Happy young couple with a map in the car

How to be a good companion on a customer experience journey

An exceptional customer experience journey, just like a pleasant road trip, begins with thorough planning and ends when customers successfully and smoothly reach their final destinations. Contact centers should imagine themselves traveling on journeys with customers to ensure the best results.

Visualizing a transaction as a customer experience journey helps businesses better understand the paths customers take and what they encounter along the way. This is why customer journey mapping has become so prevalent. Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes brings more clarity to sources of friction as well as moments of positive customer experience (CX).

Focusing on end-to-end customer journeys rather than individual segments of transactions gives companies a more holistic view of experiences that can lead to better CX and business results. According to an article published by BCG, “Customer journey programs can provide improvements of 20 to 40 points in customer advocacy scores, cost reductions of 15% to 25%, and revenue increases of 10% to 20%.”

The BCG article also noted that these results can be difficult to achieve. Mapping customer experience journeys and then sitting back and observing them like a science experiment isn't enough. Brands need to travel side-by-side with customers to ensure they seamlessly accomplish their goals.

Businesses that take a more hands-on approach to journey orchestration and play the role of a pleasant, helpful travel companion will secure customer loyalty and satisfaction.

What is a customer experience journey?

A customer experience journey, also called a customer journey, is the path a customer takes while trying to accomplish a goal with a business. These goals can include:

  • Purchasing a product
  • Onboarding
  • Finding information
  • Receiving post-sale support

Journeys consist of multiple touchpoints, which are moments during the journey where a customer receives an impression of a brand, such as a promotional email or the business’s website.

customer journey

Just as goals can be different for each customer, so can the paths they take to achieve their goals, even when the goals are the same. The proliferation of so many digital channels has made customer experience journeys much more complex. One customer who needs help might just walk into a store while another might Google the issue, click on a link to an FAQ page, interact with a chatbot, and ultimately find a resolution by chatting with a live agent.

Because there are so many paths people can take, more can go wrong, especially when they move from touchpoint to touchpoint and channel to channel. This is why customer experience journey management has become so important. Journey management seeks to predict customer needs at each phase of the journey and proactively reach out to customers to fulfill those needs.

Notice that journey management is not a passive activity. It takes detailed analysis and planning, and proactive execution by a competent travel companion to ensure customer experience journeys are smooth sailing.

How is a customer experience journey similar to a cross-country road trip?

Taking a long road trip takes planning and a reliable vehicle. If you don’t plan your route and pack the right things, the trip might take longer than you want and you might get stranded in the middle of nowhere because you didn’t bring an extra can of oil or make sure the spare tire was serviceable.

It’s also good to have someone else along to share the planning and driving responsibilities as well as provide some engaging company. And don’t forget to have enough money for the road trip or you might find yourself spending the night in the car.

Similarly, the best customer experience journeys are carefully planned to accommodate a variety of situations so that customers are never left stranded. Like a road trip, journey management also needs a reliable vehicle and adequate funding, as well as a traveling companion to help with the heavy lifting and add some personality to the journey.

Let’s take a closer look at how contact centers can ensure customers have effortless and pleasant road trips to their final destinations.

Preparation is the key to a smooth customer experience journey

Like a cross-country road trip, satisfying journeys begin with adequate preparation. The following are steps contact centers can take to deliver superior journey experiences.

Choose your destination and plan your route - have a clear customer experience journey strategy

Providing a smooth route to a customer’s final destination—whether that’s a purchase or a resolved issue—requires a clear customer experience journey strategy. A journey strategy provides the vision that aligns the entire organization on the ideal customer journey.

Journey strategies also help organizations prioritize which journeys they manage so that they’re allocating time and resources to the most valuable ones. Ultimately, journey strategies enable brands to build road maps that will lead them to improved CX.

Set enough money aside - make room in your budget for journey management and improvements

A long road trip might be a budget-friendly way to travel, but it still costs incremental money. Travelers need to set aside funds for gas, lodging, food, and unexpected emergencies. Without a healthy budget, road trippers may not reach their final destinations. One breakdown could cause the whole trip to be canceled.

Similarly, businesses need to invest in managing and improving customer experience journeys to ensure customers have a seamless path to achieving their goals. An initiative this important shouldn’t be underfunded. Because digital journeys are heavily reliant on data and technology, businesses may need to invest in contact center solutions such as:

  • Omnichannel capabilities - to ensure customers have a smooth ride as they move across channels
  • Self-service - to ensure DIY-ers have a vehicle to take them to satisfying resolutions
  • Interaction analytics - to know how customers feel about their experiences and identify problems that are creating friction
  • Customer journey analytics - to provide a holistic view of the end-to-end customer journey

Companies that invest in journey management and improvements should realize a positive payback from a higher customer lifetime value (CLV). It’s worth the investment.

Pack what you need and nothing more - thoughtfully curate your support channels

Too little car trunk for family luggage

One way to look at the things you pack for a trip is that they’re tools that serve a purpose. Water, antifreeze, swimsuits, and toiletries all play a role in getting to your destination and helping to enjoy your time there. If you pack too light, you might find that you don't have all the tools you need, while over packing can slow you down.

Contact centers should look at the support channels they offer as the tools they “pack” for customer experience journeys. Organizations need to find that fine balance between offering too few and too many communication options. On one end of the spectrum, businesses that don’t provide self-service solutions and a variety of digital channels are missing important elements of modern support journeys. On the other hand, too many channels can make journeys messy and confusing and, according to Gartner, drive higher volume.

Carefully curating channels to meet customer expectations and create effortless journeys is essential for ensuring contact centers don’t have too much or too little baggage.

Make sure the vehicle is roadworthy - a contact center needs a strong technical platform

You wouldn’t voluntarily take an unreliable junk heap on a cross-country road trip, and even a newer car should have a tune up to ensure it won’t break down midway through your journey.

You also shouldn’t rely on antiquated contact center technology to get your customers where they need to go.

Outdated technology is a barrier to achieving CX goals and providing seamless customer experience journeys. Antiquated systems are typically inflexible, don’t integrate well with other systems, lack modern functionality, and aren’t scalable. In these days of artificial intelligence and digital channels, using old school systems is like putting chains on your tires in the middle of a hot desert—it hinders your progress and creates a bumpy ride.

A modern, cloud-based contact center platform is required for providing the type of customer journeys that will satisfy increasingly demanding consumers. Industry-leading solutions provide AI-infused foundational applications such as automatic contact distributors (ACDs) and workforce management (WFM), and enable contact centers to easily add newer capabilities such as AI analytics, smart self-service, and a multitude of integrated digital channels. Additionally, cloud solutions scale easily, so a contact center will never run out of gas while taking customers on resolution journeys.

Use cruise control on open stretches of highway - let automation handle the simpler tasks

Using cruise control increases fuel efficiency because it keeps your vehicle at a steady speed. Plus, it keeps you out of trouble by eliminating unintentional speeding. Overall, cruise control is the perfect tool for long stretches of highway that don’t have much traffic.

Automation is the contact center’s version of cruise control. Automation can be used to handle simple, repetitive tasks to make customer journeys more efficient. And automation tools keep businesses out of trouble by performing tasks with 100% accuracy.

Automation tools such as robotic process automation (RPA) can perform the same system steps humans do, but four to five times faster. This means rule-based tasks such as address changes and activating new mobile phones can be offloaded from agents, allowing them to focus on navigating more complex issues and being an engaging travel companion to customers.

Make a good road trip playlist - inject some personality into customer experience journeys

Customer Service agent in an startup office with laptop

A long road trip needs good music. The right playlist can set an upbeat tone for a long journey. Personally, I prefer 70s and 80s music on long car rides, like this one from Spotify.

A cross country road trip would be bland without music to listen to, just as a customer experience journey can be bland if brands don’t inject some personality into them. Making connections with businesses is important to consumers. In fact, Deloitte found that 80% of consumers make purchasing decisions based on an emotional connection with the brand.

For agent-assisted interactions, making emotional connections requires agents to have strong soft skills and to be able personalize conversations. Interpersonal skills such as empathy and humor allow agents to better connect with customers and prevent interactions from being bland and robotic, while personalization makes customers feel like the business really knows them.

But adding personality to interactions isn’t just an agent task. Chatbots can be more engaging when they have a clever name and have been programmed to speak in a light, humorous voice (when appropriate).

Make sure your driver doesn’t fall asleep at the wheel - keep your agents engaged

When a customer uses self-service during a customer experience journey, they're in the driver's seat and businesses are travel companions that help ensure the trip goes well. But there are many times customers hand the keys over to agents because they can’t navigate the terrain of problem resolution. In these instances, customers are expecting agents to be alert and competent. Falling asleep at the wheel is not an option.

Contact centers need to keep agents engaged so they’re at the top of their game whenever customers need their help. This can be difficult to do when agents’ days are filled with dull, repetitive tasks. We already discussed how automation can solve that particular issue and boost agent satisfaction and engagement. Now let’s take a quick look at some other things contact centers can do to keep agents engaged and awake at the wheel.

  • Make performance improvement fun and rewarding. Contact center agents need to continuously improve their skills to provide consistently superior customer experiences. Employees value professional development and it makes them more loyal and engaged. To turbo charge performance improvement, contact centers can implement performance management software that has gamification features that make hitting performance targets more engaging and reward achievements with prizes that agents choose themselves.
  • Provide agents with more work-life balance. Today’s employees value work-life balance more than ever. Instituting a hybrid workforce model that empowers agents to choose where they work can create more balance, especially for agents who work from home. Additionally, good workforce management software that can make schedules predictable and consistent enable agents to have uninterrupted personal lives.
  • Give agents the modern technology they need to be successful. Agents' jobs are evolving away from order takers and towards relationship builders and complex problem solvers. As their responsibilities and the importance of their roles increase, so does the need for them to have the best technical tools. Solutions such as a unified desktop that’s integrated with CRM software and other agent tools will help ensure agents are able to provide the best possible experiences to people during their customer experience journeys.

When contact centers assume the mindset that they’re actually traveling on journeys with their customers, they’ll be able to see things from their customers’ perspectives, which is what CX improvement is all about.

Give your customers a smart start to their journey by meeting them at their digital entry point and guiding them seamlessly along their journey across any channel they choose. Visit our product page to find out how an industry-leading CX platform can help your organization orchestrate seamless customer journeys.