Every business leader claims they are “customer-centric” or “consumer-obsessed.” As digitization knocks down barriers to switching and raises expectations about the experience consumers should demand, the pressure is on to “put customers first.” Even Corporate Boards push for this as a priority as more companies adopt bonus programs that include incentive measures for satisfaction, service quality, or Net Promoter Score. CEO’s are now touting progress on these metrics to Wall Street.
But it remains shocking how few companies, especially service-based brands, have the analytics tools, organizational leadership, and operational engines to relentlessly spot the “ditches” and “detours” in customer journeys and then fix them. And journeys are not just the specific online clickpaths that lead to a sale. There are many tools for that. Journeys are the sequences of touchpoints people have throughout their purchase, usage, and service experiences. Most companies are investing in tools for feedback on specific customer experiences — how was your interaction with our customer rep, did people bounce out quickly after getting to a website. But this does not show the interrelated effects of touches across a journey that add up to frustration and escalating costs. Hence, 86% of companies, according to Forrester, have not improved their CX scores over the last 1-2 years. As McKinsey cites “performance on customer journeys is more closely associated with business outcomes than single touchpoints.”
Let’s look at a common example: because of Android system upgrades, your digital team has to tweak to a widely-used feature on your app. You may find, rather quickly, that call center costs start escalating. In most cases, it would take a while to figure out that the call volume is caused by calls about a problem with the app update, and you would also be unlikely to quickly spot abandonment rates rising for that feature on the app.
Now however, Next Generation Journey Analytics systems can, in real time, know that an escalation in call volume from a common previous step, such as mobile app use, needs to get surfaced and acted upon. Those running the system would immediately get an alert tracing the source of all calls specifically to the Android update, the issue can get fixed, and then you can rapidly track whether actions were getting completed on the app and call volumes were dropping.
Over the last eight years, as I have been working on customer journeys, the capability to see actual end-to-end journeys has advanced dramatically. Previous challenges, like integrating data from separately-managed systems of record — call center, websites, sales contacts, mobile apps, digital marketing, etc. — are easier as API’s from most enterprise systems mature. Artificial intelligence makes it easier to match identity across systems, time-stamp the interactions to sequence them, and then surface problematic situations to address. Using the cloud obviates the need for large hardware installations. All three of these advances also enable you to have a view of what is happening in real-time, take immediate action, and see the impact of fixes.
One of these next-gen Journey Analytics providers, Pointillist, is seeing demand escalate in financial services, telecom, healthcare, and travel. Adept clients are setting up teams that manage hundreds of journeys, and are achieving ROI from call reductions, increased online engagement, decreased attrition, and share of wallet growth. They also have some great primers on journey management and analytics with many examples.
What these users also show, though, is that even with advanced technology that can make journey analytics work, the bigger challenge is having the organizational will and operational alignment to make competing on customer journeys a centerpiece of one’s strategy.
The CEO may give lip-service to “customer centricity,” but who in the c-suite actually owns the cross-functional authority, budget, and process engine to implement these technologies, set up the teams that will track and act on the data, and propose the bigger breakthrough innovations that cut across typical silos? Most of the successful journey analytics users have air cover and funding from their Chief Operating Officer, or from a newly created Chief Customer Officer, Chief Experience Officer, or other C-Suite lead who has the authority to address tough issues that cut across the typical functional hierarchy of most large companies.
The day has arrived for journey analytics to become a key ingredient in building competitive advantage, unlocking new sources of cost savings, and uncovering new vectors for experience innovation. The technology breakthroughs though, are just half the picture. The biggest advances will come when CEO’s (and even Boards) demand that their pronouncements of renewed focus on “satisfaction,” “customer-obsession,” and “outside-in thinking” get matched with real changes to their organizations that empower clear leaders to turn cross-functional customer journeys into superior drivers of brand value.