Providing consumers a seamless experience is increasingly vital, but also increasingly challenging as businesses become more complex. The only way companies can satisfy consumers consistently is by creating, studying and empowering themselves with detailed customer journey maps.

Gero Decker, co-founder and CEO. Signavio

Gero Decker, co-founder and CEO. Signavio

The muted secret in 21st century business is that, despite an increasingly price-sensitive market, customers will pay more for top-tier customer service. They just won’t tolerate laziness. Unfortunately, that’s what most businesses give them.

A recent survey by PwC found customers would pay up to 16 percent more for better speed, convenience, friendliness. But you’ve only got one shot. In the U.S., even if customers love your product, 59 percent will walk away after several bad experiences, 17 percent after just a single bad experience.

Seamless experiences, where the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, are the true gold mine for businesses. But with modern business becoming so complex, the only way that can happen is if businesses create, study and empower themselves with detailed customer journey maps.

Businesses wanting to make actual change should ensure every business decision is tracked against journeys.

The result? Sales cycle that are 18 times faster, and increases of up to 56 percent in upselling and cross-selling efforts.

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Of course, customer journey maps are nothing new. The real difference, which few businesses make, is embedding them within the decision-making process at every level.

Even if you think you know your customer inside and out, and the concept of customer centricity has been a long-term core value for your business, is it really part of your company’s DNA? Are your staff actively embedding that insight into daily decision-making processes, or is the executive team simply applying it to cosmetic top-level decisions?

Here are three characteristics of businesses that truly understand and apply customer insights for success:

1. They ask every employee to actively justify decisions according to personas

When we map customer journeys, often we build complex pictures of their behaviors and personas. However once they’re created and read a couple of times, they’re often overlooked, stuffed in a drawer somewhere and only brought out when convenient. For the most part, they’re forgotten.

Instead, businesses wanting to make actual change should ensure every business decision is tracked against journeys.

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This removes the temptation for journeys to be used merely as a ticked box. Instead, they become a catalyst for your employees to justify their decision-making; and also importantly, help drive an engagement with profiles appearing regularly that would otherwise have been excluded.

This ensures the customer is considered in granular decision-making processes across all aspects of the business, and is automatically woven into the fabric of the company at all levels.

2. They only speak about touch points through business metrics

Many businesses tend to assume the “buying experience” only happens when customers have chosen a product and engage in a monetary transaction. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Your customer experience is represented by multiple touch points along a long and sometimes complex route of customer-business interactions. For a retail business, that could be one or more of the following:

  • A customerreading an ad
  • Seeing a store in a shopping centre
  • Interacting with a worker as they walk in
  • Leaving the store and continuing to do research online
  • Downloading and using an app
  • Interacting with social media content
  • Returning to the store for a second time
  • Reading packaging on a shelf
  • Returning purchased goods
  • Buying a supplementary product online instead of in a physical store
  • Purchasing add-ons
  • Creating social media comments

It isn’t enough to just look at those touchpoints in isolation. Each one needs to be connected with a specific metric, so any changes to process or customer interaction can be measured.

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Some are easy: app downloads or engagements, foot traffic for stores, shares on social media. But some are more difficult and need to be carefully considered when taken as a whole journey. For instance, lower foot traffic that comes alongside higher online purchases.

Each of these interactions will also be different based on the personas you create. For instance, a persona that caters to a younger demographic may not be as concerned with in-store advertising as an older demographic, but they may expect a more robust app-based experience.

The crucial point here is that any discussion about these pain points must be completed through those metrics.

Data-based decision making is the future of business, and any process that ignores this is often myopic. When designing a high value customer experience, decision-making without data is just subjectivity—which no one has a rule on. Instead, any business decision needs to point back to these metrics and use them to either justify or re-define a business plan.

However don’t confuse the need to use technology in the customer mapping process as something that should also under pin interactions with them.  Human interaction is in high demand now—and 82 percent of U.S. and 74 percent of non-U.S. customer expect more of it in the future. Knowing your customer intimately is crucial to being able to provide this without them having to talk to robots at multiple touchpoints. Customers are increasingly demanding that the tech that connects you with them must be unobtrusive and seamless across platforms.

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3. They make journey maps accessible and changeable by everyone

Customer journey maps shouldn’t be isolated from the majority of the business. Everyone, from the most senior employee to those being onboarded, should have access—and they should all be able to suggest changes.

In fact, businesses ought to create regular sessions during which the customer journey maps are routinely questioned and probed. Taking into account sales data, information gathered by the metrics associated with each touchpoint, and more. Every single journey map should be placed under review.

In a post-GDPR, data-sensitive environment you need to get this right. 43 percent of U.S. customers would not give permission to collect personal data to enable more personalized, experiences, unless it was for a service they truly valued, with 63 percent saying they’d be more open to sharing data.  It comes down to building trust, which can only be achieved through an outstanding customer experience.

Yet the amount of companies who identify creating better customer experiences as a digital priority dropped to just 10 percent in 2017, from 25 percent the year prior. The most successful companies know that investing in tech that better enables them to understand, engage and service their customers is key.

Not only is that good business, it will be necessary as new technologies are introduced. Touchpoints like connected devices or augmented reality will open new experiences for customers over the next decade, and companies that have a grasp on the customer journey won’t see those as problems—just new opportunities.

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Signavio is a provider of business process management software.

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