Why it's time to care about a customer-led journey
We’ve come a long way since the days of mass marketing, when brands would deliver generic single-channel monologues at consumers.
Over the last decade, technology has evolved to an extent that customer-centricity need not be a worthy aspiration but is instead a genuine reality, powering loyalty, profitability and brand affinity in 2020 and beyond.
The evolution of journey orchestration technology means that brand interaction with consumers can now become a genuine two-way dialogue, where brands can use what they know about a customer to enrich the relationship. And because brands can now converse – at scale – with individual consumers, it’s all the more frustrating that only 7% of marketers say their organisation’s KPIs are set up to become more customer-led.
Key to addressing this and delivering true customer-centricity is a commitment to creating customer-led journeys. Here’s how.
Understanding humans are unpredictable
The Prussian field marshal Moltke the Elder famously noted: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson expressed the same idea more plainly: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
Fortunately for brands, customers aren’t actually the enemy and – typically – aren’t trying to punch them in the mouth. The point, however, stands that all too often, brands seek to enact a customer engagement strategy that treats consumers as predictable robots, rather than unpredictable humans who will behave in ways brands haven’t anticipated.
Armed with a recognition that people are distinct individuals with their own personal, changing requirements, marketers and CX professionals can start to think about optimising journeys to meet these adapting needs.
However, the challenges lie with legacy, channel-based goals and targets that senior leaders are used to reviewing when evaluating campaign success. For this reason, customers are herded into segments and linear, premeditated journeys.
A pre-mediated customer journey is what it says on the tin, out of the box and dreamed up using post-it-note scenarios by well-meaning execs in the meeting room with the biggest white board.
This, more often than not, leads to inconsistent and irrelevant experiences, which could result in customers responding with their equivalent of a punch in the mouth: switching to a competitor.
Avoiding this means gaining insight into real-world customer journeys via a real-time visualisation of omnichannel customer activity, which shows an in-the-moment reflection of what customers are doing and how they are achieving their goals, whether that’s finding product information, comparing prices or reporting a fault.
The clue’s in the name, but it’s worth re-stating: customer-led journeys start with the customer.
They require a fundamental shift in how a business communicates, moving from brand-driven interactions organised by channel, to customer-led communications that are activated across channel.
When a brand deeply understands what an individual customer is looking for, their intent, and how this is evolving, they can deliver a better, more relevant and more tailored journey by providing the ‘next best conversation’.
Getting to this point means being armed with all the insight around a customer’s recent experiences, their use of channels and individual context before determining whether current or pending marketing activity is appropriate. This might involve suppressing certain marketing activities, but this can be a smart move if the insight into the customer indicates that removing them from an irrelevant campaign will create greater trust, ultimately delivering commercial reward.
Realising a customer-led future
The scale of the potential reward here shouldn’t be underestimated. When businesses prioritise customer-led journeys, they don’t only deliver more relevant experiences, they also improve their products and services throughout the customer lifecycle.
That’s because when a business does the groundwork required to offer customer-led journeys, it needs to visualise and orchestrate the entirety of this journey, incorporating not just marketing channels but also sales, service and operations. This mean a business becomes a truly insight-driven organisation, gathering and analysing data that can be used to meet the real needs of customers across the board by connecting siloed technologies and departments.
As a result, it shouldn’t be a surprise that our research has found that 85% of marketing and CX professionals believe customer-led journeys are either “essential” or “very important” for brands.
The time for change is now
It’s a good sign that businesses are increasingly aware of the far-reaching rewards that can be realised through customer-led journeys, but it’s now time to turn good intentions into reality.
Some companies have been hesitant to drive change as a result of overestimating the costs or the time required to generate a healthy ROI from journey orchestration projects. The danger of these misplaced fears is they cause businesses to lose sight of the fact that customers expect change now. Research from Brand Keys, for instance, showed that consumer expectations are growing by an average of 25% each year, while PSFK Research has found that 78% of consumers are interested in personalised recommendations and 67% are interested in a customer support initiative that anticipates their needs.
Not only are consumer expectations higher than ever but it’s easier than ever for customers to vote with their feet, resulting in switching reaching an all-time high.
This presents an excellent opportunity for customer-focused businesses. A high rate of switching shows the importance customers place on experience, which means companies committed to best practice are well placed to take advantage. Indeed, research from PwC found that 73% of shoppers consider customer experience an important factor in their purchasing decisions.
Research also underlines how meeting consumer requirements across whichever channel they choose to use can boost the bottom line. A study by McKinsey found that omnichannel customers – those customers who are able to interact with brands over whichever channel best meets their needs – are more engaged, have a longer tenure and generate over 200% more revenue than their single channel counterparts.
The technology exists to meet new expectations, while the data shows the value consumers place on meeting these needs and the business benefits that can be realised. There’s never been a better moment to seize the benefits of customer-centricity.
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Wil is responsible for client and product strategy, support and service at Thunderhead. He works directly with brands and partners, helping them to transform their approaches to customer experience in the drive to provide truly omnichannel customer experiences and engagement.