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The Customer Journey

Posted by    |   July 7th, 2015   |   269 Comments

5 Opportunities To Improve Your Customers’ Experience.

The customer journey is a map of the customer experience from your customer’s perspective.  In this blog we will break down the customer experience into five distinct areas or steps,  in order to best understand how customers are interacting with your business, and therefore to identify the areas for improvement moving forward.

Every business will have a different map, of course. There isn’t one customer journey that will cover all businesses in the same detail, but these are some quite common elements of the customer journey that could apply to a wide range of businesses. If nothing else, they may help you to draw up a customer journey more specific to your business. These are five proposed steps on a generic customer journey:

Step 1)  Your Website – For most of your customers, your website will be their first point of contact with your business. It’s crucial that it clearly and concisely explains your business – exactly what products and services you offer, and how to get in touch with you. It’s also increasingly important that your website be mobile optimised – that is, that it can be effectively displayed on a smartphone. Finally, your site must be optimised for search engines – that means your images must have proper alt text and that your metadata be completed and relevant to your content. In order to bring your customers along to the next step of the customer journey, you must design and maintain the most effective website possible.

Step 2)  The Phone Call – for many businesses the next step in the customer journey is the phone call. Depending on the services or products you offer, it may be that customers will want to check stock. They might want to book an appointment. Whatever the reason, you (or whoever is answering the phone) should use a standard, professional greeting. You also need to establish early in the call whether or not it’s coming from a potential new customer or a customer with a previously established relationship. For a new client, you should explain a little about what you do (and importantly what you can do for them), where you are located and the processes you’ll be going through with them whereas with an existing customer going through reams of information that they already know will be a real turnoff. Finally, you should also use the call to set the customer’s expectations – if the customer is making an appointment you need to be able to give an estimate of roughly how long that appointment will take, and crucially, if they need to bring any documents or material with them, you should let them know there and then on the call. It’s a good way to save time and make the actual appointment go more smoothly.

Step 3)  The Arrival & Greeting – this is a small but potentially crucial step on the customer journey. When the customer arrives, make them feel welcome. That means introducing yourself (for some businesses it may mean offering tea/coffee or apologising if a meeting or appointment isn’t starting on time), but for all businesses it means a friendly greeting and making eye contact. Establishing a rapport with a customer, putting a face to a name (name badges can help here, though not as a replacement for a solid, friendly greeting and introduction). Finally, the establishment at which the customer arrives should be clean and tidy. These are simple things, but they can make all the difference.

Step 4)  The Transaction – this is necessarily the most complex step of the customer journey, so we can subdivide it into two parts.

1)      Exploring customer needs – you need to ask relevant, straightforward questions without technical jargon or too much business-speak. What issue is your customer facing? What product/service do you supply that can solve that issue? Closed questions (questions with simple, definitive answers) are useful to focus in on this information, and they are a good way to maintain control over and direct the conversation, but don’t completely steer away from open questions – they can be invaluable in identifying upselling opportunites if any are present.

2)      Matching customer needs – you need to know the products and services you provide inside-out. You need to be able (again, in simple, concise language) why the product or service you’re recommending meets the needs you identified in the previous step. When introducing the product explain its features and benefits clearly, and at every step through the process check that the customer understands what you’re telling them.

Step 5)  The Close & Follow Up – there’s some very crucial elements of this step that can really make the difference between a successful sale and improved customer loyalty and a dissatisfied customer. First of all you should summarise what you’ve gone through with the customer previously. Just a short, clear recap. Secondly, if the customer doesn’t choose to proceed with the sale there and then, give them something tangible to take away with them – a brochure for example. Thirdly, (and this is maybe the most simple thing of all, though often overlooked) ask for the business. Do not let this opportunity pass – simply ask the customer there and then if they’d like to proceed with the transaction. Don’t badger them, be polite, but do ask the question. It’s crucial. Finally the follow-up might take the form of a phone call, an email or any number of other things depending on your business. Whatever the form, it relies on you getting the customer’s contact information, and then using it. Don’t wait for the customer to re-engage with you, send them a thank you mail with a voucher for a future purchase, for example, or if a follow-up appointment is required be sure to contact them, don’t wait for them to contact you. This final step is how you drive your business going forward – don’t waste the opportunity.

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