The perception a customer has of the experience an organisation provides impacts each of the four ways companies can create sustainable incremental profitability from its customer management:
These stated intents and behaviours also translate into real value as shown in the plot of lagged customer satisfaction against consumer spending growth.
Hence, the effective design of the customer experience should be considered a business imperative for most organisations. However, less than one-third believe their company exhibits the required customer experience management (CEM) competencies:
Quality of interactions with target customers is closely monitored.
Employees across the company are recognised and rewarded for improving the experience.
Decision-making processes systematically incorporate the needs of target customers.
Employees across the company share a consistent and vivid image of target customers and the experience the company wishes them to receive.
The key CEM challenges organisations cite for their difficulties with managing the customer experience are functional alignment of business processes, executive sponsorship, measurement agreement issues, and execution. CJM addresses the first of these challenges head on, provides compelling input to an argument to address the second and a robust framework within which to design and deliver against the final two.
Starting in the right place
Effective CJM needs to start from the place the customer starts and to understand what they consider a successful outcome. A classic example of this is when Virgin Atlantic re-defined the premium class long-haul travel experience.
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Until that point, airlines had only concerned themselves with the parts of the journey they actually delivered. That is, the typical approach was to start designing the process from the time the passenger arrived at the check-in counter. Omit the part where they made their way through security and the airport to the lounge. Pick it up again from the lounge, through boarding and the flight, then ignore everything on arrival unless their baggage had been lost!
By thinking about the entire journey from leaving home, hotel or office, to arriving at the ultimate destination (home / office / hotel), Virgin identified a customer need - removing the stress and hassle of getting to the airport. So the chauffer pick-up and drop off service was born.
Using the CJM approach to continually review the journey has led to the introduction, where possible, of dedicated security areas leading straight into the airline's lounge.
The implication of this story is that, in most cases, the product or service is actually just a 'means to an end' and that companies need to understand the real motivations and desired outcomes that their customers have.
I don't want to 'buy a laser printer'. I want to produce quality documents for my business.
I don't want to 'book a repair for my vacuum cleaner'. I want a clean floor.
I don't want to 'apply for a loan'. I want whatever it is I intend to spend the money on.
Process design tends to ignore the real start point and motivation and focus, instead, on the point at which the customer first actually touches the organisation. There is an implicit assumption that the customer sees the world the way the company does.
In the above example, a printer manufacturer may assume my journey starts once I've chosen to buy their printer - thus starting the design at the point I first contact them and make an enquiry. They may assume the journey actually starts at the point I've decided to buy a printer. Hence, the first step they consider would probably be about promoting the USPs of their product over other printer makes. However, as a customer my options also include renting, outsourcing, buying it as a service. Thinking from this start point and considering my actual need would probably lead to a different design process and first step and may well uncover opportunities to attract my business before competitors thinking in traditional ways.
There is a similar story around the vacuum cleaner. Starting to design the 'book a repair' process overlooks that I may take the opportunity to replace it rather than repair it - a potential missed sales opportunity.
Continuing with the vacuum cleaner journey. Assuming it was to be repaired; process design would tend to work within the constraint of the organisation design, with each function designing its own part of the overall experience to its own operating norms. When fitted together the resulting 'journey' is likely to take longer than I expect (and probably longer than it actually needs to be) and have endless opportunities for frustration (mine and theirs') when the customer facing part of the organisation doesn't know where it is or when it will be back but have me in front of them demanding answers.
A good tip to ensure opportunities aren't overlooked is to spend time getting the right title for the journey. For example; rather than the "Buy a Printer journey", consider it as the "Solve my printing needs journey".
Designing in the emotion
Since Gallup first quantified the impact of emotional engagement in 2003, it has been increasingly recognised that real 'loyalty' (as opposed to bribed frequency and repeat purchase) is about customers forming an emotional attachment with the company, brand or product This leads us to the conclusion that, in addition to customer's functional needs that the organisation must satisfy, there are also emotional needs that have to be recognised and addressed.
In the Research International diagram here, we see the relative levels of retention, cross and up-sell achieved when only functional needs are met (bottom right) compared to a baseline where there is poor functional and poor emotional satisfaction (bottom left) and the uplift achieved when in addition to satisfying functional needs, emotional needs are also met (top right).
This is biggest single difference between process design and CJM. Process design is highly functional and describes functional steps that need to happen in order to produce the outcome.
CJM needs to build on this functional approach and bring emotion into the conversation. This is most easily achieved by starting with the question, "What do we want the customer to think, feel and say at the end of this journey?". Once the overall emotional outcome has is understood, the next step is to break each step of the journey into functional and emotional inputs and define its functional output. Answering the questions:
What is the customer's mindset as they enter this step? (i.e. their desires, concerns and hopes)
What's the outcome the customer needs/expects from this step? (taking care to check if the emotional outcome at each step is any different from the overall emotional outcome)
How easy is it now for the customer to achieve this outcome?
What are the top 3 things that would make it easier to achieve a better outcome?
What are the 3 worst things that could happen to the customer?
Considering these questions makes it possible to identify what the customer truly values and what they expect, but wouldn't notice until they weren't there - the 'opportunities to delight' and 'hygiene factors' respectively. A simple 'high', 'medium', 'low' designation for each is often sufficient.
This completes the scene setting and provides all the inputs necessary to identify the opportunities to provide something 'different'. The aim is to end up with no more than 3 things that the organisation could do to make the step a success. It may be doing something to delight the customer, it may simply be improving a hygiene factor.
Consider the journey scenario below for a credit/charge/debit card provider.
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Based on the above, there are both emotional and functional things to solve for the customer and an expectation that it won't be easy. This represents a significant opportunity to delight the customer (it's certainly not a hygiene factor).
The resulting brainstorm and prioritisation would probably come up with:
"We'll deal with the hotel for you. Including getting them to pay the taxi and provide a small cash advance, and put it on the bill, which will be on your next statement."
"We'll call ahead and sort things out with your hotel in the next destination, so you can check in without a card."
"We'll provide a telephone service for you to validate any other payments you need to make on your 'missing' card until we can get a replacement to you."
A framework for flexibility
The third core difference between a process and a customer journey is the degree of detail and the rigidity of the outcome. CJM should not attempt to design for every customer type/segment or every interaction at every touch-point. A good rule of thumb is to focus on the interactions that represent 80% of the customer interactions.
As Dwight D Eisenhower said, "Planning is everything, the plan is nothing." This is a good way of viewing CJM. Involving people from all the functions that impact on the journey in its design, together with the process of thinking things through from a customer perspective and challenging the in too out traditional views of the organisation begin to build a culture of trust and adaptability internally. This is the key step to sustainability of customer centric behaviour in the organisation.
The level of detail in a CJM is sufficient to describe what's happening and, critically, why. However, it's sufficiently high level not to constrain individuals and functions from adapting to differences in customer types, motivations and needs. In fact, the CJM development, should provide a framework for functions to work within in order to deliver the customer experience.
By contrast, processes tend to be rigid and need to consider the vast majority of foreseeable exceptions. The underlying purpose is often one of cost control. As such they become constraints to doing what's right for the customer. Particularly in hierarchical organisations, they become something to hide behind and an excuse for doing things by the book. That said, they still have a role to play:
They enable standardisation that makes processes (and experiences) replicable.
Everyone knows what they are meant to do and when (until the customer gets in the way).
Training is much easier.
Measurement is made easy.
Ownership of tasks is clear.
However, that role should be as a follow-up. Once CJM has set the context and provided the framework and guiding principles, detailed process design can follow.
Andy Green is the director ofThe Customer Framework. The Customer Framework helps large organisations and brands engage, win, keep and develop the right customers, influencers and advocates, cost effectively, by integrating traditional customer management with evolving social business techniques.