When discussions have turned to the importance of customer experience today, it is easy to quickly think of customer experience (CX) as a touchpoint improvement phenomenon. Garnering up images of consumers, as well as, B2B buyers happily skipping along a mythical journey to the end of a rainbow. Coming upon particular resting points and encountering an experience designed to wow them!
There is a problem with this thinking today.
We have been fascinated with the concept of the customer journey or in B2B, the buyer’s journey. On paper, it worked well. There is a beginning, middle, and an end to the customer journey. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, this approached worked rather well.
Thus, we have another problem.
Both consumers and B2B buyers are not skipping along a neatly defined journey with a beginning, middle, and end. The rise in multiple channels and the ubiquitous nature of the digitally connected world has forever disrupted this notion. Yet, many organizations today still view customer experience through this framing of a journey with bordered stages.
Why Journey Mapping Alone Will Not Work
Recently, I was invited to observe a customer and buyer’s journey mapping exercise involving marketing, support, and sales members for an approximately $700 million corporation. The arduous task of trying to map each touchpoint and what team members believed took place meant a good full day of discussions.
This is where companies tend to end the customer journey or buyer’s journey mapping exercise. What I saw at the end of the day is the usual next step of fervor and energy towards streamlining touchpoints and process improvement. Do not get me wrong. These types of exercises can add value. Removing customer unfriendly and internally imposed steps hindering interactions certainly can improve overall customer experience.
The approach, however, should be re-evaluated for traditional customer and buyer’s journey exercises lack in bringing in the experience goals of customers and buyers. Making efforts in customer experience and engagement design a hit or miss game. Here is how one executive put it to me:
“A lot went into our customer experience initiative. We had cross-functional teams, did customer journey mapping, and made some serious efforts to redo processes. In the end, though, we still missed the mark because we didn’t really understand the experience customers wanted.”
Vice President, Customer Support
Experience Goals Shapes Customer Experiences
Consumers and B2B buyers can bring divergent emotional goals into their goal-directed activities and purchase decisions. One such level of emotions relates to experience goals. These goals are about desired outcomes of experiences and how one may hope to feel through an experience. This is quite different than expectations, which can drive many customer experience redesign. For example, customers can have expectations on reasonable wait times but an expectation of wait times is not necessarily an experience goal.
An illustration of my engagement with one firm can be helpful:
An insurance and financial planning firm for small to mid-size businesses spent much time revamping their sales and support services in order to improve overall customer experience. Streamlining processes in on-boarding business customers and beefing up customer support availability. While incremental results were achieved in customer satisfaction, something was missing.
After conducting qualitative buyer persona research, the firm uncovered insights into often-unarticulated experience goals on the nature of business insurance and financial planning. Buyers found such topics to be overwhelming, felt uncomfortable, and felt inadequate in their knowledge of business insurance, as well as, succession planning. The experience goals uncovered can be generally categorized as SMB owners wanted an experience of feeling assured the future of their businesses had been put in good hands and when the time came to retire, family was taking care of. Including having peace of mind for catastrophic events. It turned out the use of the word “assured” by buyers also meant they understood and felt knowledgeable about their decision.
Realizing this uncovered buyer insight was significant, the firm re-evaluated its content, sales conversations, and how support calls were handled. Finding they were too complex and made too much use of confusing terminology. Unknowingly adding to such feelings of inadequacy. To address important experience goals, the firm began to change its content, conversations, and interactions to meet the experience goals of its customers and buyers. Enabling customers to have an outcome that helped them to achieve their experience goals related to assurances and knowing their family would be taking care of when they signed. Hence, achieving significant gains in how their clientele perceived their customer experiences.
As you can see with this illustration, traditional customer experience efforts focused on streamlining processes and improving touchpoints did not really get at the heart of customer experience. The emotional goals pertaining to experience proved to be what mattered most. More importantly, the firm shifted its focus to understanding what was happening outside of its walls, via goal-directed buyer persona research, rather than just internal process improvement.
Getting At The Heart Of Deeper Customer Engagement
In today’s digital economy, the metaphor of a singular journey with a beginning, middle, and end may no longer work adequately to understand customers and buyers. Instead, organizations should focus in on the multiple paths customers and buyers find themselves on when attempting to accomplish their goals.
Companies can position themselves for future growth by learning how to offer deeper engagement opportunities for customers. In order to do so, they then must learn about the experience goals of their customers and potential buyers. In the case of the illustration above, the organization became informed, through uncovered buyer insights on experience goals, how to take customer engagement to a deeper level.
Getting at the heart of customer experience today may call for companies to shift their focus from just thinking about customer experience as a process improvement initiative. The C-Suite should shift their focus to a deeper understanding of the experience goals of their customers and buyers. This may be one of the most effective ways they can truly get at the heart of the matter for both customer experience and customer engagement.
(What follows is a classic talk given by Joseph Pine, author of The Experience Economy. While, it is nearly eleven (11) years old, it still has relevance today in terms of customer experience. One section I particular liked is his emphasis on rendering authenticity. When it comes to buyer personas, rendering authenticity means use of the authentic goal-directed behavior research and mapping designed for persona development.)