The Questions you Should be Asking Along the Redefined Customer Journey

Several blog posts ago I talked about the way that 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.

I’ve also posted on how that on-going loop looks like from a customer perspective. But how does this relate to the activities within a company to support that experience?


The second layer of the Continuous Customer Journey loop (above) maps the customer’s activities to those of the organization as it attracts the customer, informs, teaches, and converts the customer so they will make a purchase that then needs to be followed up by logistical operations, on-boarding and ongoing support. Winning organizations also use engagement assets, such as loyalty programs, to up-sell and cross-sell to the existing customer, thereby generating revenue at a lower cost of sales

Although the overall experience is continuous it is made up of 11 distinct stages:

Attract: Before any relationship with a customer can be built, it is essential to first make potential customers aware of the company and attract them to find out more. Do people in your potential market know you exist?

Inform: The company should then inform any potential clients about the products and/or services they offer. It’s surprising how many companies miss this step, just relying on building brand awareness without actually telling you what they do. What is it that you do?

Learn: Another step often overlooked is learning about the potential customer. In today’s digital world customers expect a more personalized experience and service that meets their particular needs and requirements. Do you know who your customers are, and why they need your products?

Convert: Perhaps the key moment of the customer journey is the transition from prospect to customer. Ensuring that the previous three steps outlined above have been well executed can ease the conversion process. Unfortunately a lot of companies are focused on this stage of conversion and see it as the culmination of the process, when in fact it is the start of a potential on-going relationship that can drive more revenue.

Transact: How easy is it to do business with your company?  Personally I’ve had too many dealings with companies that make it difficult for me to give them money – many of those companies lost my sale. The easier it is for the customer to complete a transaction the more likely they are to want to repeat the process.

Logistics: Once your customer has paid for the product and/or service how do you deliver the goods that they just paid for? Is it a quick frictionless process, or is it along drawn out experience?

Onboard: How do you make it easy for your customers to set up and start using your product? Do you welcome new customers to your company and community?

Support: Supporting your product is not just about helping to fix problems, although that is an essential part of it. Do you make it easy for your customers to own and operate your product? Do you connect with them on a regular basis? In a digital world do you use analytics and trends to be proactive with your customers? You should be supporting the customer, not just the product.

Loyalty: How do you make your good customers into great repeat customers? Loyalty programs can be a great way to do that, but they need to be proven to benefit your customers as well as the company.

Up-sell: Do you understand your customer’s needs well enough to be able to anticipate when they need to upgrade to the latest iterations of your services?

Cross-sell: Can you identify what other products from your portfolio will help your customers meet their business or personal needs? Do you know how to attract their attention and inform them about those other offerings? Have you built a solid ongoing relationship that means you can continue on the customer’s journey together?

I believe that this layer of the customer journey is best summarized in a recent tweet from Mark Hurst, the Founder and CEO of Creative Good:

“Did you know that your company has a team responsible for managing the customer experience? That team’s name is ‘the entire company’.”

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:


  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)

Free falling toward a Content Strategy

Falling towards the Texas country side at 120mph from a height of 12,000 feet wasn’t the time to be thinking about content strategy; but over the last few days as I’ve talked to various people about the experience of my recent tandem sky-dive, I’ve come to realize how you could associate the various stages of my first parachute jump with trying to develop an enterprise wide content strategy.

1. On the plane.

You’ve been here before, but not quite in these circumstances. Intellectually you know what’s ahead of you.

All is calm as you prepare for the first steps.

2. Sitting on the edge.

Your feet are dangling in the wind. You get the first inkling that this is going to be something different. A challenge you may not feel fully prepared to take on.

3. The initial fall into space.

The first few moments of thinking, “What did I take on?” “Why am I doing this?” Disorientated as a whole new series of information is being thrown at you. No sense of control.

4. Freefall

You start to gain some sense of control. Things are still coming at you at an incredible speed. there’s a lot of extraneous noise. But you start to get a sense of where you’re headed. Even if it seems to be coming up fast.

5. The Parachute deploys

Something happens that feels like it suddenly brings everything to a halt. In fact you feel that you’ve gone backwards instead of making progress. However it brings with it a new sense of calm.

6. The Descent

You are now moving at a pace, and on a path, that you can control. To start with you can examine the landscape from horizon to horizon looking at all the possibilities. As you make progress you start to focus on an end target. Identify where you need to be, and how to get there.

7. The Landing

It may not always be smooth, sometimes it may be a little rough, but you have arrived where you need to be. It’s been an exhilarating journey and you learned a lot about yourself and your environment.


Silo? What Silo?

Information Silos. I often talk about them, and I hear people talk about them all the time.

“We need to break down the walls between functions and departments. We need other people to share their information and content with us.”

A sentiment I heard expressed at a conference recently by the representative of a large engineering company.

Yet two days later when it was suggested that the design engineers in her company should be given web based authoring tools so that they could write the basic information needed for a technical procedure, her immediate response was “No way! I’ll never let engineers write technical procedures. That’s the technical authors’ job.”

Sounds like creating silos to me. Don’t expect others to share and collaborate if you’re not intending to do the same.

Getting others to break down their information and process silos means you have to do it first.

You know what they say about when you assume something…

…that you “make and ass out of u and me.” Well I feel a little like that this morning

Earlier today I recieved an email from a software vendor (who, keeping to the rules of this blog, will remain nameless) that in order for them to issue me with a license for a new piece of software they needed the “Host ID” of my Windows laptop. – That was is it, a one line request with no further explanation.

Now about 70% of my time is spent on MAC devices of various types, MacBook, iPad, iPhone. I haven’t seriously played around with a Windows machine in years – I had forgotten how to find the Host ID. Clicking on the My Computer icon and looking at Properties, which seemed to be the logical thing to do, was no help at all. So I sent off a quick email asking how exactly I was expected to find this elusive “Host ID”

“Oh, it’s easy” came the reply. “Just open a command prompt, run the ipconfig/all command and look for the Phyisical Address it returns – that’s the Host ID.”

Hang on a minute – so the thing you initially asked me for isn’t even called that, and you expected me to know that plus, I needed to go to the OS, and remember a command line I may never have used in my life!

Talk about making assumptions.

OK the end process was in fact easy – but then most things are if you know how to do them. Just beacuse you, your engineers and your support personal maybe confortable working in a partcicular environment, don’t assume that your customers are just as familar.

Making yourself look like an “ass” and making your customers feel like one (even if it’s only for a few seconds) is never a good idea.

"Globish"? – It all sounds rather familiar

Thanks to a recent Twitter post from the always entertaining and informative Stephen Fry, I recently came across the word “GLOBISH.” – Mr. Fry went on to explain that “Globish” was shorthand for “Global English.”

Now that piqued my interest, and after a quick application of my Google-Fu skills I found myself at the Globish website where I found out that it is described as

…. a simple, pragmatic form of English. It involves a vocabulary limited to 1,500 words, short sentences, basic syntax, an absence of idiomatic expressions and extensive hand gestures to get the point across.

And then there was this informative video.

Now this all sounds very familiar. This approach of using a controlled sub-set of English to reach non-native English speaking customers is something we have been working on in the technical communications community for decades. In fact as an idea it dates back to the 1930s.

Yet it seems that this newest incarnation of the concept seems to be getting a lot of mainstream publicity that our efforts have never achieved. Globish has been the subject of stories by, among many others, the BBC and the New York Times. I can never recall any mainstream press being interested in the ideas, concepts and benefits of Simplified Technical English, or even the government sponsored Plain Language initiatives. – I wonder why that is?

Enter The Jargon!!

Whenever I am teaching a course on the philosophy and techniques of writing using Plain Language, or a Controlled language, such as Simplified Technical English, one of the “rules” that I most often quote and emphasize is:

“Avoid the use of industry jargon.”

It seems a logical and obvious piece of advice, and not one I’d given much additional thought to, until asked the question, “what do you mean by jargon?” My immediate answer was “terms used exclusively within your industry that wouldn’t be understood by people outside of it.”

But over the last few weeks I’ve begun to question my own answer.

Webster’s dictionary defines jargon as ” the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity or group,” which seems to fit with my original answer. But how do you define that group, and where are its boundaries? When does jargon become acceptable?

Think about the number of technical terms that are now part of everyday conversation – ‘download,’ ‘upgrade,’ etc. Do they still count as computer industry jargon?

What started me down this line of thought was working on my current book project about Wikis. While at the recent STC Summit in Dallas I used the word “wiki” without a second thought. It’s a word well understood in that community, and I guess it could be considered industry jargon.

But outside of that group I find that when I talk about my book to a much broader audience there is a high percentage of people who know what a wiki is and can explain it quite succinctly. There are also still a sizable proportion who give me a blank stare until I say ‘Wikipedia.” A few days ago a writer friend of mine posted on his blog that he had being doing some research on “the wiki.” He, of course, meant he had been using Wikipedia, just one (extreme) example of a wiki implementation.

But his use of a generic term for the technology made me wonder, is the word wiki moving away from jargon to becoming mainstream. If it is – what does this mean for professional communicators trying to avoid the use of jargon. Is what we consider jargon a label that is only proportional to the size of the community that accepts and understands a specific definition of a word? The smaller the community, the higher a word’s potential “jargon” rating?

Times They Are A Changin’ But Most Publishers Aren’t

A few days ago I saw a job posting from the publishers of my first book, who were looking for an editor for one of their imprints. What caught my eye was that the posting emphasized that the new editor should have experience and skills in using the same software that had been used to produce my book. A book that was published in 1997 – thirteen years ago!
Technology has changed a lot in thirteen years and so has the way that content can be created, handled and made ready for publication. But this publisher is far from being alone in sticking with old processes. My experiences working on other book projects in the last few years have just reinforced my belief that the vast majority of the traditional publishing market still works around a production system designed to do one thing – move paper.

A process that, despite changes in tools, has changed little since the dawn of the printing press.

You can read the rest of my article on using XML in Publishing at THE CONTENT WRANGLER


Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading a fascinating book entitled THE GHOST MAP by Steven Johnson, that details the story behind the 1854 cholera outbreak in London and the efforts of a few men, including the physician Dr. John Snow, to isolate the cause.

Dr. Snow is perhaps most celebrated for developing the titular “Ghost Map” that (and this is simplifying the process) helped form a visual correlation between the number of deaths and the proximity of the contaminated water pump that turned out to be the root cause.

It’s a fascinating book for anyone interested in social sciences, history, biology, and communication. A large part of the story discusses how Snow culled information from a variety of apparently disparate sources, some written, some verbal, and his own observations and bought them together to develop one of the most celebrated examples of technical communication and visual design of the modern age.

But the book itself has one great failing – it doesn’t include a copy of the map! You know the map that is referenced in the title of the book? The map that has a whole chapter to it and to which the author constantly refers. A map that is in the public domain and widely available on the net. Yes THIS map.

Here is a great example of setting up a reader / user expectation and failing to meet it. The quality of the content in this book was excellent, yet the one thing I will remember most (and obviously decided to blog about) was that single point of failure.

So how does this relate to corporate communications – simply put – make sure that you deliver the content you promise – even if it’s an implied promise. And titles are the first place you set up expectations of what’s to follow. Make sure you deliver.

So to make sure I deliver on my promise, what does the Ghost Map have to do with the Social Web? In the later two chapters Johnson goes on to discuss the impact of Snow’s work on science in general and the use of cartography in mapping social trends.

In that discussion on maps he makes the following observation:

“The amateurs are producing the most interesting work, precisely because they have the most textured, granular experience of their community.”

An astute observation and not one that just applies to cartography projects, – it also applies to the changing face of corporate communications and social media. The day of the ‘experts’ being the sole trusted source of information. As Don Tappscott & Anthony Williams put it in their book Wikinomics:

“There are always more smart people outside your enterprise boundaries than there are inside.”

In London in 1854 the experts inside the organization, i.e. the Government, were convinced it was the mythical ‘miasma’ that was killing people. It took informed ‘amateurs’ to identify the root cause and develop the documentation to prove their case.

Any organization today should be listening to, and encouraging, the participation of the smart people outside.

Imagine if Dr. John Snow had access to a wiki, or Twitter?

Irony, Thy Name Is Webinar!

Last Thursday evening, while wearing my WebWorks hat, I was happy to deliver a presentation to the fine folks from the North East Ohio chapter of the STC. The title of my presentation was “Why Publishing Is No Longer The Last Step.”

If you scroll through the slides in the embedded copy of the presentation below, you can see that the main theme I was talking about was feedback and how we should both encourage and embrace user participation in the publication process. In fact one of the points I was making was that feedback, user participation and collaborative authoring, while they may all be current buzz words, aren’t anything new. They have been a part of the publishing process for as long as we have been telling stories. It’s just that the technology has changed. In fact it could be argued that modern technology is an enabler that allows us to capture and process feedback even quicker.


When I got home my wife asked how the webinar had gone, and I had to admit that I wasn’t 100% sure. The reason for my lack of certainty? Missing feedback.

Yes a few people had asked questions, and I had received a nice round of applause at the end of my presentation, but delivering the presentation over a combination of WebEx and phone meant I had no visual feedback. I didn’t now if silence meant that people were enthralled, bored, or had all snuck off to the pub!

Anyone who has seen me present will know I like to walk around. I talk with my hands a lot, gesticulate, point. I also like to try and engage the audience, ask questions, crack stupid jokes and make the occasional pun. But perhaps the biggest part of presenting for me, and the main reason I enjoy doing it, is being able to interact and engage with individuals in the audience.

Visual communication and body language provide essential feedback, and in this instance using enabling technology robbed the experience of one of its most vital layers of communication.

Virtual meeting tools and conference calls can be great cost savers and allow events to happen that otherwise might not occur – but even in today’s social network obsessed, web driven world, nothing beats being face to face with a real live person.

Technology should enable conversation, not get in its way.