A Customer Journey to leave them singing your praises
Updated: Apr 22, 2020
How do you create an experience so great, that your customers cannot help but love you, come back time and time again, and recommend you to their friends?
Getting new customers is hard. Selling can be slow, expensive and hit-or-miss. Far better to encourage existing customers to come back, buy more and recommend others. It costs on average 5x more to acquire a new customer, than to retain an existing one.
"Good customer service costs less than bad customer service." Sally Gronow
Every business should have customer / client retention as a central strategy. And the surest way to retain customers, is to take them on an amazing journey every time they deal with you.
What is a ‘’Customer Journey’’?
Your “Customer Journey” is a way to look at customer experience which focuses on all the touch-points and interactions your customer has with your business. The significance of the ‘Journey’ is to avoid generalization: each customer will have a different journey, because they have a different start and end point, and different choices along the way. Mapping that out and shining a light on the experience from the customer’s perspective is key to creating the best possible Customer Journey.
Each time your customer enters your showroom, calls you, receives a communication or visit from you, or refers to your instruction manual, is a point on the Customer Journey. Getting them all right leaves customers with a great feeling that they are in good hands. Getting some badly wrong, can be enough to turn away prospects, or even lose existing customers. It’s vital to focus on getting each journey as smooth as it can be.
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Maya Angelou
How can I know what my Customer’s Journey feels like?
Good question. After all, as business owners we are on the inside looking out. It can be hard to detach enough to see our business from another perspective. Here are some simple strategies to truly understand what your business feels like, from your customer’s point of view:
Ask your customers! Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback with each interaction. People like to tell their story. This is most often done at the end of an interaction, whether that’s a store visit or a three-month deal closing off.
Ask your staff. They will tell you what went right and what went wrong (as long as you have a blame-free Culture) and have some great ideas for making things better. Engaged staff want positive interactions with customers.
Trust yourself. Is there something you do (always, or when things go wrong) that makes you wince with embarrassment? Start by fixing that. For many SME’s the number one guilty feeling is not being responsive enough or always getting back in a timely manner. Your gut instinct will tell you what ‘’timely’’ means.
Secret Customer time: Ask someone you know to become a customer and share live feedback on their experience with your company (better still, do the same for them – it’s less intimidating when you’re both exposed).
Use existing information. You have access to feedback already, in the form of complaints, recommendations and other communications. Collate them and learn.
Look at your competition. What they’ve done well, do even better. What they mess up, make your point of difference.
Research Best Practice. The great news is, the average standard of customer service in Perth is generally lower than many major cities in the world. This means it’s actually really easy to find simple-to-implement innovations globally that will set you apart in the local market.
Make it a ‘’Thing’’ and celebrate it. Tell everyone (customers, staff, suppliers) you are launching an initiative to create a Customer Experience that will blow their socks off. Encourage ideas, stories and inputs.
Conduct a formal exercise known as a Voice of the Client, using focused interviews to hear feedback and suggestions from a targeted group of clients / customers.
Notice how they got progressively involved and complicated-sounding? Don’t worry. Unless it’s justified (i.e. you have a huge customer service issue, or you are looking to expand rapidly) start with the simplest suggestions at the top. Sometimes you only have to tweak one thing to start seeing great results.
"A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well." Jeff Bezos
How should I improve my Customer Journey?
No one can deliver a perfect Customer Journey overnight. Even companies celebrated for it, like some top hotels and airlines, are continually improving. Here’s the way we recommend breaking it down into a manageable project plan to prioritise and implement over time.
Focus on 4 areas to design and create a great Customer Journey that never fails. Remember – you don’t have to do it all straight away. Start with the most broken part – or at the beginning of each Journey (if there is nothing particularly broken) – and keep making small changes.
This is the What and How of your operations. How much you know, how you come across, how you do business and the success of the final result. You are aiming at each touchpoint to make your customer feel connected and that you are mutually in control of the solution they are seeking.
"Instead of focusing on the competition, focus on the customer." Scott Cook
Think about optimising your:
Knowledge: Product knowledge, including the ability to propose the correct solution and explain it, as well as advise on alternative approaches. Properly documented procedures and quality training will lead to consistently greater Knowledge.
Timeliness: Response times, appointment windows, timing of follow-ups and reminders. Decide what is optimum, what is acceptable and what is easily achievable – and set the bar at a realistic stretch target.
Professionalism: Being presentable, relatable and polite in all interactions. Check on fundamentals such as uniform, fleet livery and business cards, build your standards into your policies and include as a measure of performance.
Technical Skills: Ability to execute your craft/trade, or turn your knowledge into concrete solutions. Includes quality of workmanship and making good. Cementing this will depend on processes, procedures and on-the-job training.
Your business is the world to you, but a black hole to your customers. It is up to you to explain who you are, what you can do for your customer, and how you will do it. Here are some pointers:
Make sure your customers know what to expect when they deal with you
Be as open as you can about range, prices and turnaround times. This starts before the sale, but needs to continue. For example, if a customer requests a quote for a trade, the appointment-maker should explain what to expect and when, the tradesperson can reiterate it and one or more scheduled communications can reinforce it.
Aim for a personal approach
In today’s technology-heavy world, automated communications are becoming the norm. Emails and SMSs are rising, visits and phone calls are dropping. This is great news for Customer Experience, because sometimes all it takes to stand out is a real person on the phone, checking all is well! Schedule follow-up calls, gifts (small or large) and even visits … and stick to them as rigidly as if they were automated (see below for help on this).
Remember, a personal interaction stands out in today's busy, virtual world. It is an easy way to delight customers and energise staff, so build these into all your journeys.
Use systems to integrate data and automate scheduled touch-points
Make it easy for staff to create strong, memoerable touch-points by scheduling them via your CRM or other system. The ultimate aim is for all service staff can have a queue-based task-list (by individual and team) which prompts them when and why to make calls, send gifts etc, and delivers complete information about the customer and their job information.
A good rule of thumb is to always contact customers in person, then follow-up each interaction with an automated message confirming the key points. For example, make a phone call to arrange an appointment, then set your CRM to email / SMS a confirmation 5 minutes later, including the time of the phone call and the name of the person who made it.
You may actually want to be less-than-truthful in your communications. Why? Because you want to over-deliver on expectations, and the easiest way to do this is for what you communicate to customers to be slightly worse than what will actually happen.
For example, if your business gets all deliveries out on average 5 working days later, with a variation of 2 days … you know no customer will be waiting more than 7 days, but if you tell everyone to expect a delivery within 10 working days, they will always be happy. If you ever give ball park estimates, always come in over. No-one expecting to pay around $500 will ever complain if the final bill is $375 … but you can imagine if it went the other way. By reviewing your Standards and relevant Processes, decide what is realistic and then under-commit. Your key aim here is to NEVER DISAPPOINT.
Once you understand your Standards and are confident that they are attainable, you need to make sure they are consistently achieved. The way to do this is to measure.
1) Targets vs Actuals 1 – SLA’s
SLA’s stands for Service Level Agreements. In this case, it’s what you’ve committed to customers to expect. So, for example, you might have an SLA (commitment) that all appointments will be in an agreed 2-hour window. You need to capture the data that supports this, so that on a job-by-job basis, you can see whether you have achieved the SLA. If you failed, you want to understand the root cause(s) and ideally fix them. However, sometimes you may realise you have set an unrealistic SLA: In this case, start by changing what you communicate so you are not disappointing customers (you can still work on getting closer to your target SLA internally).
We often advise SME clients to have 2 SLA’s in place: 1) what you tell the world, 2) what you actually want to achieve internally. That way, you can go aggressive on your internal targets without beating yourself up too much if you “fail”… because it looks like success to everyone else. For example, if you must get back to customers with quotes within 48 hours, why not set a stretch target of 24 hours.
Set SLA's for all the critical measures in your customer journey (time, $, score, quantity, etc), make sure all staff are aware of them - and their importance - and then bravely tell your clients or customers what they are!
2) Targets vs Actuals 2 – KPIs
KPIs are your Key Performance Indicators. They include your SLAs, but can be more general, and often measure effects as well as causes. For example, how happy people are, how long they are engaged for, and/or how much they spend. Your KPIs are the critical measures of whether your execution matches your strategy.
Here are 3 key examples relating to Client Retention and Recommendations:
1. Client Retention:
If part of your strategy is retaining more customers, you should measure your Client Retention rate and set targets for increasing this over time. Using a set period (Quarters works well), check Actuals vs Targets. The calculation is:
(Customers at End – Customers Acquired During) x 100 = Customer Retention Rate
Customers at Start
2. Lifetime Value (LTV):
A measure of the total revenue a customer brings to your business, this incorporates measures of how much they spend per purchase, how often they purchase and how long they remain a customer. The calculation for Gross LTV (which focuses on the revenue they bring, not the cost of acquiring and retaining customers) is:
AOV x Purchase Frequency x Customer Lifespan = Gross LTV
Average order value (AOV): The average value of a customer transaction
Purchase frequency: The average number of transactions a customer makes during a time span (such as one year)
Customer lifespan: How long the business typically retains each customer
Profit margin: The profit on customer transactions, expressed as a percentage
So for example, a gym which charges $40 per person, 52 times a year (once a week) and has an average membership of 18 months, has a Gross LTV of $3,120 ($40 x 52 weeks x 1.5 years).
LTV is a great measure overall, but just as importantly it helps highlight specific issues, or focus improvement strategies on one of more of the 3 components. For example, you could implement upselling strategies to increase the average spend by 20%, market new products and services to increase purchase frequency, or automatic recurrent billing to minimise customers lost at renewal periods and increase lifespan. By measuring each component, you can test the effectiveness of implementing each strategy.
3. Net Promoter Score (NPS):
Probably the simplest overall measure of customers’ likelihood to recommend your business, this is the answer to one single question, “How likely would you be to recommend [your business name] to a friend or colleague?”.
Each customer scores from 0-10, classifying them into one of 3 groups: Promoters: Score 9 or 10. They are your repeat buyers, recommend you repeatedly and will actively promote you Passives: Score 7 or 8. They are unlikely to either recommend you or complain about you, and – whilst they may return – may also switch to a competitor Detractors: Score 6 or below. Not only are they unlikely to buy from you again, they are also a high risk of damaging your reputation through their comments
The resultant Net Promoter Score is an overall ranking from -100 to 100, indicating the health of your customer satisfaction. The NPS calculation is:
% Promoters (scored 9-10) - % Detractors (scored 0-6) = NPS
Don’t worry if your starting NPS is negative, that’s actually quite normal. Instead, aim to improve it. Rather than just focusing on the overall score, think about strategies to achieve specific results: for example, reduce the percentage of detractors, increase the number of promoters or reduce the number of terrible experiences (e.g. 0-3 scores).
Customer Complaints are your greatest opportunity! You know how hard it is to get people to give you qualitative information. Yet, here are your customers telling you – for free – exactly what it was about their experience which didn’t work! You could invest months to find that out for yourself.
Obviously, you ideally want to have as few issues as possible. However, you actually want a high incidence of complaining about these issues, because it means your customers:
Are engaged enough to want to help you improve
Are not as likely to mouth off to the wider world about their poor experience, because they are more likely to give you a chance to remedy what happened and stop it recurring
Are giving you valuable constructive feedback that can be addressed – specifically (apologising for and/or remedying what happened) and then systematically (stopping it recurring).
Each time you mess up, is a perfect opportunity to get a BETTER overall result than if you got it right in the first place. Why? Because you have their attention. Your customer may be annoyed, but they’re no longer on auto-pilot. They are a captive market for Making Good.
Make this your priority and work out in advance how you will fix any likely issues and aim to turnaround your customers’ perception with customer experience good enough to Delight them. Yes, it will cost you. Yes, delighting that one customer will detract from serving 10 new ones as well. That’s why you want to have to do it as little as possible. But get it right and the potential for turning the way they’re feeling on its head is huge.
If you are measuring Net Promoter Score, it’s important to capture it after customers have made a complaint and had it dealt with, as well as after normal sales interactions. This will tell you specifically how well your complaint process is working, especially when compared with those customers’ pre-complaint score.
Do we aim for Good, or Great?
Your Customer Journey needs to be good enough to retain customers and prompt them to refer others. Does that mean it needs to be Not Bad? Or Good? Or Great?
The good news is, the average standard of customer experience in Western Australia is generally not as high as it could be. In most industries the bar simply isn’t as high as it is in other places. A lot of this is to do with the level of competition, as well as local expectations and culture.
For example, a typical corporate recruiter in London or New York will proactively head-hunt and nurture candidates, offer complimentary training and networking events, actively push them for a variety of roles, follow-up by phone and email at each interaction and provide constructive feedback after a rejection. By contrast, an executive candidate in Perth could apply for 10 roles through a recruiter without getting a single acknowledgement that their applications had been received, communication about the process / timelines or feedback. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the potential for simple improvement here. For other industries, the contrast is less extreme but it is still straightforward to gather intelligence on Customer Experience elsewhere and cherry pick what to implement.
For most small businesses, Good is enough. Being trustworthy, pleasant and proactive in communications alone will enable you to stand out. So start there and gradually slot in future improvements down the track. If you are ambitious about growth, aiming for world class customer experience from the start can be a fast track to growing a great reputation and growing a loyal customer base. Otherwise, most SME’s should aim to be on average Good and never Bad.
Be authentic. Everyone needs to have a good experience
"Service, in short, is not what you do, but who you are. It's a way of living that you need to bring to everything you do if you're to bring it to your customer interactions." Betsy Sanders
Who are your customers? The people who buy your products and services. Yes, but you have many other customers that you are probably forgetting about on a daily basis. If you are an HR Manager, your customers are the candidates you are recruiting, the staff nervously awaiting their performance reviews … even the ex-employee who’s asked for a reference. If you are in Accounts Payable, once a month all your fellow employees become your customers when they receive their salaries.
Everything you’ve read here – implementing Standards, Communications, Measurement and a Complaints Process - can and should be applied equally to your staff experience. Your Culture and Internal Processes form your customer journey for staff and will affect not only their feeling about your business, but the energy they bring to their work. If everything is outward-facing, it is phony and staff will feel this keenly.
So it’s a question of balance. Yes, many small businesses start by focusing on their external customers as a way to boost reputation and retention … and with them, profitability. But aim to keep the internal culture keeping pace with the external process, so staff know they are equally valued. A happy, engaged workplace? It will do wonders for your productivity!
Example: ‘Ned’s Books’ has a Task Force working on their Customer Journey. They meet together to explore ideas and conduct research, then split into 2 smaller teams to implement improvements. This quarter’s focus is Communications. “Team Surface’’ focuses on optimising interactions with external customers: they create a series of automated emails communicating to customers about their specialities, communicating Sales and Events and providing back-up email copies of receipts. ‘’Team Core’’ focus on the internal customer (staff) journey: they launch an intranet enabling communications to and among staff, including Job Postings, key date reminders and access to secure payslips.
It’s a Win-Win approach: people love to have positive interactions with other people, and your staff will become happier, more committed and more imaginative about how they engage with customers.
Customer experience is a FEELING
Remember that quote from Maya Angelou, “… people will never forget how you made them feel”. Customer experience is a feeling. The Customer Journey is each interaction which contributes to that overall feeling. It doesn’t matter if any part is less-than-perfect, if the whole experience is positive.
So, why not start your own journey today to explore what your customers come up against in their dealings with your business. Your staff will be happier, your client base will grow …. And the bottom line is, an increase in retention alone can return between 25% and 95% increase in revenue. That’s the kind of ROI every business is looking for.
Where to Start?
This article will have given you plenty of ideas for where to start and how to systematically improve your Customer Journey. If however you are uncertain where to begin, or would like assistance in managing the process, that’s where a Business Success Partner can come in.
Call Jen or Garry at May Dynamics to talk through your thoughts, ask a burning question or to see if we can partner with you to give your customers the greatest journey, each time they deal with you.