VW Van road trip
The customer journey has evolved to impact not only the individual customer, but their broader network PHOTO: ML van Dam

When people set out to find what they are looking for, most of the time they aren’t searching for a product such as a lipstick, a power drill, a vacation or a car. They’re looking because they want to accomplish something.

What they want is the experience of looking beautiful, finishing their home-office renovation to create a quiet space for work or leaving the stress of their day-to-day lives to escape behind the wheel of that aspirational car.

Is the Traditional Customer Journey Changing?

The traditional customer journey is often described as a series of different steps a customer moves through, from awareness to engagement to transaction.

But we need to ask if this linear approach truly captures the customer experience. Does the model of many different touchpoints, influences and buying factors across many different channels, choices and information sources still work?

Increasingly, however, most companies find that they need to look at this journey from a holistic perspective that brings into play the sum of all experiences and the ways in which those experiences build brand equity and connection with customers or prospects.

Customer Decision Journeys

Today’s customer journey is so much more than what a brand says about itself. It’s individuals’ connection with corporate image and identity. It’s what their peers say. It’s what the media says. It’s how their interactions with your brand compare to the best brand experiences they’ve ever had.

McKinsey & Company introduced the concept of the customer decision journey in 2009. Customer decision journeys center on the moments of decision and influence. They move away from the notion of a funnel to focus on the ways that today’s consumers research and buy.

Friends Influence Friends

Today, one person’s experience becomes everyone’s experience.

For example, say a news report comes out about an exploding device. Will it affect purchase choice? Absolutely. How about when someone posts and shares photos of their recent vacation with the caption ‘Best Vacay Ever!!!’ and a link to the resort. Will it influence the appeal of the location, if not the resort, for that person's peers? Very likely.

And what about an airline that creates a great interactive interface to allow travelers to book not only their airfare but also their hotel and car, easily and at a discount. Will it win loyalty? No question.

Today’s world is a stage on which moments collide, from pre-purchase, when a customer evaluates options and compares, to purchase to post-purchase, when they experience the actual brand or service. As this circle loops back around, it brings loyalty and advocacy into play.

Customer Experience Goes Global

To be fair, we’ve been talking about the customer experience for some time now. But customer experience takes on new dimensions when companies operate globally.

Increasingly, even leading-edge organizations are discovering that an omnichannel approach may not be enough. A research report by IDC (registration required) shows that the customer-centric approach has now superseded that of omnichannel management when it comes to increasing the ROI of digital initiatives.

For global organizations, this takes on additional significance. In fact, the global customer experience management market is estimated to reach $18 billion by 2023, according to Market Research Future.

Creating Global CX

Beyond localized websites and local employees, a global customer experience includes delivering content that’s culturally engaging and personally relevant. It includes localized marketing, product content and multilingual SEO.

It extends to the customer support experience through virtual assistance, multilingual chat, FAQs and customer self-service portals. Bottom line, it’s about supporting people with technology and processes to provide customers with experiences that create loyalty.

There are three main ways to do this:

1. Create Global Operational Efficiency

This is about implementing a global operating model that enables an organization to coordinate, manage and deliver the many elements of customer experience. It is the way in which integrations within the supporting technology stack work together, and includes how a company organizes itself and its processes to deliver both global and personal customer experiences.

2. Deliver Locally Relevant Experiences

In addition to translations, which have become table stakes, global organizations need to consider a nuanced approach that ensures the creation of engaging local-language content.

This means companies need to go beyond just translating content to develop communications that are understandable and culturally relevant. It extends beyond culture to include how we use customer data and behavior to predict and define the customer experience. And, it has implications for actual products that transmit and interact with customers using digital content.

3. Combine Technology With Human Insight

The global customer experience is about facilitating the customer experience by combining the strengths of human insight and knowledge with those of machine technology to create a global connection with local customers. New developments in AI and machine learning are rapidly changing what is possible.