Companies know that understanding the ins and outs of their customer journey will prepare them to provide what customers need to succeed at the right time and place. But many CX teams know that understanding the customer journey represents a journey unto itself — customer journeys are infrequently linear, and there are inevitably questions, distractions, and obstacles that arise along the way. The plot increasingly thickens when you have multiple customer segments and multiple teams that shape the customer journey.
So how do you identify and delineate the most meaningful patterns in your customer experience, and what actions best support each one? We were thrilled to host Erica Ayotte Favorito, VP Customer Success at Privy, to discuss the anatomy of the data-driven customer journey. Erica leads Privy’s Customer Success, Customer Support, and Onboarding functions across several thousand SMB e-commerce customer relationships. Here are our top three takeaways from the discussion:
1. Tailor the customer journey....to an extent
Erica highlighted a common misconception that many companies face when attempting to define their customer journey.
“A misconception that many organizations start out with is that the customer journey is a uniform series of stages that customers move through, from closed/won to onboarding, to value realization and renewal. It can be useful to distill the ideal experience into these stages, but in my experience, the customer journey is less similar to Candyland and more like Chutes & Ladders. It’s not linear because every customer is different and has different needs at different times. It’s less about defining an idealized timeline and more about meeting customers where they are right now. The tricky part is identifying what state customers are in and how to deploy the right resources against them.”
How do you opportunistically deploy resources to different customers at different times? Erica emphasized that tailoring your view of, and response to, the customer journey for different groups of customers can yield a high return on your efforts to drive the behaviors and engagement you are trying to encourage.
“If you’re a complex business with several distinct customer segments, obviously there won’t be a one-size-fits-all. The more targeted and segmented your customer journey can be, the greater the return you’ll see on customer engagement with your efforts.”
However, there is a risk of over-tailoring and making the customer journey overly prescriptive. Erica noted that she typically sees two common patterns when companies map their customer journey —the first is common among early-stage companies. “They’re often graduating from a very reactive stance, where perhaps they’ve started some more proactive Success-driven activities. They over-simplify their customer journey and reflect the ideal, easy-to-understand version over the one that actually unfolds in reality.”
The second is more common among mature organizations. “Often in big organizations, multiple teams own pieces of the customer journey and can be precious about it. It becomes a giant mess with way too many cooks in the kitchen.” Ideally, Erica explained, “the customer journey is under one common banner, with a few common goals.”
“One of the hallmarks of an overly complex customer journey is segmenting customers based on data points that aren’t useful. And especially when the data points are company-centric and not necessarily customer-centric. This leads companies down the wrong path because there are too many assumptions baked in.”
2. Meet customers where they are
Where many organizations assign a blanket level of engagement to certain customer segments, Erica’s team employs a unique approach to using both high and low touch approaches to meet customers where they are. “To me, it’s not really about tech-touch vs. low-touch vs. high-touch. It’s about what the right touch is for which customer and when.” Not only is there a great ROI argument for selective high-touch engagement, but Erica also noted a fundamental flaw with how many companies think about their customer engagement model.
“There’s an assumption that high-touch customers are the ones that are paying us the most. Companies think that they want to see more of them and that those customers will realize exponentially more value from the company’s greater effort toward maintaining and growing that customer relationship. But that’s not always true! For us, it’s about using our customer segments to define what type of touch is most beneficial at what moment.”
Erica continued with an example of how Privy puts this philosophy into action. “We have a particular longtime customer who is very busy and an expert in his field. He’s a great partner but doesn’t necessarily want or need to meet with us on a regular cadence. But what does he really value? That we spend a few hours with him in the weeks leading up to Black Friday to help him map out his strategy. He might be low-touch for half of the year and high-touch at really concentrated moments.”
In summary, Erica and her team mix and match low-touch and high-touch approaches across segments. Customers don’t necessarily sit neatly in low-touch or high-touch buckets for all time. The team considers customers’ potential lifetime value, concrete needs, and how they realize value to shape their engagement strategy.
“With how our pricing scales alongside customer value, we have found that we often want to put new customers who are just kicking the tires and not spending a lot on a low-touch model. But once we identify the growth levers, we know that those customers will grow exponentially if we are able to have a couple of high-touch moments and then get them on more of a tech-touch model.”
3. Support is an unsung hero of the customer journey
While Support often doesn’t factor into the customer journey until post-sale, Erica and her team discovered that Support can play a critical role as a conversion lever from the earliest part of the customer journey. Erica explained, “A lot of businesses withhold support from customers who aren’t paying yet, or put them at the lowest tier because they have a cost-to-serve metric in their support org. However, given our business model, we put folks on trial periods at the highest tier to ensure they get a great customer experience from the beginning. We’ve seen that a fast, helpful response from Support encourages those users to become paying customers. Support is a real asset to the customer acquisition process.”
Erica has seen Support accelerate conversion at other parts of the customer journey, too. “Folks in our Support organization might observe that customers they’re helping have high lifetime value potential and can bring in Sales rather than let the customer go through the self-service motions. Our Support folks have a Sales mindset, but it’s not even just about completing sales — they are taking a step further and identifying customers who qualify for a Customer Success Manager or onboarding experience.”
Erica noted that Customer Support is a factor throughout the entire customer journey, owing to Support’s unique ability to understand organic customer feedback.
“Support’s secret superpower is the ability to listen to what the customer is saying. Customers use their own language to describe what they’re experiencing rather than the various terms that internal teams use. Support can read between the lines and understand what the customer is really asking and why.”
Thank you, Erica Ayotte Favorito for the sharp insight and the many practical examples! Check out the full recording below for more.