Elements of a Successful Customer Journey
A long journey begins with a single step. Or, in the case of customers, a journey begins when they first discover a brand. Every customer embarks on a journey, and every interaction they have with the brand is another step on the path. Identifying and mapping that journey is crucial to understanding customers and creating a high-quality experience. The customer journey is the entire experience a customer has interacting with a brand — from when they first learn about the brand to when they make a purchase to their post-purchase customer service interactions. Whether or not they actively create it, every brand has a customer journey. Some of those journeys are proactively crafted with every detail in mind, and others happen by default. By identifying and understanding the customer journey, brands and CS teams can tailor the experience to provide exceptional value to customers.
Here’s how to identify and craft the right customer journey.
Tie to the Brand Promise
Every brand has a unique brand promise, or what they want to be known for. Accordingly, every brand also has a unique customer journey. The right customer journey starts by identifying the ideal experience customers should have and making sure it is closely tied to the brand promise. Understanding the brand promise helps brands know where to focus their efforts and craft an experience that meets — and exceeds — customers’ expectations. HubSpot explains that a brand promise “serves as a company’s foundational value and informs every aspect of the company, from its messaging to its customer service.”
Unfortunately, companies aren’t doing as good with this as they think. A survey by Forrester found customers only rate 20% of brand experiences as “good,” with the vast majority rated as “OK,” “poor,” or “very poor.” Clearly, there is room for improvement and ample opportunity for brands that can clearly define and deliver on their brand promise.
There’s no right or wrong brand promise; the key is to align it with the customer journey. For example, a white-glove customer journey provides top-tier personalized service, but it requires enormous effort and comes with a high price tag. That’s not the brand promise for a company like Walmart, which wants to be known for being inexpensive and accessible. Walmart’s customer journey centers around its brand promise of people conveniently and reliably getting the products they need for a reasonable price. Walmart’s customer journey doesn’t offer white-glove service because it doesn’t have to. It holds true to its brand promise.
Conversely, Nordstrom has a brand promise focused on personalized luxury and service. Its mission states the brand will “provide a fabulous customer experience by empowering customers and the employees who serve them.” As a result, Nordstrom offers services like in-house tailoring and personal stylists and sells more expensive designer products. Nordstrom customers enjoy the customized shopping experience and are willing to spend more on higher quality products and personalized service.
Two brands, two different customer journeys. But each is effective because it aligns with each company’s brand promise. To identify the right customer journey, look at the brand promise. What is the company known for? What value is it delivering to customers? What does the company represent? The answers to those questions can point brands towards the most effective customer journey.
Makes Customers’ Lives Easier and Better
The customer is central to the journey, so every aspect of the customer journey should meet their needs. But often, companies design around their own needs instead of focusing on the customer. They make decisions based on what will be easier or less expensive for the company instead of what will add value to the customers. That mindset often creates a disconnect between customers and brands and makes customers’ lives more difficult.
Modern customers crave experiences that make their lives easier and better. They want technology-enabled convenience and personalization. Nearly 80% of U.S. consumers name speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service as the most important elements of a positive customer experience. These components need to be integrated into the customer journey in a way that helps brands serve customers. The implementation of the principles varies depending on the brand promise and type of customer, but the focus should always be on providing value and improving customers’ lives.
Identifying and creating a journey that provides value for customers requires empathy and getting into the head of the customer. Empathetic companies thoughtfully consider what customers need to feel they are receiving value and leverage data analytics to understand customers and what they are looking for in a customer experience. Getting into the customer’s shoes pays off — research found the top 10 most empathetic companies increased their financial value more than twice the bottom 10 companies.
Starbucks is consistently recognized for its amazing customer experience, largely because of its focus on service, personalization, and innovation. The Starbucks brand promise is to deliver customized food and drinks to customers quickly and with a friendly attitude. It delivers on that brand promise with a journey that provides value to customers through a leading mobile app and loyalty program. By getting into the head of its customers and continually innovating the experience for customers and employees, Starbucks crafts a journey that connects with customers and provides value.
No matter the industry or company, the customer journey should always be pointed towards providing value. What may seem like a fantastic customer journey is worthless if it isn’t created with the lens of the customer.
Continually Update and Refine the Customer Journey
Just like technology changes and trends come and go, the customer journey is continually evolving. Identifying the brand promise and what customers value serve as anchor points to the customer journey. The path between those posts may change over time and can pivot as needs arise, but the posts are always there as anchor points to the journey.
When identifying a customer journey, consider what it means for the customer to be fully engaged. Do they recommend the product to family and friends? Do they spend a certain amount of time shopping or talking to brand reps? Customers should hit metrics that prove their engagement with the brand along their journey. Integrating those metrics into the journey ensures consistent engagement and keeps customers moving forward on the path.
A successful customer journey requires regular feedback, evaluation, and evolution. Over time, technology may change to update how the customer journey is implemented. But no matter how the details of the experience change, the customer journey should always meet two essential criteria: maintain the brand promise and provide value to the customer.
Identifying the right customer journey helps brands better understand and serve their customers, which creates a strong competitive advantage and builds customer loyalty. Before customers take that first step on the journey, proactively find ways to add value and deliver the brand promise.