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7 key areas where customer journeys can derail PHOTO: Grey World

The good news: The proliferation of communication channels in the last few years has created countless pathways that a customer journey can take, providing brands with more opportunities and touchpoints to engage with customers than ever before. 

The bad news: this channel proliferation creates potential blind spots in the customer journey that brands only find out about when it’s too late — and the customer experience has gone off the rails. 

It’s nearly impossible to fix a problem when you don’t know it’s broken. So how can brands identify those hidden gaps in the customer experience? 

Seven key areas offer brands opportunities to address customer journey breakdowns — whether they realize them or not. 

Every breakdown — or deadly sin — presents an opportunity to re-engineer the customer experience and drive better end-to-end customer journeys.  

Sin #1: Proximity: Too Distant from the Moment of Need 

There’s no better time to make a sale than in the instant a customer need first arises. 

Strike while the iron is hot and the need is fresh in the customer’s mind — for example, that moment when someone tears the last paper towel off the roll. 

Web commerce has brought brands closer to fulfilling that need in the moment, but solutions like the Amazon Dash button takes it to a whole new level. By placing a thumb drive-like button right next to the towel dispenser, consumers can make that decision to purchase instantly and not be burdened with needing to remember later on when they go online or to the store. 

It’s all about ease and accessibility, which brings faster time to revenue for companies and convenience to the consumer. 

The brands that do it best have mechanisms in place to digitally sense these moments of need as they happen in a proactive manner, rather than waiting for their customers to tell them. How close can your brand get to that moment with new technology?

Sin #2: Accessibility: Designing Around the Business Needs, Not the Customer's

Too often customer journeys are designed around how the brands want to engage with the customer, when we all know it should be the other way around. 

A brand-centric approach causes customers to struggle and eventually abandon ship altogether. 

Case in point: the state of self-service today, which all too often brands use as dumping grounds for FAQs. Brands should evaluate the experiences they are building and ensure that they are designed with customers’ needs and wants in mind first to drive the highest level of engagement possible.

Sin #3: Duration: Letting Too Much Time Slip By

Your potential customers move fast — so fast that customer experience needs to be everyone’s job across the business so brands don’t slow the path to purchase.

Brands often take too long to respond to a customer’s needs or act upon a moment of opportunity. In these cases, the moment to best serve and satisfy has passed, resulting in frustrated customers, costly processes and lost revenue. 

Usually the problem lies in organizational silos, disjointed data, old systems and manual processes. Today’s customer expects immediate gratification and is just one mouse click from moving on. When patience wears thin, expediency equals happy customers. 

Sin #4: Visibility: Lack of Transparency

Let’s face it, expediency is not always possible. Some products can take days to be delivered to the doorstep. Open service cases can take days or even weeks to resolve. 

That’s why transparency has become one of the single biggest opportunities to improve your customer experience. 

Everyone knows Uber brought transparency mainstream by given customers real-time insight into where their car is. Uber is not just winning by making the process digital, it is winning because it fixed an experience that most didn’t know was broken to begin with. 

Now other industries have followed suit including insurers, telecommunications carriers, manufacturers, retailers and yes, even pizza delivery companies — to the point that high transparency is now becoming an expected trait from all brands. Don’t be the brand that closes the curtain.

Sin #5: Continuity: Disconnected Cross-Channel Experiences 

We’ve all been there: You provide basic information to the IVR prompts but when you reach a live service rep, they ask for that same information all over again.  

Brands like Amazon are creating an expectation that when a customer interacts with a brand it should be a contiguous process, no matter if they start on social media, move to web chat, switch to the call center and then back online again. To the customer, it should appear as one seamless interaction that picks up on one channel where it left off on the other. 

Brands need to design the journey from the customer’s point of view, while removing any friction in the transition across all stages. 

Sin #6: Accuracy: Inability to “Get it Right” 

Did your product actually fulfill the customer's need? 

Not all customer outcomes are created equal. The service rep might check the ‘complete’ box, but in the eyes of the customer, there may still be some unfinished business. 

Was the resolution as accurate as you think it was? Did you use data to get real answers or did you just make an educated guess? Did you follow up to ensure the customer’s needs were met? 

It doesn’t really matter if the brand thinks it’s time to declare victory, it’s in the eyes of the customer that matters. 

Sin #7: Memory: Customer Amnesia 

If you told a friend something important about yourself, and then the next day that friend couldn’t recall having the conversation, that would likely damage that relationship, right? 

The customer-brand relationship works in much the same way. 

Every time you visit a web site, purchase a product, click on an ad or talk to a service representative, you’re revealing your own personal preferences that you expect that brand to remember. If a customer’s online behavior with an auto dealer demonstrates they are interested in pink sports coupe, only to return to the site the next day and be shown special deals for black SUVs, that customer may feel that the brand doesn’t understand their needs. Don’t suffer customer amnesia unless you want the customer to forget all about you come buying decision time.

Overhauling a broken customer journey won’t be an easy task, but addressing these friction points in the process will lead to insights that will drive new and better experiences for customers and improve brands’ bottom lines.