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Should we be studying life journeys instead of customer journeys?

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Customer journey mapping has proliferated. But have we been focusing on the transactional relationship with customers, when we could also be looking into the life journey of our customers?

20th Oct 2020
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As customer experience specialists, we all know customer journeys are important. We know that it is by understanding the path that a consumer takes to purchase a particular good or service that we can help our organisations to optimise their sales and service processes. And that is why we’ve invested so much time and resources into mapping out these customer journeys, right?

However, have you ever stopped to consider the limitation of this customer journey approach? In our quest for transactional perfection have we been focusing on the transactional relationship with customers, when we could also be looking into the life journey of our customers?

Becoming a ‘partner in life’

Over the last decade, the combination of consumers embracing technology and organisations investing in their online presence has made digital convenience the expected norm. We’re now at the start of a new curve where people are starting to expect more than pure transactional perfection.

For most people, time is probably their most scarce resource, and that means we attach great importance to convenience. But after time, our next scarcest resources are money and human energy.

Most people I know would love to have more time, money and energy. Very few of us have all three. Many people with lots of money often have no time. And if you do have time, you often don't have enough money or energy.

As businesses, we’ve been focused on our pricing to save customers’ money, and digital convenience to save their time. So perhaps the biggest opportunities in the 'partner in life' concept relate to the scarcity of human energy. As a company, how can you give people more energy? Have you ever asked yourself or your colleagues that same question? Transactional optimisation saves people time. Emotional optimisation can save people energy or even generate an extra supply of it.

Why Google is trying to make life easy

Google is undergoing an evolution that will see its current mission – 'organising the world's information and making it universally available' – transformed into something new. Google's future mission will be along the lines of: 'To make every part of people's life as easy as possible.'

Google wants to invest in saving time (convenience) and saving energy (partner in life), and Google Assistant will play a central role in this transformation. Within a matter of years, it is anticipated that users will have delegated a large part of the running of their daily lives to the digital butler. Booking restaurants, making appointments for the hairdresser, arranging a babysitter for the kids: these and many other similar tasks will no longer require any effort by the customer. Just ask Google and it will be done.

Google is taking a very broad approach to this new mission. For them, the 'partner in life' concept embraces all aspects of an individual's or a family's daily existence. For example, Google wants to be a partner in mobility. As a result, the company is developing a fleet of self-driving taxis with its Waymo division. In addition, Google wishes to be a partner in health care. And in the purchasing of your routine shopping: thanks to its collaboration with major retailers, you can already buy dozens of products via your Google Assistant.

But it doesn't stop there. Google also wants to be your partner in living. If your house is equipped with the right Google interfaces, you can literally arrange every aspect of the running of your home via the Google Assistant: turning the lighting on and off, operating the TV, preparing meals via a cooking assistant, etc.

To make this all-inclusive 'partner in life' strategy viable, Google works as far as possible with its own technology, but it also needs the help of an extensive network of partners. If, for example, Google really wants to become a partner in mobility, it will have no option but to collaborate with as many car manufacturers as possible, since its own vehicle network is far too small to make its ambition achievable.

How to implement a ‘partner in life’ strategy

To successfully implement a 'partner in life' strategy, you need to generate a continuous process of movement, consisting of three steps:

  1. Developing an excellent understanding of the needs and frustrations in the life of your customer.
  2. Use this understanding to describe in detail the customer's life journey.
  3. Implement 'partner in life' actions.

In other words, you need to acquire insights that will allow you make a concrete description of your customers' lives, which you then seek to influence positively through concrete actions. If correct, these actions will prompt new behaviour in the customer, leading to new insights, a revised description and a further set of concrete actions. And so the gradual refinement of your 'partner in life' strategy continues. The faster and more effectively you can repeat this circular process, the easier you will find it to differentiate your company from your rivals in your sector.

So how do you start to implement this kind of strategy? You first need to come up with answers to some important questions. What are the frustrations in the daily life of your customer that are linked to your sector? What costs the consumer energy, and what gives them energy? What questions do you get from customers that you’re currently unable to answer?

Your answers to these questions should shape your strategy to become a ‘partner in life’ for your customers.

Steven van Belleghem is one of the world’s leading thought-leaders, speakers and authors on customer engagement. His new book, The Offer You Can’t Refuse is out now. See www.stevenvanbelleghem.com

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