The Customer’s Perspective of the Redefined Customer Journey

The digital customer journey is being redefined – it’s never been easier to buy stuff. All it takes is a few clicks of a button. But there are an almost infinite number of websites and online sources from which to make purchases. How do you choose? In today’s digital age do you simply buy something, or do you create ongoing relationships with the companies that meet your needs and provide a good experience? I’m guessing that it’s probably more of the latter.

Several blog posts ago I talked about how the customer journey is being redefined in the digital age from a linear process to an ongoing loop of BUY then OWN with the companies you choose to deal with becoming more and more engaged in every part of the cycle.

But how does that on-going loop look like from a customer perspective? Although the overall experience is continuous it is made up of 10 distinct stages:

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  1. Awareness: Do you know what is available in the market place that relates to your activities, business, or lifestyle?
  2. Need: Why do you buy something? It is generally to fill a business or personal need. Is it something to solve a problem, make life easier, or just to provide pleasure? Defining a need is an essential part of the purchasing process.
  3. Research: Once a need is identified and you’ve matched that need to an awareness of what is available, you will often start to ask questions. What has anyone else used or purchased to meet a similar need? In the digital world research is playing a more and more important role with the majority of purchasers doing their own research rather than engage with a sales person to get answers to questions.
  4. Evaluate: How do various products and solutions compare? What are other people’s experiences in using those products and solutions? The collective experience of a peer groups are becoming a vital part of the evaluation process in an increasingly connected social world.
  5. Buy: Once a decision has been made the ideal purchase experience should be frictionless and consistent irrespective of which channel you use to make the purchase.
  6. Delivery: This is the point where the experience moves from the BUY to OWN part of the process, and is often the point where many companies step away from the relationship with the customer. Delivery, be it digital or physical, should be well documented, well communicated, and as fast, and as efficient as possible.
  7. Use: The everyday use of a product or solution is the longest part of the customer experience, and yet is often to most overlooked. How easy is it to actually use what you have purchased? Does it meet your needs and expectations? Does the company you purchased it from provide information on its continued use, or ways to connect with other customers to compare experiences?
  8. Maintain: What is something goes wrong? How easy is it to get help, or receive product updates?
  9. Advocate: Do you talk about products, services, and solutions that you enjoy? So will your customers. Customers who have a positive experience will become brand and product advocates.
  10. Recommend: And good advocates will recommend to others. Or they will self-recommend and make repeat purchases based on having been engaged as part of a well-designed and delivered continuous journey.

The full engaged customer journey cannot be addressed by separate applications at different parts of the process. To be fully effective, it has to provide an exceptional continuous experience made up of a combination of the many different experiences and processes.

In an upcoming blog post we’ll take a look at the next layer related to the company’s activities in providing a continuous connected customer experience. In the meantime this white paper “A Better Way to Engage – Redefining the Customer Journey for a Digital World” is worth a read.

(This post was originally published on the OpenText Blog)

Redefining The Customer Journey

Management Consultant and author Peter Drucker once wrote that “the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.” This may seem to be an obvious statement, but many companies traditionally focus on the first half of that statement to the detriment of the latter part. It could be argued that keeping a customer is more important than finding a new one – for a repeat customer is often an engaged customer.

As OpenText CEO & CTO Mark J. Barrenechea points out in his book, On Digital, the digital world helps you by giving you more ways to know your customer better. “Know Your Customer isn’t just a regulatory obligation, it’s a key competitive differentiator. The best way to satisfy your customer is to truly understand them. You can do this by mapping your customer journeys.”

But customer journeys are changing. The old traditional models of a singular pre-determined linear path or funnel from awareness to purchase no longer apply in a digital world where flowcharts have given way to multiple interactions at whatever point the customer wants it to be. The customer is not only driving the decision on when and how interactions are made, they are also demanding a more personalized experience.

In a recent article, CMSWire columnist John Zimmerman outlined a vision of a digital experience platform that delivers “individualized content presentation for each customer interaction.”  To achieve this vision, organizations need a better way of engaging with the customer. This requires an enhanced understanding of the customer’s journey, one that is an infinite engagement rather than a linear process.

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The process can be viewed from two different perspectives:

The Customer’s Perspective is one of a continuous experience where they BUY, then OWN (or use) a product (or service) throughout its lifecycle before repurchasing.

The Enterprise Perspective is one of a continuous process where they ACQUIRE and then SERVE a customer to lead to a level of engagement where they will acquire additional revenue from that same customer and/or more customers “through recommendation”.

The full engaged customer journey cannot be addressed by separate applications at different parts of the process. To be fully effective, it has to provide an exceptional continuous experience made up of a combination of many different experiences, processes and systems that all have to interact.

These different aspects of the journey can be grouped into five separate, but interdependent, layers:

  1. The customer’s activity,
  2. The company’s activity,
  3. The departments involved,
  4. The related business process,
  5. The associated metrics used to measure and manage the engagement.

I’ll be examining each of these layers in more detail in upcoming blog posts.

[Note: This post originally appeared on the OpenText blog.]

Why You Should Be Delivering a Continuous Digital Experience

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Are you delivering a consistent, continuous digital experience for your customers as they interact with your brand? Is that experience continuous as they move from mobile device, to desktop website, to eCommerce platform, or even a physical interaction? Remember that your customer’s digital experience is the sum of the perception of each interaction they have with your brand, and any single below par interaction can diminish that experience.

Today most customers are engaged with brands through a variety of digital means. The digital world is driving a disrupt-or-die transformation. Allied with these trends is an increasing shift for as many physical and virtual assets in the value chain to become digitized, intelligent, and incorporated into the end-to-end business process. One way to address this need to transform is to look across the organization for opportunities to infuse great digital experiences into mission critical processes.

Managing the way you engage with your customers ensures better customer experiences and helps build ongoing relationships. The customer is at the center of every business transaction and keeping the customer engaged has never been more vital than it is now in a digital world.

Traditionally, a new customer initiates a relationship at the recommend or awareness stage and cycles through defining a need, researching a product, evaluation, making a purchase, taking delivery, using and maintaining a product. More and more of this type of behavior and interaction is happening online with the customer only choosing to engage with a business late in the sales cycle, if at all. If the customer has had little, or no follow-up from the company they purchased from, or had a bad customer experience, they will generally move on to a new supplier for any subsequent purchase and the opportunity for additional revenue has been lost.

Investment in a strong customer engagement strategy and technology will result in a customer becoming a brand and product advocate who will recommend the product or brand to others, as well as wishing to continue to build on the existing relationship through additional purchases and interactions. Instead of leaving the sales cycle, the engaged customer loops back into it.

Positive customer experience is all about removing the friction from the process. The easier something is to do, the better the experience. Customers increasingly expect these transactions to seamlessly transition from one digital platform to another while retaining a consistent personalized experience, with data, information, and assets moving seamlessly from one environment to another.

It is tempting to try to address this by breaking down as many operational and siloed business and technology platforms as possible. This is often an impractical approach that leads to mismanaged expectations, delays, and higher than expected costs. It is better to bridge the silos in a way that allows data to flow between them and to build on a suite that can work with tools.

Instead of trying to break down silos, bridge them into irrelevancy by delivering a Customer Experience Management solution that focuses on delivering high impact content (usually visual), strong transactional integration, interactive customer communications, and allows you to conduct meaningful analytical analysis to continuously refine the experience.

With an exceptional digital experience in place, it is not only the customer, but also your supply chain, distributors, and your employees, who will benefit.

[Note: This post originally appeared on the OpenText blog.]

A Tale of Three Pubs – Customer Experience in a Culture of Assumption

An American walks into a English Pub wanting to order lunch….

It may sound like the beginning of a joke, but in fact last weekend it proved to be a good lesson in delivering customer experience. Let me explain.  In an online exchange a while back a friend of mine used the expression “a culture of assumption” when describing her frustrations at dealing with various levels of bureaucracy after relocating to another country. People just assumed that she knew which forms to fill in, or which agencies to contact. I can totally sympathize with that having gone through similar experiences when we relocated from the UK to the USA a couple of decades ago.

Last weekend we flew back to the UK for a family wedding and I noticed several examples of that “culture of assumption” on display – the written, and probably unacknowledged, concept that your customers just know how things are meant to work when dealing with your processes. From hotels, to paying for parking, to buying gas, to airline check-in procedures, there was an unstated expectation that we would just know where elevators were, where pay & display machines were located and how they worked, how to pay for gas at a pump that didn’t have a credit card reader, or which check-in line to stand in and where to drop off our bags.

So back to the pub…

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Over the weekend we went out for a pub-lunch with various family members on three occasions, all at different pubs. In each one we wanted drinks and a meal. After walking into the pub, we then had to figure out what to do next – and in each pub it was different.

  • Pub #1 – Find a table, note the table number, order drinks and food at the bar, open a tab on your credit card. Food is bought to the table. Return to the bar at the end of the meal to pay.
  • Pub #2 – Order drinks and food at the bar. Pre-pay. Get a number. Find a table. When the food is ready its taken to the bar. You go pick it up when your number is called.
  • Pub #3 – Order drinks at the bar. Let them know you are eating. Be escorted to a table in the “dining room.” A waitress takes your order and delivers the food. Return to the bar to pay at the end of your meal.

Three pubs, three different processes, three different experiences. All of them were good meals, and I wouldn’t want the pub experience to become a homogeneous standard, as it’s the differences that make the pub experience richer than the chain restaurant (especially in the UK) – BUT, none of the three pubs had anything posted to let you know how their individual lunch process worked. All it would take is a sign on or near the bar with a few steps explained.

Overall the inconsistency in ordering pub meals doesn’t seem like a big thing – but it got me thinking.

How easy is it for your customers to interact with your company / brand?

Do they have to know the way you work to achieve what they want, or do you make it easier with a guided customer experience?

Do you assume that just because you know how to do something, that your customers (or even other employees) will?

You Are Now A Media Company (If you’re not – you should be!)

I love podcasts. In fact I’d say I’m something of a podcast junkie. Each time I get in the car I listen to one, be it on my commute to the office, or a business trip. I listen to them on plane rides. And when I go for my evening walks in the park. Podcasts are easily the most updated audio app on my phone, as I download several new episodes of my favorite ones. As I write this I have twenty-two different podcast channels lined up each with new content waiting for me to listen to on a variety of subjects such as history, motor sports, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, movie reviews, creative writing, industry news, and Content Marketing.

My two favorite Content Marketing podcasts both come from my friends at the Content Marketing Institute; “Content Inc”. from Joe Pulizzi gives short (about 5 minutes) tips and ideas – just enough to spark some thought for the day; while “PNR: This Old Marketing” is a weekly hour long discussion between Joe and his CMI cohort, Robert Rose on the latest trends in Content Marketing. Both are highly recommended.

The fine folks at CMI also popped up on my Amazon Prime streaming feed at home with their just release documentary “The Story of Content.” The latest issue of their magazine CCO sits on my desk, and I follow CMI on Twitter each day. – In fact I’m something of a CMI brand advocate. They are one of the best models of how to build a business through content.

What makes CMI stand out is that while they are selling consulting, training, and events they don’t act like a traditional consulting house, instead they act like a media company. They use content to position themselves as industry thought leaders, and they tailor that content to the different channels they use to engage with their audience. (Note I said audience, not customers.)

For many years I’ve being delivering the message that all companies should think and act like publishers. Well that is no longer enough – You need to act like a media company.

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It isn’t enough to continue to just produce print-based collateral such as brochures and press releases and try and slice it and dice it to fit onto different digital platforms.

So how do you approach being a media company?

Take a look at this business plan by arguably the most successful media company on the planet.

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This was Disney in 1957 – almost 60 years ago – yet every channel was designed to use content to build the business.

Think about the following and apply it to your business.

  1. What’s the core activity that you want to build an audience for?
  2. What channels can drive that engagement?
  3. What value can each channel add?
  4. Who is the audience for that channel?
  5. What content type works best on that channel?
  6. How can we create the right content for that channel with connections that engages the audience enough to be drawn back to the core activity?
  7. How do we connect that content to present an overall brand experience and consistent story no matter which channel the audience engages with first?

Is B2B a Myth?

“Business-to-Business is a myth. Business is all about personal interactions.”

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A few words I added to a retweet of a CMO.com article that was headlined, “Don’t hide behind a logo. Companies need to be represented by real people.”

That editorial addition of mine generated some interesting responses, but most were along the lines of “B2B is about where the customer isn’t the end user, while in B2C they were the same.” These are reasonable definitions, but they don’t address the central point I was making that whether they are buying something on behalf of a business, or for your own use, the customer is still a living, breathing, person. ( I hope).

It doesn’t matter if you’re buying office supplies or companies, it comes down to personal relationships and experiences.

Earlier this week I was listening to a business podcast where they were discussing a multi-billion dollar acquisition. Among the usual factors such as a strong order book and good margins one of the top reasons given for the deal going ahead was that the prime investor “knew the CEO and the management team and how they operated.” – They had built a personal relationship that was driving perhaps the most quintessential of business-to-business transactions.

Running out for new pens for your small business, which office supply store will you go to? Most likely the one where you had the best experience last time you shopped there. The one where someone helped you look for what you needed, the one where the person on the register smiled, the one where they actually know your name and what your business does? – The one that knows you as a person. Or maybe you get your pens from a catalog that your employer says you should use. Why did that office supply company become the corporate approved supplier? Because their sales person got to know the people in your purchasing department so he could make a competitive bid at the right time.

The B2B/B2C distinction has always bothered me. Outside of work we are all consumers, yet there seems to be an underlying assumption that when we are buying on behalf of someone else our behavior and expectations change the moment we walk through the office door. That the way we act in a work environment is different than we do at home. – I don’t believe that.

Marketing content isn’t (or shouldn’t be) aimed at an organization, it’s aimed at people within that organization. Good business marketing is about giving people the information to help them do their jobs better, or make their lives easier. It’s about reaching decision makers – i.e. the people who can make a difference. – See, “people,” again.

I have a Content Marketing best practices list pinned up in my office and on that list is “Think human-to-human not B2B or B2C.” – I couldn’t agree more.

I did start another detailed blog post on what I believe to be the “Myth of B2B” that quickly grew long enough to be a chapter (or chapters) of what might be a whole book one day. But I wanted to get other people’s thoughts beyond just those few responses on Twitter.

Do you believe that “B2B is a Myth”?

A World Record Weekend for Brand Marketing – Almost.

Over the weekend my wife and I drove the nine hours from Central Illinois up to the top of Lake Michigan to help try and break a world record. The event was labelled as “MINI on the Mack” and the aim was to get a record number of cars of a single make across the spectacular suspension bridge that links Mackinaw City with St. Ignace, MI.

We love our MINIs and over the years have owned a variety of different model types and configurations. The Roadster and the sporty Cooper S that currently reside in our garage are our ninth and tenth MINIs. Although we’ve owned many other makes and models of cars over the years, we always seem to come back to MINI. I guess you could say we are brand loyal.

mini1319At the event this weekend someone said that what makes the MINI so much fun is that it’s the only car that comes with friends as standard. Well we met up with over 1,300 such friends (as you can see above), and had a great time.

But of course I had to also take a look at the event with my marketing glasses on. The official corporate MINI involvement was low-key. Of course there was MINI branding visible, and MINI goodies for sale, but this wasn’t an overt sales pitch, it was about the MINI owners – usually referred to as either “MINIacs” or “motorers.”  This was brand activism at its most visible.

The convoy of MINIs was impressive providing an almost two-hour long rolling billboard for the brand highlighting the different models and the fact that thanks to the multiple creative options available no two MINIs are alike. Every car is a reflection of its owner’s personality.

MINIviewThe town’s people got behind the event lining the roads and waving to participants; other motorists got into the spirit too with waves, horns, and even a few pulling over to take photos and video. After the event when we were walking around town still wearing the MINI on the Mack t-shirts we were constantly thanked for being there and asked about the event. And about the cars.

All weekend the MINI spirit was pervasive, associating the brand with fun, and friendly people.

But did it help MINI with driving revenue? If my experience is anything to go by, it certainly did. After seeing photos and notes of the event on my personal FaceBook page I had two friends message me asking advice about purchasing MINIs. – If even a fraction of our fellow 1,300 MINIacs had the same experience I’d say the event definitely helped move the needle for a few MINI dealerships around the country.

So did we get the World Record? – Unfortunately no. We needed 1,452 cars present to snatch that title, but the 1,319 who turned up was enough to set the American record for the largest collection of MINIs assembled. – There is already talk of trying again in 2017.