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A Journey Without You?

October 21, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
We love to talk to our customers - it may not always be the best thing to do.

What's that you say, "that's the one thing our small businesses and community organizations have that can knock the socks off the big boys: we can talk to our customers directly. They're not going to talk to some call-center in a faraway place - but to me!”

Yes, it is true that direct customer interaction is best. However, it might not be for the entire “should I buy from you” experience or what is called the "customers end-to-end journey.”

The Experience

It seems to be all about the experience now doesn't it? We talk in terms of "stories,” journeys and experiences.

We seem to be running away from the traditional sales pitch.

Based on this we may no longer be the best “salesmen.”

In this new world of how folks make a decision to buy a product or service, several key points keep cropping up:

Review, review

To help make a decision, customers are likely to spend time not with you or even your marketing materials, but for example, on review sites or other 3rd party sources.

“Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto”

Once they make a decision, they want to act quickly. It is about ease and convenience. Automation is key. Is there the thought that talking to you slows the process?

As we take more in, we seem to be tuning more out. We don't have the time to listen to everything that is out there.

Our own family purposely pre-records our favorite TV shows. Why? Besides the convenience of watching the show when you want, we don't want to sit through the commercials.

"The automation of business functions is set to be the new trend in 2014" writes Entrepreneur magazine in their September edition. In their "Going Forward" essay “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto” they state "By 2020, customers will manage 85% of the relationships without talking to a human.”

Who’s Talking Now?

This may be a hard pill for some of us to handle. We were taught that the more you talk to your customer, the better. We also believe that sometimes our products or our experiences are so unique that we need to talk to them directly to give them the right impression. After all, we don't want the customers to get the wrong idea of who we are and then write a review…

Doing so however, may fly in the face of what your customer wants. We may also not be concentrating enough on the process YOUR customer is going through. How can we make the decision-making process easier for them? What are they looking for and how?

So, we analyze the data but are we asking the right questions?

Data, for What?

We may need to keep in mind the big picture.

We love to analyze our data now. It is just so cool to look at Google analytics for example, to see what pages your customers are looking at, and not. We take down e-mails and other information to find out where our customers are coming from so we have an idea where to place the next ad. County and regional tourism offices spew out all kinds of information of who is visiting our area, why they are coming and what they are looking to do while they are here.

While we are looking at all of this wonderful pieces of information on how to market ourselves, are we forgetting about all the steps that a customer goes through to pick your product or service?

Put on Their Shoes

Strategy & Business magazine in their “Leading Ideas” segment ran an informative piece “The ABC’s of Analytics.” "When a new data source becomes available, everyone is quick to fall in love with it" writes David Meer. “But, smart companies strive for a more holistic view of their customers and markets.” "Any analysis of data that stops after asking ‘what,’ … isn't analytics. You have to ask ‘why’ and ‘what's next.”

Analyzing data, Meer comments should start with an "explicit hypothesis about the needs of your customers and how you create value for them.” This information is about determining who our customer is and understanding their “behaviors or preferences.”

We are always trying to figure out "why did the customer pick us?” We look at analytics, how we handle our customer phone calls, the experience in our store and our follow-up. Do we look enough at the whole process and do we think about “the experience from A to Z of what a customer goes through in making a decision to buy from you? Do we look at the whole picture?

The Big Picture

Following this bigger picture theme was an article in the September issue of the Harvard Business Review called "The Truth About Customer Experience." These individual segments of how a customer interacts with us such as our websites, phone calls etc. are called "touchpoints.”

Many businesses, according to authors Alex Rawson, Ewan Duncan, and Connor Jones emphasize these "critical moments." Doing this however, "diverts attention from the bigger - and more important – picture: the customer’s end-to-end journey.” "Many companies excel at individual interactions with customers," the authors state, "but they failed to pay adequate attention to the customer’s complete experience on the way to purchase and after.”

For us, it may not be a big deal by itself if we insist on not having for example an online reservation system or the ability to purchase online. It may not be overly problematic if our website still talks about summer specials even though we are in the fall because well, our products may be the same. Further, we were so busy this summer that we did not have a chance to keep up with our blogs and that may be okay.

But taken in total, this may affect our customers "end-to- end journey” with us and ultimately their decision to choose you over someone else.

Be a Guide?

As best as we can, we need to determine, the entire "journey" that our different customers are taking. Not all of our customers are taking the same journey. We can’t get too lost in the individual data on a particular part of our business that we forget the entire process a customer is going through to choose you.

We may need to keep in mind that all of these wonderful pieces of information are the trees. It may be important for us to plot an easily guided path through the information forest for our customers. We should do this right from the start with sign posts along the way - in a way THEY are comfortable with.


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