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'Why?' questions are always difficult to answer, but the current state of customer experience is puzzling.
Almost every survey of marketers indicates that improving the customer experience is at the top of the priorities list, yet marketers often lament at their inability to make the changes necessary to do so.
In our most recent Digital Intelligent Briefing, survey respondents once again put 'customer experience' at the top of the priority list for 2017
But when asked about their strategy in this area only around one in ten (11%) marketers said that they had a 'well-developed' customer experience improvement strategy in place.
One reason why marketers are finding it difficult to improve customer experience emerged in a recent survey of nearly 1,000 marketers Econsultancy conducted with Emarsys, Understanding the Customer Journey in Asia Pacific.
In the report, we found that fewer than one in five (17%) felt that they had an 'advanced' understanding of the customer journey. The remaining 83% felt they were at least missing 'important pieces of the jigsaw' of the customer journey and many of them felt that there were 'a lot of missing parts'.
This is quite possibly the main reason why customer experience isn't improving. It's hard to imagine how an organisation could possibly improve its customer experience when they don't even understand the customer journey. But why is this the case? What is standing in the way?
From the report, two main reasons emerge.
1) Marketing is in charge of the customer journey (but perhaps customer insight should be)
One place to look for reasons why organisations don't understand the customer journey is the department which holds responsibility for understanding it. Knowing who has been tasked with such an important part of improving customer experience should shed some light on the obstacles.
Fortunately, very few survey respondents (7%) indicated that 'no-one' is singularly responsible for the customer journey. This means that companies are thinking seriously about this responsibility and assigning it to one department or another.
What is concerning, though, is that a majority of respondents' companies have placed the responsibility for understanding the customer journey with marketing (54%).
While it's understandable that one department may start the initiative, marketing alone is unlikely to be keep the program going. Understanding the customer journey requires the coordinated effort of many departments including sales, customer service, and finance. Someone sitting in the marketing department may struggle to coordinate across departments on an ongoing basis.
This may, therefore, be one reason why customer experience improvement programs are failing to gain much traction despite being at the top of the priority list.
One solution to this impasse is to have a team which is dedicated to improving customer experience and has the backing of the management to drive the necessary changes throughout the organization. Customer insight, which often acts as a bridge between research and marketing, may be the right place for this team, though few (6%) respondents indicate that this is the case at their organization.
Tellingly, when we compare responses from organizations which have an 'advanced' understanding of the customer journey with those who do not, the 'advanced' organisations are three times more likely to have assigned responsibility to 'customer insights' than their peers (12% vs 4%). As organizations mature in their understanding of the customer, then, the trend appears to be to transfer responsibility of the customer journey from sales and marketing to a more cross-functional team.
2) Too many touchpoints
Another way to find out why progress in understanding the customer journey and improving customer experience has been so slow is to ask those responsible. Thankfully, most of our survey respondents are those most likely to be responsible for the customer journey (marketing), so their answers provide useful insights.
As mentioned in a previous post, several time- and resource-intensive steps must be carried out when mapping the customer journey. It follows, then, that for more touchpoints, more work is required.
Additionally, as marketers learn more about their customers, they may find even more touchpoints to analyze resulting in even more tasks to complete.
It is unsurprising, therefore, to see that the 'complexity of customer experience / number of touchpoints' is the most frequently-cited barrier (44% of company respondents) for those aiming to understand the customer journey. Additionally, those that can manage the complexity often run into problems when 'unifying difference sources of data', which is highlighted here by just over one in three (34%) respondents.
Indeed, many organizations which start with good intentions of understanding the customer journey through touchpoints may end up discouraged when faced with the enormity of the task at hand.
While there are no easy answers to this problem, one place marketers can start is by reviewing their company's marketing technology stack. Over time, adding new channels, systems, and measurement tools can result in a confusing array of technologies which make understanding touchpoints difficult, if not impossible.
Making a diagram of all of the systems, their purpose, and how customers interact with them can help with touchpoint analysis and, ultimately, understanding the customer journey.
Diagramming the marketing stack has become so popular recently that MarTech now hosts an annual award, the 'Stackies', in which companies submit their marketing stack for review and awards. Below is this year's entry from Microsoft, but you can find many more inspirational examples at chiefmartec.com.
In order to improve customer experience, organisations must understand the customer journey. But to understand the customer journey, organisations have to overcome two major obstacles: the 'natural' ownership of the customer journey by marketing and the proliferation of touchpoints.
Both of these make understanding the customer journey more difficult but can be overcome by creating a cross-functional 'customer insights' team dedicated to understanding the marketing technology stack and the touchpoints which make up the customer journey.