Customer experience is one of the hottest topics discussed in business right now. The media and social media seem full of variants saying “why it should be important to you” and “how your business will be at risk” if you’re not doing something about it.
But doing what? Customer-experience management means different things to different people. There are as many arguments about what it means as there are ways of improving those customer experiences.
The first question you might want to ask would be why it is such a hot topic.
With customers having a wider choice in just about every field, whether B2B or B2C, the experiences those customers have or will have drive your ability to generate revenue and, of course, profit.
No wonder marketing and sales professionals are jumping on the customer- experience trend big time.
However, sales and marketing professionals aren’t typically the people that deliver your service experiences, ship your products, train customers, or schedule resources. In short, they are not the people one typically associates with delivering operational excellence. So, what’s missing?
Perhaps it is a technique known as Customer Journey Mapping (CJM). The technique is widely talked about as the way to capture and model the way customers interact with an organization.
CJM captures steps customers take, their interactions (moments of truth) and the emotions associated with their actions.
It seems much more like a buyer’s journey. That’s why many in sales and marketing are using CJM to capture, monitor and improve that buying journey. The reality is that a buyer’s journey is just one of the many journeys that customers may go through. Others might include getting a repair or purchasing additional products or services. From the customers point of view, the steps they go through on their journey may be different in each case.
CJM is a great technique for capturing and questioning journeys, but the map is only as good as the people who create it. Great customer experiences don’t happen by magic.
They are engineered to be effective and to deliver consistently great service. Such engineering only happens when you fully connect those customer journeys to the underlying processes that deliver them. However, for the most part the CJMs are still being created by traditional thinking.
That thinking tends to start with examining “what is,” and then building based on what you have. The initial work is focused on the “now” or “what has been.” However, as Edward de Bono said “You can analyse the past, but you need to design the future. That is the difference between suffering the future and enjoying it.”
Rather than thinking first about why things are as they are, we’d be better off focusing our efforts on designing the future, suggesting that we need “imagineers.”
A traditionalist may take something such as a taxi-booking system and try to make it easier to book or pay for a taxi.
It takes an imagineer to come up with the idea of ride sharing like Uber or Lyft.
Imagineers do not start by thinking from an organization’s perspective, or map journeys that start and end within an organizational boundary.
They start by imagining new journeys that we had never thought possible, and then set about building or rebuilding business structures to deliver them. Imagineers are the true disruptors.
If you think of an electric vehicle, you likely think of Tesla. For hybrid electric vehicles, Toyota comes to mind with the Prius. However, most major manufacturers are seeking to make the switch, mostly driven by government regulation.
Beyond this, what you may not know is that delivery service DHL is one of the world largest manufacturers of electric vehicles, or that the longest-range electric bicycle (226 miles/361 km) is not made by a bike company but by Delfast, a Ukranian courier company.
In terms of transportation, it certainly seems the collective engineering strength of traditional manufacturing companies is behind what the imagineers of new or start-up companies are achieving.
These new entrants, whether they succeed in the long term or not, have proved that success in the 21st century does not come from analysing the 20th century, but rather looking forward to what life might be like in the 22nd century.
If you want to look to the future, consider asking innovative people without pre-conceptions to start mapping possible customer journeys in your market. Note that those journeys may start and end way beyond current organizational boundaries.
Remember they are seeking to map those journeys with the customer point of view in mind. (Wards Industry Voices contributor Mark McGregor, left)
By understanding both the true trigger-point and end-point, you can better place yourself in the customer’s journey. That also identifies both threats to your business and opportunities for growth.
Perhaps it is an opportunity to expand or deliver products and services differently. In today’s ever-more technologically enabled world, chances are somebody out there is conceiving of customer journeys that may involve what you do. Will you imagine a new world and act early, or will you find yourself forced to respond to changes brought about by someone else?
Mark McGregor is senior vice president-strategy at Signavio, a planning and consulting firm.