It’s harder than you think to manage the customer journey

Successfully combining all of the steps your customers go through form their first interaction to purchasing your product is key to offering the best customer journey.

Generally speaking the purpose of most business websites is to sell – services, information – the sites are designed to create customers and manage the customer journey; to help brands and businesses drive sales, make and take bookings, communicate with potential customers and maintain existing customers. 

Web visitors are trying to find the right service or product for them. Your website communication is crucial to this. If they do commit to you that’s the beginning of a new relationship which is precious. A customer journey, has a beginning, middle, end and hopefully return. However, managing this customer journey is not as easy as some might think. Here we look at the customer journey, some easy mistakes, pitfalls and solutions.   

The Discovery / Browsing stage 

The user is finding out what products are out there, and whether the product fits into their own brand image and price bracket. This is the first interaction with the client, and where you need to have an immediate impact. Even though you may think you know nothing about the prospect, you already know a tremendous amount and can already start targeting your products. 

For example, you know the IP address, so you know the country they are coming from. If you have been profiling your traffic, you already know what kind of things they are interested in. Do they like shopping, what countries do they stay in, what’s the weather like, what lifestyle choices and preferences do they have? All this information is key to the customer journey. This is where good web management becomes like a conversation – the customer has already told you a lot of information. Don’t disregard this in your communication back to them. For example, we work with hoteliers around the world – to put this point into context there is no point in offering a summer sizzler offer to someone in Dubai when its 45C, or showing an offer whose last day is tomorrow when they are the other side of the world. 

Although all this sounds silly, its often done. Every time the customer navigates to a page, we are building up more and more of an understanding of the customer. Knowing your customer is half the journey to selling to your customer. 

The booking 

So the customer is ready to book or make a purchase. Too often the booking or purchase journey has been developed by a separate company and all the information that has been learned so far is instantly forgotten. People love to be recognised. That’s why we return to our same coffee shop each time, even though it may not be the cheapest or the best. How would you feel, if each time they failed to recognise you? I bet pretty soon you would start looking for a new coffee shop. It’s the same with the website. It also has the added advantage of knowing how best to upsell and cross sell to the customer, thus freeing up the most popular inventory or products. According to McKinsey in their white paper on “How retailers can keep up with consumers”, 35% of Amazon.com’s revenue is generated by its recommendation engine. 

Ongoing Communication 

In services where the purchase leads to an experience, ongoing or repeated communication can be crucial. For instance, in the hotel sector even if the hotel has managed to provide a seamless web journey thus far often this is the point where the journey breaks down. Reducing customer anxiety is important. By giving them information on their upcoming stay. How to get there, what’s the weather like, conversion rates and travel tips are all important in dealing with reducing anxiety and developing a relationship with the customer. Good communications play by the same rules whether you are talking to friends or communicating with a customer online – listen, learn, communicate. 

Converting data into experience 

This point is mostly relevant to industries such as hospitality where the web journey has led to an actual experience – a restaurant booking or a hotel stay for instance. Having provided lots of information during the web process the last thing a customer wants is to have to repeat this. Use the data and information you’ve gleaned on the web journey to ensure the customer experience with your product or service is what they want, requested and bought. 

Staying in touch 

The web journey has worked – you make a sale, your customer experienced your services. They are now your customer, they are invested in you. Don’t lose touch, don’t forget their experience with you – build on it, develop it and don’t let your future communication let them feel they are starting in position 1 again. They are now a customer and you have a relationship. Maintain it and change the way you communicate with them. Even simple techniques such as personalise communication make all the difference. This is one of the most missed opportunities. Only 48% of companies focus on customer retention, although it is five times more expensive to attract new customers than to retain them.

Industry Insight 

The web journey has changed dramatically in the last decade. Systems have grown organically, and when they were first added systems were designed for Function and not to be relationship centric as expected by today's customers. Processes and procedures do not cover relationships, security or a single source of truth for the customers.   

When a business chooses a website provider it is rarely the integration, or security of the customer they are thinking about. Often a website is more about big images, and making the site look pretty. Therein lies the problem. All these systems cross departments, and there is rarely a coherent strategy to pull them all together. The PMS is run by IT and Revenue, the website by digital marketing, the product or service by another department altogether. I once saw a hotel which had three applications the guests had to use, one to open the door locks, one for room control and a third for housekeeping and room service. Each one best of breed in their area, but not much thought for the customer. 

There are three things that I think will change the way we think:   

1. Because of new laws pertaining to customer data protection. GDPR, the European data protection regulation which will be enforce in may next year imposes a fine of 20 million Euros or 4% of annual worldwide turnover whichever is the larger to organisations that breach their regulations. This protects any user definable information including IP addresses. Joint responsibility means that anyone involved in capture, or using the data is jointly responsible. This will force businesses to have a single view of their customer data. In this environment it would certainly be unwise to have lots of disparate customer information in separate places.  

2. Third party sellers, a challenge for many businesses and sectors, not just hospitality. In the case of hotels this is the Online Travel agents such as booking.com and Expedia. For retail it might be Amazon.com. These groups really understand about the importance of a global view of the customer and the importance of integration. All customer data is stored in a single repository, giving them huge insights, and allowing them control of their data in a uniform and consistent way.  Amazon says that its conversion rates of recommendations via email are up to 65% in some instances.  

3. The introduction of steering committees that go across traditional silos make a huge impact – co-operative web communications and strategies. I have seen a number of the more successful companies bringing multiple groups together (Sales, Marketing, IT, Revenue and vendor) to create their relationship centric vision.     

With the success of those companies that have a consistent customer journey, only by bringing all the pieces together can businesses hope to conqueror the huge challenge ahead.    

Image Credit: Jirsak / Shutterstock