Customers; Colleagues; Shareholders. Which one should your business put first?


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At first glance, the title of this blog post may seem like a simple question. In fact, the order of the three key ‘stakeholders’ responsible for delivering customer experiences naturally exploded from the keyboard in the order that you see them. Does that mean that ‘Customer 1st’ is the right answer? If it is, this could be my shortest ever post! As you may well agree, the answer is in fact not that simple, and hence I believe it requires some exploration.

In my experiences as both practitioner and consultant in the world of customer experience in a number of organisations across different industries, there has rarely been a consensus. Customer, colleague or shareholder? Colleague, customer or shareholder? Colleague, shareholder or customer? Shareholder customer or colleague? It does not matter how many times you play about with the order, the answer is still not that obvious – so let us have a look at the merits of each stakeholder taking the place of ‘Number 1’ in turn:

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Lets us start with the good old customer. The group of people who in commercial organisations ‘pay our wages’. Without our customers, we would not have a business – so surely the answer to the question is obvious after all. Businesses must put Customers before anyone or anything else. Even in non commercial entities, the organisation would not exist without the recipients of the services they provide – there would be no need for them to exist otherwise.

Putting any ‘stakeholder’ first means that the organisation must act in a way that the chosen stakeholder is put ‘at the heart of everything it does’ – every decision that is made is done so considering the effect on that stakeholder before anyone else. For a business to put the customer 1st, it must demonstrate this – I do not know of many businesses where this is genuinely the case. Do you know of any businesses that genuinely and honestly ‘put the customer 1st’ – before anyone else?

I used to work for an organisation that for a long time ‘branded’ it’s approach to customer experience ‘customer 1st’. For a while that felt right. However, despite the fact that we were transforming the way we thought about customers; treated customers; delivered experiences to customers; we were not making decisions THINKING about customers before anyone else. What we needed was for ‘customers’ to be part of the conversation – They were not on day one – they were very much ‘last’ – but is it right for customers to come first?

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Let us consider the case for ‘colleagues’. Less personal organisations refer to the hard-working people who deliver experiences to customers as ’employees’. By the same token that an organisation would not exist without customers, it is also true to say that it would be rather difficult without people to serve them. I have always believed that colleagues are the most important asset for any organisation. However advanced technology becomes, or mechanistic processes evolve, we will always need people to deliver customer experiences.

I am a huge advocate (as many know) of a principle developed by O2 (Telefonica) during the ‘noughties’. They developed the O2 ‘fanbook’. They believed that they needed their customers to become fans of O2. In order to achieve their desire, they wanted colleagues to become fans of the customer. To be a fan of the customer, the organisation recognised that O2 colleagues needed to be fans of O2 themselves. This is a principle that makes so much sense. If your own colleagues are not fans of your brand, how can you expect your customers to be? Think about it – if your own staff do not like what you do – why would your customers? If you have never seen the O2 fanbook video – have a look at it here – http://vimeo.com/11352779

Let us consider this question – if you put your customers 1st, are you at risk of your colleagues not being fully engaged with your business and brand(s)? Are you at risk of your customers loving what you do more than your own colleagues? If your customer is being served by a colleague who is less engaged with the brand than them, is that a good thing? This is why I know of many organisations who believe in the ‘Colleague 1st’ principle. They believe that if you put your own people first, then the customer experience will look after itself.

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Before you decide what you think the answer to the big question is, let us look at the third key stakeholder – the shareholder. This is the group of people the colleague ‘loves to hate’. Maybe not just the colleague – over the last few years, the consumer has increasingly become frustrated by the perceived greed of shareholders putting their interests before anyone else. Indeed I have been involved in organisations where it seems that the only voice that is being heard is the one that is only concerned with the spread sheets – the top and bottom line.

Profit, profit, profit. Cost, cost, cost. The words often associated with shareholders – but is it wrong for the group of people responsible for funding, investing in and directing an organisation to focus on the important numbers? I must admit, I find this the most difficult of the three corners to fight for. A shareholder would argue – in much the same way customers or colleagues would – that it is only right that the interests of shareholders comes before anyone else. The shareholder enables a business to exist – they invest in improving, growing and sustaining a business. Without shareholders, many organisations may not be financially viable. The risks and pressures associated with shareholdings should be rewarded by having the loudest voice.

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So it is decision time – Customer, Colleague or Shareholder – which one do you think your business should put first? If you want my opinion (which you may not!), I am about to do something I do not often do – sit on the fence!! Whilst it may be easy to completely dismiss Shareholders in favour of either Customers of Colleagues, I actually believe that it is important for all three stakeholder groups to be at the ‘top table’. I strongly believe that all three voices must be heard in equal measure for an organisation to be successful – and for an organisation to stand the best chance of delivering brilliant customer experiences by highly engaged colleagues supported by enthusiastic and rewarded shareholders.

A concern for any organisation should be when one voice becomes significantly louder than any other – or if one or more voice is not heard at all. Organisations need to understand that when a decision is made, the impact on all three stakeholder groups MUST be considered – openly and honestly. All three stakeholder groups must be represented equally around the board table, and the consequences on each of them carefully considered by the decision makers. If Customers, Colleagues and Shareholders can live in harmony together, our businesses stand a fantastic chance of existing for ever!

What do you think – I would love to hear your point of view.

‘The lost suitcase and a grumpy old man’ – a story about employee engagment


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Customer centric organisations tend to have a number of things in common. They typically have management teams who collectively believe in the importance of doing things with customers interests firmly in mind. They usually design their customer journey(s) to meet and exceed customer expectation. They often recognise that getting things wrong may happen, but that correcting them is a vitally important skill. One thing you can guarantee, is that customer centric organisations do not just put customers first – they also put their employees first as well.

I have always been of the belief that you should treat your employees in exactly the same way you would expect them to treat your customers. If you care for your people, they in turn will care for your customers. Like many things in the world of customer experience – it is not complicated!! Sadly though, we all too often interact with employees of organisations who are obviously and blatantly unhappy. It is not always obvious to understand why they clearly feel so disengaged – yet as a customer interacting with someone like this, their disengagement is often all we remember from our experience.

It is with this in mind that I am going to share another of my own experiences. At the beginning of January I stupidly left my suitcase on a train. In all my years of travelling, it is the first time that I have had the misfortune of doing something like this. It was incredibly annoying. Having scolded myself for being so careless, I started to wonder how I might stand a chance of getting the suitcase back. I never for one moment thought that I would. It is sad that I believed the most likely outcome would be that someone would take it – but in all honesty, that was my considered opinion.

I left the suitcase on a Southern train. The train was en route from Brighton to Portsmouth in the south of England. I contacted Southern by telephone to register the suitcase as lost. The lady I spoke to was lovely. She clearly explained what would happen, and was extremely empathetic to my situation. I still did not think I would get the suitcase back, but I had done all I could to give myself a fighting chance.

Three weeks passed before I listened to a message on my phone. I had been in a meeting and missed a call from a telephone number in London.

‘Is that Mr Golding?’ said the caller. ‘If it is, we have your suitcase’. ‘Call us back to get it’.

That was it. No telephone number. No reference number. I was delighted though. It is a wonderful feeling to discover that something you have lost has been found, and I was over the moon. For a variety of reasons, I did not manage to call lost property for a couple of days. When I did, I remembered that I was not given a telephone number. As I lost the suitcase on a Southern train, I found the number for the Southern lost property office at Victoria station, and called them. A lovely lady answered the phone.

‘Can I have a reference number please?’

The man in the message did not leave me a reference number – ‘that could be a problem’ said the lady on the other end of the phone. Why? I asked.

‘No men work in this office sir!’

Now I was a little bemused. The lovely lady did not dismiss me though. Despite the fact she was certain that it was not Southern who had my suitcase, she did everything she could to try to find it. At the end of the call, she took my number and promised to call me if the suitcase was discovered. I decided to go back through my phone records to try to find the number of the man who called me. Eventually I found it. I called the number:

‘Hello’

Just a one word response barked back at me from the other end of the line. It took quite a lot of probing and encouragement to discover that the man who had called me worked in the lost property office at Waterloo station – home of South West Trains. The experience was rather different to the lovely lady from Southern trains. There was no emotion. There was no empathy. I did not care though – I was still overjoyed to have it confirmed that they did indeed have my suitcase, and it was in the lost property office at Waterloo station.

A few days later, on a business trip to London, it was time for me to be reunited with my luggage. I was actually quite excited. I got to Waterloo at 7am – I knew that the lost property office did not open until 7.30am, but I thought I would find where it was before grabbing a coffee while I waited for it to open.

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As you can see from this image, the lost property office is down a rather unpleasant and smelly alley way beside the station. As I approached the entrance, a man in uniform standing outside it barked at me:

‘We’re not open!’

I had not asked if he was! I was only trying to find out where the office was located. The man made me feel guilty for even being there. The very positive emotion of being reunited with my personal possessions was being very quickly eroded by the grumpiness of a member of staff. As I started to walk away, he gruffly called me back:

‘You may as well come in then’

Don’t do me any favours I thought. I wanted to ask him if he was ok. He sounded so miserable. The man actually sounded if someone had really upset him. I was sure it could not have been me. The five minutes it took to get my suitcase back were very uncomfortable. If the man had smiled I was sure his face would have cracked into a thousand pieces. The contrast between his unhappiness and my joy at getting my suitcase back could not have been more stark. I should only be telling you about the happiness of getting my suitcase back. I should only be telling you about the lovely positive interactions with the Southern trains staff. Regrettably, the only lasting memory I have of the whole experience is the sad, grumpy old man from South West Trains.

All organisations need to have a sense of how engaged their people are. This image, brilliantly sums up the three types of employees you will have in your business:

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The most customer centric organisations will have more of ‘type 1’ than any other. Type 1 employees will enable you to deliver fantastic customer experiences. A lot of organisations will have too many ‘type 2’ employees – these employees are by no means a lost cause – but having a significant population that behave this way will not help your cause in wanting to be customer centric. The ‘grumpy old man’ from South West Trains lost property office was a classic ‘type 3’ – his active dis-engagement served to taint what should have been a very happy experience.

I do not blame the man who reunited me with my suitcase for the way he behaved. I do blame the company he works for though. What have they done (or not) to make him feel this way? Why do not they not know how unhappy he is? When was the last time a ‘manager’ observed his behaviour? This brings me full circle to what I said at the beginning of this post. The way we treat our people will reflect how they in turn treat our customers. I honestly hope that if you have read this blog post, you will go back and ensure you understand how engaged (or not) your people are.

#improvingcustomerservice – Where Technology Comes In


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In the second of her guest blog posts, Sophia Wright takes us on a journey through the ever changing world of customer service – there are some great stats in here making it well worth a few minutes of your time:

If you have a complaint or a question for a company, where is the first place you turn to? In the past, you may have picked up the phone or even written a letter, but nowadays we can get an (almost) instant response from customer service departments thanks to new developments in technology.

There are now several outlets online for consumers to express their views on a company, such as social media platforms and customer forums. As a result, businesses have to develop their customer service management skills in order to keep up with the changing face of the 21st century.

Social Media – #customerservice

Businesses can communicate with their customers instantly using social media. Many companies are now growing their own dedicated social media channels, and in terms of interacting with customers, Twitter proves to be the most popular.

Using accounts like @askthiscompany, retailers can place a member of staff with a certain level of expertise in front of a computer and easily manage the number of enquiries and complaints that are coming in. Companies are recognising this according to Social Baker’s Social Customer Care Analysis. In 2012, brands were only answering around 30% of questions posed via social media, but by 2013 this figure had more than doubled to 62%, marking an exceptional 143% year-over-year increase.

The survey also went on to find that customers who received a quick response on social media were 71% more likely to recommend that brand to their friends and family. Statistics such as these are encouraging businesses to join the social media movement.

Customers Like To Be Independent

As much as we may not like to admit it, the sense of pride we get when we do something for ourselves is great; whether it’s setting up a flat-pack chest of drawers, configuring your new iPhone or booking a holiday. A consumer survey by Nuance Enterprise has indeed found that the majority of customers respond positively to self service, with 75% viewing it as a convenient way of addressing customer issues, and 67% even preferring it to traditional customer service methods.

Companies are getting wind of this, and are using their websites as an outlet to help customers help themselves. With 91% of customers claiming they would be likely to use a knowledge base if it met their needs, companies are harnessing the educational power of how-to videos, blogs with step-by-step instructions and downloadable user manuals. Customers will most likely be able to access an online forum – a great tool for asking for fellow users’ help – and they are also able to read up on how others have fixed similar issues and be encouraged to try something they hadn’t thought of themselves.

This method effectively saves calling up the company directly and trying to listen to a long-winded instruction down the phone. Instead, customers can see what they need to do right there in front of them and are at liberty to carry it out at their own pace.

Live Chat

Live chat is sometimes dismissed by critics as a way of companies avoiding giving out their phone number. But it can in fact be a useful tool for getting issues dealt with quickly, or for receiving step-by-step guidance as a customer feels their way through an unfamiliar process. In an ATG Global Consumer Trend study, it was found that 90% of customers consider live chat helpful, and 44% of them even regard it as one of the most important features a website can offer – almost like having their own personal shopping assistant.

By using live chat, which is similar to an instant messenger between the customer and a member of the customer service team, staff can chat with multiple customers at a time, significantly cutting down queues and enabling customers to multi-task whilst they wait. Staff can also give a set of visual instructions to solve an issue, which is often more attractive to most people than hearing the instructions verbally.

Mobile browsing

If we want to look for a product online nowadays, it probably won’t always involve switching on our computer. It’s often much easier and quicker to press a few buttons on a smartphone and find a product whilst out doing other things – perhaps even cruising the high street.

If there’s anything that the holiday season of 2013 taught us, it’s that mobile purchasing is on the rise. December saw a year-on-year increase of 18% for UK smartphone and tablet sales, whilst Black Friday saw a whopping 86% increase in the use of shopping applications by those in the US. As customers we want an easy life and retailers need to keep up with that – especially as 2014 is expected to continue along this trajectory.

Many retailers are developing mobile versions of their websites tailored to be viewed on smartphones and tablets, and there has even been the first tentative steps of a mobile payment movement, all of which are making it easy for customers to find the product they want and order it there and then from the comfort of their sofa.

Retailers are also using electronic surveys on their website to get customers’ opinions on products and services; something that they would have previously had to implement in stores or collect over the phone. However, besides costing less, online surveys take the customer less time to complete – always a bonus in today’s busy society.

Press ‘One’ To Speak To an Adviser

Despite the variety of contact channels that customers have to choose from, Forrester Research claims that 69% of consumers still prefer to use the phone for customer service.

Not many people relish calling up a company in a state of anger and having to sift through several automated menu options before they get the chance to speak to a human, and flat-toned automated messages can seem patronising. It’s been estimated that Americans also spend around 60 million precious hours waiting on hold – that’s almost 88 lives lost to customer service!

But customers these days are much more demanding – they know what they want, are used to having several options at their fingertips, and have a worldwide platform at their disposal to tell other consumers about a brand’s bad service. It’s therefore all the more crucial that companies make their phone lines’ greeting messages short, to the point and interesting; as well as taking appropriate steps to reduce wait times.

It’s clear to see that social media is the biggest development in using technology to improve customer service. After all, we always have our heads buried in our online worlds, so why wouldn’t we use them to complain to and question the brands we purchase from?

Businesses need to stay current by using the developing technology to their advantage. After all, no customer has the time or patience to sit and press buttons when they can simply open up an app, log into online chat, or write their problem in 140 characters.

Having worked in the consumer marketing profession as a Customer Relations manager and consultant for the last few years, Sophia’s knowledge and expertise have driven her  to establishing Customer Service Guru to share her skills and knowledge of the customer service industry.

When it comes to consumerism, Sophia is compelled by new and pioneering service and marketing techniques that put customers at the heart of success and growth. She values platforms for discussion regarding the satisfaction of the customer and enjoys the recognition of companies who are leading the way with regards to developing long-term B2C relationships. You can find out more at www.customerserviceguru.co.uk or follow Sophia on Twitter  https://twitter.com/gurucustomers

me- sophia wright -csg

 

Excuses, excuses – why justifying and defending are customer experience cardinal sins!


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Regular readers of my blog know that I often write about experiences of my own. I am a huge believer in using story telling as a way of bringing to life the principles of customer experience. Stories help explain what the theory really means, and are an extremely effective way of educating and influencing friends, colleagues and bosses alike. This post will be adding to my library of stories.

If you live in the UK, you will be painfully aware of the rather bad weather we are currently experiencing. I actually count myself lucky living in the North West – we have got off relatively lightly compared to people living in the South of England. One of the challenges for families with young children is finding things to do at the weekend when the weather is bad. Whilst the Golding’s are not averse to walking in the rain, we do like to try to find alternative activities in the dry. Every now and then, I make the decision to take the children to the cinema. They see it as a lovely treat, whilst it is an easy, relaxing option for Mums and Dads.

Last weekend, I decided to take my three to the Cinema – Vue at Cheshire Oaks. I did not think the experience would result in me writing a blog post! It has been quite a while since I last went to the cinema, and I was mildly excited at the prospect of sitting in a comfy seat for two hours with my three little people. Vue at Cheshire Oaks show one film at the weekend at a vastly reduced price to normal. Whilst the film may be slightly random, it does make a trip to the cinema much better value. On Saturday, I paid £1.75 each for us to see ‘Free Birds’ – an animated film that sees Turkeys going back in a time machine to stop Turkeys being used as the main course for Thanksgiving – I told you the choice is often a little random!!

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So now you know the background, let me explain why I have felt the need to write about it. A trip to the cinema in 2014 is no longer a low-cost entertainment experience. On a normal visit for a family of five, you could find yourself spending in excess of £70 by the time you have added drinks and snacks to the cost of your tickets. On Saturday, I spent £25 in total to take the children to see a film about Turkeys – a reasonable amount of money in anyone’s book. I do not begrudge spending the money. However, if I am making the decision to part with my hard-earned cash, I expect the experience to be worthy of the expense – and that was not the case for me on Saturday.

My decision to go to the cinema was a last minute one – I did not have the chance to pre-order tickets online. I therefore needed to buy tickets on arrival. On entering the cinema, I was greeted by a number of self-service machines, and a counter that was unmanned. If you wanted to buy tickets, it appeared as though you had no option but to ‘do it yourself’. Normally I would not mind this – if the machines were intuitive, simple and easy to use. I did not think they were any of these things – especially if you had not used them before. It took me a while to figure out what I was supposed to do – much to the irritation of the customers behind me who did nothing to hide their frustration. If there had been a member of staff on hand to help, things might have been a little easier.

So I was now slightly flustered, and had only just gone through the ticket buying process. Next up – drinks and snacks. As we walked in to the main foyer, we were met by five equally long queues – all lined up waiting to buy food. I did not expect to see such long queues at 09:45 on a Saturday morning. It took us 15 minutes to get to the front of the line – 15 minutes!!!!! It was very clear that there were just not enough staff to cope with the number of customers. I was amazed at how calm the customers were – maybe regular cinema goers have come to expect this level of service – to me it is completely unacceptable.

The film was scheduled to start at 10:00 – due to the length of time it took us to purchase food, the children were worried they had missed the start. We entered the screen at 10:10 – we needn’t have worried. As we walked in, the screen was blank. It remained that way until 10:25 – I hate to think how long the early customers had been staring into the abyss for. There was no explanation, no apology. When the film finally did start, I was relieved more than anything. Fortunately, the film was actually very funny – the kids loved it, and we left with smiles on our faces.

However (there is usually one of those), I felt it important to express my dissatisfaction about our experience with Vue – if you do not tell a company when you have experienced something unsatisfactory, how can you expect them to do anything about it?  So I sent Vue the following Tweets whilst I was waiting for the film to start:

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I did not get an immediate response. In fact it was not until later that day that I received a response from Vue – this was what they said:

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And that is what has infuriated me more than the experience itself. What Vue are telling me is that my poor experience is not their fault. They are almost telling me, the customer, that it was my fault for visiting their cinema when it was busy. ‘If you want a better experience, come when it is quieter’!! ‘Staff try and work as efficiently as possible’ – this is not the fault of staff – there were quite simply just not enough of them!! What Vue have done is provide an excuse; a justification; a defence; as to why the customer experience may sometimes not be up to scratch. There was no hint of an apology – just a thanks for telling them what it appears they already know. I am fortunate to have spent only £1.75 for the privilege of the experience – what about customers who had spent £9 and upwards?

Providing excuses, justifications and defences of poor customer experiences are all cardinal sins of customer experience management. If an organisation is genuine in its desire to capture customer feedback, and act on it, it must acknowledge that there are real reasons for customers to have negative perceptions. Instead of dismissing those perceptions, they must be embraced and investigated. If Vue know that they have ‘peaks and troughs, throughout the day, they should plan workloads to address them accordingly. They cannot blame their customers!

A visit to the cinema is an expensive activity that deserves the experience to match the price tag. I will think twice before visiting Vue again – I certainly will be unlikely to pay ‘full price’ – especially when the company that delivers the end to end experience appear to think so little of their customers. If I were them, I would stop making excuses and start listening.

London Underground – the case study for business transformation


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If you live or have been in London for the last two days, it will not have escaped your notice that something unusual is happening. Two trade unions who represent some London Underground staff have sparked a 48 hour strike in response to their disagreement with London Underground management over planned ticket office closures and job cuts. I am not about to get involved in the political debate between a trade union, its members and company management – I am neither a politician nor am I someone with a political opinion on the matter.

I am a huge fan of the London Underground – as a born and bred Londoner, it is unavoidable for me to have some affection for one of the most recognisable transport systems in the world. Last year I wrote a blog post about the Tube in recognition of its 150 year anniversary – http://ijgolding.com/2013/05/17/mind-the-gap-is-the-london-underground-the-greatest-ever-customer-experience-innovation/. In my post I make the case that the London Underground is one of the greatest ever customer experience innovations. It is the Tube’s ability to innovate and evolve that has ultimately led to the current industrial action, and me writing another post today.

All organisations and all industries are having to continuously adapt to the ever-changing environment. As quickly as new technology is invented, it is usurped by something even better. Some organisations have been able to adapt to change better than others. I used to work for Shop Direct Group (now known as Shop Direct), the owners of Littlewoods. In 2004, Littlewoods had over 200 high street stores. Today they do not have any. Shop Direct transformed their retail brands into modern, innovative, technology based distance shopping power houses. Along the way, the organisation reduced significantly in size. As well as store closures, contact centres disappeared, warehouses were shut, and even roles in head office re-structured. Shop Direct did what was necessary to adapt to the changing climate. If they had done nothing, they would not exist today. Woolworths, HMV, Habitat among others did not change quickly enough – they did not transform – and we all know what happened to them. You can read more about the Littlewoods re-invention here http://ijgolding.com/2013/02/04/re-invention-and-innovation-why-we-should-all-admire-littlewoods/

What Shop Direct knew and understood is that their customers had changed. The way they were interacting with them was changing – and as a result, their operating model was no longer fit for purpose. They understood what their customer journey had become, and needed to transform the operating model to better serve it. I have had similar discussions with a number of companies in different industries in the last few months. ‘Things have changed’ is the common concern – ‘we need to change quickly to keep pace’ – companies know that not doing so will put their business at risk, whilst at the same time failing to meet changing customer expectations.

Like Shop Direct, the London Underground is another classic case study of necessary business transformation. I remember when Tube trains had a driver and a guard. When new technology came in, it was not necessary to have a guard any more. It is regrettable when technology deems that a human is no longer required, but one of the inevitable costs of innovation is that it will be at the expense of human interaction. Five years ago, not as many people used Oyster Cards as today. When I used to get the Tube to school (too long ago to admit), my ‘travel card’ was a thick card that I had to obtain from a ticket office from a lovely man who would write on my name and expiry date!

Innovation has transformed the way we use the tube, and so it is absolutely right that the people who manage the network ensure that the operating model adjusts to the way we use it. I have not visited a ticket office for years – can you remember when you last did? In a world where tickets can be issued from portable machines operated by staff on over ground trains, why can the same not be done on the London Underground? Most of us ‘top up’ online anyway.

The staff on the London Underground are wonderful people. The way they keep the network running every day with smiles on their faces, and humour in their voices always brightens up my now more infrequent Tube usage. Whilst it is hard for anyone to face change, change is inevitable if we want organisations and businesses to survive. Doing nothing is not an option. As long as management treat their colleagues with respect, and guide/help/support them where change is unavoidable, then I am in support of business transformation becoming a reality.

What we must all do as customers of the worlds oldest underground train network is try to empathise with the hard-working people who will be affected by change. We must never take for granted how lucky we are to have a job that we enjoy. However, the reality is that nothing lasts forever. Change is something we must all live with. Doing nothing is not an option.

Wake up, do stuff, go to bed, wake up again – understanding the true ‘end to end’ customer journey


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Have you heard the term ‘customer journey’? Silly question eh? It is becoming increasingly difficult to find anyone in business who has not heard the term. Hearing it and understanding it do not necessarily come hand in hand though. Whilst many hear ‘customer journey’ banded about as a term, there is still a very long way to go before the majority (rather than the minority) of organisations understand how to ‘map’ one, or ‘design’ one, or even know how to ‘improve’ one.

One thing that I must get straight right from the off is that every organisation that exists to serve customers already has a customer journey. This might seem like a strange thing to say, but whether you like it or not, and whether it is any good or not, you are already delivering a journey to your customers. My good friend and colleague Jerry Angrave advised a client of this fact recently – they were surprised to have never of thought of it themselves.

What can get confusing to businesses is that there is no right or wrong way to ‘map’ a customer journey. Simply conducting a Google search for the term will return a variety of images – here is a small selection:

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None of these are right – none of them are wrong – they all served a purpose for the organisation that created them. What your customer journey map looks like is not important – and that is also not the subject of this blog post. Why you are creating a visualisation of the journey that your customers experience is vitally important. What your journey comprises is also critical – and that is the true focus of this blog post.

An increasing number of organisations are busily documenting their customer journey or customer journeys. More advanced businesses are even designing new customer journeys using more sophisticated techniques and practices. Some focus on the TRANSACTIONAL customer journey – the journey that starts when a customer chooses to interact with you, and ends when they have completed their transaction. Others are more concerned with the RELATIONAL journey – the journey that comprises repeat transactions over time. What many fail to do though is consider what I call the TRUE ‘end to end’ customer journey.

Whilst it is important to understand what the journey looks like that your organisation is responsible for delivering, it is equally important to understand where that journey fits in to the context of your customers lives. If you think about it, every day for us as a consumer is a mini journey in itself. It starts when we wake up, and ends when we return to our beds. What we do in between is the ‘stuff’ that makes up the rest of our journey. The true ‘end to end’ customer journey starts and ends in bed (hopefully!) every single day. Despite this fact, not many of us map the customer journey with this in mind.

Understanding the true customer journey can help bring to life why customers do what they do, and help explain why an organisations existing customer journey may or may not work. Let us have a look at a simple example. Jane is a mum of three young children – all are at primary school. She is normally woken up at 07:00 – at this point, her daily journey commences. She showers, and then comes downstairs to make the kids breakfast. All of her kids like porridge – the new trend for easy sachets has made it quicker and easier for her. Once breakfast is over, the kids are ready for school.

The next stage of her journey is to get the kids to school. Living only a mile away, they usually walk. Jane ordered a new dress online the previous day, and knows that if she walks past her local garage, she can collect the dress from a ‘click and collect point’. Once the kids have been dropped off, it is back home to do some more ‘stuff’. Jane needs to do some food shopping – she chooses to go to her local ‘superstore’ as it is easy to get to and has free parking. Once done, it is back home to put the shopping away. Having completed some work she conducts from home part-time, she decides she has enough time to visit the gym. Gym complete, she has time for a quick lunch at home, before picking up the kids from school.

The next stage of the journey sees Jane dropping off her daughters for their weekly theatre school fix, whilst taking her son for his swimming lesson. After a pasta dinner at home, it is bath and shower time for the kids, before bedtime. Once the kids have gone to sleep, Jane decides to watch a movie via her internet TV. Her journey for this particular day is almost over. Having caught up with Facebook, she turns off her light and goes to sleep.

0 janes journey

If you consider this ‘true’ customer journey, you will notice that my fictional Jane has interacted with a number of different brands and organisations during the day. Each one of these interactions has a potential link to another, and understanding what she does, can potentially help to inform each individual journey. Jane will be typical of a certain type of customer of each organisation she transacts with – her ‘persona’ is an imperative insight into how to design a customer journey. Unless you truly put yourself into your customers shoes, it is difficult to understand if the journey that you have as a legacy, or the new journey that you are designing will meet her needs.

So ask yourself these questions:

  • Do we know what our customer journey looks like?
  • Do we understand the transactional journey or the relational journey or both?
  • Do we understand where our journey fits in to our customers true ‘end to end’ journey
  • Do we understand who our customers are?
  • Have we created customer personas?

Understanding a day in the life of a typical customer is becoming more and more important in a world where businesses aspire to deliver customer journeys that increasingly meet customer expectation. By mapping your journey in context with the ‘other stuff’ a customer does during the day will help you to determine if changes or improvement needs to be made. Does your journey do what your customer needs you to do when she needs you to do it – and does it make her feel good about it. How she feels will be affected by everything else she may be doing or have to do during her true daily ‘end to end’ journey.