Defining customer journeys
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In our experience, whilst the importance of customer journey design is clear, improvement initiatives are too often narrowly focused on discrete product or service offerings. This ignores the broader context in which customers interact with businesses, and dooms these projects to fall short of being truly transformative.
What is a customer journey?
A customer journey is the sum of the experiences and emotions from the point of customer need, to the fulfilment of this need. Servicing this journey may be complex: spanning multiple channels, systems, and teams over an extended period of time.
Businesses should design journeys from the customer’s perspective, to be seamless and appropriate for the desired expectation of that business category.
An end-to end approach.
The true customer journey starts with a challenge, opportunity or need, long before they even decide on your category or business, and is highly likely to include interactions with multiple organisations which impact their emotional journey.
For example, purchasing a home includes more than taking out a mortgage. While a bank will facilitate taking out a mortgage, there are a multitude of other factors, such as selling an existing property, property surveys, valuations and changing schools, which all intertwine and impact the customer throughout the process.
Thinking end-to-end allows creative thought to re-imagine products and services which will better meet your customers' broader needs.
Journey first, channels second.
A customer journey should not be mapped against your organisation by channel – the customer doesn’t care about separate channels or your organisational silos. If you discover that at particular points in the journey your customers demand a human interaction, then even the slickest of digital experiences will curry little favour.
Your type of business will dictate whether customers want 'an experience' from you. If you are a commodity, single-transaction business, a quick and seamless experience will be preferred. Whereas for higher value items, or long term relationships, customers will crave a different level of service which is more experiential.
How you service the customer journey must always be tightly aligned to your customers' expectations.
Where to start understanding your customer journeys.
Think about your customers' ultimate challenge or opportunity. In our previous mortgage example, you could consider the journey as 'buying a home' rather than ‘the mortgage process’. This provides a wider context to follow the complete customer journey from start to finish.
Along the way you'll start building a picture of your customer, their needs and where you may be having a negative impact on their experiences.
To effectively deliver the expected customer journey, you may need to deliver targeted point improvements, end-to-end process transformation, complete business redesign, digital transformation, re-platforming, or even new product/service development.
Understanding and delivering customer journeys effectively may in some cases seem daunting, but the holistic benefits are huge: reduced cost to serve, increased retention, improved cost of acquisition, stronger conversion rates, and genuine brand advocacy.