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10 Best Practices For A Kick Butt Customer Journey

Monday, April 01, 2024

10 Best Practices For A Kick Butt Customer Journey

In today’s customer-centric era, user experience is everything. With endless options a click away, consumers have zero patience for convoluted journeys. Either you hook people in with cohesive experiences, or they move on to the next.

That means orchestrating a streamlined, frictionless customer journey is mandatory if you want to drive conversions and loyalty. You need to guide visitors seamlessly from discovery to delighted customers bonded to your brand – which is much easier said than done.

Luckily, implementing a few fundamental best practices makes crafting smooth journeys much more plausible. These guidelines serve as your roadmap taking on the interconnected dependencies that many leave dangerously ambiguous.

Today, I’m sharing 10 must-have pillars for designing and managing customer journeys that wow. From executive alignment down to individual process hand-offs, these tactics prevent major pitfalls sabotaging experiences.

Let’s explore how to connect critical dots transforming frustrating scenarios into seamless brand impressions across teams and channels.

#1: Secure Executive Commitment

Secure Executive Commitment

Journey success starts long before customers enter the picture. First, it’s on leadership to officially prioritize experience excellence as a core objective. And that requires tangible, consistent investment beyond paying lip service to buzzwords.

Rally executives around customer-centricity as a revenue driver – connect clear ROI between journey friction and missed conversions. Quantify the monetary gains from boosting retention or advocacy when you exceed expectations.

Secure buy-in across department heads to fund initiatives upgrading weak points.

Potential examples:

  • Website personalization to match browsing behaviors
  • Experiential store layouts with interactive displays
  • Service digitization allowing instant appointment self-scheduling

Guide strategic roadmaps around journey weak spots instead of pet projects or vanity metrics alone. Sell CX as the vehicle propelling growth goals coming straight from the top.

#2: Map Current & Future State Journeys

Alright, so you've ensured your website isn't actively annoying visitors. Now we can level up by fixing broader experience gaps customers face across channels.

And I mean truly understand underlying flaws...not just making assumptions in a conference room. Far too often we see leadership push journey changes without actually mapping existing realities customers face currently.

So step one is illustrating exactly how people engage day-to-day as they discover, research, convert, onboard, and manage relationships with your brand. Document real flows exposing true strengths but also weaknesses evident through data or customer chatter.

This means detailing across channels – is the product exploration experience confusing? Do support resolutions fail to meet mark after-sales hand-offs? Are loyalty perks not conveyed consistently to spark re-engagement?

Capture exactly how far (or how short) reality falls from aspirations right now across lifecycle milestones.

Finally, maintain maps dynamically – update based on the latest voices capturing sentiment per touchpoint. This constant outside-in view provides checks ensuring launches actually deliver expected lift pre-investment. Going hands-on and hearing emotions experienced firsthand steers our roadmap more precisely than myopic data ever could.

#3: Set Up Governance Early

With executive support and visual journeys locked in, formalize cross-functional governance ensuring alignment. A customer experience committee spanning critical departments meets regularly guiding ongoing optimization.

This group reviews feedback, diagnoses priority weak points, and vets potential fixes with customer impact in mind. They provide recommendations balancing IT roadmaps and strategic goals with real-time insights.

Don’t leave journey design ambiguous without forcing checkpoints. Governance groups help leaders make informed decisions factoring in multiple lenses. And they pressure test concepts ensuring no siloed launches counter larger experience visions.

Formal oversight also enables managers to drive unified metrics accountability tied to customer perceptions versus purely isolated KPIs. Raise the bar through collective responsibility for lifecycle excellence.

#4: Fix Your Website Basics First

Fix Your Website Basics First

When revamping journeys, the natural tendency is to shoot for the moon and reimagine every touchpoint. But start by first perfecting website fundamentals since it’s often the primary entry point.

Speed up load times, improve search relevance, and fix confusing site IA (Information Architecture) before broader innovation. Knock out basic usability and navigation issues causing early frustration.

Test messaging clarity around services, offerings, and post-transaction next steps. Confusing content loses trust quickly before potential buyers become invested. Master informational foundations and simple personalization guides before moving upstream.

#5: Build Trust Through Reviews & Social Proof

So you've mapped as-is struggles and painted future state visions. Now we need to increase user confidence, especially during those initial research interactions.

And that means leveraging authentic social proof – pure gold for influencing visitors beyond the overused salesy claims. I'd take a single genuine review from a customer explaining specific problems we solved over a hundred generic stock photo testimonials any day!

But it can't just be surface-level praise...dig into emotions and outcomes experienced first-hand from willing advocates. Pull out actual quotes and snippets from in-depth success spotlights bringing humanity front and center.

Southwest Airlines' journey focus on transparent storytelling and championing frontline workers has fostered incredible loyalty differentiating stodgy competitors. They understand leveraging real social proof conveys bottom-up care beyond generic corporate PR platitudes.

Rather than spotlighting only executives waxing poetic on values, Southwest highlights stories of employees going above and beyond daily to serve travelers' needs – whether helping elderly customers at gates or calming nervous fliers through turbulence.

One tweet features Capt. Gil. It shared how ramp worker Andrew tracked down a distraught flyer's left-behind wedding ring before takeoff. Not only promoting amazing service and saving the day but putting a real everyday hero front and center.

Southwest also acknowledges broader industry challenges transparently with customers to build resilience, such as ATC staffing strain impacting some flight delays. Admitting imperfection candidly while conveying solutions in motion breeds understanding over finger-pointing.

The goal here remains rapidly building perceived credibility and shared values fast amid initial discovery interactions. Then maintaining continuity spotlighting advocacy reactions consistently across channels and lifecycle phases cementing trust for the long haul.

#6: Personalize, Personalize, Personalize

Personalization remains drastically underleveraged by brands despite proven effectiveness and dramatically accelerating growth. Even fundamental audience segmentation and tailored messaging outpaces a one-size-fits-all approach.

For example, explore a traditional insurance provider sending policy communications. Typically, customer life stages differ wildly – college grads, new families, nearing retirement, empty nesters. Yet materials with blanket statement details can be irrelevant to realities facing diverse groups.

With basic segmentation around life milestones already on file, messaging could showcase appropriate coverage considerations matching declared stages.

Welcome packs for recent newlyweds emphasize consolidating and planning for future family deductible needs over retirement elements. While older policyholders would receive guidance around Medicare supplement options over juvenile requirements.

Personalization cannot end after initial interactions either. Continually evolve content reflecting changing circumstances observed for more intimate relevance over time.

Younger members may appreciate parenting-focused recommendations as new births get confirmed beyond generic wellness messaging prior. While divorce or death/life event triggers for empty nesters could prompt coverage gap alerts different from families at peak.

The key is starting small without over engineering complex algorithms. Use obvious indicators on file to better align engagements contextually. Test the effectiveness of intro groups before expanding segmentation buckets through additional analytics.

#7: Bridge Silos Through Journeys

Internal silos remain notorious customer journey killers. The path often spans sales, service, marketing, IT and more. Yet passing the baton smoothly across teams still proves easier said than done despite best intentions.

That’s why using journey mapping to expose interconnected dependencies lights a fire driving collaboration. Help all see how poor handoffs have dangerous ripple effects down the line.

Then facilitate discussions on process revamps or tool upgrades bridging milestones across departments. Highlight technology enablers allowing teams to work together in real time keeping customers looped in.

Proactive and over frequent communication also helps bridge knowledge gaps before customers feel the impact. Promote situation room scenarios for complex account needs routing cases smoothly without internal headaches felt externally.

#8: Monitor Sentiment Around Micro-Interactions

Monitor Sentiment Around Micro-Interactions

Merely tracking volume metrics and broad satisfaction scores fails to diagnose nuanced perception gaps within journeys. You miss sticking points influencing outcomes unless you monitor experience data at micro-levels.

For example, measure effort and ease around specific self-service scenarios. How difficult was it to request a refund or contact support through the help portal?

Tap post-transaction NPS ratings assessing channel consistency for those coming through sales versus online joins. This micro-view highlights emotions missed from the traditional 30,000-foot aggregated lens.

Journey analysis focusing on detailed touchpoint feedback provides a sixth sense of forecasting churn risks or emerging needs proactively. So don’t just rely on generic top-level scores to ground ROI cases or feature roadmaps.

#9: Fix Pain Points Customers Feel, Not What You Presume

It's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking we know exactly what frustrates our customers. After all, we designed the product and interact with customers daily – we must have our finger on the pulse of their pain points, right? Wrong.

As it turns out, companies often completely miss the mark on identifying customer irritants that truly need relief.

It takes some humility to accept that those of us working on a product likely have blindspots around issues facing the end-user experience. We get so focused on our immediate roles that we make assumptions about pain points rather than opening up an honest dialogue.

Even tech giants such as Microsoft or Apple have launched product updates addressing issues they presumed were annoyances, only to find out later they were off base.

Putting in place consistent processes to solicit open and candid user feedback is key, whether through surveys, analyzing support tickets, or quick polls on social channels.

The key is asking quantitative questions around suspected issues, but also giving space for subjective commentary that might reveal overlooked frustration triggers.

Then comes the most important step – actually listening to what users say, circling back the insights cross-functionally, and realigning priorities based on real issues shared transparently. Maybe that fancy new feature gets pushed down the roadmap in favor of interface updates.

The end goal is maximizing impact by addressing the problems actually causing the most friction out there in the customer experience. Once we fix the pain points users truly feel rather than just the ones we presume exist, that's when the magic really happens.

#10: Continuously Iterate Don't Set & Forget!

Finally, in the rapid-paced market of today with rising expectations accelerating, optimizing journeys can never remain a set-and-forget endeavor. Complacency is a quick path to churn as people flock to competitors working actively to woo them away.

Build measurement capabilities enabling always-on sentiment tracking at scale across channels. Automate mechanisms to digest unstructured feedback data into consolidated insights leadership can digest.

Keep governance teams empowered to take swift, decisive actions addressing flux based on the latest intelligence rather than dragging through antiquated roadmaps. Sprints beat slow perfectionism here.

And use regular journey mapping refresh cycles to pressure test assumptions, add emerging contexts, and rally extended teams reinforcing their ongoing contributory roles and elevating perceptions.

Here’s A Few Topics To Remember

Here’s A Few Topics To Remember

Crafting exceptional customer journeys is no small feat, but absolutely mandatory for brands today seeking to drive real loyalty. While the pillars shared just scratch the surface, they provide a blueprint for getting started driving cohesive engagement. From securing leadership priorities down to frontline personalization capabilities, locking in foundations sets you up for ongoing optimization as expectations accelerate.

Remember, journeys must flex as new innovations emerge and consumer behaviors evolve. Governance oversight and continuous feedback loops remain key enablers moving fast. Rather than a one-and-done project, dedicate resources towards constant iteration guided by sentiment.

The underlying mindset driving journey success ultimately boils down to a passion for people first. Start by walking genuinely in customers' shoes, build teams embracing user pain points as their own, and keep their ever-changing realities core to decisions made. The rest comes naturally.

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