The foundation of pretty much any business is gaining and keeping customers.
What do I mean by a customer decision journey? This is the process your customers firstly select your business to consider buying from, then evaluate your business, and finally buy your product of service, but it also encompasses their experiences post purchase and into buying or using again building a positive performance loop.
This is how McKinsey has described the journey, they are the consultants who have focused on publicising customer journey’s.
As i teach this approach I try to simplify this and make it more applicable to business life. HEre’s what my version looks like
Lets think going through an example. It comes to around noon. Before noon, Im unaware of any particular needs that I have, but I notice my stomach growling and that I start to feel hungry. I now am aware that I have a need. Maybe before I feel hungry I see a sign for chicken rice and wow, my hunger is triggered, and I realise if Im not hungry now I soon will be.
Then I think what can I find to feed my hunger. I see a sign for Boon Tong Kee Chicken rice. I think and remember it was great the last time I tried it. But there is a new place Aunty Bibik’s Nyonya nearby… maybe I should try that. I haven’t heard about it, and so I ring a friend and they say “well its ok”… so maybe I go back to Chicken rice. But there’s a lomg queue, its not so easy to try, so I decide to try Aunt Bibiks, and it was OK, but expensive. This was my purchase journey, and we go through this many times a week in making our own purchase decisions.
Lets have a look at how we can use this journey to arrange our commercial approach.
While as a customer originally i was unaware of my hunger, but the sign for Chicken rice TRIGGERED awareness of my need. It didn’t create the need, but made me aware.
This is the first step for business in this journey- either trigger awareness of the need in your customers or trigger awareness that you can supply as solution. This is done through providing a strong emotional reason to appraise or reappraise both the category and address the need.
The next stage is to create an expectation in my mind. For Boon Tong Kee i remember a positive experience as well as remembering all the awards they have received. For Aunty Bibik I knew nothing until I rang a friend. Here our job is to encourage customers to believe the expectations we set. To communicate how our products are different and better solutions to your need. This should be done in a way that creates trust, trust that it will meet and exceed your need.
After creating a positive expectation, then the next stage is to make what you offer easy to buy. Find ways to simplify purchase. On this occasion the long queue made chicken rice less easy to purchase so i opted for Nyonya food. Here we are trying to get customers to try it, by making buying and owning easier to do.
The final step is the experience of the product. I aim to deliver a distinctive experience that exceeds the expectations set up prior to purchase. For my lunch, the nyonya food was ok. I had low expectations and these expectations were met. I may or may not try again. But our aim here is to persuade our customers to prefer our product as we would either like to have repeat purchase or for our current customers to become advocates for our business. Why a distinctive experience… again because we want this to be better than the expectations we’ve communicated and to generate some form of loyalty amongst customers so the next time i feel hungry i choose the same restaurant again.
So Ive explained the general principles of the customer decision journey, so how can we use this theory in managing our commercial process?
As we move through this process, customers receive information building both image expectation and value expectation perceptions- we talked about building brand value through understanding image, expectations and experiences before. Here’s another description of how this occurs with different means of connecting with Customers…
Some customer contacts are fantastic at building the image of your business generating an expectation- advertising for example. But an advert isn’t really a tangible experience and really doesn’t enhance the perceived value of your business, that tends to come more from the physical interactions with your business- the website you have, the store, call centre or finally the product or service. This diagram clearly shows what each customer contact does in the role of building value for your customers.
And here’s how each customer contact can play a different role in the customers journey- triggering, believing, trying and prefering
This diagram is also from McKinsey, who then did research on how pervasive this process was, here’s their measurements form France looking at the influence of online contacts.
So how do you influence the decision journey? Well you can only manage what you measure. And the implication is that you need to be able to measure the impact of your inputs on the outcomes of your customers. And this can be tracked or mapped as the Customer Decision journey
Here’s an example from a Power Company, how they have mapped the experience of their customers dealing with them
Here they look at specific customers, assess what the experience was in going through each stage of the process of being associated with the company, as well as noting down what works and what doesn’t work in building customer experience.
The map doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to identify the critical steps in buying and using your product or service and also how well you performance against customer expectations. From here you seek to improve sustainably each contact point, and maybe even add more contact points as you understand the buying journey better and better.
My advice- give it a go, you’ll be delighted and surprised at the results.