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How to Identify Your Most Critical Customer Journeys Blog Feature
John Zimmerer

By: John Zimmerer on July 2nd, 2015

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How to Identify Your Most Critical Customer Journeys

Customer Experience | Customer Communications | Customer Journey

At Topdown, we’re not in the business of mapping customer journeys. But as customer communications management (CCM) solution providers, we are in the business of improving customer experience (CX) throughout the customer life cycle – particularly on the service and retention side of the house. And since customer journey maps help focus customer experience improvement efforts, we are very familiar with them. shutterstock_292423622

A first step in journey mapping is to identify your most critical customer journeys so that you can pinpoint and fix any gaps that might be costing you money (e.g., increasing churn, sales abandonment, or support burden). To get you to the point that you’re ready to address your CX gaps (which is ideally when we would be able to help you with our CCM software and services), we want to provide some pointers to help guide you through your journey self-evaluation process. 

What Is a Critical Customer Journey?

Usually, when we talk about the customer journey, we are referring to the series of interactions a customer has with your touchpoints in order to achieve a goal or satisfy a need (e.g., file a claim, manage their 401(k), or lodge a complaint). What we’re referring to when we discuss a “critical journey,” though, is when that series of interactions is high-traffic (i.e., lots of customers will take that journey) or high-dollar (i.e., revenue is at risk). These journeys tend to affect customer satisfaction and loyalty the most. 

How to Decide Which Journey(s) to Map First

We’ve already discussed how to map customer journeys, and we’ve given you a common example of a critical customer journey – filing an auto claim – to think about. Let’s back up a bit and talk about how to decide which customer journey(s) to map in the first place. In this case, critical means “important,” not “judgmental.” It’s a good idea to start with your most important customer journeys first. You can rank the importance of a journey by looking at both qualitative and quantitative criteria.

To get qualitative data, you’ll have to ask customers about their satisfaction. They may or may not respond to surveys – you might have to give them incentives to do so – but it’s still the most direct way to know what customers are thinking and feeling. You can also get a good idea of customer sentiment by monitoring social media. Some social media listening tools help measure user sentiment in different ways, such as Salesforce (which acquired Radian6), Meltwater, or trackur. If you are “listening” to how people talk about your brand, products and services in social media, blogs, news commentary, and elsewhere, you will be able to spot trends in positive or negative sentiment.

When you hear or feel frustration in the collective voices talking about your company, that’s a red flag! You need to be prepared to reach out and identify what journey(s) those customers are on and where things fell apart. You have to do the work to untangle the emotions and track the problem back to the people, processes and technologies within your organization that fell short. If you don’t, those customers and everyone who listens to them could be gone forever.

To get quantitative data, you can use a combination of your internal customer service tracking system – which should reveal call volumes on specific topics, call durations, and frequency of resolution – plus web site and social media analytics that reveal how customers are interacting with your digital experience delivery (DXD) and customer communications management (CCM) systems. Web site analytics for your customer service portal can be particularly revealing.

For example, you can measure how much time customers spend on each page, how they navigate the site, search terms they’re using to find the information they need, when and where they abandon the site, and more. Unfortunately, web site metrics don’t usually answer the question of why customers abandon the site or when they give up on finding what they need and call a CSR instead. But you can figure out a great deal of that information by combining data from various touchpoints in a single place for comprehensive analysis. 

Ranking the Criticality of Your Customer Journeys

Once you have some meaningful qualitative and quantitative data in hand, rank the criticality of your customer interactions based on these three standards:

  1. Sheer volume – How many of your customers go through this process? If you know that most of them will experience it at some point, it’s a critical journey based on this factor alone.
  2. Impact on loyalty – How important is a particular journey to customers’ overall satisfaction with your product or service and their loyalty to your brand? If you’re seeing a great deal of customer attrition during or after a particular type of interaction (such as applying for a loan or upgrading a cell phone), that means this is a critical customer journey you should map and fix.
  3. Prevalence of pitfalls – How many complaints do you get about a particular touchpoint or process? If customers are contacting you all the time to complain about how difficult it is to get a specific issue resolved, chances are that’s a journey that needs fast attention.

There are critical customer journeys associated with marketing and sales, like brand discovery or making a purchase, but those typically only happen once. The journeys that tend to be more critical in terms of retaining existing customers and earning positive word of mouth to attract new customers are almost all on the service and retention side of the house. And they almost always involve customer-facing communications.

If you map your most critical customer journeys and discover gaps in the areas of document generation, omni-channel communications (including printed letters, digital delivery of customer-facing communications, email, or SMS), data integration, automation and personalization capabilities, you are not alone. That’s the part of the customer life cycle that is typically riddled with pitfalls in CX delivery. But if you find that you need help closing those gaps, we’d love to help you get your critical journeys fixed today. We have over 30 years of experience helping our customers communicate with theirs.

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About John Zimmerer

John Zimmerer is the senior director of marketing at Topdown, where he leads market research and outreach efforts for the company's customer communications and customer experience products. Most recently, John has been researching and writing about the future direction of the technologies that power customer experience, and is regarded as a thought leader in this area. John has nearly 20 years of software product marketing experience. His areas of expertise include market research, analyst relations, public relations and digital marketing.

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