The funny thing about customers is they don't often follow a map.


In the good old days, if you wanted to plot a course, you needed a map; a physical piece of paper with roads, highways, streets and avenues written in different colors, big fonts and a picture of a compass near the corner. Unfolding a map was easy, closing it back up the same way was really hard. 

When you traveled to a new city, you needed a new map. When you visited that same city again four years later, you needed a new map again (because the previous map was carefully put in a spot you would not lose it -- it is still there).

When traveling with the family, the course was carefully plotted; stop here, visit there, spend the night ... right about ... here! Somehow it became a journey an adventure, more than just a trip.

If you commute to work every morning, you do not need a map, well, not usually. The route is the same each day, unless there is traffic, then the commute becomes an adventure, with plan B and C close at hand. There are highs -- a hidden restaurant or rainbow out the window, and lows -- traffic, construction, a snowstorm. Some things can be predicted, some cannot.

Customer Journeys are not Static

A funny thing about customers, they do not often follow a map. The customer relationship with their vendor or service provider, from first touch, to purchase and support is a journey. Some portions can be predicted, some are hard to predict. Even if you had all the correct data, personal information and preferences, what would you do? Is it possible to manage the customer journey?

Each customer has a unique channel preference, web search, community, social media, talking to friends, talking on the phone, sending an email or browsing through the store. Some like one of the above, some like all of the above. Do you plot their course, push them in a certain direction? It might be easier for you, but is it easier for them?

We as individuals like to be treated as, well, individuals! Today, we live our lives in a high gear, always running and fighting against the clock, time never seems to be our friend. We hate to read long emails, but we like blogs (why is that?). Listening to telemarketing calls is annoying and we skip commercial ads by time shifting. When we go out to the store talking with shop staff is not a priority.

So, if we feel that way as individuals, why do we assume in our professional role that things will be different? Why don't we follow the basic “don't do to others what you don't want done to you”?

Planning the Journey Versus Adapting to Course Correction?

With volumes of data available to you, telling you and your team exactly where customers went, how long they stayed on a page, what they searched for, giving insights into likes and dislikes, the question should be, “what are you planning to do?” [with all this data]. The information collected through all the touchpoints with all the customers and all the transactions that they have with you must be leveraged to get into one point of personalizing the experience and get the most out of the relationship. This, however, is not managing the journey, nor the experience.

This is simply trying to make each journey, each experience along the way better and more meaningful.

In the past and unfortunately in the present the CMO and CIO do not quite understand each other. It is a bit like the CIO is building the roads and the CMO are building the attractions. What good is one without the other?

CMO and CIO should be close partners, friends, allies and peers. They should both work together to get the personalization of brands and to leverage the experience of their customers. They can only achieve that by combining the communication channels with the right information at the right point in time -- this is called context integration. The communication should be tailored to each customer, based on all the information that the brand collected about each customer. And the information should be stored and worked in every experience that the brand has with its customer.

It is not about managing the experience or controlling the journey. It is about understanding your customers and the roads they like to travel. Brands can only be successful in the future if they adopt new strategies to provide value along the journey at each step and enhance the experience for their customers and they can only achieve that by listening, learning, engaging and understanding.

Image courtesy of severesid (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more from Mitch, see his Customer Relationship Management as a Customer Experience Differentiator