“People have been grappling with a definition of customer experience for several years. Sometimes it’s defined as digital experiences and interactions, such as on a website or a smartphone. In other cases, customer experience is focused on retail or customer service, or the speed at which problems are solved in a call center.” ~Adam Richardson, “Understanding Customer Experience”, Harvard Business Review, October 28, 2010.
Organizations of all types — from e-commerce retail and medical practices to non-profits and restaurants — are spending more and more time thinking about how to better communicate, engage with and convert prospects into long time, satisfied customers. Many enterprises have employed concepts, such as customer journey mapping, to identify the steps a prospect goes through to become an active customer, patient or client.
The processes and resulting maps can be complex and showcase a ‘cradle to grave’ (thanks again to Adam Richardson for this phrase, “Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience”, Harvard Business Review, November 10, 2010) environment — taking into account every possible touch-point a customer may endure. These include digital touch-points, such as email or push notifications as well as traditional touch-points, such as phone calls, direct mails and conversations with in-store staff.
The advancement of technology, marketing automation and subscription model SaaS tools have encouraged business owners and managers to focus primarily on digital touch-point and technology-driven processes. After all, these are more efficient, easier to deploy and represent the direction things are going. With all the shock-and-awe and glamour of intelligent digital solutions to improve the customer journey, it can be very tempting to leave a few things out.
When a technical support agent for an Internet service provider or email service provider receives a troubleshooting call from a client, often the first question is a variation of “is your Internet connection plugged in?” To the customer calling in, this can often be an infuriating question — “of course it is plugged in!!!” is a common reply. I would be surprised to find statistics addressing this problem and I’d venture to say that customers have called in screaming about email connectivity to find out their WiFi was off (source — me and experiences with clients — you’ll have to take my word for it).
Recently for a client, inbound appointments were on the decline, yes inbound calls were increasing, and email follow-ups were receiving high reply rates. What was the problem? It did not take long to discover that the phone tree was not configured properly. This resulted in dead-ends & busy signals for a material amount of inbound calls. The penalty? Missed opportunities, revenue and a bad experience for a customer that is now less-inclined to choose the business.
Avoid the temptation to make the digital metrics dashboard your only ally and resource in evaluating the customer journey. Periodically, take the time to be the customer. Send in an email inquiry and understand the next step in the process. Call in to try to schedule an appointment and listen to the voice prompts and confirm you can get to where you were aiming to get. Visit a store and make a purchase. Take note of things such as hold-time for a phone call, the friendliness of an in-store associate or the simple viability of a process (e.g., dead or broken elements of a phone tree or email address).
A brilliant and elegant email marketing system has been deployed. The content, imagery, timing and touchpoint rules are flawless and would win accolades from marketing automation awards panels (yes, these exist — DMN Awards). However, sometimes success in the automation orchestration, even with good response rates, do not mean that the company is truly engaging with customers. Some customers that would prefer a phone survey or paper survey reply to the emails resigning themselves to the “well, that’s just how it is these days.” Inquire directly with customers and ask about their preferences — it makes a difference.
Our firm was recently involved in a project to build a patient-facing online appointment system for a medical practice. As part of the inquiry, patients were asked if they would prefer phone, email or text message for their follow-up messages. Over one-third preferred a phone call back to confirm their appointment and verify their information. It’s natural to think that since someone initially inquired online, his preference would be to receive correspondence electronically. Not the case. Take the initiative to learn about how specific groups of customers prefer to receive correspondence from your organization. This will improve response rates and customer satisfaction, particularly by building a deeper trust with the customer.
Direct mail, in-person follow-up meetings and other forms of traditional, non-digital touchpoints are not dead. A hand-written thank you note goes along way in deepening a bond with a customer. The same goes for recognizing a customer while out at a restaurant and offering to buy a round of drinks. These micro-moments are difficult to quantify; however, they play exceptionally important roles in the lifetime value of a customer.
If your firm is using a CRM system, log these informal interactions. Over time, it will be possible to spot a trend that can open new ways to improve the flow of business to the organization. For our business, I have been able to spot an uptick in business activity relevant to my time spent in the gym. Conversations with prospects that would not happen anywhere else are leading to more appointments and proposals.
Measurement & Return on Investment
Many organizations can comment at an expert level about their customer journey and associated touch points. Everything is working like a well-oiled machine; however these same business owners and managers have difficulty expressing the efficacy of these efforts.
“So, is it driving you new business?”
“Well, geez, I am not really sure.”
The intelligence and cool-factor of automation and an expert customer journey process can make it easy to overlook some real metrics. Certainly, somethings are difficult to track as one-to-one relationships. Does a more thought out email marketing flow directly result in increased in-store visits? It’s usually not easy to say with complete confidence. However, each campaign should have some metrics associated with to verify if the changes and new implementations are having positive impacts. Is there an uptick in calls? Leads? Positive reviews? Business owners and managers can evaluate multiple KPIs and determine over time which ones are the most meaningful. Lastly, when there are costs involved, whether it be professional consulting fees or SaaS technology expenditures, understand how those costs are being allocated and if they are being utilized.
One client we worked with had an exceptional process for following-up with customers and earning repeat business. Unfortunately, it was discovered that the company was paying for 3 SaaS subscriptions when only 1 was being used to accomplish its goals. The performance was so blinding, the company failed to assess the ROI across the entire enterprise. Paying closer attention along the way would have saved the company some hard earned dollars.