Today we see an ever-increasing march towards technology utilization to engage with customers. Using technology, an organization can create efficiencies in the workplace designed specifically for their custom customer journey. This means many portions of the customer journey are now being augmented by technology. Broadly, this is starting with AI helping write ad copy for ads, bots answering chats, workflow automations for updating customers order status and automating customer outreach (after the sale or for closing the sale).
I was in a meeting this week and discussion around mapping the customer journey occurred. The discussion was regarding the steps needed to implement a new customer facing solution. Happily, everyone agreed that the organization’s customer journeys by customer profiles were a needed input when implementing a customer facing solution. “Great!” I thought to myself, “Customer understanding is starting to be baked into this organization’s thinking.”
I listened and waited for the discussion to move to the next step of designing the implementation, which it quickly did once it was concluded that taking existing journey maps and reviewing them with the team for updates was all that was needed.
As sure as the sun rises you will have a day when your organization did not provide an excellent customer experience. Customer experiences are delivered by people executing on processes supported by technology. Those three factors all fail at some point. People make mistakes, processes can not cover every scenario and technology…well as seamless as it continues to strive to be, there is still down time. Acceptance of these facts means you need to have a recovery system in place for when the failures happen.
What makes for a good recovery system?
A good system starts with the acknowledgment that organizations are made of people, and that people are not perfect. Therefore, mistakes will happen. How an organization deals with a mistake is often more important than the mistake itself.
Today as I look at the overall retail and service landscape, I see organizations failing to meet
customer expectations. The list of storied brands shutting down locations is enormous. In 2017 alone, over 5,000 stores of major retailers were closed: Sears and Kmart closed 358 stores, JC Penney 138 stores, Macy’s 68 stores, Payless Shoes emerged from it’s Chapter 11 restructuring with almost 1,000 fewer stores, and the list goes on and on.
Recently, I experienced a very effective marketing experience that was seamlessly connected to the start of the sales process. I have to admit I was impressed; until I went to the physical location and was immersed in their in-store experience.
So what happened?
I was triggered by a radio ad for an item I am considering purchasing.
Many will say a great customer journey is accomplished with great customer service at every touch point of that journey. Many experts say that creating a great customer experience is simple, you just need to genuinely care about your customer. If it’s so simple, why are so many brands falling down? Perhaps it is because they are not gathering the objective facts measuring their customer journey. Case in point: 80% of companies believe they deliver superior customer service but only 8% of people believe these same companies deliver superior customer service (source: Lee resources). This is a massive disconnect which I believe is occurring because the customer journey is not being measured and looked at as a whole.
In an effort to further study the Customer Journey, I have taken observations beyond the myopic environment of the brands I serve to the broader marketplace. I am proposing a monthly review of a business where I will describe how the customer journey was for me and critique the four stages of the customer journey. If you need a reminder of the four stages of the customer journey, it is outlined in this blog.
This week I am starting with a B2C service brand. To kick start the critique, this is my Net Promoter Score for the brand in question:
On a scale of 1- 10; 1 being the least likely and 10 being the most likely, how likely are you to recommend this brand to friends, family and colleagues?
As I look at the retail and service landscape, I see organizations failing to meet customer expectations. The reasons are many: the customer can now educate themselves better than what most in-store representatives can provide. A retail store is limited by the brands they offer versus the brand that a customer may want. The store itself is inconvenient; you have to travel to a location on your own time, often off route. Layer on top of this average customer service at best and it is easy to understand why customers are trying to go direct to brand or heading to e-commerce in ever increasing numbers. E-commerce as a channel for service is creating an issue in and of itself for brands. While booking services online is a convenience for the customer, fierce cost comparisons are driving prices down and customer service training and staffing tend to get cut to remain price competitive.
In 2017, retail brands are scrambling to differentiate themselves. There is still some product exclusivity left but for the most part, product X can be replaced by product Y. This then just leaves price and the customer experience as ways for companies to stand out from their competitors. Customer experience is the key to making your customers loyal, and giving them a reason to pick your organization over the one down the road. In fact, if you are good enough, the customer will talk you up and tell their friends that if they need product X, go see Retailer ABC. If you are really good, the customer will become a promoter, a brand ambassador and is excited about doing business with you and receiving messages from you. The customer might even be delighted by any interaction with your retail brand. You may be thinking there isn't a company in the world that creates experiences that would invoke this kind of customer reaction; there is and that company is Disney.
There is more focus on customer experience now than ever before. Interestingly enough, when you read why brands are focusing on the customer experience the reasons given are more excuses or accusations. What we're not seeing are brands aspiring to have a great customer experience because that's what best for their business. Typical reasons given include the following: