HBR: Obsess Over Your Customers, Not Your Rivals

“The brands that remove obstacles and encourage progress along their customers’ journeys are the ones that win repeat visits, repeat purchases, and word-of-mouth referrals” Are you removing obstacles in your customers’ journeys? What are your customers’ decision traps, pitfalls, friction spots, and quit points that they frequently encounter on their journeys? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Tara-Nicholle Nelson.

Obsess Over Your Customers, Not Your Rivals

The starting point of most competitive analysis is a question: Who is your competition? That’s because most companies view their competition as another brand, product, or service. But smart leaders and organizations go broader.

The question is not who your competition is but what it is. And the answer is this: Your competition is any and every obstacle your customers encounter along their journeys to solving the human, high-level problems your company exists to solve.

When I led marketing at MyFitnessPal and was asked about our competition, I think people always expected me to rattle off a list of other nutrition-tracking smartphone apps and weight-loss programs.

What I actually said was that we were on a mission to make it easier to live a healthy life than an unhealthy one. So our chief competition was anything that makes it harder to live a healthy life. This included biology (fat tastes good, sugar is delicious, and our brains are wired to want more of both); mindless eating; and the billion-dollar advertising and marketing budgets of companies that make fast food, junk food, and processed food. Our competition was the fact that in many situations healthy food is actually more expensive and less convenient than unhealthy food is.

If we had viewed Weight Watchers as our competition, we probably would have spent a lot of time trying to do what it does, just a little better. Maybe we would have raised money to get more-famous celebrity spokespeople, or tried to come up with some sort of next-generation points system.

Sure, someone in your company needs to understand the marketplace: who your competition is, what other products are on the market, and how they are doing, at a basic level. But there’s a point at which paying attention to other companies and what they’re doing interferes with your team’s ability to immerse itself in the world of your consumer. Focusing on competitive products and companies often leads to “me-too” products, which purport to compete with or iterate on something that customers might not have liked much in the first place.

In my recent study of over 2,000 consumers, over 50% of them said that they use digital and real-world products and content at least three times a week in an effort to achieve their goals around living healthier, wealthier, and wiser. The brands that remove obstacles and encourage progress along their customers’ journeys are the ones that win repeat visits, repeat purchases, and word-of-mouth referrals.

Once you’ve redefined your competition as your customers’ obstacles, it’s relatively easy to stop propagandizing the war with another product or company. Stop setting goals by reference to other companies. Minimize how much meeting time is devoted to talking about rival companies and products. Discourage product design approaches that focus on assessing or iterating on what is already out there.

Instead, reinvest your team’s time and effort. Here’s how.

First, rethink what you sell. Most companies think they sell a product. To transcend strictly one-time, transactional relationships with your customers, your company must think about selling a transformation: a journey from a problematic status quo to the new levels and possibilities that will unfurl after the behavior change you help make happen.

A real-estate search engine might actually “sell” wise decision making, through the process of making the largest transaction their customers will ever make. CVS Health “sells,” well, health.

Next, rethink your customers. They are not just the people who have purchased your product or the people who follow you on Facebook. Your customers are all the people who grapple with the problem your business exists to solve.

Now, focus on their problems. Engage in customer research, online and in the real world, to understand and document their journeys. I don’t mean their customer life cycle with your brand. Map out your (redefined) customer’s journey from having the problem you exist to solve to no longer having that problem. That may be the journey from unhealthy to healthy living, or from being broke to being a good steward of their finances.

One of the most important takeaways from your customer insights research should be a deep understanding of the decision traps, pitfalls, friction spots, and quit points that people frequently encounter on their journeys. Look to user data, surveys, ethnographic research, online listening, subject matter experts, and even third-party data to discover roadblocks. Use this information to do a continuous “competitive analysis”:

  • Understand the obstacles your customers face
  • Learn how and where people get stuck
  • Solve those problems
  • Understand how people overcome the obstacles and get unstuck
  • Understand what stops others from achieving this success
  • Solve those problems
  • And so on

Here’s the “competition” rubric we operated under at MyFitnessPal:

Competition is: Everything that makes it harder for people to live a healthy life rather than an unhealthy one.

More specifically: Biology, food autopilot, the cost of healthy food, the tastiness and convenience of unhealthy food, and everything that makes it hard to build healthy habits such as food tracking and home cooking.

Innovations driven by obstacle-as-competition insight:

  • In-app bar code scanner to make it easy to track packaged foods
  • Massive food database, so users never have to enter nutritional data
  • Social features and challenges for support, accountability, and competition
  • Recipe-logging features for home-cooked meals
  • Content, marketing, and PR campaigns featuring user success stories, advice on making and breaking habits, cost-effective recipes and cooking tutorials, and other messages tailored to remove the frictions commonly encountered on the journey from unhealthy to healthy.

And it’s working. People who have even a single friend on MyFitnessPal lose twice as much weight as people who don’t use the app’s social features. MyFitnessPal users who log home-cooked recipes lose 40% more weight than those who don’t. The bar code scanner and food database are consistently mentioned by users who have lost weight despite having been unsuccessful with all manner of diets before. And over 120 million people worldwide now use the platform.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once said, “If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we’ll turn out all right.” I take this one step further: If you can stay focused on eliminating the obstacles along your customers’ journeys, your company will turn out much more than all right.

HBR: Know the Job Your Product Was Hired for (with Help from Customer Selfies)

Are you focusing on the wrong thing? Are you creating customer stories from what your customers are designing and building? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Clayton M. Christensen and Bob Moesta.

Know the Job Your Product Was Hired for (with Help from Customer Selfies)


In what world is a Snickers bar competing with a kale salad?

When a healthy fast food chain recently asked customers to share selfies of them posing with healthy, on-the-go snacks, it received some unexpected pictures – including ones of customers holding Snickers bars. “We focus on organics and cool new macronutrients, and our consumers are into quinoa and kale and bean sprouts,” Alex Blair, who owns four franchises of Freshii, a Toronto-based chain of healthy fast-food outlets, told the New York Times. “But some of these photos were so far from that wavelength, it’s really helping us kind of realign with the mass market.”

True customer insights – the kind that can drive breakthrough innovations — come from these kinds of surprising individual stories. Classic market research would tell us that most of us aspire to make healthier eating choices – but the subtleties of when and why we actually do (or don’t) tell a far more important story to marketers. A Snickers bar might be a perfectly acceptable (even preferable) alternative to a kale salad when you’re running through the airport trying to catch your plane. Or you’re about to jump into a game of pickup basketball and your stomach is growling. Those kinds of use cases can even frustrate sophisticated data-mining techniques.

Over the past two decades, we’ve watched great companies fail time and again with innovation – and waste billions on go-nowhere R&D efforts — because they’re focusing on the wrong things. Rather than looking at specific customer use-cases, they chase the false sense of security offered sophisticated algorithms or market surveys, or they focus on technical improvements rather than customer needs.

Yet customers make the choices they make to bring a product or service into their lives not because they’re dying to purchase something, but because they have what we call a “Job to Be Done” that arises in their lives. They’re struggling to make progress with something – in particular circumstances.

Jobs to Be Done are, like customer stories, complex, and nuanced. To create products and services that customers want to pull into their lives, you have to identify not only the functional, but also the social and emotional dimensions of the progress your customers are trying to make. This means both drilling deep and looking wide; even the most experienced innovators can miss rich opportunities that are buried in the context of understanding a job if their focus is too narrow.

Great customer insights reveal the unexpected. Though it’s a nascent practice, the use of customer selfies is an attempt to get at the real “job” customers are hiring products to do. The idea is that selfies provide clues that bridge the gap between what customers say and what they actually do. Customers might unknowingly reveal something authentic and true about themselves through the simplicity of the choices they make in a selfie – and even provide insight into how they perceive the product and its potential competitors.

Of course, a selfie is far from a candid ethnographic moment. It’s a specific picture, with a specific composition, that the subject has chosen not only to take, but to share. By its very nature, it depicts how that person wants to be seen by others. But that, too, can provide valuable clues for piecing together a full picture of a customer’s Job to be Done. Both business strategies and academic theories are built – and made stronger – by our ability to recognize things that we cannot yet explain.

Many of these surprising or even anomalous use-cases can serve as a useful wake-up call — to an overlooked opportunity or a flawed assumption. When a consumer shows us an image of how they might hire kale in one circumstance and Snickers in another, it challenges us to think differently about how our products help customers make the progress they seek – not just what we expect them to seek — in their lives.

 

HBR: Getting More-Granular Data on Customer Journeys

Does your company have customer journey maps (CJM)? Are you following the Yellow Brick Road to the finish line?  Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Deren Baker.

Getting More-Granular Data on Customer Journeys

Dating site Zoosk boasts 35 million users, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story — its members are playing the field with Zoosk as much as they are with their suitors. My company analyzed the online habits of people on popular dating sites, and while Zoosk users tend to be younger and fitter, they’re also 11.4 times more likely to search for other dating sites.

For Zoosk, that’s not just trivia or fodder for ad placements. It’s crucial insight into who the site’s customers are, what they do on other sites, and — most importantly — the journey they’re taking to Zoosk’s front door.

Companies typically build customer journey maps (CJMs) based on surveys, in-store activity, and users’ interactions on the brand website and app. But if you’re only watching users reach the finish line, you’re missing most of the race. To effectively target customers, you need to know what they’re doing before, during, and after their interactions with you.

While brands’ CJMs rely heavily on customer satisfaction surveys, surveys are notoriously unreliable, skewed by low participation rates, biased questions, and unreliable responses. In fact, high customer satisfaction scores may be the proverbial calm before the storm: Research shows 60-80 percent of customers claim to be satisfied with their banks right before they defect — a trend that holds across industries.

Even if surveys were useful, they couldn’t help you create meaningful customer personas. Nor can traditional site analytics, the other tool in most brands’ CJM tool kits. And without a holistic view of customers’ activities, it’s easy to make embarrassing assumptions.

Take a 2014 faux pas committed by Pinterest. Based on users’ pins, it sent congratulatory emails to individuals who had recently gotten engaged. In reality, it turned out many weren’t even in relationships, and they blasted Pinterest’s presumptuousness on social media. It was a real pie- (or wedding cake) in-the-face moment for the social media brand.

Had Pinterest not relied exclusively on its own site data, it might have deduced that these weren’t brides-to-be. As it learned the hard way, fragmented snapshots of customers’ online activities are just that: snapshots.

Mapping a customer journey is much like storyboarding. No single frame can make characters come alive; only a deep understanding of your customers can lead you from board to board, sketching out the adventure they take to your brand.

But what happens when your characters jump out of the frame and into a competitor’s world? Studies show that brands’ best customers routinely flirt with competitors. Even in the DIY home improvement industry — a sector with outstanding loyalty rates — companies’ top customers spend nearly 25 percent of their budget with other DIY businesses.

Traditional approaches to CJM are too limited to be effective, but you can build more meaningful maps:

Reverse-engineer social media remarketing. Customer matching services, such as those offered by Twitter and Facebook, enable you to create lookalike audiences that tell ad platforms which customers to target. Use these to determine whether — and how — social media plays a part in customers’ journeys.

Perhaps you’ve defined “people who’ve visited my website via mobile” as a group that should receive remarketing ads from Facebook and Twitter. Let’s say mobile users continuously land on your product page from Facebook, but not from Twitter. Facebook is an essential stop along your customers’ journeys, but Twitter isn’t. As a result, you might scrap your Twitter campaign and focus on Facebook.

Recruit some brand detectives. Consumers’ trust in brands is at an all-time low, which is a big reason survey feedback isn’t useful. But there’s another tool at your disposal that makes the most of consumers’ trust in their peers: social media influencers. People let their guard down around personalities they trust, and tools such as BuzzSumo and Klout can identify bloggers who’ll go underground for your brand.

Choose influencers in spheres where followers are likely to be familiar with your company. If you’re a restaurant brand, for instance, look to food and beverage influencers. Ask followers’ opinions: Have they bought from you in the past? Did they order online or go to a physical store? What led them to choose you over a competitor?

Follow the Yellow Click Road. Clickstream analysis indicates where people were before they arrived on a site, what they did on that site, and where they’re headed after they leave. Some offer audience features that lend insight into site visitors’ geographic location, age, sex, and education level. Others get even more granular and offer entire path-to-purchase data and behavioral segmentation based on click activity.

Couple demographic insights with information gleaned from clickstreams — such as customers’ interests, social media habits, and purchase behavior — to create a truer “typical customer” persona. With a broad view of your customers’ lives, you can create more relevant messaging.

Hitch a ride with ad retargeting. When we analyzed back-to-school shopping activity, we learned that consumers click through an average of five websites per Google search before they buy. To determine which competitors your customers are befriending, integrate cookies or tracking pixels into your ads.

If Staples, for instance, wanted to know where its customers searched for laptops, so it could retarget laptop ads to follow customers elsewhere online. Some users — say, on Best Buy’s or Target’s site — will click, returning to Staples’ website from competitors’ pages. Taken in aggregate, this tells Staples which brands are its top competitors.

Customer journey mapping was once a simple endeavor — a customer might see your TV ad and drive to your store. Since e-commerce has reached its zenith, however, the customer journey is no longer a straight road: It’s a circuitous web, taking customers from social media to your site to competitors’ sites and back again.

To truly connect with customers, you can’t rely on survey data or back-end web analytics. If your brand wants to be their final destination, it needs a new storyboard that includes every part of the story.

 

HBR: Focus on Keeping Up with Your Customers, Not Your Competitors

Who’s controlling the sale you or the customer? Do you have a customer-driven journey for your company? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Mark Bonchek and Gene Cornfield.

Focus on Keeping Up with Your Customers, Not Your Competitors

Every company these days seems to be either contemplating or pursuing digital transformation. Most cite the need to keep up with disruptive and well-established competitors. But perhaps this focus is too narrow. We believe the greatest challenge to companies today is not keeping up with their competitors, but with their own customers.

One reason is that individuals are transforming to digital faster than organizations. Think for a moment about people as tiny enterprises. They’ve redesigned their core processes in the area of procurement (online shopping), talent acquisition (marketplaces), collaboration (social networking), market research (peer reviews), finance (mobile payments) and travel (room and ride sharing). Have you reinvented your core processes to the same degree?

Customers’ expectations are also more liquid and no longer based on industry boundaries. Customers – whether consumers or business buyers – don’t compare your customer service to that of your competitors, but to the best customer service they receive from anywhere. The same is true for their expectations of your web site, mobile app, loyalty program, branding, and even social responsibility.

So how can you keep up with your customers? You have to start thinking like them.

Customers don’t think in or; they think in and. You have to transcend trade-offs.

The adage used to be that you could pick any two combinations of “cheap, good, or fast.” But today’s customer doesn’t want to make tradeoffs. They want it cheap, good, and fast. As leaders, we are accustomed to thinking of business being about making tough decisions between competing objectives. But we need to think more like our customers. Instead of focusing on how to make tradeoffs, we need to focus on how to transcend them.

Some of the tradeoffs that are most suited to digital transcendence are:

  • Big and small: Combine the speed, agility and creativity of being small with the scope, scale and influence associated with being big.
  • Complex and simple: Manage the systems and processes to run a global business while creating simple and elegant experiences for customers.
  • Global and personal: Achieve universal consistency and reach around the world while delivering relevant, tailored interactions to every customer.

Customers want to be empowered, not controlled. You have to act with empathy.

Business used to be about getting customers to do what you wanted them to do. But customers don’t accept this any more. They don’t like to be told what to do. They want relationships based on reciprocity, transparency and authenticity. If you want to keep up with your customer, you can’t be focused on getting them to do what you want, but instead on helping them do what they want.

This evolution from control to empowerment means a change in the basic building blocks of customer engagement.

  • Funnels used to be linear processes that moved customers from one stage to the next. There was no going back until a sale was either won or lost. Now these funnels have become Escherian journeys, fluid, customer-led and multi-dimensional. It’s not about capturing and converting towards a transaction, but connecting and collaborating around a shared purpose.
  • Channels used to be pipes connecting you with your customer, carrying carefully crafted messages to passive audiences. Now they are experiences connecting customers to their own desires, and communities connecting customers to each other. It’s not about promoting the features and benefits of your product, but building empathy and understanding of each customer’s intent – and helping them achieve it – as part of an ongoing relationship.

Customers don’t think in straight lines. You need to be non-linear.

To keep up with your customer, you have to let go of linear thinking. Customers today expect you to be where they are, deliver what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. If they’re browsing your website on their laptop, they will expect that when they next come to your site from their mobile device or tablet, or talk to a sales person in your store, branch or call center, you will pick up right where they left off. Business has become like that old game of Twister. You have to be flexible if you are going to win.

This requires rethinking and redesigning core disciplines:

  • Strategy has to go beyond analyzing markets, making plans, and forecasting the future. Strategy also has to build capabilities, transform culture and architect for constant change.
  • Campaigns have to be more than one-way communications for one-time responses. They need to initiate and expedite personalized journeys as part of ongoing conversations.
  • Personalization needs to go deeper than looking simply at what someone buys. It needs to be based on the subconscious motivations of why someone buys, revealed through real-time analysis of a wide variety of data sources.
  • Social can’t be treated merely as a channel for distributing messages. Done right, it’s a context for building genuine relationships that demonstrate how much they really matter.
  • Loyalty needs to be more than accumulating points for rewards. To be genuine and enduring, loyalty needs to be reciprocal. If you want their loyalty, you have to be loyal in return.
  • Operations need to go beyond the efficiency of the company to the efficiency of the customer. How can you optimize to help customers get more for their time and effort, not just their money?

It’s a significant shift in mindset and practice to reorient from keeping up with competitors to keeping up with customers.

We suggest getting started by assessing where you are.

  • How does your transformation compare to your customers? In what areas are they moving faster or slower than you are?
  • Who is setting your customers’ expectations? It’s probably coming from outside your industry.
  • What kind of relationship do you want to have with your customer? Are you trying to get them to do what you want? Or figuring out how to help them do what they want?

Next, look at where to focus your attention.

  • Which tradeoffs do you need to transcend? We mentioned a few above. Others include speed and scale, consistent and nimble, high-tech and high-touch.
  • Where is linear thinking getting in the way? Review the disciplines outlined above and see which ones will have the most impact on your customer experience.

Creating sustainable advantage is more elusive than ever. The new game is designing customer-driven journeys across touch points to help them achieve their intent, and to create more multidimensional relationships. To win this game, stop thinking about just keeping up with your competitors, and start thinking about keeping up with your customers.

 

The new consumer decision journey

Are you using customer journeys as a competitive advantage? Below is a blog post from McKinseys & Company and Harvard Business Review by David Edelman and Marc Singer.

The new consumer decision journey

For years, empowered consumers have held the upper hand when it comes to making purchasing decisions. But companies are fighting back.

The flare-up around advertising blockers on mobile devices is just the latest salvo in the digital-technology “arms race” that has made today’s consumer a formidable force. From social media to mobile devices, technologies have given consumers unprecedented power to compare prices, complain loudly, and find the best deals.

This tipping of the balance of power in favor of consumers has been evident for years. In 2009, we declared that the traditional “funnel” model—in which consumers began with a set number of brands in mind and whittled them down until they decided what to buy—had been usurped by what we called “the consumer decision journey.”1 See David Court, Dave Elzinga, Susan Mulder, and Ole Jørgen Vetvik, “The consumer decision journey,” McKinsey Quarterly, June 2009. This journey involved shoppers taking advantage of technology to evaluate products and services more actively, adding and removing choices over time. And it included a feedback loop, where customers kept evaluating products and services after purchase, pressuring products to perform and brands to deliver a superior experience on an ongoing basis.

We now believe the consumer decision journey needs updating.

In the past few years, brands have been playing catch-up, investing in new technologies and capabilities in a bid to regain relevance with shoppers and exert greater influence over how they make purchasing decisions. Our experience advising more than 50 companies and researching more than 200 on best practices for building digital capabilities—coupled with detailed conversations with dozens of chief digital officers and more than 100 digital-business leaders worldwide—has convinced us that brands today can not only react to customers as they make purchasing decisions but also actively shape those decision journeys. A set of technologies is underpinning this change, allowing companies to design and continuously optimize decision journeys. More important, companies today can use journeys to deliver value to both the customer and the brand. Companies that do this well can radically compress the consideration and evaluation phases—and in some cases even eliminate them—during the purchase process and catapult a consumer right to the loyalty phase of the relationship (exhibit). The journey itself is becoming the defining source of competitive advantage.

Exhibit

The new consumer decision journey

In fact, a recent Association of National Advertisers survey2 The survey was completed by a total of 384 client-side marketers. Participants include members of various panels, including the Association of National Advertiser’s (ANA) Marketer’s Edge Research Community, ANA members and prospects, the American Marketing Association, Demand Metric, McKinsey, and Spencer Stuart. Findings from the survey will be available in “The marketer strikes back,” forthcoming on the McKinsey on Marketing & Sales website. found top performers understood the entire customer journey much better than their peers (20 percent versus 6 percent) and had much better processes for capturing insights about customers and feeding them back into their marketing programs to improve performance (30 percent versus 11 percent). They also valued automation as a critical capability to respond to disruption and deliver both consistent and personalized customer experiences (30 percent versus 11 percent).

We’ve found that a company’s ability to deliver that value relies on four distinct but interconnected capabilities:

  • Automation streamlines journey steps. One example is letting people take a picture of a check and deposit it through the bank’s app rather than doing it in person. While automation of processes is highly technical, the focus is on enabling simple, useful, and increasingly engaging experiences.
  • Proactive personalization uses information about a customer—either based on past interactions or collected from external sources—to instantaneously customize the experience. Remembering customer preferences is a basic example of this capability, but it extends to personalizing and optimizing the next steps in a customer’s journey, such as immediately putting a valued traveler on an upgrade list.
  • Contextual interaction uses knowledge about where a customer is in a journey to deliver them to the next set of interactions, such as a retail site showing a customer the status of a recent order on the home page. Some hotels are experimenting with using their app to operate like a key when a customer gets to his or her room.
  • Journey innovation extends the interaction to new sources of value, such as new services, for both the customer and the brand. Companies mine their data and insights about a customer to figure out what adjacent service her or she might appreciate. The best companies design journeys that enable open-ended testing to allow for constant prototyping of new services or features. This may include, for example, an airline’s app that has the ability to integrate with a taxi service so that travelers can book cars to pick them up when they arrive at their destination.

Activating customer journeys to capture value requires journeys to be treated like products that need to be actively managed, measured, and nurtured. How well companies are able to do that will dictate how successful they are in making customer journeys a competitive advantage.

Read the full version of this article, “Competing on customer journeys,” on the Harvard Business Review website.

Journey Mapping: What Is It Good For? Absolutely Anything! – Forrester

Are you using Journey Mapping in your lumberyard? Deanna’s blog post gives insight why you should map your customers’ experience.

 

Journey Mapping: What Is It Good For? Absolutely Anything!

Posted by Deanna Laufer

I recently had the pleasure of facilitating three customer journey mapping workshops for clients. For me, the most rewarding part of these workshops is when, all of a sudden, you see the light bulb go on for the participants. It can be the realization that their customer has to jump through an inordinate number of hoops to submit a simple service request or have to wait 5-10 days for repair. Or, when the workshop participants realize they have no idea what their customers are doing or thinking, but maybe they should.

Just as the light bulb moment can be different for each person, the insights they deem most valuable can vary, and include:

  • Ideas for designing future-state experiences. A group of participants from a retailer created a future-state journey map illustrating how customers could sign up for a credit card and rewards program while shopping in store. They identified scenarios for how store associates could approach customers with credit card offers without seeming intrusive, as well as appropriate opportunities to follow up with customers by email or mobile app if they chose not to enroll right away. These types of insights can then inform the design of the new credit card and rewards experience.
  • A sense of empathy for the customer. We ask workshop participants within the same organization to wear name tags because, not only do we not know them, but most of the time they don’t know each other. In one workshop, the organization was siloed, as most are, and each participant owned their own small functional part of the customer journey. But no one had insight into or ownership of the entire process. When brought together to analyze the health of the end-to-end journey, participants walked away with a shared understanding that what they were each doing individually wasn’t working for the customer as a whole.
  • A prioritization of initiatives that impact moments of truth.While plotting steps in the customer journey, groups surmised how they thought customers felt at each point – satisfied, frustrated, WTF (yes that’s an emotion often used). They also identified moments of truth – those points in the journey that were critical or decisive for the customer in some way. Then, after brainstorming ways to improve the customer’s experience, they “starred” those ideas that aligned to moments of truth, and singled them out as those that could have the biggest impact on how customers felt about that journey.

 

After attending all these workshops, I had my own aha moment, cheesy as it sounds, when I realized that part of the reason every participant comes away from the same workshop with a different perspective is because there are so many uses and applications for journey maps.

My colleague, Tony Costa, wrote about just this topic a few months ago in his popular report, Journey Mapping Best Practices, which details six core activities – from designing experiences, to prioritizing and measuring CX initiatives, to informing the broader business agenda – for which CX pros can use journey maps.

 

HT customer journey map
HT customer journey map

 

Read More:

Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience

McK: The Three Cs of Customer Satisfaction: Consistency, consistency, consistency

Below is an article from McKinsey & Company Insights & Publications  March 2014 issue. This article about talks how important it is to provide consistency across the customer’s journey to ensure satisfaction. I have another blog post which talks about how to map a customer’s journey: Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience.

The Three Cs of customer satisfaction: Consistency, consistency, consistency

It may not seem sexy, but consistency is the secret ingredient to making customers happy. However, it’s difficult to get right and requires top-leadership attention.

March 2014 | by Alfonso Pulido, Dorian Stone, and John Strevel

“Sustaining an audience is hard,” Bruce Springsteen once said. “It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action over a long period of time.” He was talking about his route to music stardom, yet his words are just as applicable to the world of customer experience. Consistency may be one of the least inspirational topics for most managers. But it’s exceptionally powerful, especially at a time when retail channels are proliferating and consumer choice and empowerment are increasing.

Getting consistency right also requires the attention of top leadership. That’s because by using a variety of channels and triggering more and more interactions with companies as they seek to meet discrete needs, customers create clusters of interactions that make their individual interactions less important than their cumulative experience. This customer journey can span all elements of a company and include everything from buying a product to actually using it, having issues with a product that require resolution, or simply making the decision to use a service or product for the first time.

It’s not enough to make customers happy with each individual interaction. Our most recent customer-experience survey of some 27,000 American consumers across 14 different industries found that effective customer journeys are more important: measuring satisfaction on customer journeys is 30 percent more predictive of overall customer satisfaction than measuring happiness for each individual interaction. In addition, maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential not only to increase customer satisfaction by 20 percent but also to lift revenue by up to 15 percent while lowering the cost of serving customers by as much as 20 percent. Our research identified three keys to consistency:

1. Customer-journey consistency

It’s well understood that companies must continually work to provide customers with superior service, with each area of the business having clear policies, rules, and supporting mechanisms to ensure consistency during each interaction. However, few companies can deliver consistently across customer journeys, even in meeting basic needs.

Simple math illustrates why this is so important in a world of increasingly multichannel, multitouch customer journeys. Assume a customer interacts six times with a pay-TV company, starting when he or she undertakes online research into providers and ending when the first bill is received 30 days after service is installed. Assuming a 95 percent satisfaction rate for each individual interaction—whether measuring responsiveness, the accuracy of information, or other factors—even this level of performance means that up to one in four customers will have a poor experience during the on-boarding journey.

The fact is that consistency on the most common customer journeys is an important predictor of overall customer experience and loyalty. Banks, for example, saw an exceptionally strong correlation between consistency on key customer journeys and overall performance in customer experience. And when we sent an undercover-shopping team to visit 50 bank branches and contact 50 bank call centers, the analysis was confirmed: for lower-performing banks, the variability in experience was much higher among a typical bank’s branches than it was among different banks themselves. Large banks typically faced the greatest challenge.

2. Emotional consistency

One of the most illuminating results of our survey was that positive customer-experience emotions—encompassed in a feeling of trust—were the biggest drivers of satisfaction and loyalty in a majority of industries surveyed. We also found that consistency is particularly important to forge a relationship of trust with customers: for example, customers trusted banks that were in the top quartile of delivering consistent customer journeys 30 percent more than banks in the bottom quartile.

What is also striking is how valuable the consistency-driven emotional connection is for customer loyalty. For bank customers, “a brand I feel close to” and “a brand that I can trust” were the top drivers for bank differentiation on customer experience. In a world where research suggests that fewer than 30 percent of customers trust most major financial brands, ensuring consistency on customer journeys to build trust is important for long-term growth.

3. Communication consistency

A company’s brand is driven by more than the combination of promises made and promises kept. What’s also critical is ensuring customers recognize the delivery of those promises, which requires proactively shaping communications and key messages that consistently highlight delivery as well as themes. Southwest Airlines, for example, has built customer trust over a long period by consistently delivering on its promise as a no-frills, low-cost airline. Similarly, Progressive Insurance created an impression among customers that it offered lower rates than its competitors in the period from 1995 to 2005 and made sure to highlight when it delivered on that promise. Progressive also shaped how customers interpreted cost-reduction actions such as on-site resolution of auto claims by positioning and reinforcing these actions as part of a consistent brand promise that it was a responsive, technology-savvy company. In both cases, customer perceptions of the brands reinforced operational realities. Such brands generate a reservoir of goodwill and remain resilient on the basis of their consistency over time in fulfilling promises and their strong, ongoing marketing communications to reinforce those experiences.

Becoming a company that delivers customer-journey excellence requires many things to be done well. But we’ve found that there are three priorities. First, take a journey-based approach. For companies wanting to improve the customer experience as a means of increasing revenue and reducing costs, executing on customer journeys leads to the best outcomes. We found that a company’s performance on journeys is 35 percent more predictive of customer satisfaction and 32 percent more predictive of customer churn than performance on individual touchpoints. Since a customer journey often touches different parts of the organization, companies need to rewire themselves to create teams that are responsible for the end-to-end customer journey across functions. While we know there are an infinite number of journeys, there are generally three to five that matter most to the customer and the business—start your improvements there. To track progress, effectiveness, and predict opportunities, you may need to retool both metrics and analytics to report on journeys, not just touchpoint insights.

Second, fix areas where negative experiences are common. Because a single negative experience has four to five times greater relative impact than a positive one, companies should focus on reducing poor customer experiences, especially in those areas in which customers come into contact with the organization most often. For instance, training frontline service representatives to identify and address specific customer issues through role playing and script guidelines will go a long way toward engendering deeper customer trust.

Finally, do it now. Our research indicates that since 2009, customers are valuing an “average” experience less and have even less patience for variability in delivery. In addition, companies that experience inconsistency challenges often expend unnecessary resources without actually improving the customer journey. Making additional investments to improve the customer experience without tightening the consistency of experience is just throwing good money after bad.

For more details about customer satisfaction across industries, see “Customer satisfaction survey: Who’s up and who’s down,” on the McKinsey on Marketing & Sales website.

About the authors

Alfonso Pulido is an associate principal in McKinsey’s San Francisco office, where Dorian Stone is a principal; John Strevel is an associate principal in the Toronto office.