What if I told you that you could get a complete picture of your customer experience, down to granular detail around each point of interaction? A picture that would identify problem areas, assess what’s broken and provide instructions for and the economic value of fixing the problems? Sounds like this would be a pretty fantastic opportunity, right?
Well, the opportunity exists, and it’s called customer journey mapping. A customer journey map is a visual representation of the alignment (or lack thereof) of the organization to the customers’ needs. It illustrates the details of and opportunity surrounding all customer interactions, including:
- Where the customer touches the brand
- Where the brand touches the customer
- Where they interact with each other
- Why the customer is seeking contact with the brand
- The customer’s experience with the brand at any point of interaction
- The customer’s emotional reactions to the interactions and the impact to his or her long-term brand loyalty as a result
This may just sound like a visual depiction of traditional communication planning—a lot of people confuse the two. However, customer journey mapping is a much more sophisticated, comprehensive process. Journey mapping critically examines and provides suggested improvements for the entirety of the customer experience, not just push communications.
Yes, it is that awesome.
Why is the customer experience so important?
Consumers today view the entirety of their brand interactions across all channels and touch points as one connected experience—and they have high expectations for this experience. When their interactions with your brand don’t meet expectations, 25% of consumers will leave for the competition after only one bad experience. Even worse, almost 20% say they will never trust the brand again and are lost forever. Yikes.
Let’s put that in monetary terms: in a recent study, business leaders estimated that their potential revenue loss for not offering a positive, consistent, brand-relevant customer experience is 20% of their annual revenue, or $400 million a year for a $2 billion company.
Regardless of how you cut it, this all means that you need to truly understand the consumer buyer journey and customer life cycle and design an integrated experience across channels as well as stellar experiences at each point of contact for your consumers.
Executive belief vs. consumer behavior
Unfortunately, many executives don’t realize the vast importance of an excellent customer experience, consistent across channels.
- Only 49% of business executives believe their customers will switch brands due to poor experience. The harsh reality is that 89% of customers say they already have switched when a brand disappointed them.
- In a similar fashion, only 44% of business execs believe customers are willing to pay for a great experience, while 86% of customers say they are already doing so and simply expect to be treated right in return.
There is a big gap between the corporate perception and the consumer’s reality—but it’s not really anyone’s fault. This is relatively new territory for many brands. Consumer behavior has changed rapidly with the rise of mobile and social platform adoption. With access to unlimited information and the platforms through which to share their opinions and hear from their peers, consumers have recently realized the ability to make demands about their brand experiences and easily go elsewhere when they turn up lacking.
How does customer journey mapping help?
A complete, comprehensive customer journey map is a remarkable tool for improving your customer experience and creating consistency across channels. The journey map does the following:
- Illuminates points of customer satisfaction, emotional highpoints and pain points and the positive or negative result from key moments of truth in the buyer journey.
- Magnifies who is most affected by these various interactions across touch points and their direct and indirect impact on your bottom line.
- Highlights what is most important to your customers and illustrates what things add (or detract from) value and loyalty.
- Presents how your brand’s actions and content affect customers.
- Shows how operations and processes in one part of the organization impact the entire company, along with the customers.
- Forms the basis of a longer-term strategic plan to build customer value.
And it does all of this in a visual way that allows for collaboration and sharing to get everyone on board.
The proof is in the pudding: a client’s journey mapping success
A national membership organization decided they needed to better understand their member journey to drive improved retention. They knew that internally they were functioning in silos and that their member experience was therefore disjointed—they were standing in their own way when it came to delivering a seamless experience. However, they needed to see the real data, laid out visually, to direct their change efforts and socialize them throughout the organization.
What did their journey map uncover?
- The vast majority of the organization’s members are only reachable by mail. However, the online experience—driven by outbound email and the website—was significantly more robust. Therefore, only a small portion of the membership was getting exposure to the richness of resources they have to offer.
- They were asking their prospects and current members to work too hard to find the value in membership. While there are many benefits, it was a big job for each member to figure out what they are and how they might be important to that member personally.
In addition to discovering these key insights, the journey map outlined recommendations for closing many gaps in the customer experience. For example, the map recommended that this organization move from a heavy focus on outbound touches (over 75% of customer interactions) to a more balanced mix of triggers, inbound and interactive touches, in addition to the traditional outbound communications.
While their work is still underway, this brand is now armed with data that allows them to get the entire team on board and move forward with specific high-value initiatives to improve the customer experience in ways that will drive increased brand love and business impact.
Worth the investment
You may be wondering what a remarkable customer experience effort like this costs. To be blunt, there is definitely an investment required in the form of talent, time, technology and effort to do the work and create your map. But major brands around the globe have found that the investment is absolutely worthwhile.
Longitudinal research indicates that companies with a strong, well-constructed customer experience enjoy significant revenue gains. In an analysis of over 7,500 U.S. consumers about their interactions with 175 large U.S. brands, companies that improved their customer experience from below average to above average for their industries saw loyalty-based revenue gains ranging from $55 million to $1.6 billion. The revenue gains come from the usual loyalty levers, such as incremental purchases, lower churn and new sales.
We all know the mantra: take care of the customer and the customer will take care of you. It’s impossible to take care of the customer if your experience is poor and not reflective of their needs.
I often hear clients say “We know we need to do this, but can’t afford it right now.”
In my opinion, you can’t afford NOT to do it, and the time is now.
About the Author
Michele Fitzpatrick, Vice President, Consulting, is an experienced relationship marketing strategist and customer experience consultant. Her focus is helping major brands to better understand and connect with consumers throughout the buyer journey and across the customer lifecycle. Michele has 20+ years of experience improving customer relevance and engagement to deliver brand impact for retail, consumer brands, automotive, financial services, insurance, pharmaceuticals and associations.More Content by Michele Fitzpatrick