Commentary

Prepare For The Customer Journey

With all the hype at the moment about the “customer journey,” many businesses are scrambling to get their head around the concept to devise a plan of action. And rightly so – the new world of the journey is here, and it’s here for the foreseeable future. 

But what exactly is it and how can a brand prepare? First, let’s start with what it is not. It is not about campaigns. Another common misconception is that the customer journey is simply about the path a customer takes across your brand’s touch points. In fact, your touch points are only involved in a portion of that journey. The journey begins before you are involved or aware of it, and in most cases, will continue long after your last interaction. It’s about the ongoing experience of your customer, before they are an actual customer, through to the bitter end (hopefully not so bitter). 

It is also important to note that many may think that the customer journey is on “rails” – one best practice path from end to end. I like to compare the real customer journey to the interstate or roadway system itself with on-ramps and off-ramps. Individuals are free to move amongst the options at their own speed and at a time/direction of their own choosing. Some will chose to seek immediate gratification and simply get to their destination as fast as possible; others will prefer to avoid the tolls (think of your brand’s checks and balances) and others may wander down a more scenic route while taking it all in (think product reviews, chat rooms). 

The Role of Orchestration: Prepare for the Unpredictable

I urge your brand to prepare for the unpredictability of the customer journey. How do you plan for this? Orchestration is your brand’s ability to “engineer great experiences.”

To engineer these experiences, brands will build customer journey maps that will typically vary by persona and life stage. This is similar to understanding peak traffic times and flows, not just on a daily basis, but seasonal and even annual. What are the most popular routes by volume? Which routes do your highest value customers most frequently take? Where are the bottlenecks? Where are the paths that have been left un-managed and what is the impact when its not? How do these paths differ when the consumers’ goals or objectives vary? 

Once you have accounted for the most important set of experiences to get right using historical customer interaction data, powerful methods such as Monte Carlo simulation should then be used to identify the gaps across the “journey interstate” and address them. 

The Role of Contextual Customer Data

The best way to prepare for the unpredictable is to focus on the individual and use their own customer data, their own interaction data, location and context data to wrap the interaction around them in their needs at that moment in time – in context with their state in their customer journey. 

The 5 Guiding Principles of the Customer Journey Interstate

Because the customer journey is about the customer, not you, your brand must focus its effort on how to make it easy for your customer to reach their destination – wherever that happens to be. 

1. Track traffic - constantly assess the data that’s collected to tune your strategy. Focus upon the hot spots first, then extend.

2. Remove roadblocks – assess your touch points. Are there unnecessary steps or processes?

3. Give free directions – advise on best path forward depending upon the individuals’ journey and personal goals.

4. Advise of traffic jams – be transparent, be proactive to help customers avoid issues before they happen.

5. Tear down toll booths – where checks and balances are required, deploy automation. 

The journey is more than just the processes within your touch points. It is about the customer and their goals, and understanding them throughout. Your journey starts here.

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