The Customer Journey: Forced March or Enjoyable Stroll?

May 9, 2019
The Customer Journey: Forced March or Enjoyable Stroll?

As I noted in my first post in this series, the customer experience (CX) is critical to businesses of all sizes. Most businesses realize that and are trying to build a CX that creates loyal, long-term customers. Nevertheless, there are many ways a company’s CX can falter. And that’s because customer experience is the output of data, applications, systems, processes and people — internal and customer facing — that must work together.

What Is a Customer Journey?

All the effort behind the scenes to create a great CX is expressed in the customer journey. So, what is it? It’s everything — every thing — that the customer encounters from initial contact, through the process of engagement and into a, hopefully, long-term relationship.

There are many touchpoints in a customer journey, so there’s plenty of opportunity for a journey to go off the rails. It’s not just about a smooth purchase transaction. In fact, a lot of customer attitudes toward a company and its products are formed before they’ve bought anything. As a recent report from Bazaar Voice notes, “Customers crave interaction before a transaction.” They expect frictionless shopping experiences and want more transparency, interaction and authenticity from brands and retailers.

Canaries in the Coal Mine

Along the customer journey, touchpoints can be canaries in the coal mine. When there’s a problem at the customer level, it means the front- or back-end systems that deliver customer experience aren’t operating properly.

A front-end system, like the ecommerce platform, could be failing. Or the interaction between two or more back-end systems might be the cause. For example, if a company’s supply chain management application isn’t communicating effectively with its inventory system, it may lead to an out-of-stock event (stockout) or the appearance of one when in fact plenty of inventory exists. Obviously, either outcome is to be avoided.

Data Is the Difference

When it comes to building a world-class customer experience and the customer journey that goes with it, data is the difference. It's the source of insights that can and should guide efforts to deliver a great CX — and fix the inevitable missteps along the way.

And, speaking of missteps, let's look at one that has been the downfall of many brands. Personalization. But isn't personalization a good thing? Well, it depends.

According to Bazaar Voice, there's quite a disconnect between brands and retailers that want to personalize the shopping experience for consumers and what those consumers expect when it comes to personalized offers and recommendations. Why? Because many personalization attempts aren't relevant, so instead of engaging consumers they annoy and frustrate them. And eventually drive them away.

Many consumers have never experienced personalization done well. And that's a data problem. It's what happens when you don't have a 360-degree view of the customer. It's not just about demographics, interests and other identity-based information. It is a view that includes intent signals across devices, platforms and channels.

Most businesses are still not designed to make the most of their data. They can’t easily integrate any data source and manage their data across a mix of legacy and cloud applications, inside and outside their enterprise. But cooperation at a system level is exactly what delivering an excellent customer experience demands.

In our ebook “Breaking Through: Creating a Customer Experience That Really Works," we explain why integration, automation and data governance are the keys to providing that cooperation between systems. And, in my next post, I'll share the stories of some customers that have used Boomi's modern, cloud-native integration platform to deliver a best-in-class experience for their customers.

Read our ebook “Breaking Through: Creating a Customer Experience That Really Works" to find out why integration is the foundation for great CX.

About the Author

Myles Suer is Boomi's global enterprise marketing manager.