Putting the Customer First

Customer journey analytics (CJA) has the potential to provide a substantial portion of the customer information that executives and managers have long sought. The idea of CJA has been in the works for more than 30 years and has taken many forms, such as data warehouses, data marts, customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, customer experience management, and others, on its way to becoming an emerging market segment.

The Potential Impact of CJA

Organizations are finally accepting an important reality about service: Customers do not want to be managed or told how or when they can conduct business and which channels they can use. Instead, they want to do business the way they want, when they want, and how they want. Customers expect the organizations with which they interact to make it easy for them.

CJA solutions are based on the concept of putting customers' needs front and center in every interaction with the company or organization. The idea is to look at everything through the customer lens instead of from the company's or organization's perspective. While this sounds obvious, it is the opposite of how businesses (and most government agencies) treat their customers or constituents today.

The implications of the CJA revolution are major. Any organization that wants to deliver an outstanding customer experience needs to change its entire customer engagement strategy. It must finally accept that it's not about what it wants but what its customers/constituents need, or, in many cases, are now demanding.

The Massive Scope of CJA

CJA is as much about culture, process and, ultimately, governance, as it is about technology. Big data technologies and applications are needed to manage massive amounts of structured and unstructured data about customer preferences, buying patterns, and activities, but addressing the technology and systems opportunities of CJA is likely the easiest aspect. The real challenge is for organizations to make cultural and operational changes to adapt to this new approach for analyzing customer behavior and needs.

Organizations that want to implement a new journey-centric customer strategy have to break down organizational barriers that, in many cases, have taken decades to build. All departments need to operate according to a standard set of shared primary goals. The number-one objective is to make it easy for customers to do business with the organization. Executives need to drive the transformation from the top and institute a culture and structure that supports true change management. This is where corporate governance comes into play; without it and a reward system to recognize people for doing what is right for customers, the changes will be short-lived and unsustainable.

The Systems Implications of CJA

The market has been inching its way toward CJA for decades, and most of the prior efforts are being incorporated into current CJA systems. CJA solutions are analytics platforms that capture and analyze everything customers do with an organization. This means that all of the data warehouses and marts, CRM solutions, sales systems, marketing applications, contact center solutions (recording, quality assurance, speech, text and desktop analytics, surveying/enterprise feedback management), customer repositories, e-commerce and Web activities, point-of-sale activities, inventory and supply chain data, business intelligence analyses, and a great deal more are fed into the CJA environment to be structured and analyzed. Though this sounds complex--and it is--the fundamental goals of CJA  are rather simple. CJA solutions need to do the following:

  • Identify all customer touch points throughout the organization;
  • Capture data from each customer touch or interaction, even from before they became actual customers;
  • Map customer journeys; and
  • Optimize customer journeys, identifying where and why organizations are making it difficult for companies to conduct business, and fix the problems.

Essentially, there are two primary components of CJA: customer mapping and company optimization. By focusing on customers and putting their needs first, organizations can improve their operations; reduce operating costs; enhance their brands, customer satisfaction, and retention; and improve their bottom lines.

Getting Started with CJA

It's time for companies to take a critical look at how they treat their customers. Most open-minded companies will find themselves lacking when they look at their operations from their customers' perspectives. Therefore, the first step in the CJA journey is to identify the top 10 to 20 organizational impediments that lead to customer dissatisfaction. The next step is to figure out how to take down departmental walls and address the issues, making sure that the fix is frictionless and can be sustained. To accomplish this essential goal, CJA is necessary to systematically capture data, analyze it, and identify opportunities on an ongoing basis.

A final caution, though: The potential and power of CJA is a double-edged sword. Once armed with comprehensive customer journey information, there will be no excuses for organizations to deliver sub-par service.

Donna Fluss is founder and president of DMG Consulting, a providerr of contact center and analytics research and consulting.