Everyone loves the idea of a journey. Whether it’s a trek across Middle Earth, a road trip throughout the American highway system, or a space flight in a galaxy far, far away, it seems we can’t get enough of quests for love, success or saving the world. What makes these stories special, is that the hero is one of us, a regular person, and when the story begins, they don’t even know they’re on a journey.
Such is the case with the customer’s journey. It starts even before they are aware that they are on it. Before they even heard of the company. And although their story doesn’t have a princess in need of rescue, or a dragon that requires slaying, it’s just as important to pay close attention to that journey.
The emphasis on a journey is important because it means understanding the client’s needs and expectations. It recognizes the junctions where customer decisions are made and meets the customer on that journey to guide them towards the relevant solution.
Like any quest, a client’s journey starts with a need. The customer will go through the stages of considering the purchase, evaluating the options, making a deal. If the deal goes well, the customer is fed into a ‘loyalty loop’: enjoying the product, recommending it to others, and creating a bond with the company.
Now, however, there are more and more companies that manage a client journey of a different kind. The new model leads the customer directly into the ‘loyalty loop’ by having the company engage them, fully prepared to meet their requirements from the get go. The new paradigm means that customers skip the evaluation phase. Even though they have access to vast amount of data, they choose to trust the brand and forgo the research.
Proactivity in Motion
From the company’s perspective, the first step is finding the customers that need their products and/or services. It’s the reason why targeted audiences exist, and why campaigns are designed with a persona in mind. But promoting your business should be an active effort on your part, not simply relying on formula. Harvard Business Review has recently looked into the companies that manage to achieve a new customer journey, and marked four key capabilities these companies rely on when attempting to engage an audience on a level that would alter their normal customer journey:
There are many different automation tools and stories out there, but at its core, automation is designed to turn complex tasks that involve many stages into engaging and reactive solutions that could be triggered with a single touch. Automation can make the client feel as though the company is anticipating their wants and needs, and greatly simplify the research phase. The fewer actions the customer will have to take, the better their overall journey experience will be
Once you’ve established automation capabilities, you can build upon them by customizing the customer experience behind the scenes. It’s not far-fetch for you to know about a lead’s behavior, so why not use it to improve their customer journey? Doing so will allow you to tailor your offer to the clients, and make them feel that your company cares about them and knows what they are looking for. Even small touches can go a long way: you can, for example, alter your website’s homepage to match to client’s preferences. Some will see more case studies, some will be given a sales pitch, others will get more images to make a visual connection.
Understanding where your customer is on their journey is a good way to engage them in a way that will feel relevant for them. A client who knows nothing about the product would be looking for something different than a client who’s trying to compare reviews. This can mean anything from changing the message of your website to offering a dedicated app to make specific actions easier for the client. Once again, the emphasis is on making the customer feel as though they are understood from their very first interaction with the company.
Lastly, it’s important to be original, and spot opportunities to engage the customer that are as-of-yet unexplored. Though breakthroughs can happen, the tried and true method to achieving this is experimentation and analysis. Alternating between different versions of the company’s message copy and piloting new services will help not only improve the current customer journey but expand it.
Putting Things Together:
The above mentioned four key capabilities each play a part in drawing in and permanently capture potential customers. Using these abilities, companies can be proactive in reaching out to clients, and lead them directly into the “loyalty loop”. In the next article, we’ll explore how companies combine these practices to create a complete experience for the client by treating the customer journey as a product in its own right.