2014-04-September-Gas-Station-At-Night.jpgMost companies don’t really understand their customers. “Big data” is not the answer. Even if organizations collect piles of data from every customer interaction, they still aren’t getting a full picture of what’s going on. 

What’s the path to deep customer insight? Customer Journey Thinking. Organizations must stop looking at customers through their internal lens of interactions and focus their attention on customers’ overall journey.

New Realities of Customer Interactions

Companies have always struggled to understand customers, but it’s getting even harder. New technologies (Internet, mobile, social, etc.) and consumer preferences have changed the way that people behave. Today’s consumers are different then they were 20 years ago (even different from 10, or five, or even two years ago). Compared with just a few years ago, customers follow paths that are more:

  • Information-rich. Companies used to dole out pieces of information knowing that customers had little access to anything more that could validate or repudiate their message. Today, information is widely available.
  • Multichannel. Companies used to depend on a stable set of interactions in each channel, sales in stores, service over the phone, etc. But an increasing number of interactions are happening in online and mobile channels and being blended with those traditional channels. In a recent Temkin Group study, we found that 43 percent of US consumers check competitors’ prices on their mobile phone when they are in a store.
  • Interconnected. Companies are recognizing that marketing and service interactions aren’t isolated events. When a customer has a greats service experience, they are very open to messages about making additional purchases or believing positive comments about your brand. After a bad experience, any marketing event will likely fall flat.
  • Beyond you. With the growth of social channels and technologies for sharing information, people rely less on what they hear directly from companies. As a result, influencing an individual is no longer sufficient for affecting behaviors.

Focus on Your Customer’s Journey

How can you better understand customers in this changing world? By recognizing that they don’t want to interact with your organization. That’s right, customers don’t wake up in the morning thinking, today I want to interact with your bank, retailer, health plan, etc. Customers have goals in their lives that sometimes lead them to interact with your firm. The interaction is not the central component, it’s just a part of a much broader journey.