Customer experience (CX) is the overall impression a buyer gets from interacting with a seller along the various touchpoints that make up their business relationship. The process of finding, purchasing, using and maintaining a seller’s offering is also called the customer journey. Let’s say that the offering is software. In that case, the discrete customer journey steps may look something like the below (you can also refer to this article).

customer journey steps

Where CX Design Enters the Mix

The role of CX design is to craft these customer journey steps in ways that optimize the satisfaction of the customers. The challenge is to create a seamless and consistent experience. Customers form just one impression and opinion about a company they engage with. Metaphorically speaking, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If one step in the customer journey is frustrating, this perception can ruin the overall experience. With regard to the above example of a software company selling to customers, here are two examples of potentially weak links in the chain:

  • If the seller’s marketing website and customer support portal present themselves in a completely different look and feel, this not only provides an inconsistent brand experience, but customers also need to learn and adapt to each one — an effort that should be spared.
  • If a customer struggles with upgrading the software the whole customer experience will be tainted even though all previous steps may have been stellar.

The consequences of these examples are the same: The seller has a high risk of losing customers, revenue, market share and brand value.

The root cause for a disjointed customer experience is organizational. On the seller’s side, different steps of the customer journey are owned by different departments and teams (see this article). In some companies, these groups are well aligned and work together — in other companies, they don’t. When they don’t, they are essentially silos with their own goals, strategies and metrics. This results in a lack of joint responsibility, interdepartmental communication and shared metrics.

Here are 5 approaches to overcome this issue:

Understand All Touchpoints Between Customer and Seller

While this sounds trivial, it may not even be clear what all the points of contact between buyers and sellers are — or should be. What constitutes the complete customer journey? What’s the beginning of that journey? Is it when potential customers visit the seller’s homepage? Or is it much earlier, for instance when potential buyers read strategically placed articles on third-party tech news websites that introduce the seller and its products?

Or let’s move to the end of the journey: Is the last touchpoint customers have with the seller the moment they click on the “place your order” button — or does the engagement continue further and include things like satisfaction surveys or product support? Amazon’s frustration-free packaging is a great example of caring about the customer experience  — after the purchase has already been delivered.

The customer journey’s start and end points (and everything between) may vary depending on the company, the product and the industry, but as a rule of thumb, it’s best to define start points that happen as early as possible and end points that happen as late as possible. That way the engagement with customers — the customer lifecycle — is maximized.

Journey mapping is a method to define and document all the customer engagement steps in sequence, their relative importance to the buyers, and the current satisfaction level of the buyers. Journey maps show the sequence of activities that customers go through, so these maps represent the worldview of the buyer, not the seller. They inform the seller about critical steps in the flow that at present frustrate customers. The cause for the frustration may reside within one journey step, but it could also arise from prior steps that are owned by other teams within the seller’s organization.

Related Article: 4 Steps Toward Successful Customer Journey Orchestration

Create Consistency Throughout the Customer Journey

For a seamless customer experience, consistency is critical. It essentially means that the company’s brand needs to be manifest in all touchpoints between customers and sellers — no matter if these touchpoints are digital (e.g., websites), analog (e.g., printed ads) or personal (e.g., support agents). One critical element is establishing a design system that defines the look and feel of websites, landing pages, phone apps, etc. It not only helps buyers find their way easily through the seller’s digital ecosystem, but it also lowers the design and development effort on the seller’s side.

Another aspect of consistency is the tone of voice. As described above, if sales people are accommodating and support agents are evasive and rude, then the overall impression of the seller suffers. But a consistent tone of voice goes beyond the way staff communicates human-to-human with customers. Supermarket chain Trader Joe’s is a good example: It has an informal, easygoing tone of voice across all channels — on its website, in its print advertisements and in its stores.

Finally, consistency in the information is crucial. Things like SKU numbers, order numbers, support ticket numbers, contact information, etc., should be maintained and carried forward through the entire engagement. Keeping track of this information is not the responsibility of the customer, but the seller. On the seller’s side, consistent data implies that all persons having touchpoints with customers need to have all relevant information. This avoids those frustrating situations when, for example, a support person needs to ask basic information from the customer that are already known but may not be accessible to the agent at that moment.

Establish and Measure Joint Customer Metrics

The various departments and teams on the seller’s side have their own metrics that are typically based on industry standards specific to their functions. Metrics that are only used within certain teams are necessary but not sufficient for a stellar overall customer experience. The customers don’t care and should not care about how the seller is organizing itself. They’re only interested to reaching their objectives.

Learning Opportunities

Therefore, it helps to change the perspective, away from departmental metrics and toward measuring the quality of the overall, as well as individual, steps in the customer journey. Metrics like customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores or customer effort scores (CES) can be utilized to provide answers. Using the same metrics and targets (e.g., CSAT target of a 4 on a scale from 1 to 5) allows spotting underperforming touchpoints, comparing touchpoints to one another and prioritizing those touchpoints that need to be fixed before others. Only after this quality assessment would you determine what department or departments are needed to optimize broken touchpoints.

Related Article: How to Make the Customer Journey More Data Driven

Share CX Responsibility Between the Involved Departments

The overall goal of a company is increasing profitability, and generating revenue is the single most important contributor. Hence, all groups involved in attracting, converting and retaining customers have a vested interest in creating a first-class experience. These include but are not limited to marketing, design, IT, sales and support.

While responsibilities for strategic goals such as revenue generation may be shared across departments, tactical goals or operational goals may not. In what category does creating a great customer experience fall? This may depend on the company. Progressive, customer-centered organizations may define CX as a strategic goal in and of itself — knowing that the benefits go beyond producing revenue (e.g. attracting new talents through a great brand image). Other companies may consider CX a tactical goal that is merely an enabler for the strategic goal of creating revenue.

Whether CX is a strategic, tactical or operational goal determines the level of attention and visibility that it receives within a company. If it’s a strategic goal, the executive level will have eyes on it. The lower the goal level, the more decentralized CX is being handled and the higher the risk that the involved groups don’t align. Lifting CX to a higher goal level is one measure to help in that case. Another is to have an incentive system that awards managers and their teams for accomplishing joint goals.

Have Joint CX Meetings of the Involved Departments

Yes, meetings have a bad rep. Too often they’re only wasting time. However, to break down silos, it’s important to bring together those departments and teams that contribute to the customer experience. It’s not enough to set joint responsibilities, goals and metrics.

The involved groups need to review their progress together. Which journey steps perform well, and which ones do not — in terms of customer satisfaction but also in terms of their contribution to revenue? What touchpoints need to be tuned and how? Who needs to do what?

Since oftentimes more than one department is needed for fixing problems, joint meetings lend themselves well to organize a coordinated approach. Beyond putting out fires, these meetings can also be used for growth hacking, which is the practice of continuously experimenting with changes that are believed to optimize various aspects of the customer journey.

Final Thoughts on Fixing Broken Customer Journeys

It is all for one! In today’s world, there are a lot of functions in a company contributing to the various parts of the customer journey. While they all have their own way of working, their own tools, processes and metrics, they all serve a common goal of delighting customers.

And only when that happens will there be higher revenue, customer retention, market share and brand value.

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