The woman on the Clapham omnibus
4th October 2011
While on a particularly jerky and bone jarring bus journey recently, with bodies being flung backwards and forwards, from side to side, the woman sitting next to me turned to me and said 'all bus drivers should travel as a passenger from time to time'.
And it's not just bus drivers who need to take time out and look at the customer experience from the customer's viewpoint. How many times do we really think about how customers consume, experience and engage with our brand?
Maybe if more businesses did that on a regular basis my pension company would not send me three letters in three envelopes on the same day every time I send them some money for my albeit rapidly declining pension pot; a well known online retailer would know that its IVR system doesn't work and has dead ends and loops which mean it's very difficult to complete transactions; and my local gym wouldn't expect me to fill in the same application form and capture the same information every time I renew my membership.
At the end of the day it's all about making it easy for customers to do business and none of these examples would pass that test.
These are the points at which brands become real and tangible for their customers and yet few marketing resources get devoted to this aspect of brand management. No doubt because ownership and accountability of the customer journey across many touchpoints is fragmented and scattered across the organisational hierarchy, making it difficult for improvements to be identified and made.
Somebody once pointed out that if everyone in the business is responsible for customer service, no one is accountable. But when it comes to improving the customer experience across all touchpoints and customer journeys, someone does need to stand up and be counted if the brand is to thrive. At Cogent we are committed to building brands that deliver across all touchpoints. This is the only way to do the right thing for the customer and to deliver a sustainable long term business.
But when it comes to customer journeys which drive the customer experience, where does one start?
There are many customer journeys, but most if not all can be mapped onto the following core generic processes:
- Pre-buying research
- Post purchase service and maintenance
- Repeat buying
- Ending the relationship
Within each of these generic processes the customer will go through a series of journeys. Think of it like a London Tube Map with each core process represented by a start station and end station with a series of activities or stations along the way.
When we are helping our clients to improve the journeys for their customers, it is always important to think across three dimensions: time, space, matter. In other words where is the customer experiencing our brand, how long is it taking and what materials do they have. These are the variables we have to play with and it is across these dimensions that we seek to make our improvements.
And at each stage of the customer journey, we ask ourselves and our clients these questions:
- What do we want the customer to do now?
- What does the customer want to do?
- Is there any reason we can't allow the customer to do this?
- What would make it easy for the customer to get through this stage?
- How can we explain this better to the customer?
- What do we want the customer to do next?
- Where is it painful for the customer?
- And most importantly, how should my brand behave in this instance?
Now in the ideal world we would have bucket loads of research to help us determine what the consumer wants from each stage of this process. You might be lucky and have this but more often than not, you won't. But don't despair. We are all consumers and with a bit of outside facilitation it is easy to put yourself under the skin of the customer to determine how things could be improved. At end of the day it is about ensuring you are easy to do business with. It's simple.
It really is about time we saw our business from the customer's viewpoint. The woman on the juddering and shuddering Clapham omnibus had it so right.