The Customer Journey
By Victoria Glancy
What is your customer journey and why is it important to you?
I have been lucky enough throughout my career to have had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of different businesses across a mix of industries from the NHS to Aerospace, Agriculture to Catering. While these businesses have their own unique challenges, there are many elements which are for all intense and purposes the same, but in each case, they choose to approach them by executing different processes. There is normally one fundamental reason for this – they have different customers.
Why is it important to know what your customer wants?
For any business it is paramount that you know what your customer is expecting you to deliver. In our current climate more customer interactions are being managed automatically often via automated responses. This is forcing businesses to review the exact channels customers have to go through in order to receive their desired outcome. For any business there could be a variety of options for this and it is important that you understand all of them. Every member of your organisation who has a responsibility for interacting with the customer in some way should know which part of the business the customer has travelled from and which business area they will be moving to once their interaction with the customer has finished. Assuming your customer journey is running smoothly could be a big mistake. You cannot automate a service if you are not aware of exactly what is needed to be delivered and what issues could come up which prevent this. This will lead to customer dissatisfaction and an employee blame game when no one wants to take accountability for an unhappy customer.
As consumers and customers of services ourselves we all know how frustrating it is when a supplier/provider gets the service we want wrong. It is key that a customer journey needs to be positive and yield positive results for all parties as nothing speaks greater than a customer referral. If a customer is happy they will praise your efforts, if a customer is disgruntled they will say so, and not just to you but to their friends, family and colleagues and word of mouth is a powerful tool. I am sure we have all witnessed this in our work environments as well as being part of these scenarios in our personal lives.
Is there a right way to do things?
It is always reassuring the implement a best practise for your organisation. You have an understanding that this way of working is proven and used by many others. The limiting factor for implementing best practice for a customer journey is that each customer’s journey is different, and most customers are too. For all businesses the customer is a priority stakeholder and keeping them happy on their customer journey with you as a supplier/provider is important. With the current power of social media enabling customer feedback instantaneously there is no longer a period of time where businesses get to reassure a customer that issues they have been subject to won’t happen again, that customers negative feedback is already out there causing damage to that company’s reputation. Never has it been more important for a business to have a thorough understanding of their customer journey so they can ensure they act at every point to make sure it is a positive, efficient and productive experience.
From my experience I have found that projects and businesses are more successful if they interact with their customers frequently throughout their journey. This provides more opportunities for communication between the two parties and this is key. As a supplier you will learn whether your process is working effectively and as a customer you have more chances to discuss any issues you might have with your supplier. It is important not to forget the points at which there is customer interaction throughout their journey with you. There is a strange misconception that a customer is only interested in receiving their product or service. This is not necessarily true. Many customers, especially if a customer journey is long, will be appreciative of progress updates. In some industries, such as construction for instance, scheduled customer reviews are a frequent occurrence. They provide a designated opportunity for both customer and supplier to discuss any items which are related to the delivery of the customer requirement. More often than not successful management of a customer journey comes down to how customer interactions are managed throughout the entirety of the customer journey not just those actions which enable an order and final sign off.
Why are only some business successful?
Over the years I have observed that some businesses believe they have a great understanding of their customer journey when actually what they mean is that they know the area of the process they are responsible for. Do they actually know what the entire customer journey looks like? The transparency of a full end to end customer journey I have found to be very rare across all industries. Where I see customer satisfaction at the highest levels has been when the full customer journey is known and anyone in the business is aware of the journey its customer goes through to reach the outcome they desire.
Having the clarification of all of customer interactions with a supplier/provider and understanding the links between the different sections within your business and how they relate to each other enables more effective communication. This more unified approach to working with a customer to deliver the same end point allows more opportunities to make sure you are delivering the right service. This more cohesive way of working leads to the happiest customers and more successful businesses.
About the author
As an ex-Biokinetic Scientist, Victoria has a passion for working with people and loves helping them achieve their goals - both professionally and socially. She's not shy of getting down and dirty with adventure racing and still manages to find time for her favourite hobbies - cooking and yoga - she's never quite managed to combine the two though, that might be quite messy!
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