The customer journey is the holy grail for businesses and marketers today. It’s essentially a map that tells the story of the customer’s combined interactions with the brand across all channels. That includes their initial interaction with the company, the purchase, service, and finally their ‘sharing’ about those experiences. As devices and shopping channels have multiplied, the customer journey has become more complex with greater touchpoints. Customer touchpoints might include a digital experience where the customer bought directly from the company’s website or in-person retail experience. Touchpoints along the customer journey are also interactions over the phone, email, social or mobile channels. While improving the customer journey is a top priority for many businesses today, it’s also difficult to know where to start. Let’s take a closer look at steps your business can take today, to improve the customer journey while driving customer retention and brand loyalty.
- Focus on consistent customer experiences− Businesses need clear customer policies, unifying company goals, and supporting technology to ensure consistency during each customer interaction along the customer journey, which also includes customer support interactions. This is increasingly important as customers demand a higher level of service from their favorite brands. Companies succeeding in delivering high-quality customer experiences are those that are looking more holistically at the customer journey and leveraging omnichannel marketing. In fact, Aberdeen Group Inc. claims that companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel strategies. (Source: Aberdeen). With an omnichannel strategy, businesses can gather and synchronize data across all customer communication channels −web, email, chat, voice, mobile channels, social media, etc. This empowers companies to deliver high-quality service and a consistent experience because marketers and customer service agents have a 360-degree view of customers. This might include customers’ account history, order status, preferences, customer service requests and much more. The smartest companies are learning to better this leverage information and customer interactions to create quality interactions, solve problems and deliver a consistent experience that encompasses brand values.
- Leverage a customer experience cloud- Just as the customer journey has evolved with the explosion of social, mobile channels, and e-commerce, so has the way it is managed. Today’s most successful companies are leveraging cloud-based technologies to more efficiently organize and analyze customer data from many different sources to improve and personalize their customers’ journey. CRM applications and customer experience technologies delivered over the cloud, bridge the gap between marketing, customer service, IT and sales, to build a complete view of the customer. Cloud-based technologies also make it possible to integrate and manage CRM applications, mobile apps, big data analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and collaboration solutions that run on the cloud. Many call this the customer experience cloud. As an example, Oracle’s Content and Experience Cloud helps companies deliver a fluid customer experience across traditional and digital channels. Other companies rely on support from service providers that specialize in cloud-based customer experience technology. This might include a service provider that offers omnichannel contact center support or those that deliver a customer experience program and supporting technology through a cloud-based model.
- Use big data analytics and AI for personalization– Most experts believe big data analytics, predictive analytics, AI and machine learning can help companies exponentially improve the customer experience by giving them the tools and information they need to make better use of each customer interaction. For instance, advancements in AI-powered customer service technology have improved the system’s ability to recognize the content and context of customer responses. This makes chatbots a much more viable customer service channel, for example. Also, these AI functions can also collect massive amounts of customer intelligence during interactions, supporting ‘live’ agents with real-time information. AI and machine learning capabilities can also help companies connect with customers in new and meaningful ways across marketing, sales and customer service. As an example, this technology allows marketers to test better and validate messages and to collect more valid data points about users. AI and predictive analytics capabilities help businesses deliver accurate and personalized recommendations regarding consumer behavior and ensure messaging matches the customer’s preferred format and communication channel.
For companies looking to optimize the customer journey, a focused customer experience strategy that begins with delivering high-quality, consistent customer experiences across all channels is an excellent first step. Innovative marketers can also get there faster by leveraging cloud-based technologies and by using big data and analytics, machine learning and AI-powered technology to personalize messages and support successful interactions along the customer journey.