Gone are the days when simply offering a stellar product or service was enough to succeed in business. Competing in today’s market is a very different proposition. Customer-led companies are the brands that are dominating today. If you don’t keep up with this shift and prioritise the customer journey – creating a 5 Star Customer Journey, you risk falling behind.
In the digital age, the customer reigns supreme. They are spoiled by choice and can switch to a competitor in the blink of an eye. That’s why in today’s competitive commercial landscape, customer experience is where the real battles are fought and won.
What is customer experience?
Customer service is only part of the holistic customer experience. Customer experience is about a person’s overall perception of your brand, based on their interactions. The customer journey includes every touchpoint, from the search results they see on Google, through to the time they might call to request a refund. Customer journeys often involve users consuming your content, as increasingly, consumers are researching purchases prior to actually completing their transactions.
Customer experience is the sum total of all of these experiences. Everything you do impacts their perceptions. Your goal should be to ensure their customer journey is better than the equivalent they would experience with another similar brand.
Why is a great customer experience so crucial?
Every single one of your customers has the power to help make or break your business. A satisfied customer will tell others about their experience, and word of mouth is an incredibly powerful channel. An unhappy customer, however, will generally tell even more people about their experience. Obviously, you want to cultivate the former and minimise the latter!
Customer experience is not just a differentiator. It can represent a make-or-break business factor in many industries. It’s no surprise that more and more companies are incorporating customer journey mapping into their planning activities. According to writer, speaker, and strategist Valeria Maltoni: “The way to a customer’s heart is much more than a loyalty program. Making customer evangelists is about creating experiences worth talking about.”
Happy customers will become your most loyal advocates.
The benefits of delivering a great customer journey
Although many companies overlook customer journey optimization in favour of focusing on metrics that directly impact revenue – like conversion rate – this is a mistake. Rest assured that time and money spent on defining and refining customer journeys is never wasted. Companies stand to potentially double their revenue within three years of investing in customer experience.
Customer experience has a major influence on key success measures. Good customer journeys help to move the needle on lifetime value, churn, retention rates, and much more. Business benefits include increased customer loyalty, increased customer satisfaction, reduced customer complaints, and fewer returns.
According to a Forbes Insights study, leaders in using data-driven experience management also cited benefits including faster decision making (67%), a more comprehensive common enterprise view of customers (51%), and greater collaboration between departments (36%).
Common culprits in a bad customer journey
Typically, there are some universal issues that result in a poor customer experience. These include long wait times, impersonal service, staff who don’t understand customer needs, or trouble getting issues resolved/questions answered.
Therefore, you can achieve a superior customer experience if you make listening to customers a priority and use their feedback to build a solid, in-depth understanding of their pain points, needs, and desires. You will need to start with their perspective, viewing your product and brand through their eyes. Focus on your omnichannel reality, reducing friction wherever possible, and ensuring continuity. Having a superior customer experience is an indication that you have a 5 star customer journey.
Collecting customer feedback
A good customer experience comes from asking questions, listening to the responses, and adapting your approach accordingly. So if you don’t already have one, create a system to regularly collect feedback, analyse it, and act on it. Collect information about your users’ experiences with your product/service, website/app, or business as a whole.
Even if you don’t realize it, you are already gathering data every single day. Each time a customer calls the support line, sends an email, or leaves a review, that is feedback. It’s up to you to take that feedback and close the loop, using those insights to improve your customer experience.
According to Hotjar, companies with successful customer experience initiatives prioritize old-school methods (rather than focusing on trends like chatbots or AI). They focus on what they know will deliver results. Most stated that customer feedback was the main driver of their overall customer experience strategy. Voice-of-customer (VOC) feedback was the top method used across the board to shape customer journeys. Popular tactics included customer surveys, customer calls, and diving deep into website analytics.
Gathering feedback is a continuous process
Enter the customer journey map
What is a customer journey map? It’s a visual representation of your customer experience, spanning all potential touchpoints, grouped into stages. This gives you a unique view of how individuals interact with your brand. Given all the ways someone might interact with your business, a customer journey map is usually a very detailed blueprint.
“Mapping is very difficult given the heterogeneity of all markets, and the same consumer may have a totally different journey at different times because of different contexts,” says Wharton marketing professor Jerry Wind.
Nonetheless, it’s important to create a customer journey document if you want to identify opportunities for improvement. Although your teams are working toward the same company vision and mission, there are often disconnects between teams when it comes to day-to-day operations. Mapping the customer journey can help you identify where those weaknesses lie, so you can resolve them.
Going even deeper
Approach this exercise by identifying common user questions and decisions to be made, not just user tasks to be performed. Consider specific emotions that an individual would be feeling at various points in the customer journey.
Some companies tackle customer journey improvement through empathy mapping. These maps usually begin with a specific persona, then builds on this to articulate customer needs, goals, expectations, behaviours, and pain points.
Customer profiles and personas
Buyer personas or customer profiles are the foundation for customer journey optimization. Use these to guide any decision you make that impacts the customer experience. Consider whether a new feature will really solve the specific problem that customers face at a particular point in the customer journey.
Don’t zero in exclusively on your ideal customer. You need to craft personas for all customers, not just your best ones.
Gather feedback at the right times
It’s crucial to collect feedback at key stages of the customer journey, on your website or app, through email, or other relevant channels. There are three key milestones in particular where this will prove especially helpful.
You can prompt feedback at pivotal points prior to purchase, such as when someone has added a product to their cart or viewed a product page. You can also ask for feedback on the confirmation page after they have made an order. And finally, you can ask for feedback after they have had time to try out your product or service.
You can provide an incentive by offering a reward for responses. This could be in the form of a discount on their next purchase or being entered into a prize draw.
How to measure the customer experience
Having a measurable indicator means you can track progress over time and evaluate your efforts in this area. These will come in handy when you are running experiments to optimise your customer journey (more on that shortly). Here are four common metrics used to evaluate customer experience.
Customer Effort Score (CES)
How easy or hard is it for your customers to complete an action? This is usually measured through a survey that is sent out after the fact asking users to rate the difficulty of carrying out the task on a set scale.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
NPS is a customer loyalty score based on asking a simple question: “On a scale from 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” This then calculates a numerical score on a scale from 0 to 100 that represents customer experience.
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)
CSAT surveys measure customers’ satisfaction as expressed on a scale or through binary yes/no answers. This drills down to specific touchpoints, rather than focusing on their overall experience.
Time To Resolution (TTR)
TTR refers to the average length of time it takes for a problem to be resolved. It starts when the issue is first raised by a customer and ends once the ticket is closed. This can be measured in days or business hours. You can work out this metric by adding up the total time spent on resolution and dividing the result by the number of individual cases.
Identify your biggest leaks
Pinpoint the most common drop-off points along your customer journey. These areas of your customer journey represent your main opportunities for improving the overall customer experience. Where are people leaving – and why?
A certain percentage of drop-offs is inevitable. You can’t expect to win over everybody. Not all prospects are ideal customers, and even among those, not all of them will ultimately convert.
That said, if there are patterns showing that numbers significantly plummet at key stages, this is a signal that something is stopping customers from progressing. If web users lap up blog articles but never navigate to product content, consider whether you are effectively communicating how your products might meet their needs. If most people are making it through to your pricing page but then bouncing from there, you have a different problem on your hands.
Test and learn
Running long-term tests and learning from the results is a must when you are working on optimizing your customer journey. Make use of split testing or multivariate testing to experiment with changes with an eye to shifting the metrics outlined earlier. You want to achieve the optimal customer experience right now, as well as adapt to meet changing expectations and habits over time.
Keep doing what works and pour even more time and effort into those levers. Dial down tactics that aren’t delivering the results you want and consider cutting them out of your strategy entirely. These are just some of the strategies that will make you have a 5 star customer journey.
How to improve your customer experience
Think about key touchpoints along a typical customer journey. These are the points you want to focus on optimizing for you to achieve a 5 star customer journey.
The signup process
The onboarding process sets the tone for your entire customer experience. A simple, customer-focused signup form will go a long way toward creating a positive experience for new users.
Signup forms are often one of the first things you see on a website. An overly long or detailed form will inevitably deter people. Incorporate feedback from both new and existing users to streamline your process and build a more efficient, attractive proposition.
Although email is an essential element in your marketing mix, if you have an app, ensure you are making full use of its potential. Using event-driven in-app notifications can deliver even more timely and relevant messaging.
Dynamic messages can help when it comes to familiarizing customers with new features, alerting them to upcoming changes, or simply helping them make the most of existing functionality.
Personalizing the customer experience
When a user visits your website, make it easy for them get the most out of it. Surface relevant suggestions based on their preferences and previous actions. There’s nothing quite as delightful or convenient as returning to a website and immediately being presented with relevant information or products upfront.
If you are shipping physical products, think about how you can go the extra mile to surprise the customer with a personal note, an unexpected twist on packaging, or a bonus freebie.
Every interaction with a customer represents an opportunity to surprise and delight
Nobody wants to sit on the phone waiting to speak to someone. Long customer service wait times invariably drag down customer experience scores – which will definitely affect your 5 star customer journey.
The better your online self-service tools, the more likely your customers are to use them. Today, customers prefer to find answers to their questions through FAQs and online guides on their own. Do whatever you can to empower them to manage things themselves. This has the added benefit of reducing the demands on your staff.
Craft an intuitive mobile experience
Mobile now accounts for approximately half of web traffic worldwide. Clearly, you need a responsive website (and if applicable, mobile app) that caters to the growing proportion of users accessing content on their smartphones. This is not optional!
Take your design cues from sticky social media platforms, which have mastered the art of the eternal scroll, images you can swipe and zoom on, thumb-friendly CTAs, and minimal, uncluttered layouts. The mobile experience should not simply be a scaled-down version of your full desktop site, but a fully-fledged experience in its own right.
Customer experiences and outcomes
In designing your 5 star customer journey, don’t stop at delivering delightful customer experiences. Consider what customer outcomes are being achieved. Ultimately, if you can help customers accomplish their goals, they are much more likely to be satisfied with the encounter.
Dave Duke of MetaCX and Mathew Sweezey of Salesforce recently stated that “outcomes are the new north star of customer experience”.
“The experiences you create are the vehicle for putting the customer in a position, or not in a position, to achieve their outcomes. It’s this convergence that needs to be understood so the customer can be set up for success. Experiences are the method, outcomes the goal.”
Consider the outcomes of your 5 star customer journeys.
Capturing customer experiences and outcomes through 5 star reviews
You might think that happy customers will leave a recommendation if they want to. But the fact is, this is an afterthought for most people. Many people don’t even think to leave a review, or if it does occur to them, they quickly forget about it before they get the chance. It’s up to you to ask and remind them.
To build up as many 5 star reviews as possible, you need to be asking the right people at the right time for feedback. Not all reviews are created equal. If you receive a 1 star review, it will take many more 5 star reviews to cancel it out.
Encourage customers to leave 5 star reviews – these are the highest compliments a business can receive
Strike while the iron is hot
That’s why you need to swiftly follow up with people who are pleased with your service. Although you can do this manually with one-off emails and in-person requests, it pays to invest in an automated solution that integrates seamlessly with your CRM. This way, you will be able to send review requests to the right customers at the right times.
Only a small number of your customers will ever make the effort to write a review, so this is largely a numbers game. The more you ask, the more likely you are to receive.
The two key review platforms to target are Google and Facebook. Google reviews are prominently surfaced when someone Googles your company name, and Facebook reviews pop up in newsfeeds when someone you know writes a review for a business, adding the virality factor. ProductReview and Yelp are also great sites to collect reviews on, as they rank well in search results.
Make it easy for them to leave a review
How often do you ever write reviews for other companies? Probably rarely, or never, unless you had an especially negative experience. And even if the thought occurred to you, it’s a big leap to actually visiting a website, logging in, and typing out a recommendation.
When asking customers to write a review on one of the above websites for you, remove as many steps from the process as possible. For example, provide them with a handy Google Review link that takes them directly to the right page. Add a hyperlink to your business listing in your email signature. You could also consider creating custom QR codes that link to each review site. Place these on your business cards or around your physical locations – so people can scan these and be taken directly to a page where they can leave a review using their smartphone. In addition, consider putting up a physical sign that encourages customers to find your company on Yelp or Facebook.
Respond to reviews in a professional manner
Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone. No matter how hard you try, not every customer will have a positive experience with your brand. You can’t control every possible factor, and you can’t control how a customer feels.
All you can control is your response. By replying quickly to negative comments, you let customers know their feedback matters. They want to feel heard and respected. This might just be enough to nudge them into giving you a second chance.
Note that you can’t typically remove negative reviews on Google. Given the limitations on deletion, it’s important to keep your average rating high by encouraging as many customers as possible to leave a review. It’s a numbers game. The more customers who write 5 star reviews, the higher your overall rating will be.
New players are entering the market every day and the cost of acquiring new customers is rising. This means the customer is king. Focusing on optimizing your customer journey will give you a strong competitive advantage. Customers will reward you in spades – satisfied customers won’t just become repeat customers themselves, but will also spread the word to their families, friends, colleagues, neighbours, and acquaintances.
Creating 5 star customer journey maps will help you pinpoint and remedy any weak spots or gaps in your current processes. This will also give you a clear idea of what tactics are helping you move closer to your goals and which are not. Building a seamless, consistent customer experience across touchpoints and channels will require you to work hard to dismantle any disconnects between teams in your business – but it will be worth the effort.
Now you know what it takes to create a 5 star customer journey and earn a 5 star review – it’s time to start putting these tips into action. Get out there and get implementing!