Driving Customer Loyalty Through Analytics

You can't optimize customer experience if you don't first have an understanding of what that experience looks like. That's where customer journey mapping comes into play. Illustrating the steps customers go through when engaging with a company is the foundation on which customer experience strategies are built. But taking the journey map to journey analytics allows companiesto dig into the customer experience at every touchpoint and identify impactful, game-changing process improvements that will turn customers into loyal advocates. That's hugely important as companies look to improve the customer experience to increase revenue and stay competitive in crowded markets.

Still, the majority of companies get stalled when mapping the customer journey and never make it to analyzing customer data. According to customer experience expert Esteban Kolsky, 24 percent of companies have undertaken customer journey mapping, but only 2 percent of those companies reported success with the process. Additionally, when customers are shown a customer journey map, 72 percent say it doesn't describe their needs or their relationship with the company. Garbage in, garbage out, at its best.

So let's stop wasting time on customer journey mapping and shift gears to customer journey analytics. Here's how to do it:

Set Your Scope

Every business is a combination of product, services, and support. When you offer a product and/or service, you need to support customers in the use of that product/service. So with this in mind, create journey maps that allow you to segment customer touchpoints with respect to these aspects of your business. Hint: your number one goal should be to improve customer experience, but it's important to set specific goals, too. For example, you might want to gain insight into the unique pain points of new users leveraging a newly offered product or to focus on one part of the experience—say the digital buying experience or the initial product use experience. Identifying specific goals in advance of mapping allows you to take a more strategic approach right off the bat.

Along the same vein, you'll need to determine the depth of your journey map. Journey mapping efforts can quickly dive too deep. So rather than defining every nuance of customers' interactions, look at one specific interaction or segment of the customer experience. For example, a telecommunication company might want to evaluate a new plan purchasing process and a retailer might look into the return process. You should already suspect where your customers have the most pain; start there.

Listen Before You Act

If you want to create accurate journey analytics that represent real-life customer experiences, you need to take on an outside-in perspective. Gather and analyze customer feedback and allow those customer insights to steer you to where to dig deeper. Your journey analytics should focus on the things that your customers want, not what you think they need and not what your current processes and systems dictate. For example, when someone purchases a new child car seat, the next action is installation. Dig into what customers are saying about your instructions and your product features to understand how you can best design and support safe travel.

The more feedback you can collect, the better. Pull insights from call centers, surveys, social channels, forums and beyond. Make sure you are looking at solicited and organic feedback. Then pair this data with customer demographic and behavioral data. Letss revisit our car seat example. Maybe people in European cities with typically smaller cars have difficulty installing the car seat. Does this warrant product changes or instruction changes? Ensure that your journey analytics are as closely aligned with your customer segments as possible, then let the data lead you.

Understand the Customer Perspective

Good customer analytics will describe experiences using the customer's voice. If a customer says, "installing the car seat made me sweat," you might assume the installation could be easier, but there could be nuance to the comment. Check out the number of occurrences of installation comments and then look for tone, emotion, sentiment and related topics across all of the mentions.

As you analyze the customer journey, remember to include the emotional state of customers at each stage. What are they feeling and why? This allows for a deeper understanding of the customer experience and will help you down the road when it comes time to alleviate pain points and improve experiences with tangible changes.

Sharing is Caring

The most important part of analyzing customer feedback across the customer journey is sharing that feedback with stakeholders across the business. Share product information with product development, marketing, architects, and so on. Sometimes the answer is as simple as better user manuals; other times it's revisiting what customers came to know and love about products in the first place. A kitchen appliance maker once introduced a new product that didn't allow users to reheat coffee without brewing new batches and quickly learned that this feature was important to its clientele, so it quickly worked with the product design team to bring back the feature.

A good way to make sure you're accurately tracking customer feedback is to associate key touchpoints of the journey to leaders of each business line. Everyone in the organization can benefit from truly understanding the customer's voice, but the fact is they don't have time to read through thousands of comments. Giving them the summary analytics showing how it impacts their key business indicators will provide them with the insight they need to stay customer-focused.

Rinse and Repeat

Customer journey analytics are not the end goal, but instead a method for improving customer experience long term and repeatedly. Distribute customer analytics to key stakeholders on a regular basis. This ensures that as your business changes and evolves (and surely it does) you never lose touch with customers.

For extra credit, document the changes you are making to your business based on the voice of the customer and circle back with those customers, with either broadcast messages or one-on-one conversations to let them know you are listening. When you do, customers will be impressed and share more ideas with you, becoming a profitable cycle that feeds customer loyalty.

Susan Ganeshan is chief marketing officer at Clarabridge.

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Posted October 31, 2017