Keeping your customer in mind every step of the way is a vital driving force to business success. In order to increase productivity and generate brand awareness, business owners need to think more like their consumers - and remove their entrepreneurial mindset.
Having exceptional products or services, an efficient website, and a devoted customer service team is essential, however, a tiny breakdown in any of these processes could be the turning point of success between you and your competitors. The customer journey begins when the customer becomes aware of your product - through word of mouth or social media - and extends to the repurchase and recommendations 1. Understanding the different phases in the purchaser lifecycle is important, then maximise customer longevity by tailoring them according to the requirements of each individual, and generating an integrated and fulfilling customer experience 1.
Identifying and unravelling your customer touchpoints
Importantly, you can construct and control these customer touchpoints. All you have to do is identify them, and then unravel those processes. The aim is to ensure your customers are satisfied at every instance they come into contact with your brand 2. Nevertheless, achieving this isn't an easy task. The first step is to put yourself in the shoes of an individual who has never engaged with your brand and go through the entire transaction with your business 3.
Listening and paying attention to online and social media channels is imperative. We are living in the age of the informed consumer - customers have access to all the information they could ever want, at a touch of a button. The modern consumer dislikes being told about great products in advertising forms. Pop-ups on the browser and ads transmitted before a video are considered a nuisance and are often disregarded. But consumers do a lot of looking on their own. They will read reviews, blogs, and watch ‘how to' and review videos (especially by people in their age demographic) before committing to a purchase.
It is now necessary for employers and CEOs to translate self-reflection into the business environment - meaning to humanise the brand whilst also keeping online profiles professional. People are attracted to others who are like themselves - someone who shares the same dilemmas and everyday concerns. When they find people they can relate to, or look up to, they trust.
Several years ago, the only way to launch a product in the market was to work with a top advertising agency - promotions via giant billboards, print or TV. These unquestionably were a huge investment. Everything promotional had to be planned months in advance. Now, anyone can do this from their laptop or phone, anywhere, at any time. Just a few clicks, spend a small amount of money, and your ad is published on Facebook for the world to see.
Since people are browsing and doing prior research, it isn't a surprise that renowned brands are utilising search engines to increase their reach. The goal is to arrive at the top of the search result lists, and this builds awareness, and likelihood to boost sales.
Providing a personalised, linear customer journey and an array of choices is conventional, however, consumers today expect more. The customer experience has evolved from a horizontal structure to a dynamic brand experience5. Contemporary businesses need to empower their customers to carve their own experiences. Companies like Uber and Apple allow you to do just that, and thrive in the omnipresence of technology.
The challenges of delivering a customised brand experience5
- Overwhelming data
Businesses can drown in excessive amounts of customer data. Having to organise, consolidate and gather valuable insights about their customers from vast quantities of data is immensely time and effort consuming.
- Converting quantitative data into quality experience
Once the data is organised and correlated, businesses confront the challenge of creating a system that measures consumer behaviour and executes perceptive experiences conforming to the data.
- Data security
Possessing vast amounts of data comes with a lot of risks. Companies have the obligation to safeguard and protect their customer data. Sometimes businesses are so risk averse that they would rather not take that gamble.
There is a fine line between employing your customers' data to stimulate a unique, satisfying experience, and crossing the boundaries and causing them to feel violated. The waters surrounding privacy laws and regulations governing online marketing are murky.
Long-term customer relationships are valuable, but businesses need to ensure that their survival does not depend on a handful of customers. Customer loyalty is hard to maintain - the modern consumer craves new things. With abundant options available and new businesses sprouting every day, customer experience becomes your competitive advantage. Leading organisations are improving both customer loyalty and profitability by consistently producing integrated and rewarding experiences for their customers.
Cultivating the ultimate customer journey
- Customer experience mapping
Enhance customer experience by tracing the steps then utilising the multitude of tools available to streamline marketing operations, identify gaps and set expectations 4.
Recognising consumers' desires and perceptions during each interaction with your business contributes towards developing an effective and successful strategy. Clicking the ‘like' button to express approval instead of typing a favourable comment or opening an app with a personalised welcome message are minute interactions that could convert someone into your brand advocate 4.
The benefits of customer maps are often understated. If businesses spared a second to look at the customer journey more holistically, it could enlighten them to broader opportunities 4.
- Strategic disruption due to competitor action
There is growing urgency to ‘disrupt' your own business before a competitor does - embracing innovation and thinking outside-the-box has emerged as a significant objective. A current example is Airbnb, whose model has transformed classic paradigms of accommodation services. Don't follow the change, be the change.
Investigate the most effective way to connect with your customers - is it via email, phone or LinkedIn? Or try new ways to build customer relationships.
One member of The CEO Institute takes his prospective new customers to China to demonstrate the strong bond they have with the Chinese manufacturer of their products. He asserts the consequences to be extremely valuable, committing as much as $60,000 per year on these promotional trips.
- Integrate and maintain a customer-focused culture
The common discussion around embedding a customer-focused culture is that the process is complex and varies extensively across industries. One of the biggest challenges exists internally - the general assumption that the customer journey is solely the responsibility of the marketing department5. However, as the customer experience no longer subsists in a linear form, the responsibility diffuses to the whole organisation. In order to provide a memorable experience for each and every one of your customers, it is crucial that all departments in your organisation collaborate proficiently and work towards one common goal. Ultimately, a happy customer will be a loyal customer.
Sephora is one brand that embraces a wholly, customer-centric culture. They deliver standards of personalisation that exceed regular marketing5. The global beauty brand gathers insight on every customer’s beauty concerns based on the individual’s buying and browsing habits, and generates unique beauty profiles and experiences for each of them, making the customer feel valued at every touch point. In return, Sephora receives their loyalty (and customers are rewarded for their loyalty too).
The customer journey was considered to be a fleeting marketing trend, however, the new generation of consumers has assured that it will remain. Adopting a customer-centric mindset will enable businesses to flourish well into the future.
How are you addressing your customer's journey and maintaining your competitive advantage? Members of The CEO Institute find great value in working on their business, instead of in their business.
ABOUT THE CEO INSTITUTE
The CEO Institute was founded in 1992 and is Australia's leading membership organisation for CEOs and senior executives with over 1,000 members. For more information, visit our websites:
Lisa Kasiaras, Global Manager - Franchising & Marketing, The CEO Institute
P (03) 8514 5041 | E firstname.lastname@example.org
1Retrieved from Roberts. J. (2014). Mapping your customer journeys across touchpoints: Examples and techniques. www.mycustomer.com
2Retrieved from SurveyMonkey. How to Identify Your Customer Touchpoints. www.surveymonkey.com
3Retrieved from Audra S. (2014). The Best Way to Map the Customer Journey: Take a Walk in Their Shoes. www.surveymonkey.com
4Retrieved from Richarson, A. (2016). What You Can and Should Be Doing with Your Customer Journeys. hbr.org
5Retrieved from Williams, C. (2015). Why brands need to evolve the Customer Journey in 2016. www.semagroup.com.au