woman sitting on top of hill looking down at an empty road
PHOTO: Vlad Bagacian

Increasing access to data, improvements in the technology to collect, manage and act on that data, and a growing awareness on the part of brands of the importance of delivering seamless omnichannel journeys are making 2019 an exciting time for customer experience professionals. 

The challenges CX professionals face are numerous. Yet we can see signs of progress, as more and more brands are breaking out of their siloed approaches and stitching together the customer journey, across all channels and bridging the gap between online and offline interactions. 

Managing these journeys well is a keystone to what makes great customer experiences. For those brands who have not yet succeeded in this area, the top five pillars of managing customer journeys below will set you on firm footing. They explore the ability to manage omnichannel experiences across the web, mobile devices, voice calls, social media and of course in-person and in-store. A consistent, connected and optimal journey depends on understanding and managing each pillar.

1. Re-Know Your Customer

Of course, we want to always start with knowing the customer — but let’s take this up a couple of notches. Take your time to really study your core customers and what goals they have whenever they engage with you. Build personas around these customers. This will help ensure you understand how that customer is likely to behave and will also help you create an outside-in approach to customer journey mapping. 

While this pillar sounds obvious, its methodology is rapidly changing. Knowing your customer today means moving beyond just the survey and into the signals. Customers transmit signals with every move they make — and it’s not always transaction based. Nor is it always comment and feedback based. We are adding behavioral and implied satisfaction to predict outcomes. If you understand your customers' typical patterns of engagement with your brand, you can begin to use this knowledge for prediction. Success comes in the form of knowledge and automation. Brands that are pushing the boundaries of omni-service are harnessing signals, identifying the customer and personalizing their experience.

Related Article: Customer Journey Mapping: Navigating a Course to Better Customer Relations

2. Identify and Personalize

Being able to identify your customers across their journey is key to personalization and providing a seamless end-to-end experience. Different technologies are available to identify a customer's behavior across all channels to assess their likelihood to return, churn, spend more and/or refer the brand to family and friends. If you are only looking at engagements on an identifiable touchpoint, you are missing key points of valuable data, including knowing where your customer has come from, when they last engaged with you, what campaign they responded to and their goals. By collecting data across the omnichannel journey, you can not only personalize their experience but understand their goals and predict their next move.

3. Learn and Act on Emotional Triggers

Emotions not only drive purchases, but also loyalty. Use what you already know to understand and recognize the emotional triggers for a customer persona or, at least, by generation. For example, a key emotional trigger for a millennial is often instant gratification as opposed to a baby boomer, who is driven by trust. You can use this knowledge as a competitive differentiator. For example, if a competitor has a data breach, look for ways to reassure your customers you are going above and beyond to take measures to protect them. If your competitors are driving loyalty with emotional triggers related to belonging such as early access to concert ticket or presale for customers, think about what you can do to counteract this for your customers. It all comes down to understanding those drivers that really hit the right emotional trigger for engagement.

emotional triggers

Related Article: Why They Click: The Psychology of Your Audience

4. Bring Journey Maps to Life

Many companies have invested time and money into customer journey mapping to help them walk in their customer’s shoes, but many of these maps remain dormant, pinned to a boardroom wall or siloed in an internal portal. 

These maps should show the living breath of the business. They should show pain points and successes and should be used as catalysts for change. The best way to ensure these maps remain alive is to have a feed of customer comments visible throughout the map. In fact, preferably, all of those key moments of data collection should be represented in a constantly updated dashboard, which key stakeholders have access to and receive regularly in their inboxes.  

The latest thinking on customer journey maps is to make sure you are collecting research about your customers outside of their engagements with you. You want to meet your customers where they are and sometimes your customers might be where you are not. For example, a major retailer moved some stores out of malls and into more local commercial districts as part of its mission to get closer to customers. These locations are experiencing up to double the conversion. So the lesson is to understand what would be the ultimate engagement for your customer and find out what you are doing to meet them where they are. 

Related Article: Use Design Thinking to Put Yourself in Your Customers' Shoes

5. Customer-Led Design Thinking

The keystone of customer journey management is that the business is constantly moving forward. Use the customer journey map that was created as a current state document as a design blueprint for the business as a future state. The customer designs that future state map through your analysis of their behavior and voice, and then predicting the future path those customers would most likely want to adopt. There is little point in building a customer journey map to understand the customer journeys your customers are on unless you seek to create the journeys your customers would dearly love to have. You need to understand, observe, ideate, build and test new journeys to make the best possible experiences for your customers.