Paul Moran describes how understanding how your customers interact with your business, can improve your customer touchpoints and increase revenue
Did you ever wonder why a business or customer decided to buy from you ahead of your
competitors? Did you ever put yourself in your customer’s shoes and assess the steps they took to make the decision to purchase? Infact, did it ever occur to you how and where your
customer actually first heard about you? These questions are answered by assessing the customer journey. In this article, I will shed some light on what the customer journey is and how you can use it to increase your customer base and satisfaction.
WHAT IS THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY?
The customer journey breaks down, step by step, the behaviours of the customer from first being unaware of your business to finally purchasing with you. It is a strategic tool to understand each interaction or touchpoint a customer has with your business. By analysing each interaction, it is possible to understand which areas of interaction are flourishing and
which areas need improving. Many businesses physically map out the customer journey, on whiteboards, on paper or slides. Regardless of how you map your customer’s journey, the
key is to understand each interaction and ensure the stages of the journey work well, with seamless transitions to the next stage. If you don’t engage with such strategic tools you may leave yourself open to blindspots, by not understanding how the customer arrives at your door.
STAGES OF THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY:
Making your potential customers aware of you or your business is the first step on the customer journey. This awareness can be developed in many ways, by simply viewing an advertisement in a publication which targets your market, or being flagged in a social media
post to an audience who are interested in similar products and services. It is important to target spaces where your prospects are spending their time. It is also essential to understand that creating awareness through advertising is not about selling the product or
service, it is about making potential prospects become aware of your business and to move the viewer onto the next stage of the customer journey, when they have a need or desire for
what you sell. Research has shown customers are more likely to buy from businesses they are familiar with or at least a business of which they have heard. The awareness stage is external, requiring you to leverage the networks that already exist in the marketplace.
This is not about updating your website or product line but instead it’s about running advertising in appropriate places. As the saying goes, ‘it’s too late to start marketing when you’re quiet’, which means you consistently have to keep a new funnel of prospects aware
of your products and services so they become customers in due course.
RESEARCH & INTEREST
Congratulations, by correctly engaging with your prospective customer, the customer is now aware of your business and a situation has come where they need you and what you can offer. Perhaps they are looking for irrigation solutions, fertilizer to sell or a food
storage partner in the market. This stage is when information is gathered. Customers typically research products and services using search engines such as Google, by scanning your website, news articles, social media and of course testimonials and reviews. It’s not all online though, as research also happens by informal chatting with colleagues, friends and family about your products or services.
Through this stage of the customer journey, the prospect will undertake research on features, price, reliability, distribution and the technical attributes of your offering. Now, the prospect is really engaged and it’s essential to ensure you manage your publications
and reviews correctly. Also ask yourself, ‘is my website easy to navigate?’, ‘can my customers get the information they require and if not, where will they turn to?’. The research stage is becoming internal, as your customers are searching for you. You control how your website or your social media profile appears. To illustrate how significant this stage can be, GE Capital Research Bank reports that 81% of consumers research online before they shop and 57% make a decision before they move to the contact stage.
Tip: Practice putting out high value content for your customers by creating blogs on your website which show your customers that you are an expert in your area, conveying credibility to your customers along with a host of other search engine benefits.
The contact stage happens when the customer interacts with you. This interaction is a good sign because it means the prospect is close to buying. Here, they will ask questions about
bulk orders, potential discounts and customisation. Typically your sales team or customer service should be involved in this stage. It is worth noting, however, that some businesses and customers might skip this stage and go directly to the next step. It is important that your sales teams are well trained, armed with all relevant information and the ability to build good relationships. Exceptional customer service indicates to your prospect how your after sales service will be if a customer purchases from you.
Now the customer has all the information at their fingertips about you and your products and they have engaged with you offline & online. This is a time where they weigh up the pros and cons of dealing with you. Logically speaking you have ticked the box so the decision will essentially be emotional, based on their experience with you up to this point? How much do they trust you? Have you created a good ‘gut feeling’ for your customer?
This is where the pedal meets the metal! The critical purchase stage, the transfer of money to your business from the customer is also known as the conversion stage. But always
remember, your customer’s journey doesn’t end when the customer walks out the door or pays their invoice. By this stage you want the customer to love your product and service, to become your advocate and to tell others how great it has been to interact with you.
BENEFITS OF UNDERSTANDING THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
A principal benefit of understanding the customer journey is that weaknesses at any stage along the journey can be identified and corrected. A business which is investing heavily in sales teams and new products, but is not achieving awareness penetration cannot expect to build a sales pipeline for this new sales team and product line. You should ask if you are doing enough to ensure awareness of your products and services, to attract new customers and to showcase that you are relevant this year, keeping the company at the top of mind for the industry. Increasing awareness delivers a higher number of customers to the subsequent stages of the journey to the purchase stage. Understanding the customer journey also allows you to specifically understand what tools you are using are driving awareness, for example; are my social media actions producing better results than my radio presence? This may determine where you focus the budget you have.
Researching your customers’ journey can change your perspective. Often, we are stuck in a rut in our thinking, different people in the same business can view the customer very differently. You can use the customer journey tool to break down silos in the business, to view the business from a new perspective and to change the normal thought process. It is also very useful to align the entire company and to bring coordination amongst teams. For example, the marketing department will have a greater appreciation of customer service when they understand the significance it plays in the customer journey. Sales teams like to take credit for purchase orders but will understand how creating awareness upstream of the purchase creates their future funnel of prospects.
UNDERSTAND YOUR CUSTOMER’S EXPERIENCE
Understanding the customer journey ultimately gives you an understanding of your customer’s experience. Better experiences lead to happier customers. Happier customers
not only buy from you but are more inclined to return for repeat purchases and to advocate to others on your behalf. It is therefore necessary to make your customers’ experiences
as painless and informative as possible. For example, how quickly can your customers get answers to questions when they are researching you? Do they have access to real time
customer responses or perhaps a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions section on your website?
Simply put, I recommend sitting down with a piece of paper and identifying and mapping each stage of your customer’s journey through your business. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. You cannot expect to get phone calls and trade enquiries if you are not increasing awareness of your name in the correct channels, where your target market is listening and viewing. And importantly, when they’ve found you, you must have the available infrastructure of information to pique their interest and answer their questions about your offering.
This could be a once in a year exercise, or as often as you like. Like nature, the customer journey is always changing, as the ways in which people interact with the marketplace
is always changing. The important thing is not to lose sight of your customer’s experience of your business from the first step to the last, which will deliver value and revenue
for your business. ✽
Paul Moran is a Business Development Executive for Horticulture Connected. Paul has worked in Digital Sales & Marketing with high profile tech companies across Ireland previously and holds a Msc in Strategic Management & Planning from UCD Michael Smurfit Business School. When he is not buried in marketing, he loves to garden and grow his own food. He can be contacted at email@example.com