There are lots of different styles when it comes to leadership.
Lots of approaches, lots of management books and leadership guides. Volume upon volume of materials that you can digest online, on your kindle or even these days, in an audiobook. You can read up on just about anything. You can learn all there is about any subject. Any subject that is, except your customer.
No off-the-shelf book will be able to tell you which elements of your customer journey your clients love, and which bits they are finding most frustrating. It’s not because there aren’t plenty of (fantastic) books on customer experience out there – it’s more that your customers’ needs are a constantly evolving thing. They change with the economy, they change with trends, they change with advances in technology – Let’s face it, it can sometimes feel like they change with the wind!
Being the type of leader who relies solely on your years of experience, and the experience levels of your senior leadership team to shape your customer journey could mean you’re working with out of date material before you even begin. By assuming you know what your customers want because you knew what they wanted this time last year, you could end up like Bill, walking down a familiar road only to get a nasty surprise when you turn the corner.
Experience is no substitute for up to date feedback. The two need to go hand in hand. This has always been the case, but is true now more than ever.
We’ve all been impacted by Covid-19 in one way or another. Some of us are lucky enough to have the relentlessness of 24/7 childcare and the potential peril of stepping on duplo first thing in the morning be our biggest stressor, whilst others have been left in heart-breaking situations that no one should have to face. The world we knew is forever changed, and along with it are the consumers we want to attract and retain.
It’s predicted we’re about to enter the largest recession in recorded history. People are nervous and uncertain, with both their emotional and physical wellbeing under threat with no clear timescale for when that might end. Whilst most people are desperate for things to go back to normal, it’s a safe assumption that even when it does, the new ‘normal’ won’t resemble what we’re used to. How could it?
It’s a grim picture, but it’s not all doom and gloom – or at least it doesn’t have to be. We need to come to terms with the fact we don’t know our customers like we once did. We need to rekindle that relationship, and we need to do it fast if we’re to remain relevant in what’s about to become one of the most competitive markets any of us have seen.
But… here comes the exciting bit! If we accept that our customers are not the same, and that our old way of approaching them may no longer cater for their needs then we can start to open our minds to the possibility of nationwide innovation and maybe even cross-industry collaboration on an unprecedented scale.
By approaching your customer experience strategy as a priority, having an open mind, asking the right questions, and taking clearly defined steps to improve your customer journey through journey mapping, you could well be setting your business up for the best cultural shift it’s ever encountered, and in turn a strong recovery followed by a period of sustained growth.
Our top tips:
1. Look after your people
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 71% of people say that if they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever. We all know that looking after your people is the right thing to do, but now it’s also good business.
Our most recent instalment of Bill and Doug covers some ideas on how to check in with your employees if you get stuck for ideas!
2. Change the way you ask for feedback
Offer your customers the ability to provide feedback on their agenda, at a time, place and in a way that’s convenient for them. Don’t make feedback all about you and your company by asking old fashioned questions and long-winded surveys.
Utilising simple feedback tools that can be triggered by a customer when they feel particularly motivated to tell you about their experience will yield more results, and give you more relevant insights.
Then make sure you use that feedback in the right way. Share it with everyone in your business. They all play a part in the customer journey so they need to know how they impact it, and what they can do differently. Make customer feedback a part of your team meetings, and make sure that your team see your leadership embracing feedback as the positive and transformational tool it can be.
3. Map your customer journeys
Using current insight gained from feedback and customer focus sessions is the best way to map your current journey, your aspirational one and to complete a gap analysis of the two.
Plotting an emotional curve against your current journey will enable you to know exactly which areas of business change to focus on and which are just fine as they are.
4. Implement a Shadow Board
For those of you who have yet to come across this concept, a shadow board is where you select a diverse group of young individuals from within your company, not necessarily from existing high potential groups, and usually the same number as are on your actual board or senior team. Their purpose is to challenge and innovate, injecting fresh ideas and cultural change into senior leadership decision making and organisational processes.
In a lot of cases they will be far more likely to represent your customer base than those you have in senior positions. Shadow boards see things in a different way to you, and can offer new perspectives on age old challenges, not to mention it’s a great way to encourage employee engagement and personal development!
At insight6, we have surveyed more than 80 business leaders from across the UK and Ireland and found that, unsurprisingly, 64 percent had less work than they did prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite the obvious negatives, I feel it is also important to see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity. We likely have never had as much time to work on the business rather than in it to make improvements and that, of course, should start with the customer.
At the heart of the CX work we do at insight6 is Customer Journey Mapping. In a nutshell, a customer journey map identifies each of the customer touchpoints, from brand awareness through to being a happy repeat customer.
The idea is to focus on understanding how customers feel at each point in the journey, in order to look at how the experience can be improved. This helps to create a customer-focused mindset within the team, often resulting in a snowball effect in changing the culture within the organisation.
I believe now more than ever, the businesses that map and review their customer journey will be setting themselves up for success in the future – here’s why:
1. A customer journey map creates a clear plan of action
Customer Journey Mapping is about identifying clear actions that will transform the experience your customers have with you.
This is not about creating pretty posters showing everyone that you have a customer journey map for your office wall; this is about action!
In every customer journey mapping workshop we have facilitated, we have witnessed immediate and clear action that has a profound impact on staff motivation, a greater focus on the customer and their needs, and an increase in sales.
2. Experience what it is like to look through the eyes of your customers
Once you have identified all the touchpoints on the journey, the brilliance starts when you can put yourself in the customer’s shoes and describe the experience at each of the touchpoints and how they might feel at each stage. Compare this experience to what each team member is actually doing at each touchpoint, and the insights start to overflow. The penny drops when team members see the gap between what they are doing and what the customer is experiencing.
3. Create a shared understanding and vision of customer experience across the business
Most of us know the importance of involving the team in any obvious changes in an organisation. When your entire team embraces and shares an attitude and belief system, incredible things start to happen.
Everyone has a role to play in customer experience, from the accounts clerk who sends out the invoices, to the cleaner who hoovers the floor. Every single detail has an impact on how the customer feels about your business and this is what creates a great customer experience.
4. Focus on the customer and how their differences impact on their needs
It is often the case that different customers have different needs. Recognising that you may have different customer personas using your product or service is vital in the customer journey mapping session. A classic mistake in any business is to assume that a new customer has the same expectations as a regular customer. They don’t!
5. You are solving problems by unlocking the causes
By identifying how the customer feels at each step of the customer journey, instead of from a business or personal perspective enables you to focus on the problem without getting defensive. This simple switch in perspective will allow you to uncover and understand what is causing the problem and finding a solution that will improve how the customer feels.
6. Independent facilitation keeps you challenged and inside the shoes of the customers
Having an independent facilitator to coordinate and direct the team in a customer journey mapping workshop is vital for staying focused, not slipping back into the old habit of looking at problems from your perspective and keeping the energy in the room to explore and discover how your customers feel.
Having someone from outside the business to ask those ‘stupid’ or obvious questions is gold dust when journey mapping.
Companies have woken up to the reality that customer experience (CX) is critical to their business. To help improve experiences that they offer, CX pros have been quick to adopt customer journey mapping — a methodology to deepen customer understanding, break down siloed behaviors, and inject customer thinking into the design process.
Journey mapping has a variety of benefits that stretch far beyond the tactical advantage it provides when CX professionals use it for improvement projects. CX leaders can leverage customer journey maps to:
Break down silos to address the end-to-end customer experience. Organisations benefit when they shift focus from individual touchpoints to journeys that cross touchpoints, silos, policies, and procedures. Journey mapping allows CX professionals to identify overlooked touchpoints, find previously unknown problems and their root causes, clarify roles, quantify the value of improving CX, and measure improvements to CX.
Drive organisation wide customer obsession. Journey maps can build empathy for customers by walking participants through how touchpoints influence customers’ attitudes and actions. Ongoing use enforces customer-centric thinking and encourages good CX behaviors. What’s more, future-state journey maps can help make the CX vision tangible for employees and partners.
Companies as diverse as The Economist, Lloyds Banking Group, and Shell are shifting their focus away from channels and touchpoints to journeys. As a result, the adoption of journey mapping and journey analytics — a more data-driven approach to understanding customer journeys — is at an all-time high for CX professionals.
But there is room for improvement. Companies struggle especially with a lack of a strategic approach to journeys. While there is nothing wrong with a tactical approach to journey mapping to find and fix broken experiences, using journey maps only for that is a miss. More strategically minded companies like Lloyds, E.ON, and Sage Software North America manage a portfolio of journeys with journey atlases — a framework for cataloging and assessing journeys — and prioritisation matrices to systematically rank and plan journey-related efforts.
To boost their chances of success, companies using journey mapping ensure that the stakeholders and executives who own the parts of the affected business have prioritised fixing it.
They take validation and journey measurement efforts seriously and consider conducting customer interviews and observational research prior to mapping every journey or map journeys in co-creation sessions that involve customers.
They also realise that understanding the customer’s journey is half the CX puzzle; the other half is understanding the role that your company — its employees, partners, processes, systems, policies, and more — play in making the experience possible.
Firms in industries on the front line of helping customers through the COVID-19 pandemic are using journey mapping software to co-create key employee, call center agent, and customer journeys.
With customers embracing never-seen-before behaviors and employees working remotely, journey mapping can help ensure firms have a holistic view of crisis journeys and avoid tone-deaf experiences. Journey mapping vendors like Mural make it easy to translate “Post-it on the wall” work to a digital whiteboard for journey mapping and helps with virtual brainstorming and prioritisation.
Other vendors like More Than Metrics are prioritising features that enable home workers to print journey maps on several A4 pages so they can continue to collaborate with dispersed journey teams from their home office.
Journey mapping isn’t something that you should put on hold until recovery – in these unusual times it’s more important than ever that you map and validate journeys with real customer insights to win, serve, and retain customers with emotionally attuned journeys.
Not too long ago the customer journey was fairly simple to track and evaluate.
There were a limited number of channels for customers to browse or make purchases via. Nowadays, the utilisation of smart tools that make the customer’s journey easier, coupled with the fact that purchasing is no longer a one-size-fits-all experience, means more and more retailers are waking up to the need to up their customer journey mapping game.
Limitations of traditional analytics tools
Developing a core understanding of the people who matter most to your business is at the root of delivering remarkable Customer Experience, so user experience (UX) analytics is perhaps the most important technology for all retail brands to adopt, if they have not done so already, as it identifies why visitors behave in the way that they do.
Being able to not only identify where visitors are struggling on your site but why is essential, so using traditional web analytics tools like Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics to answer this question is like using a fork to eat soup.
While retailers may already have traditional analytics like Google and Adobe and a testing or personalisation tool in place, these systems are limited and simply not built for purpose in today’s environment. They may still be collecting information about clicks, bounces, and site exits, but they do not capture the UX insights needed to determine where your visitors are having issues, what pages they respond to most and why they are leaving/staying.
Rather than trying to run before they can walk, retailers should use UX analytics to gather all of the valuable actionable insights they can about their consumers’ experiences in order to make profitable changes to website layout, content, and images, etc.
Exploring personalisation, or at least customisation, without having a robust and in-depth overview of visitor behaviour is ineffective, which is why UX analytics is such a fast-growing marketplace in the retail technology sector. Thanks to real-time analytics that do not require a specialist to decipher, plus ease of use and simplicity of the data available, UX analytics is a good tool for customer journey mapping but there are still other common errors that can often render customer journey maps ineffective.
Here are six common errors that can make customer journey mapping fail:
Get your team and anyone who needs to know the results involved, so they are invested enough to ensure they implement customer-focused actions based on their insights too.
The customer journey includes interactions with many different areas and teams, so a joined-up approach means your customer journey map will include data and insights from all areas of the business.
Don’t forget to involve your customers.
It is them who will provide a depth of understanding. Different customers will have different journeys, so trying to reflect all of your customer segments in a single, generalised map could mean you miss important insights, and fail to make valuable customer experience improvements.
Try not to map every customer and every journey at once. Instead, focus on one at a time, done right, to put your insights into action successfully.
While there are website behaviour tools that offer a vast sum of information, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the customer journey data available.
In addition to knowing how your customers journeyed across your website and the number of clicks they made on a hero product, it’s useful to go beyond that initial website data to also understand what they were trying to do that your site didn’t let them do and how frustrated that made them.
Don’t use assumptions to build your map rather than research and don’t structure your map according to your own brand’s internal process priorities, such as sales, only.
You’re after an insightful depiction of your customer’s journey, not your brand’s sales capabilities. No-one knows more about your customers than those customers themselves, so open up to what they’re trying to tell you, even if it differs from what you were expecting/planning for.
Customer journey maps investigate every point of contact between a customer and your brand, so don’t forget to include touchpoints such as post-purchase engagement, which could cause damage if overlooked.
Customer journey maps are only as good as the actions they inform and the results their development and deployment drive, so don’t think of the map as being done.
It is now time to start making the changes needed, which is where the real work begins. Even when you think your customer journey map is complete, you’re still not done. Remember to allocate the time needed to make the changes.
Whether you’re looking for a qualification to validate your existing experience in the field, or you’re starting out in a CX role and want to attend a course to help establish your career, the Applied Customer Experience Course could be perfect for you.
“My expectations were met and surpassed on this course. It is collaborative and very applicable,” says Laura, Applied Customer Experience participant, 2018.
The Applied Customer Experience course provides participants with three core ways to learn.
Robust theory: We’ll debate relevant theories in neuroscience, behavioural science,psychology, and business strategy through interactive seminars and workshops, to ensure you have the knowledge to make effective decisions.
Guest speakers: Senior CX practitioners and authors share their experiences each week, reinforcing the course curriculum with practical examples.
Learning resources: Each week participants are invited to complete topic pre-reading and follow up materials are available to everyone who wants to learn even more. Two core books are also provided.
The topics we’ll cover
We cover the following eight topics on the Applied Customer Experience course:
Richard Chattaway, Vice President of BVA NudgeUnit (behavioural science)
Upon successful completion of the end-of-term assessment, you will be accredited with the Pearson Business School Professional Certificate. Pearson Business School is a part of Pearson, the global learning and FTSE 100 company, giving this certificate both academic and commercial credibility.
Your course facilitator
The Applied Customer Experience course was founded and is facilitated by Sandra Thompson. In 2019, Sandra published her first academic paper on Emotional Intelligence and Customer Experience. She is also the owner of a CX agency founded in 2010 called Exceed all Expectations, having worked on CX projects with brands such as Vodafone, Arsenal Football Club, and Waitrose.
Where: Pearson Business School, Holborn, London
When: September 25
Duration: 10 weeks (Wednesday evenings)
Places on the course are limited and an Early Bird rate is available. For further information just get in touch.
Find out more:https://www.pearsoncollegelondon.ac.uk/cx
Join our next webinar on Psychological Safety in Customer Experience on August 13 to hear about the power of psychological contracts and how to test psychological safety within your business. We’ll be joined by a CX practitioner and a Chartered Psychologist.
Nobody wants to receive a complaint about their product or service, but the reality is that we can’t please all of our customers all of the time.
The time when customer complaints were hidden is now thankfully long gone. Appearing as a judge at the UK Complaint Handling Awards, which celebrates the innovative ways organisations manage complaints, I saw this first-hand.
Receiving complaints, responding to them effectively, and most importantly, learning from them can be challenging.However, achieving this is critical to the success of any business that is focused on providing the best Customer Experience.
For every customer who complains, there are 26 other unhappy customers who remain silent (source: Lee Resource Inc.).Customers who care enough to tell you about their negative experiences are scarce, but they afford you the opportunity to turn that customer into an advocate and ultimately, retain their business.
Often, complaints are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but it is critical to take a step back and undertake a root cause analysis, otherwise the opportunity to improve is lost.One of the most effective ways to undertake this process is to plot the journey of the complaint, thereby mapping all the touchpoints, both direct and indirect.
While a customer journey map (CJM) is a tool often used by marketeers to plot the customer engagement story, from brand awareness through to (hopefully) a long-term relationship, it is also a great resource for complaint management.
Rather than dealing with the fallout of the complaint on a case-by-case basis, the CJM process enables an organisation to review and map the complaint from beginning to end and identify the root causes. Instead of resolving the complaint from an internal point of reference and making assumptions, the CJM empowers the customer by putting them front and centre.
One of the major strengths of adopting this method is the ability to view the complete journey when putting into place processes to prevent it happening again. The visual artefact highlights potential gaps, inconsistencies, and the volume of touchpoints – all of which have the potential to contribute to the complaint in the first place.
More often than not, the solution does not sit at the complaint ‘fallout’ stage but much earlier in the journey.It may be that expectations were set incorrectly at the outset of the journey, or specific information was not provided in marketing collateral etc.By focusing on the complaint as a stand-alone issue, any process changes may have little or no impact.Only by viewing the complaint as a part of the whole journey can you be confident that changes made will have the greatest impact.
Another advantage of a CJM is the people involved in the mapping activity.Too often complaint management is focused on the team that receives that complaint – but any mapping workshop should include representatives from all parts of the business.This level of collaboration reaffirms the importance that every role plays in an organisation’s Customer Experience, whether directly or indirectly, and it also provides the perfect forum for some ‘outside the box’ brainstorming.I’ve run journey mapping workshops where the ‘lightbulb’ moments have come from unexpected sources, such as software developers, finance teams, and HR.
We know that customer loyalty is one of the key determinants of an organisation’s success.By viewing complaints as learning opportunities and actioning solutions via a customer journey map, you increase the likelihood of turning that customer (and all those that kept quiet) into an advocate.As data from the Jim Moran Institute and Lee Resources showed, 95 percent of customers will give you a second chance if you handle their complaint successfully and in a timely fashion, and that translates to an improved Customer Experience for your current and future customers.
To ask Ian a question on how to boost the Customer Experience provided by YOUR business, please email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org. The best questions will be featured in future instalments.
Ian also leads the CX Professional Masterclass. Click here for details of upcoming Masterclass dates.
As a smaller business, should I consider customer loyalty schemes as part of my Customer Experience Strategy? Can they add value to my business, or is it common for customers to fail to engage with them?
I have always believed that if done well, customer loyalty schemes can be extremely effective as a way of maintaining engagement with those who interact with your products and services.
By “if done well”, I am suggesting that some are not!
Typically, the domain of large corporations in the travel, hospitality, and retail industries (although not exclusively), if the ‘effort’ is effortless and the ‘reward’ is rewarding, then a loyalty scheme could be a differentiating factor in the mind of your customer.
Personally, as a frequent traveller I will always look to fly or stay with an airline or hotel that will provide me with a benefit for using them regularly. To me, the reward of ‘free’ flights or hotel stays is a worthwhile incentive to keep using certain brands.
However, the loyalty scheme alone must only be perceived as just one touchpoint in the customer journey – if other things in the journey go wrong, I will gladly give up my perceived ‘benefits’ and take my business elsewhere.
There is absolutely no reason why the principle of a loyalty scheme should not be applied by smaller organisations – as long as it is sincere and commercially viable and a way of driving differentiation.
However, there is no sense putting a loyalty scheme in place if it will run your bottom line into the ground! Also, do not forget the ‘sincerity’ part of my statement. If a loyalty scheme is perceived by your customers as a way to try to ‘sell them more’ or spam them, then it may be better not doing it in the first place.