Rescuing customer journeys

No organisation ever converts all its prospects or retains all its customers.  We all lose business. The question is how much effort should we put into trying to win it back?  What actions should we take in rescuing customer journeys that are reaching a dead end?

I read a great blog post yesterday from Wootric on mapping customer journeys.  The post highlights the benefits of doing mapping. It also gives useful examples of different ways to map journeys: linearly, using charts, by department, by need and using emotions.

The one important element that was missing, especially from the emotion and need maps, was rescuing customer journeys that are leading nowhere.

Business can be lost at any stage during a customer journey, for example:

  • an interested contact gets distracted and goes cold
  • a hot lead prefers a competitive offer
  • problems with a product make a customer angry
  • at renewal time, a customer received a better offer for switching to another supplier.

So we need to map different paths for rescuing customer journeys as shown on the diagram below:

Diagram of an ideal customer journey and 3 paths rescuing customer journeys

The black line and crosses indicate an ideal journey.  This is a smooth progression of increasingly positive emotions.  The prospect starts with disinterest since she is not aware of our brand, then moves through interest and satisfaction to delight and trust as she gains experience of our products and services.

Of course, the normal journey rarely goes so smoothly and every map will include actions to avoid customers become stuck at a certain stage.  There will be actions to listen, entertain, inform, question and reassure and make offers as customer emotions wobble up and down.

But what if there is a dramatic change of emotion?  What happens if a contact become uninterested, a prospect favours a competitor or a customer becones angry or disillusioned?

The diagram shows three example paths for rescuing customer journey:

  1. The green path: the prospective customer loses interest.  The rescue action here might be to ask her what benefit she is looking for from a solution like ours, then to  direct her towards material such as testimonials demonstrating that this benefit can be achieved
  2. The purple path: here the customer is angry due to some fault with our product.  So the rescue action might be to assign a specific customer service agent to deal with them.  The agent needs to have the authority to solve the problems.  Note that a successful resolution can often make the customer more satisfied than she was before.  She now trusts that we will solve any future problems that occur.
  3. The red path:  a case might be where a renewal is due and the customer is no longer sure she needs the product.  A rescue action could investigate what use is being made of the product and provide help for using it more fully in future.

As the examples show, the dramatic change of emotion may require rescue actions that are costly and require significant effort;  Will they be worth it?

We have to decide on a case by case basis.  The analysis should always take into account the value built up in the customer journey.  Even in the early stages it can be more cost-effective to nurture a contact who has shown interest rather than try to identify a new one.  As the journey progresses, relationships and understanding develop between us and the customer, increasing the value.  If the journey progresses to a sale, then customer satisfaction has a huge value in terms of our reputation and our repeat business.

Challenges of Marketing & L&D in the Customer-Learner World

Challenges of Marketing & L&D in the Customer-Learner World

Part 1 of “Thriving in a Customer-Learner World”
Marketers have to adapt to a customer-centric world.  Similarly L&D (Learning and Development) professionals work now in a learner-centric environment.  This creates challenges for each profession in the way they operate, the skills they need and the tools they use to interact with customer-learners.

Reasons to compare L&D with Marketing

Why is it worth comparing and contrasting the challenges faced by Marketing and L&D in today’s business world?

In a user-centric world, neither function is any longer seen as a voice of authority.  As learning & development and marketing professionals face up to this fact, there are three main reasons why they can gain from looking at each other’s situation:

  1. Learners have become customers and customers have become learners.  So both professions are dealing with a world centred round customer-learners
  2. L&D and Marketing are the two business functions most affected by the explosion of social communication powered by digital technology
  3. Marketing’s inherent strength is gaining attention while L&D’s is gaining engagement. Both attention and engagement are vital.

Learners = customers

Digital-powered social communication

Attention + engagement

Learners have become customers and customers learners

How learning has changed

In the past L&D concentrated on training, producing courses that employees were expected to attend.  Senior management outlined the need for specific training, such as induction programmes or courses to support new processes and software; and department managers came to L&D with functional training needs.

L&D then worked with the overall training requirements and used their expertise to produce and deliver standard courses.  That did not work well and is no longer acceptable.

‘When we give people loads of information in one ‘injection hit’, they can’t contextualise it.  There’s no point giving people any knowledge transfer, unless they can go back to their workforce and actually ask – ‘how does that impact me?’  Michelle Parry-Slater [1]

Nowadays senior management are focused on the ROI of training; and employees look for performance support and expect to find learning content readily available when they need it.  Managers and staff naturally turn to online resources and to social media to ask colleagues, friends and the wider community for support and share learning.

So employees and managers act like customers, shopping around for the best solutions.  L&D have to anticipate, uncover and respond to needs by providing appropriate learning solutions very quickly.  As the CIPD states they need to be “savvy” and have “commercial acumen” [2].

Realising they are dealing with learner-customers will enable learning professionals to sell the benefits of L&D skills.  In particular it will help them emphasise how they can support learning that is relevant to the needs of the employee, the department and the organisation.

How marketing has changed

From the marketing perspective, the main challenge used to be to gain the attention of your prospects.  Once you had it, you could position your solution with authority and fight for a sale against a few known competitors.

In today’s world the customer can find out about a vast range of possible products or solutions from the internet.  Once she or he has an idea of something to buy, they can quickly learn about it.  They can ask friends, colleagues and other users for recommendations and advice.

Marketers must make their brand known by offering valuable content well in advance of potential sales.  Then through multiple contacts (touchpoints) they must keep potential customers interested while building up their approval and trust.  Once this has been done, marketers are positioned to sell the benefits of a solution to a particular person at the right time.

‘Relationship marketing is grounded in the idea of establishing a learning relationship with each customer, starting with your most valuable ones.’ Harvard Business Review [3]

Customers have become learners, consuming the knowledge readily available to them.  Marketers must make attractive content available for potential customers, so they learn about benefits and gain trust in the brand.  Otherwise customers will shop elsewhere.

The explosion of social communication

The key role of both marketing and L&D is to communicate with groups of people – the customers and learners.    Both have to find out the needs of their audiences, as groups and as individuals. They need to build up their understanding of what would improve their customer-learners’ jobs and lives.  They must identify solutions and explain their benefits.

Moreover those of us in L&D and marketing no longer start from the established position of authority we occupied in the past.   No longer can marketing state “Trust me, I have the ideal solution for you at a fantastic price” nor L&D say “We’ve got a standard course for you to attend on which you will learn all you need to know”.

As marketers or learning professionals we need to remember that we are joining in customer and learner journeys.  Our audience is clarifying their needs (to themselves as well as to us); they are finding about the possible options before choosing solutions.

There used to be a few voices to listen to – focus groups and market research panels for marketers, executives and managers for L&D.  Now there is a hubbub of conversations taking place between individuals on social media and in group conversations.  We can and must pay attention to them.  These conversations give us a great opportunity to uncover and discuss needs, because people are often willing to share openly with those they trust.

However, the conversations create a number of challenges: first to find the places where these conversations occur.  We may even have to nurture spaces that allow the conversations to flourish.  More often, we will have to gain admission to listen or participate in them.  Lastly we have to be skilful to pick out the relevant conversations and to clarify the underlying concerns.

All this could be very time-consuming.  This is why we need a range of tools and techniques that help us to manage our part in social conversations.  Marketing and L&D each bring different elements to use, such as social media tools from marketing and coaching and analysis skills from L&D.  We will look at these in more detail in the next article in this series.

Gaining  Customer-Learner Attention and Engagement

While each profession may be able to do both, marketing is traditionally good at gaining attention while L&D’s strengths are often in gaining engagement.  Both are vital in working with audiences who do not autmatically look to you as an authority and who can be easily distracted by alternative solutions or activities.

Marketing has always been good at grabbing people’s attention and getting their products and messages noticed.  There is a long history of market research, clever wording, striking images and use of colour.  Marketers have developed skills to make sure messages are seen and heard.  Some of the techniques are highly relevant to L&D.  They can help them be listened to by senior executives and be invited to a seat at the top table.  At the same time they can enable them to be seen as a go-to resource for employees who are looking to develop skills and abilities.

L&D on the other hand has intrinsic skills in helping people to express their needs, in involving them in learning, in coaching them to discover the next steps, in providing reviews at measured intervals and in keeping them engaged.  Marketing needs to improve its capabilities in this area as it seeks to personalise its messages, gain approval and trust, and offer the right solution at the right time.

Compare, contrast and learn

With their shared challenges of dealing with the learner-customer, of handling the explosion of social communication, and of being able to attract and engage, L&D and marketing have much in common.  However, they come with different backgrounds and skills and each can learn from the other.

In this post I have just touched on some of the areas of where experience can be shared.  These will be explored in future articles which will look in detail at “Engaging the Audience”, “Enabling the Learner-Customer Journey” and “Measuring the Results”

This post is the first of four on “Thriving in a Learner-Customer world” which are part of RSC’s “Marketing and Learning” series.  If you are interested please have a look at some of the other articles, which explore different areas.  You can see a “map” of the other articles here)


  1. Expedite Consulting interview with Michelle Parry Slater
  2. CIPD report: “L&D: new challenges, new approaches” Dec 2014
  3. Harvard Business Review: “Is your company ready for one-to-one marketing” 1999