Does Customer Experience and Journey Really Matter?

Customer journey mapping helps in improving customer experience, which ultimately helps achieve sustained growth and success.

Published on December 13, 2022
Last Updated on December 13, 2022

The short answer is: YES!

The longer answer is: Yes, customer experience matters because it is the critical driving force behind the sustained growth of any business. It is imperative that organizations understand what their customers experience when engaging with their brands so they can effectively meet their ever-changing expectations. When customers' needs are met, they become happier. The happier they are, the more they spend on your products or services and the longer they stay loyal to your brand.

What is the Customer Journey?

Customer experience is like a giant puzzle. A customer is satisfied when they find that all of the pieces have aligned and fit together. When the pieces don’t fit or go missing, the whole experience starts to crumble, resulting in frustration and dissatisfaction. To make the customer experience first-rate, fulfilling, and fun, it is important to pay attention to pieces of the customer journey. The customer journey is a series of interactions a customer has with a brand’s products, employees, and services. It includes customer service interactions through omnichannel communication as well as indirect touchpoints like self-service, perusing a brand's website, signing up for a service, or making a purchase without help.

When an organization's key stakeholders fully understand the steps customers take when interacting with their brand, it sets them up to effectively impact the things that matter most to customers. When the Customer Operations Performance Centre (COPC) interviewed executives for their 2022 Global Benchmarking Series, they asked what the executives felt was most important to their customers when dealing with an organization to resolve a customer service issue. The top 3 factors identified were a quick and easy process, fair and honest treatment, and correct and consistent information - all things very important to the customer journey. Moreover, 96% of polled respondents stated that customer experience was part of their company’s Statement of Direction (e.g., a vision or mission statement.)

The saying, “Before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes,” couldn’t be more true when comparing it to understanding the customer journey. Experiencing the customer journey or “walking in their shoes” is key for stakeholders to examine and understand both customers’ needs and expectations. Experiencing what customers go through when engaging with a brand not only enables an organization to better relate to the diverse customer base but also highlights opportunities that are directly related to satisfaction scores. It’s easy to make decisions that benefit the business financially or otherwise, but those decisions and business rules don’t always have a straight line to the customer experience.

How Do You Live the Customer Journey?

One method is to utilize secret shopping or customer journey mapping to experience the key interactions, just as a real customer would. The benefit of this observation is feedback with a completely unbiased opinion. Secret shopping is often assumed to be something used in the retail or restaurant space, but the reality is that secret shopping can be used in almost all industries. In its simplest form, secret shopping allows organizations to experience and feel what customers experience and feel when engaging with their company. As such, those organizations are then able to vet out current processes and business rules to evaluate how they appeal to customers. Reviewing a process on paper or in theory doesn’t provide the same level of insight that experience does. With real experience comes feelings and emotions, the driving force behind customer satisfaction.

Not all companies are conducting customer journey mapping, but those who do are seeing results. 59% of respondents in the COPC Benchmarking Series cited above stated their company conducted some sort of customer journey mapping project within the 12 months since publication. Of those, nearly 70% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the customer journey mapping project has helped their organization to improve the customer experience. Moreover, both in-house contact centers and outsourcing service providers (OSPs) are focused on the effectiveness of existing service journeys in meeting customer needs. 63% of those polled have the customer journey marked as a strategic objective they will focus on throughout the next two years.

5 Steps in Customer Journey Mapping

  1. Create your customer personas
    • Determine the customer demographics or populations you want to target (high spenders, most popular, new customers, long-time customers, etc.)
  2. Choose and build the journeys
    • Identify the interaction types that will be reviewed. What interaction types do your customer persona base frequent?
  3. Map the customer journey
    • Engage as real customers would—sign up for a subscription, purchase and return a product, and contact the customer support team, just as a real customer would. Be sure to document the experience and reflect on the people, processes, attitudes, and needs that you felt or experienced. Map out in a way that makes sense for your audience to digest.
  4. Use the insights to design new experiences
    • Identify the primary drivers of customer satisfaction (CSAT) and customer dissatisfaction (DSAT) and what causes deviation from the happy path or moments that matter.
  5. Decide on the proper measurement framework
    • Determine what metrics will allow you to measure against the 5W’s (Who was impacted? What happened? When did it take place? Where in the journey/process did it take place? Why did it happen?) and identify what possible return on investment (ROI) is at stake.

When working through your customer journey mapping exercise, be sure to focus on these things:

  1. Level of Effort
    • Take note of how much effort your customers are required to put in at each step of the interaction and evaluate how that aligns with your company goals and principles. Additionally, make note of how the level of effort makes you feel or react as a customer.
  2. Expectation Setting
    • Whether customers help themselves via self-service or interact with an agent, they judge your brand based on how you meet their expectations. Pay attention to how expectations are set and make note of how those expectations make you feel as a customer.
  3. Clarity in communication
    • Evaluate the clarity of everything—descriptions, processes, and expectations, to name just a few. Giving customers the information they need is critical and will impact the customer journey.
  4. Gaps in process
    • Pay close attention to any glaring gaps in process or business rules that don’t align with expectations. The ultimate goal is to have seamless and efficient processes, and evaluating them from a customer's standpoint is critical to achieving that. For instance, a returns process requires specific information to process the return. Important pieces of information on who to contact and what must be done must be clearly communicated to process the return.

Reminder: Ensure you are documenting everything! Be sure to make note of your expectations, emotions, and reactions to experiences and interactions along the way.

Use the Experience to Be Better

When your organization understands and can confidently speak to what customers face and feel, the possibilities are endless. Not only will you be able to make more educated business decisions through customer journey mapping, but you will also undoubtedly walk away with higher customer satisfaction scores and set yourself apart from your competition. Remember, don’t just evaluate interactions with your customer service or support teams, but instead, all pivotal points where customers engage with your brand. You want to know how easy or difficult your website is to maneuver or what the experience feels like when purchasing, returning, or even canceling a product or service. Experience it all.

Customers make decisions and are influenced by a myriad of things such as personal, cultural, and social factors. One of the most important factors is psychological. People rely on their emotions, judgments, and reactions when making decisions, so it’s vital to understand those feelings to adjust and improve the business as needed.

In conclusion, it’s not only about finding opportunities, but also about identifying and highlighting best practices that are already in place. Rightsizing opportunities is important when it comes to improving customer satisfaction scores, but doesn’t recreate the wheel where it’s not necessary. Identifying best practices and cascading them effectively and quickly will surely increase the momentum of improvement.

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Courtney Parks
CX Consultant
Courtney has worked in the operations, organizational excellence, client service, and consulting spaces. With a proven history of achieving outstanding project results across a variety of industries, Courtney aims to use her expertise to help clients improve their overall customer experience and meet business goals.