woman walking with suitcase
PHOTO: Anna Sullivan

We should all be tired. All the journeying we’re doing is trying on the legs.

After the long buyer’s journey that we embarked on months ago, and those countless lead-nurturing emails we pored over, and all the blogs we stayed up late reading, and the endless influencers we turned to for insight about who we could trust (not to mention all the social media posts we had to sort through before coming to the harrowing end of our journey) — after all of that, it turns out that we’re now on a new journey: the customer journey.

There is good news and bad news about the customer journey. The good news is that some companies truly understand that customer experience (CX) is about creating a seamless experience that will make customers glad to have invested their time and resources with them. The bad news is that some companies haven’t invested in CX, and that becomes clear when you work with them. The difference is not that some companies want to treat customers well and others don’t; the difference is in the investment in technology that allows for great CX.

There is overlap between the customer’s journey and the buyer’s journey. That may be more true in some industries than it is in others, but rarely would a company sign a client or attain a client and not have something else to offer at a later date that’s not free. But, just as importantly, the customer journey should begin with a well-rounded communication strategy that lets customers know that their needs will be met, no matter who handles their inquiries.

At a recent Forrester Research CX event in London, Forrester analyst David Truog posed this question: “Why care about CX? What is the benefit? Is it a means to an end?” Then he gave a stark reminder that the buying cycle doesn’t end with a purchase. A Forrester report titled “The ROI of Customer Loyalty” backs up that assertion with the finding that ROI on a customer experience investment can amount to as much as 61 percent of the total investment.

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Whose Job Is CX Anyway?

While the trajectory of CX quality is ultimately shaped by the CX management team, customer experience is something that has to be owned by the entire company — from the CEO to the newest hire on the customer support team. CX is as much a cultural initiative as it is a technological one. That’s not to say that data isn’t vital to CX success, but in the end, people serve the customers, people maintain the technology that serves the customers, and it is up to people to decide whether or not they will focus on the customer experience.

Typically, the buyer’s journey falls under the umbrella first of marketing and then eventually sales. As mentioned above, the buyer’s journey doesn’t end just because someone makes a purchase. As important as great customer service is, a problem with a product is what leads a customer to call customer service in the first place. Good CX cannot be reactionary; the strategy has to be a proactive one. The oft-forgotten key to customer retention is content that is relevant to an audience that has already engaged with you. Therefore, it’s back to a marketing effort to ensure proper CX.

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Great CX Won't Survive on Poor Infrastructure

As far as consumers are concerned, what they see is what they get. That means front-end development is top of mind for CX professionals. As it turns out, though, the back end — the technological infrastructure — is what makes the front end run. The engine behind the scenes is ultimately what determines whether the front end functions seamlessly for the customers who interact with it.

It’s the digital asset management platform that ensures that your assets are functioning properly. It’s the content management system that ensures a flawless user experience and gives you the ability to capture, sort and make something useful out of big data.

Without an investment in the necessary infrastructure, the perception of great CX won’t last long. In fact, the subtle aspects of the customer experience — such as an offer featuring the right new product at the right time, a notice letting people know that a product needs to be serviced, or just a reminder about the great work you do for them — would be impossible.

Customer Experience Starts With a Great Vision

Improving CX doesn’t just happen. You can’t just tell customer service reps to be nicer on the phone and be done with it.

To deliver a good customer experience, you need a good corporate culture and the right technological infrastructure. Szymon Walach, managing director of strategy and digital transformation at Bank Polski, explained that the Polish bank began its CX journey in 2010 with a vision to complete the rollout in 2020. That’s not to say that the rollout will happen all at once; as of 2017 the bank had improved enough to be considered a leader in CX in Europe and is now the top bank in Poland, but its CX rollout is still not complete.

Related Article: How Thick Data Helps You Build Emotional Connections With Customers

Your Audience Is All Around You

Your audience is everywhere. Customers do not knock on your doors asking for a quality customer experience. CX has to be enacted and communicated everywhere to everyone. Taking an omnichannel approach to CX may be difficult, but it’s the most important strategy. The lack of an omnichannel approach to CX is a major gap that is often ignored. As Rüdiger Pläster, executive managing director of ORT Group, said at the Forrester CX event, “CX transformation usually needs to be accompanied by a process of digital transformation. Building a customer experience to be proud of is a combination of people, processes and systems.”

And as Forrester analyst Ted Schadler noted, “To close the customer experience gaps in performance, convenience, personalization and trust, firms must think differently and invest differently in the technology of experience delivery.”

Related Article: Tame the MarTech Beast for Better Customer Journeys

So, Back to That Journey

It is true that both the buyer and customer are trying. The tongue-in-cheek representation of the journeys above has some truth to it. How you treat your customers is as important as the products you offer them, and policing the customer journey shouldn’t require too much legwork — but it often does. Depending on the solution, the customer journey will vary, of course. Obviously, buying a cellphone plan is a bit different from purchasing enterprise software, but at the end of the day, customers have choices. Companies’ investments in CX will ultimately validate whether or not customers made the right choices.