Consider the customer's journey
by Colette A. Weil, MBA

Believe it or not, consistency throughout your customer’s entire journey or experience with your firm is the key to increased revenue. While this might seem intuitive, consistently delivering on your firm’s brand promise throughout your interactions with a customer is crucial in today’s multi-channel, multi-touchpoint, multi-demanding marketplace. Think about top firms that demonstrate consistency: Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom, Starbucks, Progressive Insurance—they deliver on their promises across all interactions with customers. While you can measure your customer satisfaction with individual interactions, the critical component is that the entire customer journey or cumulative experience with your firm is consistent. In a national study of consumers across 12 industries on customer journeys, McKinsey identified that measuring customer satisfaction on the journey is “30 percent more predictive of overall customer satisfaction than measuring happiness at each individual interaction. In addition, maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential to not only increase customer satisfaction by 20 percent but also to lift revenue by up to 15 percent while lowering the cost of serving customers by as much as 20 percent.” Your customer’s journey is more important than a single positive interaction. They might receive a helpful, on-time delivery, had a good experience on the phone or received an informative e-mail with a coupon. But in today’s world, customers experience your firm in multiple channels, at multiple touch points, from your website to the retail store or showroom to customer service, delivery, in-store returns, e-mails and more. “Customers create clusters of interactions that make their individual interactions less important than their cumulative experience.”* Let’s use a simple example in your daily life. You choose to go to a restaurant by referral, or after visiting the website, checking the reviews, the menu, the location and price points. You expect what you will see in the branding and positioning, the brand’s promise, food quality and service and possibly resolution of problems. The consistency you experience throughout the entire experience will dictate if you will make a return visit. You can tolerate some inconsistency—perhaps slow service. But, if your second experience is not consistent with the first and worse—you lose trust, and may not return again. If all things are consistent with your first experience and the service has improved, you might become a loyal customer. For retail businesses, consistency is mandatory. “Consistency on most customer journeys is an important predictor of overall customer experience and loyalty.” Consistency builds trust. A feeling of trust in your business is the biggest driver of satisfaction and loyalty. Loyalty engenders positive word of mouth and return visits. If you are able to resolve and overcome a customer’s dissatisfaction (perhaps caused by the overwhelming demands on your time as a result of audits) and you have been consistent in your service until that time, you will more likely retain your customer. Loyalty by returning customers is the core of your business, as most businesses. Consistency in your branding and company promises, and the operational strategies you use, are critical for customer trust. Customer trust builds goodwill, the intangible that helps build a strong brand. Geico Insurance is one of many firms recognized for consistent customer journeys. Their untraditional advertising positions the firm to save you money while their tools and service execute their promise. They are on target with their audience, adults 25-49 with HHI $30,000+ whose purchase decisions are driven by the desire for consistent quality, simplicity of purchase and ongoing use, stress-free encounters and accessibility when service is needed. Geico measures satisfaction at every point in the customer’s journey and the consistency with their brand promises. If you say you are a local, discount HME retailer, your pricing, product and service strategies need to consistently reflect this every day. If your brand promise is to provide unsurpassed, compassionate care, but your firm is adapting to the new Medicare/Medicaid payment realities that are affecting delivery and service, you might need to check your consistency in executing your brand promise. Additionally, businesses that consistently deliver on their brand promises use ongoing marketing communications to reinforce customer experiences, and reinforce their consistent customer performance. So what does this all mean in planning and improvement of your business and revenues? View your business in customer journeys or experiences for consistency, rather than individual department, function or single point interactions. Develop typical customer journeys and evaluate the consistency in brand, promises, messaging, treatment of customer, service, follow-up and customer communications. Pinpoint and fix areas where negative situations commonly occur. You have many, many customer journeys. But there are typically three to five that matter most for your customers and your business. An example of a customer journey might be: referred by friend or professional; visits website; calls to confirm product, pricing and location; visits store, evaluates choices; purchases or rent;, receives delivery; receives confirmation call; calls about returning an item; comes to store to return; receives company emails/mail/posts/ follow up messages. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and take your customer’s journey. Would you tolerate being your customer? The bottom line is that inconsistency actually causes you to expend unnecessary resources—and does not improve the customer’s journey. Most importantly, it jeopardizes the possibility of your customer’s consistency patronizing your business. And that is lost revenue. * The Three C’s of Customer Satisfaction, Consistency, Consistency, Consistency, Alfonso Pulido, Dorian Stone, and John Stravel, McKinsey & Company, March 2014.