Once a premeditated (campaign- or destination-based) and scattergun affair, customer journeys have evolved to become genuinely customer-driven. Orchestrated over longer time spans and across touchpoints, customer-led journeys now offer a more consistent, ‘individualised’ experience. And the firepower behind their success, directly correlating with successful engagement, is our ability to harness true customer intent.
Intent: the firepower behind customer-led journeys
In the context of customer experience, intent is really a fairly simple notion: what is the driving force behind an individual’s behaviour? By association, intent-driven journeys harness a customer’s intent as their primary lens, through which we understand behaviour and orchestrate appropriate experiences over time. This approach to journey orchestration ensures that engagement opportunities are fixated on the provision of relevant and seamless experiences across every touchpoint, based on an individual’s unique motivations. And, done right, it’s the centrepiece of customer-centricity.
The philosophical goal of intent-driven journeys is to turn every customer experience (whether purchase, enquiry or complaint) into a value-adding servicing opportunity. Naturally, this empowers businesses to help customers reach desired outcomes more swiftly – which, ultimately, leads to longer, more meaningful relationships.
As the proverb goes, wisdom comes from listening. There are three critical inputs forging our understanding of intent:
We must pull insight from 1. all journeys, spanning 2. all touchpoints and, most critically, 3. all time (see graphic above). This contextual triumvirate elevates our understanding from what someone is doing, to the deeper question of why. The orchestration of an intent-driven journey is influenced by each individual, guiding them to the ‘best’ content or conversation based on all known behaviour.
Orchestrating journeys based on customer intent
True intent-driven journeys must consider recent negative experiences (such as failed deliveries or unusually high call centre waiting times). This means we can add value by suggesting suitable alternative channels; irrelevant ads might be suppressed and replaced by an email or call serving up a more applicable conversation. Equally, intent-based orchestration may also propose complementary products such as financing. But most importantly, all of this is undertaken in real time.
As they say, shit happens; humans are imperfect creatures. Since customers’ intentions can change in a moment, punting the same message will probably create a poor experience and ultimately reduce our effectiveness. Therefore, a crucial aspect of intent-driven journey orchestration is its ability to perpetually monitor for, and respond to, ‘motivation change’ in an instant and at great scale.
We are what we seek
While businesses seek long-term vitality, they often succumb to the lure of short-term, divisional metrics: a digital team focuses on clicks and conversion, from paid ads, across digital channels, to payment. Meanwhile, call centres are often tasked with reducing call-handling time or cost-to-serve. Efficiency is a common driver. But while each of the goals offers measurable value to the business, they operate in isolation, may conflict and fundamentally are failing to start with the customer.
As a result, an organisation will fail to identify the relationship between connected customer experiences and longer-term satisfaction. In our new research report with Marketing Week, we discovered that an incredible 93% of marketers feel that KPIs supporting customer-led journeys are hampered by departmental structure.
This matters because unless metrics change, there’s no motivation for leaders to embrace intent-driven journeys. Understandably then, while the term ‘customer-led’ has been reverberating around boardrooms for some time, few realise this ambition. Customer happiness should be a shared responsibility: only by forging new targets and allegiances across departments (e.g. marketing, sales and service) can we institutionalise customer-centricity.
Paraphrasing the business guru Stephen R Covey, most people do not often listen to understand; they listen to reply. Conversely, intent-driven journeys deliver for those who seek to understand, from which we can create far more personal and positive customer experiences. The commercial benefits are indisputable, providing adopters with a powerful competitive edge.
Ray Gerber is chief product officer at Thunderhead. Find out more at Thunderhead.com.