Customer Journeys: What Can Go Awry on the Path to Making Customers Happy

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Loni Stark avatar

What can go awry in customer journeys
There is much written on the virtues and triumphs of mapping customer journeys, but little about what can go awry.

Customer journeys are beacons that focus teams across an organization around the common goal of helping people become successful and happy. Successful and happy people, as we all know, stay as customers, spend more money and may even share the love with their social circles.

In fact earlier this month, Forrester's report, "Banks and Retailers: You Cannot Price Your Way Out of Bad Customer Experiences," uncovered that customer experience accounts for 55% of customer loyalty to banks, and 46% to retailers.

Yet sometimes, a zealous, well-intentioned exercise to map journeys goes awry and someone yells, "This customer journey effort is BS!"

Customer journeys document the experience customers have from their point of desire to fulfillment. It includes not only the interactions a person has with a company, but also the touch points where their impression of the brand is impacted. This latter factor includes social and media influences.

In this endeavor, arriving at success versus disillusionment depends a lot on your approach. Here are two critical things to remember as you embark on your own odyssey in search of providing the ultimate customer experience:

Customer Journeys are Messy

Customer journeys are messy, multi-channel beasts that change direction at a customer's whim -- after all, it’s their journey, not yours.

The exercise is not a way to box customers into a desired path with a dry erase marker and whiteboard. It’s a way for brands to better understand customer desires, anticipate needs and uncover opportunities to delight. It’s important to remember that many of the crappy customer experiences we face personally were born from a brand's too-rigid definition of the path consumers must follow. Case in point: the last time you navigated a call center script either with verbal gymnastics or by playing touchscreen hopscotch.

Brands too often approach mapping customer journeys as a process problem rather than a party project. Process conjures up commanding customers with straight, orderly conduct -- like the Von Trapp children at the beginning of The Sound of Music. They were a miserable bunch.

A party allows for freedom and exceptions. When you plan a party, small or ginormous, you think more about anticipating the needs of guests, giving folks options and occasionally throwing in a personal element that may delight.For example, during the dance stage of a party, guests can still mingle quietly on the sidelines or grab an appetizer. They are not told they must start back at the party entrance or that the option only exists if they call you on their cell phone to place the request.

Don't forget the personal, delightful touches. It's what a customer will remember when all else has faded. Travelocity not only helps travelers successfully book travel, they also inject some fun with the Travelocity Gnome across their site and on Twitter (@RoamingGnome) where his profile notes his "beard is a work of art." On my latest Lufthansa flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt, there was a bright yellow flower on the meal service cart that made me smile.

Great customer journey's withstand human fickleness and exceptions. Balance the desire to approach it as a process with a dash of party spirit.

The Journey Doesn't End After the First Signature

Winning customer loyalty means the journey doesn’t end after the first signature.

Learning Opportunities

Look at the journey you’ve mapped out. If it culminates in a big conversion step or something that is mostly beneficial to your company, the journey did not end at its intended purpose. That is: to make a customer successful and happy.

Yes, efforts need to map to business benefits, but the destination of a customer journey should be about something for which the customer cares. In reality, the customer's journey doesn't really end, it continues either with your brand or moves on with a competitor.

While many companies have been focused on bringing a person from prospect to new customer, little attention has been placed on deepening and broadening the relationship. Customer journeys can get organizations thinking about life after the initial conversion.

As the amount of money pouring into customer acquisition online mushrooms, companies will need to think about customer loyalty and realize the best customer journeys are truly the ones that don't end. A mobile interaction in a customer journey is an opportunity to provide relevant content or intrinsically useful actions, rather than just a flash of a mobile banner ad or offer.

UBS, a global firm providing financial services in 50 countries, crafted mobile site experiences with a focus on providing banking services most useful to its clients. HealthNow New York, a provider of affordable health insurance plans, personalized the online experience for nine core personas resulting in bounce rates dropping from 75% to 35 percent. These personas are not only of new customers, but also existing customers the company wants the site to be a hub of ongoing health care resources.

Finally, recognize that customer journey maps are not works of art to be admired in museums for perpetuity. Instead, they’re a starting point that rallies organizations to change how they interact with customers, measure the impact and continually evolve.

Title image courtesy of alphaspirit (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To get more of Loni's customer experience insights, read her Four Web Content Management Trends in 2013 Every Marketer Needs to Know

About the author

Loni Stark

Loni Stark is senior director of strategy and product marketing at Adobe. In her role, she leads business growth and go-to-market strategy and execution for Adobe’s digital experience management business.