The Gist

  • The requirements. Customer journey orchestration (CJO) requires a wealth of customer data and significant resources, including data, technology and human expertise.
  • Emotions count. Emotion is a key factor in customer satisfaction and loyalty, and measuring emotional sentiment requires expanded access to critical emotional experience data.
  • The road to success. Coordinated and intentional customer journey orchestration can differentiate a brand and create a positive impression on potential and existing customers, leading to success in the era of digital transformation.

Customer journey orchestration (CJO) has been somewhat of a Holy Grail for business leaders since the explosion of ecommerce and smartphones in the late 2000s. At that time, new digital channels such as social media and search started to influence the customer decision journey, brick-and-mortar retail began its slow but steady decline and organizations had to grapple with new concepts like customer journey maps and omnichannel retail experiences.

Digital Transformation Accelerates, But Large-Scale Journey Orchestration Remains Elusive

By 2015, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella declared, “every business will become a software business, build applications, use advanced analytics,” and he’s been proven mostly correct. Businesses in every industry, from retail and financial services to healthcare and transportation, are developing and using technology to make their operations more efficient and their products and services more attractive to consumers. The global COVID-19 pandemic further supercharged this shift toward digitization, with global executives telling McKinsey the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by seven years, nearly a full decade.

Despite the focus on digital transformation, real journey orchestration on a large scale has remained theoretical for most organizations for several reasons.

True CJO doesn’t just involve the point of sale or outbound marketing campaigns, it spans the entire customer lifecycle from discovery to customer care. This creates complexity and requires significant resources, including data, technology and human expertise.

Related Article: 4 Steps Toward Successful Customer Journey Orchestration

Integrating Customer Data: The Key to Real Journey Orchestration Success

First, CJO requires access to a wide range of customer data from various sources. Customers today share their feedback in multiple channels, via contact center conversations, social media posts, chat logs with a service bot, or even via unspoken actions like rage-clicking or mouse wheeling on a company check-out page. Organizations need a mixture of contextualized quantitative and qualitative customer insights in order to actually choreograph relevant, real-time customer experiences across the customer lifecycle.

In the early days, CX platforms and CJO platforms were seen as competing or duplicative. Over the past few years, those segments have merged. Usermind, Kitewheel, Pointillist and Thunderhead were all leaders in the Forrester WaveTM: Journey Orchestration Platforms rankings at different points in time. In the summer of 2021, Qualtrics acquired Usermind, and, in quick succession, Thunderhead, Kitewheel and Pointillist were snapped up by other CX focused companies. A common goal of those moves was to bring voice of the customer data closer together with the engagement data that had typically powered leading CJO platforms.

Why Emotional Sentiment Outweighs Usability in Customer Experience

Emotion is a key indicator of customer satisfaction and loyalty. The Qualtrics XM Institute looked at the impact of Success, Effort and Emotion on customers’ likelihood to recommend, repurchase and forgive. Intense positive (or negative) emotional sentiment outstripped pure usability in every area.

Measuring emotional sentiment with simple Net Promoter Score (NPS) tools and surveys doesn’t work. However, as we’ve seen with new tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, advances in natural language understanding platforms in the last few years provide organizations with expanded access to critical emotional experience data that can help businesses understand the role of emotion in customer experience to deliver more human, empathetic service.

Related Article: Marketing Automation vs. Customer Journey Orchestration

Overcoming Silos: Why Coordinated Customer Data Is Key to Journey Orchestration Success

Once an organization has all the right data inputs, it must develop a strategy to get the right data into the hands of the people who can take action at the right time — service agents or marketing and sales employees armed with the relevant insights into that customer’s past and present experience. Operationally, this takes time and effort to arrange. Departments within an organization frequently operate in silos instead of as a collective unit and if a product or digital team has no visibility or communication with the customer care team, it is difficult to coordinate and orchestrate a seamless customer journey at each key moment in their journey.

Learning Opportunities

This challenge stifled the success of many early CJO programs, but the market for customer data platforms (CDPs) and the tools that allow for real-time interaction management have drastically matured. Today, organizations with the right CDP and data integrations and tools can see all their customer experience data in one place, enabling them to segment customers into cohorts in real-time and to know exactly how and when to intervene and enhance the experience.

Personalized Customer Orchestration Creates Positive Impressions and Loyalty

How does this kind of personalized orchestration look in practice? Imagine you're in the market for a new pair of hiking boots. You do some research online and find a brand that you like, but you have a few questions about sizing and comfort. You use the brand's website chat function to connect with a customer service representative. Perhaps you use this brand's app to track your monthly hiking metrics. The representative can access previous purchases, browsing history, and the data from the app, and based on that information, recommend a specific boot model that they think will best fit your needs.

The representative also sends you an email with more information about the boots and a discount code to encourage you to make the purchase. A few days later, you receive a personalized follow-up email asking how the hiking boots are working out for you and if there's anything else the brand can help with.

In this example, the customer journey has been orchestrated across multiple touchpoints, including the website chat function, email and follow-up, to provide a seamless and personalized experience for the customer. The customer service representative was able to access relevant customer data to make a more informed recommendation, and the follow-up email helped to build a relationship with the customer and encourage loyalty.

This type of coordinated and intentional customer journey orchestration can help a brand to differentiate itself and create a positive impression on potential and existing customers at a scale that was previously impossible. This kind of visibility helps organizations spot trends or points of friction. They can see where customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) or engagement drops or spikes at each milestone in the customer journey.

Prioritize Intent and Desired Outcomes to Succeed in Post-COVID Digital Landscape

During COVID people were isolated and digital channels met a burning need for safety and connection to both brands and people. The expectations have now been set and are only growing. Delivering on basic customer needs through digital channels was enough in 2020.

In 2023, with consumers looking more critically at how they spend their money, organizations need to go beyond need, to think about intent and desired outcomes. The ones that successfully orchestrate the right outcomes will win in this next era of digital transformation.

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