You need three things to get going on managing the experience of your customers:*
A map of the customer journey
A good understanding of how your customers perceive their experience
*if you think customer experience only applies to consumer-facing industries, please look at this post.
Now think that through. No single team or individual can gather, let alone make sense of, all that information. The organisation has to work together. This gives us our third requirement – shared accountability. To be honest, shared accountability can go a long way.
In smaller organisations, sales sits next to engineering, and members from both teams happily speak with production, software and supply chain management. These relationships might stand in the place of formal accountabilities. Without action, lines of communication stretch and snap as organisations grow.. Each department builds its own priorities and contradicting objectives arise. Moreover, no one has accountability for the whole of the customer experience, which may fragment. In larger organisations, brand management takes on a great deal of responsibility for customer experience. At the same time, they cannot do it alone.
Some writers refer to this aspect of customer experience management as leadership. While I agree leadership is necessary, I argue that people do what they are paid to do. So, if delivering a compelling customer experience is not in a job description. Or if personal objectives do not set a target. And if processes don’t support customer focus, then a compelling customer experience is unlikely to follow. Regardless of how well-intentioned and inspiring the leadership is.
Conversely, leadership kicks in when leaders give their teams the power to make decisions and take action when working with the customer – see this great example from Southwestern Airlines.
Understanding your customers – words and numbers
Describing the perception of your customers as a single number is useful for observing trends and the impact of change. But it is not the same as understanding how your customers feel. Words and numbers have to act together so you are never guessing or assuming what your customers are telling you.
Imagine a team gathering around the latest customer experience metrics. All performance scores are good, but customer satisfaction ranges from 6 to 10 with a 7.04 average. Without qualitative information (words) the team speculates on the reasons behind the numbers – and they get it wrong. For more on qualitative and quantitative measures read this post.
Speaking of numbers, assessing the voice of the customer against performance data is crucial. It takes out personal bias and points out the root cause of dissatisfaction.
So where do you get this information? I believe conversations are the richest source of information. Both you and your customer can roam around the subject, opening avenues of exploration that you may not have imagined. But is it is time-consuming, expensive and subject to a fair bit of interpretation. So we need other methods too:
- Feedback (including reviews) immediately after interactions – see this post to learn more about trusting customer feedback
- General surveys
- Trials of products and services
- Professional reviews
- Customer support/ service data
- Social media and web forums (Mum’s Net and Money Saving Expert are great examples)
Customer journey mapping
What is a customer journey? If you are not a fan of business jargon you may have been bristling before you got to ‘customer journey’, but I bet it riled you!
For me, the journey is the collection of information from different dimensions (woo, get me!). You could measure drop out rate and conversions at each step of the customer experience (measures of your sales funnel). You could tie that in with types of interaction and A/B testing. Perhaps you will add the number of issues raised at each step or the number of questions asked. Don’t forget to describe each ‘opportunity for improvement’ in an appendix to the map. If you offer a free trial, you will measure conversions and reasons not to pay. Best of all you will record the voice of the customer throughout. Pulling the data together, agreeing what it means and what you are going to do about is ‘mapping the customer journey’.
When planning paths through a park, planners watch how people use the space and then lay pavements and other features.
How does that compare with how you planned your customer journey?
Mapping the customer experience brings a lot of benefits. Every team (or function, if you are so inclined) contributes and learns about each other. Maps give a clear baseline to identify issues and the potential for change. Consolidating information highlights the connection between act and result. In turn, leading to the root cause and the chance to parcel up changes to minimise cost and maximise benefit.
Pulling it together
Because customer experience is one of few subjects that truly span the entire organisation, it needs a form of governance that inspires robust thinking and resolute action. The three aspects of managing customer experience are somewhat cold; they come from management practices not known for high levels of consistent engagement.
Your customer experience management process must involve and recognise the contribution of everyone. Teams have to be encouraged to understand and trust each other. They have to learn each other’s language and constraints; they must support as well as challenge:
- So, your customer journey map must look for root cause – not blame.
- Dashboards should flag up actions taken and results, as well as the challenges ahead.
- Accountabilities have to include working across organisational barriers and outside functional silos.
If you think this is all sounding a bit familiar, that is because it is. Every quality management methodology is based on analysis (in this case mapping the customer journey) and consistency (coming from governance and accountabilities). For a bit more, please visit this post.