As businesses focus more on their customer relationships following the pandemic, there has been much talk of customer journey orchestration.
Forrester Wave research is regularly published on the subject and leading consultants wax lyrical about its advantages. Journey orchestration technology is a brilliant way for brands to boost customer experience, build trust and increase the lifetime value of each customer.
Journey Orchestration Defined
So what exactly is journey orchestration? Think about the wide array of touchpoints that customers use to interact with businesses, whether insuring a car, making an inquiry, booking a holiday or reporting an issue. They’ll visit price comparison sites, mobile apps, websites, sign up for emails, make phone calls and visit the store. Their journeys over time across these touchpoints are full of opportunities for brands to make the customer’s life simpler and help them achieve their goals.
Journey orchestration offers a unifying software that observes the varied routes that customers take across all their interactions with brands (both on and offline), then arbitrates the appropriate conversation (irrespective of channel) the brand should take to help the customer complete their journey in the most effective and satisfying way.
Journey orchestration has come into its own over the past couple of years with the expansion of customer touchpoints, from websites, mobile apps, email communications and call centers to online searches, social media interactions and customer reviews. Customers are creating a plethora of rich, signed-in first-party data about their intentions and desires. Understanding the signals about customer intent is vital — if you can see they are just doing initial research, don’t alienate them by bombarding them with sales or marketing offers. Or if they have a simple query, make sure your systems can act to help them answer it. Customer journey software uses the latest technology, such as machine learning, to interpret behavioral data and suggest the right course of action at that precise moment. It’s fast becoming the key technology enabler for brands that want to be truly customer-centric.
Understanding in-the-Moment Context
A fundamental part of true journey orchestration is its ability to use journey context in the moment as the customer interacts. It allows brands to understand customer journeys as they unfold and can weave journey insight in real-time to provide a heightened customer experience. For instance, if the platform identifies hot spots in the customer journey — perhaps customers calling into the call center about a specific problem — it can suggest self-service content to help them resolve their issue online. It would also connect this insight with the call center systems, providing call center agents with detailed, up to the second, information about a customer’s interactions up to that point and more importantly suggest the ‘next best conversation’ for the agent to their problem. This is just a small example, in essence a true journey orchestration platform is designed to continuously orchestrate all interactions across sales, service and marketing in the context of every individual customer journey.
This holistic, cross-departmental approach of journey orchestration is transformational because, all too often, each siloed department is incentivized to use customer data to meet certain goals. Marketers are incentivized to maximize campaign metrics and increase acquisitions. Customer service is under pressure to reduce call times. Sales wants to find the quickest route to closing a deal.
By visualizing the entire journey based on actual customer activity, businesses can break down departmental silos and help the customer on their way by understanding their intentions and proposing the most suitable conversation, irrespective of which department benefits. We call this being customer-led, not brand-led.
Focus on the Journey, Not the Steps
Focusing on journeys rather than individual interactions is the key to engaging customers and boosting growth. Researchers at Forrester believe that journey-centric companies achieve “higher revenue, reduced costs and better customer experience.” Forrester’s report, Journey Centricity: Learn from The Leaders by Joana de Quintanilha, says “forward-thinking companies” such as Bank of Montreal (BMO), The Economist, E.ON, and Lloyds Banking Group are “shifting their focus away from channels and touchpoints and toward journeys instead.” Meanwhile, The Boston Consulting Group finds that journey transformation can improve advocacy 20-40%, reduce cost-to-serve by up to 25%, and increase revenue by up to a fifth. It’s the breadth of value journey orchestration provides across the business that makes it appealing.
But a word of warning. Not all software that claims to offer journey orchestration meets the criteria.
It is vital to distinguish between the journey the customer takes and the journey the brand would like them to take. To really put yourself in the customer’s shoes means asking yourself what they are looking to achieve. As management guru Tom Peters put it, marketing is about understanding the customer’s “jobs to be done” — and then helping them to achieve them.
We see some ham-fisted efforts at trying to guide the customer journey and sell them things they may not be ready to buy. Using drop-down menus to allow marketers to plot a journey ‘path’ for the customer, usually pushing customers toward a sale. That can end up putting customers off if purchase is not their intention, or worse, getting them to sign on the dotted line for something they don’t want and later regret buying. Certainly not a good look for any customer-centric brand.
True ‘outside-in’ journey orchestration involves listening to customer intentions by following their journey and then making an inference about what they are actually interested in. The brand can then optimise or orchestrate the journey in real time.
The technology is becoming a must-have for brands in today’s overcrowded digital landscape with a multitude of competing channels, platforms, outlets and touchpoints. Today’s successful brands, whether large traditional brands, direct-to-consumer retailers from CUUP to Burrow, or tech giants such as Amazon and Uber all have customer journey-centricity at their heart.
Every business needs to be on this journey. Being able to start small with journey orchestration, listening to just a few customer touchpoints and orchestrating simple conversations between them is key.
Then, as brands gather insight and see actual journey patterns, they can expand the use across the business over time to really enable customer-led transformation. Like any journey, journey orchestration starts with a single step.
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Jason is a marketing veteran with over 17 years of experience in B2B Marketing. He is responsible for Thunderhead’s brand and marketing, go-to-market execution, and for ensuring Thunderhead’s customers and partners are always at the heart of our business.