Customer Journeys Are Your Brand’s Biggest Revenue OpportunityJun 24, 2014 - by Alex Hesterberg
As the EVP of Client Services at Sailthru, my job requires me to spend more time thinking about our client’s businesses than our own. That’s the nature of building a great – not just good – Client Services department and, fundamentally, we believe that client focus drives client growth…and therefore growth for Sailthru. Putting clients first is the behavioral cornerstone of our amazing Account Management, Technical Support, Deliverability, Training, Creative and Professional Services teams. This philosophy is primal to us – and it ensures we consistently deliver customer satisfaction at every touchpoint.
While my role here is B2B focused, after almost two decades working in Professional and Client Services organizations, I’ve learned that regardless of vertical customer health drives the health of your business. Smarter people than me have written books on this subject – and there are more graphs out there than I can count detailing this obvious claim. But as I think beyond the books and the graphs, there is one thing that we focus on when serving our customers and, in turn, helping them serve their customers: consistency. More specifically, the consistency of the customer journey.
Let me explain.
We all know that a customer can engage with a brand in a variety of ways and via a variety of channels. Depending on the brand and its products, this could be in a store, on a web site, at an event, in an email, on a social site, in a mobile app, etc. To add an additional layer of complexity, a given customer can be at any stage in the customer lifecycle within each of these channels. Knowing where a customer is and knowing how and/or when to take action is what separates good brands from great brands.
OK, so now what?
Here are some core practices I’ve seen in successful companies who drive customer satisfaction by understanding where a customer is in his/her journey and being consistent with that customer along the way. Keep in mind that none of these undertakings are easy, but they can untap tremendous revenue opportunities when done right.
1. Understand the different types of customer journeys.
Every brand must have a deep understanding of how customers are engaging, both in the moment and throughout the long-term. What are the common journeys a customer can take with your brand? Define each stage you see your customers at, and optimize journey variables for them. Figure out the customer lifetime value (CLV) of your audience, and what specific journeys are either driving forward or inhibiting each individual’s CLV. Take the time to understand the metrics associated with each customer journey, document them, get consensus, and create a cross-functional unit of “customer journey stakeholders” within your organization. These stakeholders will include a variety of teams central to customer touchpoints: email marketing, web, mobile, social, client services, support and maybe more depending on your respective business.
2. Break down departmental silos; have your customer journey stakeholders embrace the evolving customer experience.
A company’s teams must embrace that a single customer will likely interact with their brand via a variety of channels (in store, website, email, mobile app, social media, etc.). Maintaining a consistent experience across these channels ensures your brand is keeping the same voice, and that voice is telling the customer “I get it. I understand what you like, and I’m happy you’re here,” Brand alignment across your various channels ensures this voice is possible. But consistency is not only color schemes, logos and clean copy. In the most successful organizations, consistency means understanding where customers are in their journey and ensuring the teams responsible for your various channels are aligned to take the customer on the next step of that journey. This requires an alignment of traditionally disparate functions and creating solutions/processes to inspect the customer metrics holistically…and then take action…in real-time.
3. Execute, measure, and don’t wait to do it.
Now, that said, the longer your organization waits to get sophisticated with measurement and analysis, the further behind you’re positioned. At the core of doing this right, data needs to be shared and aggregated among the customer journey stakeholders. Instead of inspecting metrics in a vacuum on a per channel basis, some companies are leapfrogging their competition by inspecting metrics across channels (like cohort performance from email to onsite, social to onsite, onsite to mobile app, etc.) and then executing real-time strategies to get these users further down the customer journey path. Once a strategy is defined, there are some powerful solutions on the market today that can help automate much of it (like Sailthru). In most cases, this will be an integration of technology and processes, but the investment will pay serious dividends! And since you have spent all of this time aligning your teams and defining shared metrics, aren’t you due some dividends?
In the end, the proof is in the pudding. This robust understanding of the customer journey and aligning customer journey stakeholders effectively provides the capability to drive consistent, positive experiences with each and every person who engages with a brand. Every customer is unique – consistently respect them and they will appreciate it.
Alex Hesterberg is the EVP of Customer Success at Sailthru, which focuses on the enablement and growth of Sailthru’s customers. Prior to Sailthru, Hesterberg built and led the Consulting, Training and Certification organizations at Riverbed Technology. He also has held leadership positions at VERITAS Software (now Symantec Corp) and began his career at Computer Software Corporation.