Organizations continue to focus on improving the customer experience with the goal of increasing the lifetime value of customers, but for the customers themselves, real improvements to their experience remain elusive. Managers are still trying to understand customer experience, let alone measure it and pass benefits on to customers.
A pertinent question is, “Are organizations really walking in their customers’ shoes?”
The answer is that they are clearly not, according to a survey published in the UK by YouGov, which found that 83% of customers are expecting organizations to work even harder if they want to retain their business. The survey also reports that just 5% of respondents felt they had received better customer service in the last three years. As a result, more people are complaining about service.
The channels people are choosing to complain, however, are changing rapidly. While 63% use e-mail and 41% still use telephone, an impressive 20% of people are now using social media as a channel to complain about customer service. This figure rises significantly to 36% for 18 to 24 year olds.
Enhancing customers’ service experiences starts with mapping the customer journey. For a specific customer, the various interactions with the organization, its people, and its processes build together over time to form the customer’s overall impression of the organization. The customer makes a judgment based on the sum total of these interactions of the organization’s level of service, as well as how easy it is to do business with the organization. The individual interactions, or touch points, may be positive or negative and, added together, these service experiences are critical in determining whether the customer will stay loyal to the organization or take his or her business to a competitor.
By mapping the customer journey, an organization can identify:
- How prospective and current customers use a service and when they interact with people and processes.
- How customers feel about the organization at each touch point and what they would really like the customer experience to be like.
- How the organization’s different business units should work together to better provide enhanced customer experiences.
- The potential barriers and obstacles that customers encounter and where processes break down.
- How to use this knowledge to design an optimal experience that meets the expectations of different customer segments.
First impressions with customers are exceptionally important, and they tend to set the scene for the rest of the customer journey.
Moments of truth—those key instances that are particularly critical in forming a customer’s view of the organization, whether for good or bad—will occur throughout the journey. Some customer-centric organizations try to identify their customers’ most important moments of truth as a way of focusing their employees on where they can improve service within the customer journey.
Bad experiences have a highly significant impact on the customer’s overall perception.
A bad experience for a customer, such as when a process breaks down, will result in a negative emotional outcome for the customer; however, most people understand that problems do occur from time to time. Most customers will accept such instances as long as the organization has the motivation and ability to recover, resolve the problem in the customer’s interests, and learn the lesson to ensure it does not happen again. If, on the other hand, the organization does not resolve the problem well, it could be the end of the line for that particular customer journey, and the customer will be lost forever.
Very positive outcomes at touch points add to customers’ overall experience of an organization.
These successes, where high service levels are delivered and perceived by the customer, can also be focused on by an organization in order to win over new customers, make them loyal, and improve the organization’s reputation.
An organization may have to make hard decisions about how to direct its resources: towards resolving and minimizing problems (the negative outcomes at touch points) or alternatively towards finding even more distinctive ways of delighting customers (the positive emotional outcomes at touch points). Realistically, the organization will need to find an appropriate balance between the two in order to maximize its customers’ experiences.