It’s easy to take things you see every day for granted. We take the sun rising and setting for granted, for instance, and that’s a good thing, because it helps us organize our lives.
However, in business taking things for granted is a hazard. Change is everything these days, and that means the concepts you take as constants may not be as constant as they seem. In other cases, we trick ourselves into believing that because we talk so much about a key concept that defines our business, we have that concept nailed down.
The more basic the concept is, the more likely we fail to maintain it. The result is we think things are locked down when, in reality they’re leaky.
An important example of this is the customer journey. After two decades of the term being tossed around, every company of any size talks about the concept internally, and most think they are delivering a winning experience. Even among companies that admit their journeys need work, most believe they know the areas that need improvement.
This is classic company-first thinking on what should be a customer-first concept. By committing this error, businesses expose themselves to two hazards: dead ends, or areas where customer journeys lead nowhere; and dead spots, or areas where data about the customer journey is overlooked and goes unconsidered in evaluating the effectiveness of the journey design.
Want some examples? Here are a few. Is your organization suffering from any of these?
Content that goes nowhere or in a circle. The ways customers move through your content is unpredictable. Every customer makes choices that create an individual journey. Your organization needs to predict the points customers will want to visit along the way and create content that leads potential customers toward a decision.
Unfortunately, much content is created without any thought toward a customer journey strategy. That means that some content creates a dead end — there’s no suggested next step, no link to the next bit of content, no call to action.
More frustrating is the inescapable loop created by three or four pieces of content that refer to each other but not to any other content — it’s a content cul-de-sac. If you do this, you leave customers with no alternative but to make the next stop in their journey Google — and then, probably, a competitor’s website.
Support that lacks the power to resolve things. If you’re going to have a customer service team, agents need to be allowed to deliver customer service. Many companies already use chatbots to handle routine customer requests. This may reduce call volumes, but it also guarantees that the people whose calls are getting through have complex, nuanced issues that will require agents with the expertise to address them.
It also requires the business to trust those agents to resolve the customers’ problems. That involves giving them the tools to do so, but it also means empowering them to do the things needed to handle customer issues — especially when the best solution is something out of the ordinary. Handcuffing your agents means that the customers’ calls are futile, frustrating, and likely to send them looking for a new place to spend their money.
Websites that obfuscate contacts. Yes, customers increasingly show their preference for self-service. Yes, that can reduce the cost of taking care of them. But no — customers are not psychics, and they need to know how to contact your company.
Too many websites have minimized the presentation of contact information — phone numbers, emails, or any other means of contacting the business — to the point that the company seems to be operating undercover as an anonymous, shadowy entity.
The scrubbing seems intentional. Contact information is removed from every part of the page, from the FAQs to the media page. At the moments customers need to speak to the business the most, the business seems to go dark. That is most assuredly not what customers want. When you confuse “self-service” with “no service,” you’re slamming the door on the customer journey.
Standalone contact centers. In the last 10 years there has been a mania for collecting digital data about customers, with data from marketing automation, CRM, social media monitoring and other sources providing a more detailed portrait of each customer than ever before.
Even as we exult in the completeness of our digital portraits of customers, most companies also operate a contact center that’s siloed, separate and somewhat shunned. The contact center has a long history of being looked down on and ignored, treated as an expense, and generally seen as a low priority. But guess what? The things your customers tell you on the phone — with their actual voices — are important.
Customers call only when it’s really important. Is the information contained in their make-or-break communications with you worth understanding and including in the customer record? Of course! With a standalone contact center, that vital information is kept segregated from the other information about the customer journey — or worse yet, it’s not collected at all. In any event, failing to integrate voice data with CRM leaves you with a massive blind spot.
Omnichannel that isn’t very omni. Omnichannel doesn’t mean just that your company can receive messages through a lot of different channels. It doesn’t mean that you can respond through a number of different channels, either. It really means that you are effective at using the data you receive through every channel.
Getting this insight into the right places in your customer data infrastructure can be hard. After all, each additional new channel introduces an exponentially greater level of complexity to your infrastructure as you work to connect channels and the systems that store the data they generate. That’s what you need to do if you plan on delivering an omnichannel experience to your customers.
The warning sign around omnichannel: when your team treats a new channel as a separate channel, regardless of whether it’s a permanent situation or something temporary. The minute you start treating a channel’s integration as an unnecessary extra is the minute you stop benefiting from the data that channel can deliver.
Social media you don’t follow. You can’t participate in conversations you are unaware of. The last decade has seen a lot of talk about social media, but in many cases it’s still seen as a “bonus channel” — sure, it would be nice to include it, but if it’s too expensive or time-consuming to manage and monitor, just remove it from the menu.
Meanwhile, you’re opting out of the unfiltered conversations customers are having with enormous numbers of people — about you. This is not a winning strategy.
Social media monitoring tools are mature and widely available, and the task of monitoring them isn’t as hard as you might think. Beyond the familiar channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.) there may be a few industry-specific social sites you need to watch.
Once you learn what your company’s specific social media landscape looks like, keeping track of the conversations about you (and your competitors, for that matter) will no longer seem so daunting.