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Customer journeys are the key to CEM

Do you know your customers? Do you know what they want, or can you anticipate the information they are trying to seek out? Of course, the answer to this question should be a resounding “yes” but often, organizations respond with a lackluster “I don’t know” instead. The consequences for your brand and organization? Abysmal.

Digital Clarity Group recently published a report on the state of digital transformation in higher education. What we found was that universities and colleges in the US and the UK are overwhelmed with the everyday stuff – keeping up with the chaos of managing large amounts of content and other daily tasks, leaving little time for marketing initiatives or tackling more complex issues around customer experience management. The same can be said for many other industries; this is not a problem solely unique to higher education. In fact, many organizations are struggling with the shift from web content to customer experience management and the total impossibility of CEM. According to an analyst survey, less than 1% of brands offer “excellent” customer experience. And yet, customers are becoming increasingly savvy and are expecting more from the brands and organizations with whom they interact.

So where does that leave organizations who have yet to blaze the complicated and complex path of CEM? Crying in a corner somewhere, probably. But wait! There is hope. One small step to understanding customers, leads to one giant step toward customer experience management. To tackle CEM, take small steps to better understand your customers. A typical organization will have a small number of high-value customer journeys – paths a certain segment of customer will follow, which logically has a beginning and an end.

Mapping Customer Journeys

Take for example a high school student, Julie, applying to college. Julie first starts by looking up different colleges online. She probably looks at program credentials, reads testimonials from other students, looks at pictures of the campus, and reads about the different facilities and campus highlights. Perhaps she even visits the campus or looks up location-tagged images on Google and instagram. She likely meets or chats online with current students and professors of the department she’s interested in applying to. Julie looks up entry requirements, application tips, and emails a few contacts at the school to get a better understanding of what they are looking for in prospective students. She looks for scholarship funds to apply to, and residence options for once she is accepted. All these interactions, from start to finish can be traced across multiple departments, teams, and technologies. And yet, Julie doesn’t care, or even realize, that she is cutting across different departments, teams, and programs to gather this information. What she cares about is gathering the necessary information to make a decision and ultimately applying to that school. For many post-secondary institutions, this is considered a high value journey – attracting applications from high quality candidates.

To better understand this particular journey of attracting and delivering value to prospective students, the University must pull together a cross-section of individuals who can bring insights and information for each part of the journey: department and academic information, campus life, application management, visual imagery, personal contact with students and staff, housing information, etc. By bringing together a diverse team – that cuts across departments, schools, and groups – the university is able to map out one journey (in this case Julie’s decision to apply to their school) in order to better understand – and ultimately support – the decision making process. In turn, the school will attract more qualified candidates and be able to provide a superior experience, thus starting the University’s (brand’s) interaction with a new customer on a positive note.

In this light, customer journeys, and the mapping of customer journeys, is a highly practical way to understand what your customers are doing and how to better understand the paths through which they are interacting with your brand. This is not about what you want your customer to do, but rather, where your customers are already doing, and how your organization can better support and engage them along the way.

Tackling customer experience management through customer journeys is a practical and strategic way to develop cross-departmental teams and organization-wide, customer-centric thinking; it helps to start the process of beginning to envision the customers experience – a small step that can have a monumental impact on your organization’s shift to customer experience management now, and in years to come.


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