For many organizations strategy is misinterpreted as a collection of often diverse, tactics that they employ to sell product or services without any overarching "thing" that ties all of those disparate tactical activities together. When it comes to the customer journey, it’s common for us to instinctively project our own wants and needs rather than basing our hypotheses off of real customer insights.
Cognizant Netcentric’s approach to customer journey management is to listen, understand, and act in the moment. We enable organizations to be present and actively communicate with their prospects and customers, processing and responding to cumulative data that inform the next best action.
Many organizations channel their resources towards the end of the conversion funnel, where the user finally makes a purchase, submits an inquiry, or subscribes to a newsletter. This is what makes sense to the business, since their focus is on improving revenue, sales volumes, and other similar KPIs. What they often fail to realize, however, is that this concluding step is often the least important to their customers.
There are many crucial steps in the journey that are less tangible:
Cognizant Netcentric has developed a framework that creates insight-driven hypotheses which evolve and adapt to an individual's behavior and interactions. Broadly speaking, this consists of :
When you look at how companies brand and communicate their products, most are competing around features and functionality. But in the end, this is rarely why people buy a particular product.
What drives people to buy?
Ultimately, when a person looks for a product or service, they’re seeking a solution to a problem.
Let’s say my refrigerator broke down and I’m looking for a replacement that’s both economic and reliable. I could start by looking on an independent review panel like ‘Which’ or an aggregation site like ‘Pricerunner’ to find the best and most efficient model within my price range. Or I could do this myself by going directly to a few trusted retailers and applying a price or rating filter (though this would take extra time).
So, the task at hand is a product evaluation without investing tons of time. The problem I’m trying to solve is identifying the best performing, most cost-effective replacement for a refrigerator that I hadn’t budgeted for.
If we take this a step further, we can ask why I want this particular product. This can lead to a range or answers:
Rather than a list of features, we’re now looking at trade-offs between replacing an essential household item or risking disappointing a partner. As Theodore Levitt from the Harvard business School said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” In fact, it may not even be the quarter-inch hole that they want, but ultimately a goal of hanging a family photo or putting a shelf up to show off their Master’s degree.
You can ask someone why they would choose a Dyson supersonic hair dryer for hundreds of dollars rather than a hair dryer with equivalent specs at a significantly lower cost. It’s because they buy into Dyson’s vision of ‘providing new technology for a better life’ or being a ‘pioneer of authenticity’ or whatever else resonated with them.
The takeaway here is that when we develop a new product or create new features, we should consider the deeper reasons behind the features, and make sure they align with the core beliefs surrounding the brand and products.
Of course, features and functionality are significant. A product ultimately needs to meet the customer’s needs.
Dyson’s supersonic hair dryer is highly efficient and uniquely designed. But there are hundreds – if not thousands – of competing brands that will adapt, learn, advance, and align themselves to what customers are looking for. So, features and functionality are important, but won’t guarantee customer loyalty and longevity.
What cannot be copied or replicated is your brand; your core truth. If you sell based on a ‘why’ that resonates with your customers, you may find that they stay with your brand even when competitors match your features, price, or functionality.
The actions a customer takes is a reflection of the experience your brand has delivered throughout their journey.
This includes both the purchase process and the onboarding process that follows – which are informed by their experience on your website or their interactions with your platform or team when submitting an inquiry or negotiating a sale. This is where I think the core elements discussed in the first two stages, Search and Assess, must permeate the entire organization. This is where your people and product need to inhabit the core values of your organization.
This means analyzing data to understand how people are using your platform, optimizing it to give them the best possible experience, and making sure it’s consistent throughout.
In the initial stages of the customer journey, you will have set certain expectations surrounding the persona of your brand. If your advertising and sales process has been very casual and personable, but your platform becomes very corporate and professional, it will create cognitive dissonance amongst your users. This applies to everything from how your platform greets the user to how they communicate error messages. This type of UX copy needs to be thought out and treated like any other content, as it conveys the personality and values of your brand at crucial moments throughout their journey.
Most retailers and companies selling physical products have a defined beginning and end to their onboarding process. So what happens when they graduate from this process? I sometimes think of the first time I left home. I was woefully unprepared for the real world, and began what I like to refer to as the Crushing-Debt-And-Crippling-Anxiety chapter of my life.
Jokes aside, I do think this relates to your users. If we consider for a moment that every interaction post-onboarding as either a debit or a credit from our users perspective. A bad experience creates debt, and a good experience creates credit. We build a lot of credit upfront because the customer is being wooed by sales and wined and dined by attractive marketing messages. They may experience a honeymoon period as the new product saves them time, money, and gives them better results. But after that, they’re often left out in the wild to figure out where to go next, unless there’s a new feature release, or the price changes.
What we need to realize is that no matter how amazing your platform is, eventually “amazing” becomes the new status quo. At this point, many companies start to unknowingly build up that debt of subpar or bad experiences with users.
This is where the support phase comes in. This phase is all about making sure we credit our users more than we debit them. If we see that debt building up, we take action to put them back in a good place.
One of the simplest ways to do this is purely through communication. This doesn’t mean firing off blanket emails about new features or pushing for them to upgrade their products or plans, but ensuring that every interaction you have with them feels relevant and personalized.
Communication beyond onboarding should take into account as many user actions (data signals) as possible, and always aim to offer the user more value.
Is there something they haven’t implemented or done yet that could add value to their previous purchase experience? Let them know, and give them clear signposts about the benefits of doing it. Haven’t seen them log in in a while? Drop them an email or notification to see if everything is OK, or if they need help with anything specifically. These things create credit.
Getting people to recommend your product isn’t so complex in the end. At a basic level, it’s about personalized two-way communication, and owning every action on your platform, good or bad. We should always strive to understand our customers’ needs and context at every step of their journey to make decisions that better serve their goals.