Customer journeys – Walk a mile in your customers’ shoes!

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Think of the thousands of people who use your site every day. Each one has their story to tell. They arrive, they navigate the site – perhaps idly browsing or doggedly in pursuit of a specific product or service – but they all follow their own unique path.

How was it for you? 

We have questions of these visitors. We want to know about their experience of the site. Was it easy to navigate? Was the home page attractive? Did it encourage further exploration or did its design act as deterrent? And what about the checkout process, was the payment accepted and did the shopping cart get emptied? And let’s consider the configuration tool that allows customers to specify colours and additional features on certain products. Was it simple to understand and easy to use?

The answers to these questions we know have a direct impact on the bottom line.

It was terrible, but I’d never tell you that!

But here’s the thing. Customers come and go. Some love the site and happily buy from it while others hit problems. But neither group gives much away. Those who have a great experience don’t tell you. Those who have a bad experience drop off quietly.

And when they leave they take all evidence of their experience with them. There is a huge amount of business intelligence locked up in those journeys. But it’s intelligence that is lost the minute a customer drops off or checks out.

You can make assumptions. For instance, if the conversion rate is rising and the shopping cart abandonment ratio is in decline, you can conclude the site is performing well. If the stats are moving in the opposite direction, there is a problem.   But what these statistics won’t provide is concrete evidence of what the problems actually are and how they affect customers.

How do you get into your customer’s heads?

So how do you tap into the wisdom of your customers and learn from their experience once a site is up and running?

To make the most of all those journeys, the first step is to record them – each and every one from beginning to end. This ensures that you have a complete picture at your disposal, because everyone’s experience of the site is captured.

And once you’ve done that you can play back the journeys in real time. While it wouldn’t be possible to play back every single journey, in practice it works well to follow selected journeys with analytics that drill the user down to the most relevant sessions, often those related to suspected problems, and watch as customers move on the page.

Come on my journey with me

Playing a journey back in this way enables you to share in the customer’s experience. You can see where they hit problems and whether they resolve them, take a different route or drop off. And what you can also see is the extent to which a problem stops customers in their tracks and from there you can quantify the financial impact.

Sometimes two similar glitches can have enormously different revenue impact and identifying the expensive errors from the not so important ones is absolutely key. Ultimately that empowers you to prioritise certain aspects of site maintenance to ensure the big problems get fixed first. 

And what you’re essentially doing is using your customers as testers. You’re taking their experience and turning it into actionable intelligence.  In other words you’re truly walking a mile in your customers’ shoes.


Photo: Beverley Goodwin flickr/cc