By: Siavash Habibi
The past couple of months have certainly had an effect on most businesses, and while some are hoping things will get back to normal, many businesses are taking this opportunity to pivot or upgrade their approach, their structures and processes. As always, when considering the why, how and what in terms of change, it’s good to take a deeper look at the customers needs and wants.
The customer journey is nowadays a staple in outlining business processes and setting strategies for improving value creation. Digital companies have sprouted up with tools to help companies easily map out the customer journey, painting a better picture of the steps customers take in their engagement with resellers and retailers – often aided by consultancies that help strategize and implement improvements. Yet my take is that most of the customer journey maps or flowcharts, particularly for product based companies, seemingly have two apparent problems. First, they look more like the retailers or resellers journey; and second, they are linear.
The Retailer/Resellers Journey
Many if not most customer journeys start with the customer entering the store or website. From there, there are a number of steps on guiding them to a product, and then perhaps signing up to a loyalty program; followed by making a purchase, sometimes getting a delivery, and in cases also outlining a refund/return situation. Sure, the customer does have to go through those steps in their engagement with the retailer, and there are many improvements to be made with how the customer experiences those steps – but they often represent the retailers/resellers journey more than the customer's journey.
The Customers Actual Journey
At TechBuddy we work a lot with consumer electronics and have learned a great deal about consumers’ frustrations around buying and using various devices. Using the learnings from that, I’ve outlined what a customer journey actually might look like, and why it should be represented as a circular process.
A key understanding, and the main point of this text is that the customer’s journey almost always starts and ends in the home or office, and revolves around various needs. Say that a person is not very tech-savvy and they are in need of a laptop. Not knowing much about laptops, they don’t quite know where to start in that process.
Where do they start their search?. Should they google laptop and see what comes up? What is the difference between a €400 laptop and a €2000 laptop? And what does 4 core or gigahertz mean anyway?
How should they choose between HP, Lenovo, Aces, Asus, Microsoft, or Apple products? On what basis? They all have models with similar features.
Provided they solved this, they now need to figure out where to buy the laptop. Which store? online or offline? - what are the tradeoffs?
How do they get started using it? Configurations, apps, software, antivirus, browser, security settings, and connecting to the network - it may sound like a piece of cake for some, but a source of frustration for many.
The real issue is and the one most apparent is when customers start having problems with their devices. Who do they call? The brand? The reseller? Their neighbor?
When the laptop is no longer used, how do they dispose of it? There is sensitive information in there, and pictures? Is it worth anything to sell second hand?
Finally, when the customer wants to dispose of their laptop, generally that means they are in the market for a new one. Having the insight of their context and what their experience was with the old product is of great value in guiding the customer to finding their new product. This is why the customer's actual journey is circular, i.e. maintaining the relationship with the customer from one need to the next.
While most of us may feel that these are easy questions, there are millions upon millions in Europe that have these needs and frustrations. Only in Sweden, there are over 1.1 million people who do not consider themselves digital natives. Telia conducted a study showing that 8 out of 10 people in Sweden experience tech anxiety. Maybe a laptop is easier for many, but what about smart devices such as smart lighting or smart locks? What about the connected wireless speakers? Or a humidifier?
When you leave a gap in the customer journey, you are basically telling the customer to call someone else. You are expecting the customer to have a different number for every gap. Meanwhile, there are massive marketing campaigns to bring the customers in by competing on price. These cut into the margins without contributing much to customer loyalty. Brands and resellers are much more likely to gain customer loyalty by solving their customers problems, quickly! Referencing an old Harvard Business Review article, they did a study showing that “...delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does.”.
Given these insights, TechBuddy aims to solve for these gaps and provide a solution to meet the customers needs and complete the customer journey cycle on behalf of brands and retailers/resellers. We aim to be complementary to the industry and helping them bring more value to customers. We will do this by being a solution provider for the entire needs cycle, the customer journey, through our industry partners. By understanding the customer's home context and how they engage with their products, we will help our partners better meet their needs and reduce their frustrations. This will ensure that the customers get the right products, that live longer, and provide better value - ultimately increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.
According to a study by Bain & Company, increasing retention by 5% increases profits by 25-90%. Meanwhile, getting new customers can be up to 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones. The logic is quite clear. Investing in service and helping customers at home is a strong, and relatively inexpensive way to boost retention and thereby also profits.
So the question is:
Whose journey have you mapped? Is it your customer's actual journey?
Does the end of a customer journey imply the beginning of a new journey?
And if so, should your customer journey map be circular?
Finally, have you included solving your customers problems with the products/services you sell, quickly, as an important part of your customer journey and retention?
And if you are not solving your customers frustrations, who is?
Siavash Habibi - COO / Communications & Strategy at TechBuddy
TechBuddy grundades i Stockholm 2016 och erbjuder TechBuddy personlig teknikhjälp där den verkligen behövs - hemma hos kunden - oavsett produkt eller leverantör. Allt för att göra teknik roligt, hållbar och tillgänglig för alla.