One of the shortest-lived marketing concepts in recent years was interactive advertising. It was a deliberately hyped-up utopia. It never worked. People don’t interact with advertising.
Yet, a common marketing delusion is that consumers want to have deep, immersive, engaging, conversational relationships with brands.
Decades later, then required, the marketing world is waking up to a new reality. Consumers do not organize their lives to consume marketing.
How then, do we build on a foundation of realism?
By following, not leading consumers. By investing in building marketing around customer journeys.
When customer journey transformations are seen as a ‘new tech, ad-tech, hot tech’ effort, they are doomed to fail. You get fancy presentations that fail miserably in human-centred design. To make ‘customer perceptible impact’ one has to change culture, processes, operating model, and ways of working, at scale.
And that’s very hard to do.
How can one make customer journey transformations that work?
1. Match ambition with plan
It is easy to set goals. It’s very difficult to make clear plans. The only plans that matter lead to growth or efficiency. Rest is mumbo jumbo.
2. Define journeys broadly
Do not focus on narrow sections of a customer’s experience. This myopia with regards to transactional touchpoints reinforces siloed ways of working. Digital transformation is not about digital episodes, events or digital theatre.
A large customer journey program cannot be done top-down in a traditional hierarchy. It ends up working in silos rather than across them. Break the silos. Make teams cross-functional. Make plans ‘front to back’ in scope.
3. Follow up relentlessly
Groovy pictures, infographics, customer personas, glib talk. Promotions are earned, plans are approved. Not enough time is spent on people, processes, operating models, and technology changes even at the initiation stage. Then, management interest moves on. Reviews become a formality. This cannot be. Make the review ongoing. Reward the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ of the achievements.
4. A pilot is only a pilot
Vested interests define pilots such that they are limited in scope or reach, exclude top talent, and insufficient in ambition and potential. Pilots must be large enough so that, when successful, they make the full project inevitable.
5. The big picture is fine but it has to be seen from the customer’s eyes
It is easy to emphasise the wrong metrics – general sentiment, company NPS, brand health. The big picture must aggregate metrics relevant from the customer’s perspective. Put yourself in customers’ shoes. Each journey—such as becoming a customer (buying a product or service), using the company’s products or services, expanding the relationship (getting additional products or services), and resolving issues—contains a set of sub-journeys. All need to be measured before and after in consumer terms.
6. Involve all the necessary functions and operations.
Many companies mistake improvements with creating a customer journey. Introducing a mobile app or dressing up a website or streamlining sales channels won’t necessarily produce a quicker or easier path to a better customer experience.
Treat journeys collectively as a comprehensive effort rather than as separate projects. Because the customer-journey-at-scale transformation is a long-term program, setting it up requires both thoughtfulness and boldness. Develop a list of relevant journeys, evaluating the business benefits of each and tying the expected outcomes to the company’s overall strategy and purpose. These journeys then become the primary basis for organizing teams.
7. Bring together the best
The company should realign existing teams and initiatives in accordance with this new structure and should fill any resource or skill gaps that result from adopting it. The company should also appoint high-potential talent as journey leaders, making them accountable for the overall journey outcomes.
Future growth and success depend as much on redefining the customer experience as on offering better products and services. In the digital era, the ability to pivot nimbly to accommodate changing customer tastes is critical to maintaining market share; discrete incremental improvements just won’t cut it.
To put their customers at the center of their business, companies should take their cue from digital natives and reorganize change initiatives around the customer journey – an end-to-end approach to conceiving and solving each distinct customer mission. This approach, customer-journey-at-scale transformation, is the answer marketers cannot ignore.