Understanding the Customer Journey

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Customer Journey

The explosion of media options that are now within the grasp of the consuming public has fostered a great deal of conversation about mapping the customer journey. 

The PathSight understanding of how biologic instincts inform one’s worldview, personal preferences and moral judgements provides a unique lens with which to scrutinize these interactions. From that point of view we have observed a raft of successful and impactful journeys across healthcare (wellness, disease protocol management, member experience portals), live events (sports, music), social causes (donor behavior, volunteerism) and beyond. Simply put, it is our belief that the most successful customer journeys emulate the natural process of relationship building. This is not to minimize the complexity of the challenge but rather to point out that it is ultimately a human endeavor with models to guide us.

If we are to embed a brand and its related value proposition into the lives of a customer or prospective customer to seek their affinity and loyalty, a bit of context always helps.  We suggest that the first step is to define where we are in the journey relative to a relationship continuum.  As an example, consider a version of a corporate wellness program that introduced wellness principles to employees (i.e. customers) to improve the corporate culture across three factors of wellness: Nutrition, Fitness and Mindfulness.  In this case this new service was introduced to all employees via a mobile platform and app that encouraged employees to participate.  The relationship continuum considered levels:    

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This first level of the continuum is an obvious but necessary step. For this new service, everyone began at the Cold Start phase.  The program had to be introduced, first impressions made and the journey begun.  The ideal outcome is to move people through the continuum to Advocacy.  This is when customers become word of mouth activists, become extensions of the brand and its value proposition. This results in the acquisition of new customers. As customer populations mature and ongoing clustering continues, a range of relationships will span this continuum.

A second continuum is formed by rating each customer’s level of interest in the content of the curriculum. Thus, one task for the enrollment process is to be able to make a judgment as to their level of interest and aptitude for each bucket of content.

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Clearly, if we are reaching out to a person to offer activities in any of these topical areas, understanding their level of interest and expertise is crucial.  Even in a cursory manner this is an important way to demonstrate insight and knowledge of our customers.  This second continuum aligns with the first continuum and provides guidance for content and engagement management.

The knowledge of where we are in our customer relationship continuum and their interest in the topics being offered allows us to move to define the tactics of engagement.  The tactics are bucketed into three broad categories that reflect the deepening involvement as the relationship progresses.   

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Information in this paradigm is defined as any exchange of information that does not require a response from the customer.  This often occurs in the early stages of awareness-building in the relationship continuum.  However, it can occur at any level of intimacy.

Dialogue and Engagement represents a range of tactics that typically extend the relationship beyond one directional communications.  This is when dialogue expands and information flows both ways. Here we don’t just want to know if the email was received, opened and read. Inherent in the tactic is a request for a response.   These tactics can extend to the level of ongoing information sharing such as posting updates or progress in a challenge or group activity.

Benefits and Transactions are when the dialogue elevates to either a literal transaction or the exchange of a benefit.  This is where the alignment of the messaging paradigm to the customer instinct really pays off as the relationship demonstrates trust and resonance. 

This layered approach to the customer journey is further personalized by the PathSight Mix Assignment process.  These Mixes overlay with the other continuums in a manner that allows personalization to be operationalized.  The maturity of the relationship, one’s content intensity and the purpose of any single engagement tactic are all variables for which we can account.  This allows us to add the optimal words, images and themes that each Mix suggests to create maximum impact. As the customer journey extends over time, this alignment of message to the customer’s instincts, all within the context of these continuums ensures the appropriateness of more personal demands.  Asking for a transaction or delivering a benefit is more appropriate to a relationship where trust has been established. This stands in relief to those who attempt to transact after simply sending a promotional flyer. Clearly the speed with which relationships mature is based on the reason for the relationship (i.e. context) along with the interaction of all of these variables.               

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In this model as the relationship begins, a single Voice of the Campaign with as broad appeal as possible can be used to establish awareness as one begins to share information.  As the relationship moves towards one that is more informed and dialogic, it is important to align and reflect the Mix 1, 2 or 3 preferences to the customer.  Finally, when a Transaction is requested or a personal Benefit is extended, ideally it is done with maximum personalization. 

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An important component to this model is the role of Measurement.  In any campaign a sequence of behavioral outcomes is typically created so that in aggregate they accomplish the desired goal or Key Performance Index (KPI).  For instance, the wellness program in our example targets participation rates across the company by category. 

As the campaigns launch there are awareness building activities, dialogic engagements and transactions that are sequenced for nutrition, fitness and mindfulness.   Instead of waiting to the end, each engagement tactic is measured along the way so that progress can be tracked and adjustments made as the plans roll out.  It should also be noted that this process can proceed rapidly or slowly over time, depending on motivation and the importance of the campaign to the participants.

Business Development Journey

Extending a company’s customer base via new business development can be organized by the same matrix as described above but the context shifts to a broader population.  To meet the challenge of attracting a larger body of prospective customers to a brand and its value proposition the PathSight method is organized according to the science of community building.  There are a few principles that need to be adhered to for maximum success.

    1. Authenticity:  To ensure that we begin outreach from a credible position it is crucial to identify those deemed to have authenticity on the topic at hand.  Typically, this factor represents the interaction of Mix and Content passion. 
    2. Sequencing:  Building a market presence requires the attention to the sequencing of consumers.  This begins with those who are emotional gate keepers to the topic of the outreach.  The topic (e.g.fashion, food, causes or outdoor living) and Mix intersect to define who is most likely to be an early adopter or influencer in this process.
    3. Personal Capital:  More value than points, swag or cash is earning an endorsement from a real world influencer. To ask for someone to spend their personal brand capital in a way that puts their position of influence in jeopardy is the ultimate endorsement and is often a valuation that escapes calculation in traditional marketing campaigns.

Consider this tribal model as a strategic plan that can be managed by a very specific set of tactics.  In this model, the brand articulates it’s value proposition.  The color make up of each person represents the degree to which they align with that value proposition.  The red is alignment and the blue is disinterest or distaste for the proposition.  The first group, Opinion Leaders, are those in the targeted tribe that have the most authority or credibility on the brand and the value proposition. These Opinion Leaders can come from anywhere but their endorsement carries weight in their world. Who they are can vary by topic or lifestyle or social status.   Opinion Leaders within the PathSight model, often display the qualities of interest in new things, a desire to have the latest and a disdain for convention. Thus, if there is a new product or service launch, Mix 2 is often a great starting point to find Opinion Leaders to sanction them.

The second group, Early Adopters, starts to show some blue, meaning that their interest in the new product or service will be less universal than that of the Opinion Leaders. For them, engagement needs to be a bit more targeted which often is the opposite approach marketers have taken when they expand their outreach.  In the lexicon of PathSight, Mix 0 is often willing to adopt a product early in its lifestyle thus often filling the Early Adopter role, especially for things that are too extreme or norm breaking.  Their natural curiosity and optimism are great traits upon which to engage them. 

The Mainstream for product adoption often follows with Mixes 1 and 4.  They are full throated endorsers of the status quo.  When a product launch is reaching broad adoption, these two groups will be there.  Again, the amount of blue in their profile is substantial so the outreach needs to be targeted.  Finally those that are rooted in social order, traditions and conformity (Mix 3) are typically the last to join these movements and are referenced as Casual Participants.

When products launch successfully they represent a community of people that have been connected to each other through their endorsement and product purchases.  Sometimes brands abandon this Sequenced Approach. Often what follows are media generated fads that tend to flare up and flame out when their basis of authority has not been established first.

For an example of how this model has been applied to a corporate product launch, consider the impact that the digital world has had upon retail banking.  Like healthcare, banks must deliver an array of digital tools as the table stakes of being in the business.  Despite this migration of services, banks are losing customers to well developed digital products and have begun to erode the appeal of full service banking.

To combat this assault PathSight has been working with banks to redefine their value propositions as they seek to extend their appeal to their full range of customers.  The key is to do this in a way that acknowledges the unique demands of each customer Mix.  As an industry with long traditions as to how business is conducted, banks often struggle with the conundrum of trying to be all things to all customers.

PathSight has been able to help them move beyond the false choice of abandoning their traditional customers for a new set of services.  Rather, the PathSight business development model has been deployed in its sequenced evolutionary process.  Early Adopters (Mix 2) are being offered new, cutting edge services that comes within the context of their traditional trusted banking brand.  These market makers are being introduced to this new offering via Influencer Networks from the tribes of fashion, food, travel and popular culture verticals.  Once this initial launch strategy is completed the secondary Mixes are approached through Mix 0 Influencer Networks.  It is predicted that this phased approach will yield more customers with more accounts per customer than traditional banking marketing efforts are able to produce.  It is not seen as cannibalizing their existing customer bases since the Early Adopters being targeted are those that are the most vulnerable of the current customers relative to new digital offerings.  In short, the traditional satisfied bank customers will continue to have their needs met via the current bricks and mortar delivery system.  When they are ready to begin the journey to the new world of banking, a customer journey will be ready for them as well.

For more information contact:

Robert E. Raleigh Ph.D.
PathSight Predictive Science

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