility of reducing handoffs. Removing links from the journey is a surefire way to reduce cost and customer effort. The dependencies for successful deployment of AI is a topic in itself which we won’t address fully here but customer journeys again offer insight on where AI can be impactful and the means of tracking the impact.

The Effect of Culture and Governance 

At Cross 8 we’ve seen that when customer journeys are most successful, they’re owned around the executive table. Governance forums led by a single journey owner provide oversight of the entire end to end experience, rather than separate reports from single departments.  Giving journey owners the right level of support and visibility is critical to the success of these journeys.

The effectiveness of customer journeys relies on the executive team providing the signs and symbols that success for everyone hinges on delivering a great overall experience for customers. Aligning incentives and rewarding behaviours can play just as critical a part as the creation of the more tangible artifacts.

Part 3: Navigating challenges and moving forwards

Inevitably for organisations looking to develop their customer journeys there are key challenges that need to be addressed.

Cultural Change

Shifting from a transactional silo-based way of working towards an interconnected end to end perspective can be difficult, particularly for managers. Fundamentally the role their team is completing is still the same but now they are required to see it as part of a holistic experience and therefore manage work differently. Supporting managers and teams through this process is critical and requires a balance between winning hearts with clear messaging and minds with practical support.

The effectiveness of customer journeys relies on the executive team providing the signs and symbols that success for everyone hinges on delivering a great overall experience for customers. Aligning incentives and rewarding behaviours can play just as critical a part as the creation of the more tangible artifacts.

Focusing on Value

One danger of the transition to customer journeys is that teams become obsessed with the processes and data and lose sight of the desired outcome which is more focus on customers. Setting clear targets and connecting each deliverable to an outcome is critical to avoid drift. Delivering the transition in focused stages, for example by journey or by product, and demonstrating the impact can help avoid this.

Data

Connecting organisational data across delivery areas to enable the  end to end perspective benefits from a pragmatic approach. Operate manually for trials, demonstrate value, and then invest in technology and capability that makes producing your reporting and allocating work in the new way a robust and repeatable process. The transition will likely stall if a large investment in data capability proceeds some demonstrable benefit.

Joining Up Journeys with Several Suppliers

Joining up a customer journey when several companies each own a different part can be tricky. It’s a good idea to engage suppliers from the outset, making sure you start from a customer-centric point of view.

Suppliers need to be more closely integrated and incentivised if you want them to operate either as a link in a customer journey or as the party with overall responsibility for the customer.

Each supplier needs to understand the journey they’re supporting – and even better if you’ve incentivised them to do it. If their incentive is to do a quick job and get out, without any penalties, and they have no impact on the experience downstream, you might be able to have a much more positive influence at the beginning.

Part 4: OUR CONCLUSIONS

Customers don’t consume transactions; they consume the overall experience of the end to end journey. Just like a vehicle factory that left the wheels off the car, a customer journey that doesn’t deliver a complete service will upset and frustrate customers.

This is where the similarity to factories ends. When delivering services the journey often doesn’t follow a linear path and that’s why tracking the experience by customers and making sure they get a complete outcome in the expected timeframe is so crucial.

Developing the right culture, processes and data to enable customer journeys can be challenging but the benefits to service are truly transformative.

If you want to know more about customer journeys and how Cross 8 have helped clients with their transition get in touch contactus@cross8.co.uk 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

For more on customer journeys take a look at our webinar and framework.