Is it time to take your customer journey back to the basics?

This article originally appeared in The Drum on October 19, 2018

Does the following scenario sound familiar?

As a recent transplant from the U.S., I wasn’t expecting to find that the large internet providers here in the U.K. have stellar, finely tuned customer journeys. They get a bad rap virtually everywhere. But after choosing one of the big providers, my album of worst hits for customer journeys got a new #1 track.

My journey started with a phone call, where, after too many confusing package options, I learned that an engineer will be out to set up my internet in a swift three weeks. Once set up, my line was poached on two separate occasions within one month, because my address “doesn’t exist.” But not to worry, another engineer will come to the rescue a week from Wednesday, “guaranteed to fix it,” which wasn’t the case.

Meanwhile, after two more failed attempts and waiting, I’m getting SMS notifications, emails and direct mail on products, upgrades and promotions when I don’t even have basic service. My customer data clearly of no value, siloed between departments.

My new customer service number was now a direct line to my case manager, Chris, who did his best to get chummy with me while still unable to resolve the issue. There was so much friction it could have started a forest fire. This is misery for a customer and a nightmare for a brand. When some things can go oh so wrong, we need to take our customer journeys back to the basics.

Keep it simple

Remember, it’s a journey, not a scavenger hunt. People want seamless experiences yes, but more than anything they just want to live their lives with as little disruption as possible. Start by asking why. By asking the right questions (questions like, “Why are we sending this communication?” “What do we want our customers to do, learn, take away?” “Does this enhance the journey for this segment, tier, customer?” “What do we want our customers to feel when they walk into our store?”) you can quickly get to the core of your purpose, your customer journey mission. Too often, brands bombard their customers with a barrage of promotions, offers and one-offs with few sticking. This isn’t to say don’t promote, cross-sell, incent or motivate. Done well, it’s a win-win. Done poorly, it causes confusion and leaves a bad taste. Don’t add to the noise.

Pull from real life

Digital experiences mimic physical ones. Each has their own language, cues and nuances, and your customer journey isn’t any different. Experiences aren’t linear. Think of a moment in real life when you’ve been surprised, delighted, reassured, or just simply got through the till quickly to get on with your day. I recently walked into my local coffee shop on my way to work and the barista, who knows me, my order and preferences, asked if I’d ever thought of tweaking my typical order a bit. Same drink, different way of making it. It was busy, so instead of holding up the queue, I told her to go for it. It was markedly more delicious. I was happy. And she just gained my trust while making a deeper connection. Pull from real life interactions to inspire and connect with your customers.

There’s a human on the other end

That inbox you’re landing in? It belongs to a person. So does that phone you’re pushing notifications to. From discovery to purchase, to in-store experiences and store associates, people crave connection and meaning. They want to be spoken to and treated like people.

This is where personaliation can help (or hurt) the customer journey — over-familiarity and intrusive use of customer data can be as much of a turn off as failing to use it at all. Things like cadence, frequency of offers or promotions, and other types of customer preferences play a significant role in how they feel, as people.

Customers don’t want to feel like a number, they want to feel like Jess, Oliver, Muhammad or Chloe. Respect your customers and make them feel like they’re important to you.

Would you take your mother, best friend, close colleague through the customer journey you’re designing? Use my data across your business, from marketing to customer service to delivery. Connect the dots, talk human and empathise.