Providing exceptional customer experiences is something many businesses struggle with. Unfortunately, customer experience can determine the difference between a successful product or business and an unsuccessful one. This article will take an in-depth look at what a user journey is and how it can be employed as a strategy to help your company offer better customer experiences, which ultimately, will result in more profitability for the organization.
What is a User Journey?
The term ‘user journey’ is used to describe all the encounters that a customer has when interacting with your service or brand, which might be both direct and indirect. This journey, of course, entails the client’s purchasing experience, but it goes well beyond that. It begins right at the moment when the user becomes aware of your brand’s experience and extends well past when they have already purchased your commodity to include any efforts that you employ to create brand loyalty, and ultimately, brand advocacy. Nevertheless, each organization’s user journey is unique, and thus one brand’s strategy might not necessarily work for the next.
The Traditional User Journey
In the past, companies used to take a touchpoint approach in an attempt to understand their customers’ journey. This meant identifying the critical points of user interaction, such as marketing techniques, support episodes, point-of-sale, and so on and then measuring their effectiveness. The performance metrics for each key point were then used to recognize the problem areas so as to initiate positive changes.
While this approach intended to create an overall positive user experience, it might be argued that it achieved quite the opposite. Look at it this way; these touchpoints were defined by the company, in relation to their objectives, and not those of the users. So what happens if those touchpoints do not matter to the user?
The second thing to note is that this approach risks throwing all your customers into one group, and assuming that they all have the same needs. This is ignoring the essential characteristics of the journeys followed by different individuals. These details are often what make all the difference between standard user experience and an exceptional one.
Lastly, when you use this strategy, you will be considering the various touchpoints as being independent entities. So, what happens when the experience you have created at one point does not match that of another touchpoint? The key, therefore, is to take a holistic approach.
The End-to-End User Journey
The distinctive trait about the end-to-end user journey approach is that it recognizes and appreciates the whole as being much more than just the sum of its parts. A user will not view their interaction with a company as a discrete set of independent interactions and judge each on its merits; instead, they see their interaction with a brand as a cumulative experience, with every new experience reshaping their opinion.
When you look at it from this perspective, you appreciate the importance of managing this relationship holistically, and not as separate entities. When you view the user journey as a dynamic continuum, you will be able to realize a more meaningful engagement with your customers which only leads to better customer experiences. However, this does not imply that you should forget about the touchpoints, instead, define them from the customers’ needs rather than just from your goals.
Understanding this Journey
So, how do you go about incorporating the end-to-end user journey as a strategy? User journey mapping is a handy and popular way of doing this. To do this, you will first have to identify the personas of the various customer groups. You will then map the stages of their journey based on each group’s inherent traits. The takeaway here is that the mapping is heavily influenced by the user and not by the company’s objectives.
Once you have established the user journey map, you will then get to determine the extent at which your current levels of customer experience are meeting your users’ expectations, if there are improvements to be made, and what they are. User needs, actions, motivations, and barriers to actions need to be taken into consideration at each stage of the user’s journey. For instance, what motivated that customer to perform that action? What desire does it satisfy? What might prompt them to proceed to the next stage? What barriers are they likely to face?
As such, undertaking primary research by utilizing qualitative methodologies is the most effective way of understanding your brand’s user journey without having to make assumptions about your users. Big data has undoubtedly played a significant role in user journey mapping. Nevertheless, it is limited to the journey stages. This means that it only answers the questions of what your user groups are doing, and when. On the other hand, qualitative research allows you to know why your customers are doing it and gives you more insight on customer behavior. Understanding the ‘why’ enables you to predict your users’ next moves and will enable you to plan for it.
Interviews, VOC communities, and online research diaries are some of the best qualitative tools that you could use to gain rich insight. They provide your users with an outlet for sharing their thoughts about their journey with your brand. Remember that the purpose of using these tools is to understand the goals, emotions, and expectations of your customers. By following these things, you will identify opportunities for added experiential value and as a result, better customer engagement.
When you are able to understand the user journey from their point of view, you will be able to identify the locations where your customer experience is lagging. You can then focus on these points and develop them. Nevertheless, the user journey is continuously evolving due to the dynamic nature of customers’ needs. Additionally, different customer groups need to be approached differently. Put in mind also that each brand should have its unique user journey map.
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