Smoothing the path for the customer journey

By Lynn Manternach | Guest Editorial

When was the last time you had a frustrating customer experience? Unfortunately for most of us, it probably was fairly recently.

That’s because in most companies, different departments are responsible for different piec­es of the customer experience. Marketing is re­sponsible for attracting customers. Sales is in charge of making the sale. Support helps solve customer problems. The different goals that drive each department typically result in a dis­jointed experience for customers.

The companies that are the most successful at defining and implementing a truly differen­tiated customer experience are those that start with a clearly defined brand. Brands need to tell a coherent and authentic story, and the customer experience needs to bring that story to life. Improving the alignment between your company’s brand and the customer experience can have a clear impact on your bottom line.

It’s an approach that companies like Apple, Google and Amazon have been demonstrating for a long time: Differentiate yourself based on the experience you deliver to customers, not just on the products you sell.

According to a Walker study, “Customers 2020: A Progress Report,” by the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

Companies that successfully implement a customer experience strategy achieve higher customer satisfaction rates, reduced custom­er churn and increased revenues. If that’s not enough to get you seriously thinking about your customer’s experience, consider this: 60 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience, according to research by American Express.

Customers can engage with brands in more ways and places than ever before, and their ex­pectations continue to rise. We expect consis­tent and continuous products and services with instant access on any device. Customers tend to view all of their interactions with a company as connected, but most companies don’t do a very good job of making it feel that way.

One way to improve the customer experi­ence and your brand is with a customer jour­ney map. It’s a powerful way to connect the pieces and improve the customer experience.

According to Adam Richardson of Frog De­sign, writing in Harvard Business Review, “A cus­tomer journey map is a very simple idea: a dia­gram that illustrates the steps your customers(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination. The more touchpoints you have, the more complicat­ed — but necessary — such a map becomes.”

A customer journey map provides a bird’s eye view of the entire customer experience. It helps you determine where the customer expe­rience and the brand don’t align well, where there are communication gaps and where communications can be tweaked to improve the customer experience.

The mapping process can be a time-consum­ing and fairly intensive process. It will touch pretty much every aspect of your organization and typically requires answering some tough questions, but it can have an outsized impact on your business and your brand.

Your customer journey mapping should not be a one-time event. Change is a constant – for customer preferences and behaviors, technolo­gy and your brand. So it’s important to map the customer journey regularly to see which touchpoints are still working well and what needs to evolve.

The two greatest assets of an organization are their brand and their relationships with customers. The customer journey could be the perfect area on which to focus your brand re­sources in 2019.

Lynn Manternach is a brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. located in Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities. Contact her at