In this series of articles focused on the customer journey I have so far explored two important areas of strategy. First, the reason why a comprehensive customer journey mapping process is so important for planning and decision-making. Second, the steps involved in creating a customer journey map. 

In this article I intend to go one step further by exploring how the process of mapping customer journeys can directly lead to better business outcomes. That’s what this is all about. 

Defining Better Business Outcomes

Better business outcomes are often viewed exclusively through the lens of profitability, lower costs, and increased revenue. However, optimizing customer journeys has the potential to generate a broader set of benefits, and whilst some of these might initially feel intangible, they all have a positive financial impact. 

A strategic review of your customer journey should be able to achieve specific goals such as: 

  • improving sales and revenue 
  • increasing customer loyalty 
  • improving customer advocacy 
  • increasing the retention of existing customers 
  • attracting new customers
  • attracting and retaining talent (easier to do in an organization with a focus on delivering for its customers 
  • reducing the cost to process customer interactions 
  • improving interactions across a lifetime for customers  
  • improving the customer lifetime value (CLV). 

Although these articles on customer journey are mainly focused on the period from expressing interest in a purchase to the purchase itself, it is always important to remember the importance of CLV. Customers learn about your products long before they ever walk into a store, and they will remain interested in your brand long after a purchase. These are important periods where the relationship can be both established and nurtured. 

These are some of the most important business outcomes that can be improved by a strategic focus on improving the customer journey: 

Increased customer satisfaction and loyalty 

When customer journeys are optimized, customers feel more valued and supported. They are more likely to have positive experiences with your company, leading to higher satisfaction levels. Satisfied customers are more likely to become loyal, repeat customers and may even recommend your business to others. 

This loyalty can result in increased customer lifetime value, as repeat customers tend to spend more and are less likely to be swayed by competitors. 

In many industries, such as e-commerce, competition is fierce and switching to an alternative supplier is as easy as opening a new app, therefore the ability to resist the competition is a very important part of building loyalty. 

Although customer satisfaction is a very broad measure of success, it can be more accurately summarized as the sum of many of the following outcomes.

Higher customer retention 

Customers are more likely to remain customers if their experience of a customer journey is a positive one. Frictionless, simple and effective journeys are ones a customer will wish to repeat. High effort, complex, and disappointing ones are… not. 

By addressing customer needs, concerns, and resolving issues promptly, you can retain more customers and prevent them from switching to your competitors. This can have a significant impact on the overall stability and growth of your business. 

This can be particularly important for companies with a subscription revenue model. If monthly subscriptions are the main income for your business, then protecting the continued income from existing customers is your first priority – once a customer is on board then keep them.

Positive brand reputation

Exceptional customer service contributes to a positive brand image and reputation. When customers have positive experiences, they are more likely to share them with others through word-of-mouth, online reviews, and social media. This positive buzz around your business can attract new customers, expand your customer base, and differentiate your brand from competitors.

This positive buzz is also known as customer advocacy – when a customer appreciates your brand so much that they will actively promote your company and products to their friends, family, social media contacts and beyond in reviews. It is a very strong form of marketing thats much more powerful than traditional paid advertising, helping to build shareholder value by building long term brand loyalty

Increased sales and revenue 

Satisfied customers are more likely to make additional purchases, upgrade their services, or buy premium products. Good customer service can also drive up-selling and cross-selling opportunities. By providing personalized recommendations and addressing customer needs effectively, you can increase sales and revenue. 

There is a need to equip and train the service team, so they are ready to handle up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. The customer service team must know the product range well and be able to advise on upgrades or alternatives so they can authoritatively offer the best possible advice – not just sales jargon. These sales opportunities should ideally build a closer bond with the customer as they value the advice of the brand, even as they are spending more.

Competitive advantage 

In today’s market, well-designed and executed customer journeys can the competitive advantage between you and the competition. By consistently delivering excellent service, you can stand out from your competitors and gain a competitive advantage. Customers are more likely to choose a company that provides superior customer service, even if the price is slightly higher. 

Naturally, this changes from one industry to another, but most of us have experienced a situation where we would happily pay more for a service to be quick and simple. By dramatically improving and simplifying the customer journey you can expect greater loyalty and often the opportunity to charge a premium.

Cost savings 

Well designed customer journeys are almost always ones that are more efficient, and lower cost to the organization, as well as better experiences for the customer. By reducing customer complaints and resolving issues promptly, you can minimize the resources and time spent on customer dispute resolution. Additionally, loyal customers are generally less price-sensitive, reducing the need for heavy discounts or promotions. 

In addition, by focusing customer service training on the opportunity for customer engagement to also become sales opportunities there is the prospect of your service team generating revenue – they don’t have to be considered only as a cost. The ability to extract greater value from customer interactions is often only seen during transformation programs but is possible to achieve just by improving the customer journey. 

Planning For Different Customer Journeys 

All the opportunities for customer journey improvement listed above are valid for almost all customer service strategies, however there are many different types of customer journey and products being supported. 

Buying a car is a very different customer experience to buying a new pair of running shoes, however the steps in the journey itself may be remarkably similar. The customer will have a need, they will become aware of a product, they will seek out some more information, and eventually they will make a purchase.

In both these cases there is the opportunity to build a long-term customer relationship. Many Nike customers will never even consider another type of running shoe because they strongly identify with the brand. Similarly, many BMW customers would never consider buying an Audi. There is something about the brand they identify with that brings them back for a future purchase, but this can also become part of an extended customer journey where brands introduce a strategy focused on nurturing their existing customer base. 

Demographics can also play an important part in defining expectations, although with the caveat that not everyone in a similar demographic will think, or behave, the same 

Look at how many challenger and digital banks have been adopted by younger demographic groups. They have different expectations of their bank. They expect a bank to support their financial aspirations, their financial lifestyle, and to make their goals achievable.  

More mature and experienced consumers often think of a bank as little more than a place to save or borrow – they have no expectation that their bank will alert them to a high spend on pizza this month. These changing demographic expectations are important to consider when planning how to define the ideal customer journey. 

Many projects focused on improving the customer journey are part of a wider focus on transformation and change. The organization has a budget for transformation, usually driven by a desire to reduce costs, and they realize that more is needed beyond new technology alone – the customer journey needs to be mapped and improved. 

Customer journey mapping is critically important and can drive a transformation program to success by helping to understand exactly how customers are behaving – how that behavior is changing – and what they expect.  

Let’s take the example of e-commerce. Consumers used to visit an online store or app – shopping was intentional. Now its all around them all the time. When watching TV or scrolling social media there is always a button available offering the option to buy what is on screen. Commerce now surrounds us constantly.

This has changed the customer journey beyond all recognition. There is no longer a linear expectation that phone calls into a customer service line will be focused on post-purchase questions – engagement can take place at any point in the customer lifecycle.

Mapping the customer journey is about more than understanding what your customers want. It is now essential if you want to create better business outcomes.

 

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