Digital Journey – Both Figurative and Literal

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Most of us work for one company. With that in mind, when we think about our customers’ journeys, we may focus just on that segment of their journey that starts and ends within the confines of the product or service we offer. But it can be much bigger than that! Consider my recent AMAZING trip to Dallas that I mentioned in my last post:

I needed a flight, a rental car, and a hotel room. I booked my flight on AA.com, my car on Avis.com, and my hotel room on Hyatt.com. Each of these offer mobile apps, and I belong to the loyalty programs of each. I booked my flight on American’s site, my car on Avis’ site, and my hotel room on Hyatt’s site. Three different companies, three different interfaces. (Sure, I could have gone through Expedia or Booking.com or some such travel booking site, but I like to do them separately – just my personal preference.)

Once booked, I had a flight confirmation, a car rental reservation, and a hotel reservation all in the palm of my hand in my sweet little smart phone.  I received my boarding pass digitally 24 hours before my flight and checked in online. I pulled up my digital boarding pass and showed it to the TSA agent and breezed through security. When my flight was called, I scanned my boarding pass at the gate. Upon landing, I pulled up my car reservation and selected the actual car I wanted to drive. It told me what parking spot it was located in, and I went directly there and left the rental garage. I had already checked into the hotel, and so I stopped by the front desk to pick up my key. On the return home, I just left the hotel, checked out online, dropped the car off at rental return, followed the same digital procedures at the airport. Got in my own car at my home airport, swiped my parking ticket and credit card at the lot exit, and I was home 20 minutes later.

Smooth sailing, a much different experience from travel in the past. Was I lucky? Maybe. Having just a carry-on helped. Having TSA Pre-Check also helped. But the biggest differentiator was the mobile applications on my phone. And this is why I LOVE technology! It makes an otherwise stressful and time-consuming venture a pleasant experience. And isn’t that what most businesses – regardless of industry – want to provide their customers?

But, suppose something had gone wrong along my journey. Let’s say my car wasn’t in the spot the app specified, or if my boarding pass didn’t scan for some reason. Let’s say that something went wrong that wasn’t really contained within the boundary of things that the digital interfaces provided. What if my flight was delayed, my room wasn’t ready, or my car broke down? What about a series of unfortunate events? Who would I blame for my poor experience? Would I keep the providers separate in my mind, or would I consider the whole trip a disaster?

My point here is that the customer journey may very well be larger than you think. It behooves a company to consider activities that lead customers to their door, and how customers are affected after they leave. Retail is a good example. Maybe you’re a furniture or toy manufacturer and you want people to buy your product. You not only need to be concerned about their opinion of you and your product, but also their perceptions of the retail outlets where they purchase them. And, if they are ordering your product online with those retail outlets, what do the customers think and expect from the delivery providers and service. For example, I do not like UPS SmartPost one bit, and avoid ordering from online retailers that utilize that service. I love UPS otherwise, I just don’t care for their last-mile services via USPS.

I strongly encourage you to include what comes before and after the customer journey when developing your customer journey maps, particularly where digital is concerned. The more connected we are, the more consideration you’ll need to give to digital capabilities of partners, vendors, and other providers you rely upon.

Meanwhile, travel safe!

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