The Customer Journey Matters, Every Step of the Way

The Customer Journey Matters, Every Step of the Way 1/14/2015
By Donna Fluss


Study after study has shown that customers are dissatisfied with the quality of service they receive from many, if not most, companies. Yet if you ask the same companies about service quality, you’ll discover that many—but not all—have quality assurance programs, and the vast majority of their agents are meeting or exceeding their program goals. If you take it to the next level and talk to contact center leaders, most will tell you that they’re delivering great customer service. Clearly, something is wrong. The public is generally quite unhappy with the quality of customer service, while companies think they’re doing a good job.

There are several explanations for this disconnect in perception:

  • Quality assurance programs measure how well agents adhere to internal policies and procedures, and cannot accurately assess customer satisfaction.
  • Many quality assurance programs are out of date and evaluating the wrong aspects of calls, emails, etc.
  • Most of the measures used to evaluate customer satisfaction (such as Net Promoter Score) are limited and concentrate on a single event or experience instead of the overall customer life cycle.
  • Managers set attainable goals based on beating results from the previous period, rather than meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
  • Companies are measuring what they have the tools to capture, instead of what is important to their customers.
  • Companies ignore customer needs because they are not willing or able to make the necessary investments; it costs too much to fix the underlying issues.

It’s clear from this list that too many organizations have ample reason to know that they are not delivering great service, even if this is not what they are saying to the public. (This is independent of the telecom providers such as Comcast and Time Warner, who are in a class of their own.) In some cases, organizations are unwilling to make the needed investments in their servicing organizations, infrastructure, and people, as they are too focused on short-term results. But this will turn out to be a costly mistake, because it makes it impossible to identify where there are issues throughout the company and what those issues are. This is where customer journey analytics comes in.

Customer Journey Analytics

In the last few years, vendors from a few IT sectors have come to market with solutions to help companies measure the customer experience. These big data applications are capable of analyzing massive amounts of customer interaction information in order to identify customer issues. The challenge with many of these solutions is that they take a limited view of the customer; they concentrate on one or two channels, such as interactive voice response (IVR) and Web sites, as this data is readily available. And while it’s useful to analyze self-service interactions, it provides only a limited view of the customer experience.

Organizations that want to understand each customer’s unique experience have to track all legs of their journey, which is where customer journey analytics solutions enter the landscape. These emerging solutions address both structured and unstructured components of the customer journey. They capture, analyze, and evaluate all customer actions and everything the enterprise does for customers at any point or channel in the organization.

An important objective of these solutions is to identify the customer’s effort. This includes all self-service interactions and activities (Web and IVR analytics), as organizations need to see what does and does not work in their self-service applications. The solutions evaluate how the customer was handled in the back office if there is a system for capturing and providing this information as it’s essential to see if processes are being performed properly and in a timely manner. (The back office continues to be a source of customer problems, although many companies do not track or analyze these issues.) Speech and text analytics is another source of customer feedback; direct customer input must be structured so that it can be analyzed. Feedback from customer surveys should also be incorporated into the analysis. Although quality assurance programs typically take an internal view of the customer experience, it’s still helpful to know if the organization and agent are doing what they are supposed to do. It’s also essential to use desktop analytics to look into enterprise sales, service, or marketing applications to incorporate these customer activities and actions into the customer journey analysis and obtain a more complete view of how a customer was treated.

Customer Journey Analytics Solutions

An important output from customer journey analytics is the measurement of customer effort. This is essentially a measurement of how difficult it is to do business with an organization and/or accomplish what the customer needs/wants. The ability to measure customer effort may be an even more elusive goal than capturing the actual customer journey, given that there are a finite number of channels, yet virtually an unlimited number of customer servicing variables throughout the customer life cycle. Further, organizations must be able to convert the customer effort into a quantifiable metric (how long it took, how many interactions, how many follow-up inquiries, etc.) in order to appreciate its impact on the customer experience and the resulting customer behavior. Customer effort is not limited to customer requests and actions, but also encompasses all activities and actions initiated or taken by the organization on behalf of the customer. A case in point that is all too familiar are loyalty or reward programs that are so rules-restrictive or require so much jumping through hoops that they actually alienate customers.

The Next Stage of the Journey

The concepts behind customer journey analytics have been in the market for years, manifested in the form of customer relationship management, customer experience analytics, and in many other approaches. What’s different about customer journey analytics is that the underlying technology and functionality needed to capture, analyze, and evaluate all aspects of every customer’s journey and experience are now available. We’re at the beginning of a very exciting time in the market; the journey has just begun.

DMG expects to see vendors from a few contact center and enterprise IT sectors actively pursue customer journey analytics, as it’s closely related to what many of these vendors have been trying to do for years. Prospects should carefully assess the solutions and appreciate that they are new and still need much work. However, please keep in mind that, as is often the case, addressing the technology aspects of customer journey analytics will likely be the easy part. The greater challenge will be getting various internal departments to set aside their own parochial interests for the betterment of their customers and the company’s bottom line.