Monday, July 29, 2013

Customer Journey Mapping - A Powerful Organizational Transformational Tool

Organizations that intend to deliver an exceptional customer experience must first understand what the customer experiences at every touch-point and, most importantly, this needs to be articulated by the customers themselves.  It is tempting to shortcut the process by adopting simply an internal viewpoint of the customer experience as representative of the actual customer experience. This doesn’t quite provide the mirror that needs to be held up within organizations.  As the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are heading, any road you choose will take you there.” 
With this in mind, I believe those businesses that understand exactly what their customer’s experiences are at every interaction have a decided competitive advantage.  This is fundamental to the success of just about any business, except perhaps government agencies.  Having said that, I do recall that the Registry of Motor Vehicles in the state of Massachusetts over the past ten years has completely transformed the way it serves customers—who have no choice in the matter when it comes to renewing a driver’s licence or an automobile registration.  It’s not just about meeting or exceeding customer expectations, it’s also about consistency and ease of doing business on the part of both provider and customer—leading to more efficient operations as well as cost containment for the business.
Whether a business offers a product or a service and whether those transactions occur online or in-person at the point of sale, every interaction serves as an opportunity to augment or diminish the relationship you have with that customer.  Earlier interactions in the customer journey can be the more critical—awareness, engagement, decision-making, and purchasing—but the later stages—supporting, enhancing, developing, committing, and repurchasing are the more sustaining and serve to build and ensure long-term revenues.
Organizations that have not thought about customer journey mapping, might want to begin by asking themselves a few questions.  They might ask, for example: what is our overall customer strategy? Or perhaps more fundamentally they might ask: do we have a customer strategy?   Assuming they have one, another question they might ask is: what is the intended customer experience we are striving for? And perhaps further: does everyone in the organization know our customer strategy as well as the intended customer experience at each interaction?  They may consider also asking: how well are we executing our customer strategy?  This latter answer must be drawn from the customer’s perspective.
I look at customer journey mapping from a holistic and systems perspective.  Customer interactions can happen at any and every level within any organization.  Any employee that interacts with a customer is a stakeholder in the process of the business. The corollary would be a business operating in silos where there isn’t a cohesive and coherent customer strategy and where the customer experience is left to chance.  In an increasingly competitive and global business environment, organizations cannot afford not to consider the risks associated with “customer experience by chance” versus “customer experience by design.”  Mapping, measuring, and improving the customer experience is one of the most logical, fundamental, and essential frameworks that can  ensure that an organization’s brand promise is well understood and wholeheartedly supported at every customer interaction.  It’s a system where the ownership of delivery on that brand promise is felt and shared by everyone across the organization.
Customer journey mapping is a totally customer-focused concept.  It puts the customer and the customer experience at the focal-point of business operations.  Superior customer experience has often been described as the last frontier of competitive differentiation. Technology is a competitive differentiator for the moment, at best a moving target—very soon outpaced and replaced by the next and latest technological “shiny object” and unable to sustain most businesses over the long-term.  Organizations that realize this, understand the transformational power that is contained within the customer experience.  Measuring and evaluating the customer experience at each step along the journey, is how organizations can release that power.  It allows organizations to fully understand and describe their current and future desired state, identify the gaps, prioritize actions, and deliver transformational solutions that drive business results.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I Can’t See the Forest—the Trees are in the Way

As a Bank of America (B of A) customer over the last 15 plus years, [and having arrived here more as the result of acquisition than by choice] I have been a loyal customer in the sense that I have stayed and have not migrated to another banking institution.  Call me a creature of habit, but nothing has yet driven me to defect from B of A.  Like Starbucks, my personal choice when I desire a cup of coffee, they are everywhere I go and they are consistent if nothing else.
No here’s where it gets interesting.  My bank account with B of A includes a checking account, a savings, account and a line of credit account—covering me in the event I overdraw from my checking account.  I have successfully managed to go paperless with both my checking and savings accounts—two out of three—so far so good.  However, my poor little line of credit account must be an exceptional case because I cannot seem to find any way to make this account go paperless.
Most of the time, whenever I overdraw on my checking account, I replenish it within hours if not days and bring it back to a zero balance.  Nonetheless, when any transaction occurs, I get a statement like the one shown below in Figure 1 with a zero balance and payment due of zero.  I also get a coupon showing a minimum payment due of—you guessed it—zero.

Figure 1.
After attempting to go paperless using the relevant features on the B of A on-line banking portal and calling them numerous times to ask for this to be set up as a paperless transaction, alas I must admit defeat.  There’s nothing they can apparently do to prevent me from receiving these economically and ecologically wasteful monthly statements—each time arriving with a zero balance.  I actually once sent them a check for $0.00 and signed it—seriously, and to see if might help.  I don’t think B of A caught on to my frustration or my sense of humor.  I wonder whether this is endemic to only large bureaucratic organizations where it is often impossible to connect with a live human being to discuss customer issues in a logical common sense manner.  I can’t be the only B of A customer experiencing this.
For those of you working within large B2C organizations like B of A, does any of this begin to ring true? 
·         What channels of customer issue resolution do you have set up and offer your customers? 
·         Do they experience human avoidance by going though the looping phone tree that deposits you (pun intended in this case) right back where you started? 
·         Do your processes defy logic and common sense? 
·         Do you design your internal systems and processes around employee efficiency, organizational convenience, and workflow over customer expectations and ease of doing business?  
·         How does what I describe here help or hinder customer loyalty and customer advocacy? 
I’d like to hear similar stories from those of you either in B2C or B2B organizations where issues like this seem to go un-resolvable for years.  Just in case you might be wondering, I am not about to close my account with B of A and go elsewhere.  The rest of the experience I have with them is generally good, so this isn’t what I’d consider a show-stopper.  It would probably behoove B of A to save the costs of invoicing me and countless other customers for essentially nothing—not to mention the saving of few more precious trees in the process.