There’s no such thing as the customer journey

TLDR: There isn’t a single customer journey. There are many journeys. Because every customer takes her own journey, no matter what we want them to do.

How do you balance your desire to “standardize” the customer journey with the desire of your customers to be treated individually? Here are three things to consider.

The customer journey begins with consistency

Onboarding a new customer is about  “getting the basics right”.  If you do this well, the chance of long-term retention and growth increases greatly.

Ensure your customers’ early success by sweating the details of those critical first hours and days. You have a better chance of delivering a single, optimal new customer experience, versus doing a mediocre job of supporting multiple onboarding journeys.

If you must have more than one onboarding journey, try to limit the number of permutations. The permutations might be driven by different products, product versions, or customer segments. Challenge your thinking as to whether those differences are enough to warrant a different onboarding experience at all.

Define your touchpoints and what they’re best for

These days, customers want to engage us through a variety of channels. One could even say there’s a proliferation of channels: email, phone, Twitter, online support portals, communities, in-application chat, account managers, etc.

This leads to the “choice paradox”, a term famously coined by Barry Schwartz. The choice paradox says that customers aren’t necessarily happier when given lots of choices. So, give them some clues as to which channels work best for each type of need they have.

For example, billing questions might be best handled in the contact center with a live phone call. In contrast, product how-to advice can be delivered with rich content through your email, community and in-application channels.

Generic, Segmented or Personalized engagement?

Everybody wants to treat each customer personally, but is it really scalable for your business? For most of us, the answer is “no”. Therefore, there’s a tension between the cost effectiveness of treating customers consistently, and our customers’ desire to be treated individually.  If personalization is the ideal, then consider your company to be on a journey towards personalizing your customers’ experience.

Where on the spectrum of personalization should you land today?  This is an internal debate that your company must have.  You need the answer if your customer-facing teams have any hope of delivering a cohesive customer experience across touchpoints.

For the majority of us, customer segmentation is the next thing to master.

If you’ve mastered segmentation (and you’re one of the few?), then personalization is the next challenge in improving your customer journeys.  You’ll need to start with customer measurement and analytics.

In the end, our customers take their own journeys.  You’re there to enable them.

2 thoughts on “There’s no such thing as the customer journey

  1. Customers aren’t all alike and they’re not all different, but they do cluster. I think Hammer and Champy had it right in the mid-90’s: when reengineering the corporation use the Pareto Principle. Design your customer journey processes to handle 80% of the volume among your target segments and then handle the other 20% case-by-case.

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