Empathically Walking the Customer Journey

Every day our customers have things that matter to them; problems they need to solve, challenges they need to overcome, and change they want to be and see. Yesterday I wrote about some of the things I’d learnt about Design Thinking and Customer Change. Today’s course was about exploring how we understand our customers, how we understand the road that they are on, and how we can ultimately use this understanding to change and transform the way that we interact with them.

I’ve collected some of my thoughts and reflections on our learnings for today that I thought were worth sharing.

What is empathy, and why do we care?

“I have an internet outage”. “That’s unfortunate. At least you had internet. Here, buy a backup service.”. It’s funny on paper, but we’ve been guilty of having these kinds of conversations with our customers. This isn’t a very empathetic conversation.

This wonderful video by Brené Brown highlights exactly where Empathy in conversation is important. I love the quote from the end of the video – “Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.”

On the surface level, empathy is about walking beside our customers, celebrating and rejoicing with them when things go well, and offering acknowledgement and understanding when they aren’t. But the role of empathy in this process is more than that. As we take our time to understand how our customers are experiencing their interactions with us, their place within their business, and the impact and place that work has on their lives outside of work, we can better tailor the services, solutions and interactions we offer to meet their needs.

One of the key takeaways for me has been that we need to do more work to help our customer service teams, account management and service delivery team members be able to understand our customer needs, pain points and goals so that we can actually give them what they need. Of course, everyone is going to be different – but where there are things we can do that offer improvements across the spectrum, that’s going to be a win for everyone.

Journeys, successes and the future

From here, there is a lovely segue into talking about a customer journey. At the end of the day, we want every customer to have a positive experience of working with Real World. But more than that, we want to deliver IT solutions that transform the way that they do what they need.

A key tool in this process is what is known as the Customer Journey Map. Essentially, we look at the process our customers need to go through on a macro and micro level in a number of aspects of their business. We work to story-board this in a collaborative way, and then look for areas that we can improve the experience.

One of our consistent challenges is that we only ever see part of the process and impact on our customers of what we do as an IT and Telco provider. We become blinkered by our own view of the process, and don’t keep the “full” picture in our own minds. Journey Mapping provides us with a tool to actually step back and consider all the aspects of the process, and then also gives us the tools to think about how we can transform the experience to be a better one.

A key danger I can see in this process is to only focus on the negative aspects of our interactions and customer experiences. It’s easy to pick up problem and pain points and then try to map journeys and change around these negative processes. But it’s not just about that – it’s also about looking at where you do things well, and what you can learn from those positive experiences. One of my favourite examples today was of a person who recognised that their business needed to change as a result of positive growth. The team who saw this need mapped the process that business manager needed to think through to ultimately help them scale up and out.

At the heart of it – Journey Mapping is about looking at where you can transform experiences to be even better, smoother and simpler – regardless of the input basis. As you remove friction and pain points, it proves to be a really powerful tool.

What have I learnt?

I’m going to be the first to admit that we do sometimes miss the mark on what our customers want and need. I’ve wanted to understand why this is the case, and how we can break through so that we can be what our customers expect and need. The tools we’ve picked developed over the last two days will hopefully help us transform our mindset to be able to deliver better solutions.

But more than that – we want to excel beyond the things we already do. We want to give our customers the best, most enjoyable IT experience. We want to do more than just talk about being human centric, we actually want to make sure that we are constantly giving them what they need in every aspect of their jobs.

I think this is really exciting – because as we continue to develop, improve and change, we’ll do an even better job of meeting expectations and really helping all of our customers, partners and suppliers to do a better job of meeting their customer needs and expectations.

So what does improving customer experiences mean?

For a long time, I’ve held the view that IT is an amazing force for positive change in an organisational environment. Technologies such as cloud computing, increased mobility, and IoT are really demonstrating the power for these things to work out in practice. The last two days have really highlighted to me that despite this potential, there is still a real gap in the understanding of what these things are and how we can effectively apply them.

To take this to the next step – we want ever customer interaction to be a stellar customer experience. Many of our customers do talk about the stellar experiences they have – but we want every customer to feel that way. I want to teach our team to apply these principles (empathy, understanding our customers journey, and then delivering organisational change) to every interaction they have, and over time to see every experience be described as stellar.

Streamlining what we do, removing points of friction, reducing the technical barriers, improving product reliability, improving communication – all of these things make a difference to how our customers will experience their interactions with us – and things that I’m convinced that I want to see us achieve.

But at the end of the day, these are just words – and the proof will be when we deliver real change.

2 thoughts on “Empathically Walking the Customer Journey

  1. Andrew, What a great post.

    I am so pleased to see you are already building upon your past successes and introducing additional thinking and concepts into how you achieve stellar customer experiences.

    Its very fulfilling to see people take away learnings from a course that I have designed. I agree the video is a really powerful way to understand empathy.

    Thanks for post and the great contribution you made on the course.

    Max Theseira,

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