How to make a journey map more than a flow chart

28th Sep 2017

Jason Rushforth, General Manager and Vice President, Infor CX outlines what other industries can learn from the customer experience developments in hospitality...

When it comes to understanding the customer, all industries are not created equal. And one of the key impacts of this difference is that some industries are beacons of possible innovation that can – with a little tweaking  - be copied across to seemingly totally unrelated markets.

Hospitality is one such beacon. Hotels are all about the customer experience, from initial discussion before booking, throughout a stay, and beyond. Mapping out a guest’s journey is an essential skill for any hotel looking to beat the competition. And the lessons apply equally elsewhere…

The hospitality industry already knows a lot about journeys — whether a property is the guest’s destination or a stop along the way. Making the journey as smooth as possible is a hotel’s stock in trade.

But from a customer experience perspective, the guest (or customer) journey represents a new challenge for the industry.

Any customer journey is about more than simply moving from Point A to Point B — it’s more fluid and unpredictable. It involves the customers and the businesses technology crossing channels and reflecting how a customer brings a new set of expectations for how they prefer to engage with a brand, both online and in person.

Knowing what matters most at every point of engagement, for the customer and the business itself is vital. By minimizing surprises and removing friction from the experience, a business engages, nurtures, and converts potential business.

With that in mind, what are the key elements and best practices that ensure that a journey is more than a generic flow chart on a whiteboard? What can businesses outside of hospitality learn from hotels that they engage guests with the most compelling and relevant offers at every step? How can businesses provide the utmost relevance at the moment of every interaction?

Recognize how multiple channels create a single source of truth

The customer journey is the definition of an omni-channel experience. Customers may start the interaction through the brand’s website, their mobile app, or even an intermediary. They can start the journey by responding to a post, an ad on social media, an email or even direct mail. They may be interacting with your brand from their laptop, iPad, or mobile device.

With so many different touchpoints and so many potential paths that a journey could follow, it is difficult to maintain a consistent customer experience throughout the process. An offer available in one channel should be available in all channels, when and wherever a potential or existing customer decides to interact with you, their actions, history, and preferences established in one channel should be visible across all other channels. Businesses need a single source of the truth on engagement to ensure that they provide a seamless, real-time interaction.

Capitalize on intelligent segmentation

Segmentation is a classic marketing tactic, but businesses interested in creating a meaningful map of the customer journey need to think beyond traditional demographics and basic profile attributes. To avoid the generic offers that can alienate potential customers, hotels have learnt that they need a more precise approach that considers information such as transactional behavior, preferred channels, campaign history, model scores, and date-relative filters.  The same goes for any other business.

Fictional portraits of hypothetical guests can highlight emotional and psychological motivations that might not emerge in segmentation analysis. They provide additional context and depth when mapping out the guest journey and help to isolate the right messaging, tone, and offer that can be the trigger for a booking decision.

Businesses outside of hospitality also need to realize that, used in conjunction, a detailed segmentation strategy and well-defined buyer personas can help create an effective customer journey that captures a more accurate reflection of motivations, tendencies, and preferences.

Use advanced analytics, intelligence, and data science

With the wealth of potential data available and all the possibilities and permutations a customer journey could involve, businesses need the intelligence to make sense of a complex and volatile picture and generate relevant suggestions for next steps in real time, as the journey plays out.

It is no longer enough to push out attractive offers to the customer segments with the greatest likelihood of response and assume that is everything covered off.  True engagement with customers requires a level of personalization that relies on an in-depth analysis and understanding of a wide range of continually evolving data. And the only way businesses can make that visible is to use analytics.

Conclusion – remember the reason

In the effort to create a customer journey map that accurately pinpoints the best opportunities for customer engagement, it can be easy for a business to lose sight of its own destination in the process: more revenue and higher profit.

Understanding the customer at each point in their journey will help businesses not only deliver offers that are more likely to be acted upon, they will also be in line with the revenue or growth strategy.

Just as a guest journey must be worthwhile for the hotel as well, with each offer and interaction balancing a compelling guest experience and the hotel’s own top line growth, so businesses looking to develop should look to hold in tension better customer journeys and how they fit into plans for growth.


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