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Customer experience optimization and customer journey are more of those tech phrases that put terror into the uninitiated. The concepts, however, are not new.

We have always wanted to monitor and find out more about who our customers are, where they come from, what percentages stay on the customer journey from the first moment they are aware of us, and finally how many return to buy from us again.   These metrics are the basics of all sales and marketing funnels.

Digitilization and customer journeys

When companies started having websites, measurement needed to be achieved digitally.  Only by measuring and optimizing can we maximize sales efforts.   Not surprisingly, the measuring tools available follow many of the old school KPI’s, tracking where people fall off and why, how happy they are with the process.

Clarity of brand identity has always been crucial but has become more so with the net’s heightened visibility and the different channels available for customers to visit.  Omnichannel cohesion is vital for your customer journey and their experience. Otherwise, you have a brand with a split-personality.

Equally, If a first visit or contact jars with the brand identity in the marketplace, the visitor will immediately feel uncomfortable.   It is no different to walking into an eco-friendly shop to find the team wearing fur and packaging everything in plastic.    The moment something jars with brand expectation is when you have an unhappy, confused customer on the run. Not a good thing.

The customers’ narrative

Your customer brand is also not entirely within your control anymore.  With the increase in distrust in selling and advertising and increased reliance on personal recommendation, we are seeing a new kind of brand loyalty and subsequent control emerge.  Your customers become part of brand and reputation creation, but will only do so if you have a fantastic customer journey at every touch point.

David Meerman Scott, one of the contributors to Scale for Success coined the phrase Fanocracy in his book of the same name.  He talks about how now it is the fans who take over the brand’s interpretation and put their version on it.   Therefore, you not only have to balance your brand on all channels to the company’s brand values, but you have to know of and align to your fans’ interpretation.  The more successful your brand becomes, the more it will be your fans, not you, who control the narrative. 

As always has been, successful sales and customer engagement are done via emotions, prompting people to buy to feel better or to stop them from feeling worse.  This applies both to the product and the customers’ experience at any stage of the journey.  Is it making them laugh, is it making them worry, is it making them drool with desire.  No emotional reaction means no engagement.  Tech, however brilliant, cannot ever supersede engaging customer emotion.

How your customer’s emotions are engaged and the speed and ease of their journey with your brand are, of course, is at the heart of customer experience optimization.  Poor customer journey will detract and destroy that. Once again, this is no different from bricks-and-mortar sales and service.  

When we used to go into cafes and restaurants,the service staff’s smile, the speed and the ese of the service would be as equally important part of the experience as the food. Would we re-visit if the food wasn’t great? Possibly not. Would we return if the food was good, but we were made so miserable by the long wait and abusive staff? No chance at all.

Optimizing the customer journey with speed

Put this way, it is easy to see that a poorly functioning bot or a badly designed website can seriously damage your business.  We want visitors to our digital world to be left feeling warm and welcomed and enjoy every second of the customer journey.

The degree to which speed is crucial will vary.   Sticking with our eating out analogy for a minute, we want to get served “fast” food quickly, but in an expensive restaurant, part of the experience is to linger, enjoy digest.   And it is the same when you define your customer journey.  

Some companies will have products or services where their customers are more interested in finding what they want quickly than being wooed by photography.  Other companies, usually where higher payments are involved, want customers to linger, enjoy the choice, the whole experience.   The speed has to match the market.

The speed question is where the balance between tech and customer comes in.  It is time that time enables your tech to learn about your customer.  The longer they stay browsing, the more you know. That data can create a more personalized visit next time, where they will be more likely to buy which is another benefit of a first rate customer journey.

Another entrepreneur I have spoken to recently is Dean Cherny of SocialQ, an shop by appointment service initially developed to help retailers in the Melbourne lockdown.   This is data-driven retailing, where tech meets bricks and mortar.   

When customers book appointments, stores can use data to personalize their journey and the products shown.  A customer who books through their booking service spends an average of four times as much as a walk-in.  These returns demonstrate the value of data-driven selling.

What also applies online and off is the ease of navigation.   If you can’t find the restaurant (or the website), if you can’t reach your table, read the menu because the blackboard is too far away, get served the wrong item, fail to find the cloakroom easily, you will be frustrated.   These sorts of frustrations and more set in within a digital experience.  

The entire point of people using the internet is the ease of it.  Nothing reduces us to keyboard rage faster than a poorly directed user experience, where we spend hours looking and failing for what we want and cannot even find the button to go back to the home page.  Sometimes this is accompanied by a bot asking you to repeat the question differently, over and over; not good for the blood pressure.

In summary

All those old sales words of upselling and cross-selling also come into play within your customer journey, experience and optimization.  Just as the over-pushy salesman fail, additional selling has to be subtly done. But once the customer is in the buying mood and engaging with your journey, a few prompts to spend a little more make for an easy increase in customer spend  

A great customer journey that aligns with your customers, from the moment they hear of your brand through every touchpoint through to after-sales and beyond, is what you get when you successfully optimize your customer journey and experience. 

I interview entrepreneurs every week and not surprisingly given the last year, large numbers of them are tech based.  With start-ups, many fall into the trap of measuring their success purely by revenue.  This is short sighted in my view.  Clever marketing may attract customers, but sticking with food and drink for a moment, it is the taste that will get them returning.  To sustain a business in the long term, the actual product has to deliver and no amount of good tech will camouflage that.

As a writer, we have to measure our success in readers, how many come to the site, if they enjoy what they read to both stay to the end of the page, explore other pages, and return to the site.   Where a book is concerned, it comes down to does it sell, how are the reviews.  It is comparatively simple stuff and optimizing simply becomes a case of continual study of what works, and what doesn’t, what is connecting to people and what doesn’t.  

The most rewarding thing as a writer is not the high readership figures, but solitary messages from people who have read your work and found it useful.  That is our measure of success – and no-one reads if the customer journey is poor.

Don’t be blinded by too much, too innovative tech.  The customer doesn’t care about the blocks you have going on behind the scenes.  They don’t even care about what you are selling.  They care about solving their problem in a way that makes them feel good.

What you want is something that suits your customer. There is no one-size-fits-all.  But the outcome of the right mix is happy customers because happy customers buy and buy again and then go out into the world and build your fanbase.   It is that result you want to concentrate on and for that you need to optimize your customer journey.



Parts of this article originally appeared in CX Buzz and you can read the original here