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:
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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Learners have become customers and customers have become learners. So both professions are dealing with a world centred round customer-learners
- L&D and Marketing are the two business functions most affected by the explosion of social communication powered by digital technology
- 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 
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” .
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 
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)
- Expedite Consulting interview with Michelle Parry Slater http://expedite-consulting.com/why-the-concept-of-learning-and-development-needs-to-change/
- CIPD report: “L&D: new challenges, new approaches” Dec 2014
- Harvard Business Review: “Is your company ready for one-to-one marketing” 1999
When implementing a marketing dashboard for clients, I often use the analogy of a car dashboard. While this is useful, it should not be taken as an exact parallel, since a marketing dashboard has to show clearly and briefly four key things: the status of marketing efforts, the progress they have made, the direction of travel and the ETA – expected time of arrival or how long until objectives are reached.
A car dashboard shows
- speed of travel: the marketing equivalent of speed of progress is important to know
- mileage: for marketing, this translates to the progress made
- RPM: how hard the engine is working, or in marketing terms, how much effort we are putting in to get the results
- fuel gauge: just as on a journey it is essential to know how much is left in the tank, so we need to know the resources left for marketing campaigns
- hazard lights: it is vital to know if anything is going wrong or will soon need fixing, whether this is in a car or in marketing activity
Marketing dashboards also need to show the route ahead and the distance or time to reach the destination (goals). This is the equivalent of the GPS screen (and looking through the windscreen) on a car.
You also need to track what is going on all around you – checking on what customers are actually experiencing,what is happening in the market and what your competitors are doing – just as in a car, you would use the rear-view and side mirrors as well as looking ahead to get a picture of what other cars are doing and of changing road conditions.
So the key elements of a marketing dashboard are:
- your goals – the destination you have tapped into your marketing GPS
- progress in the last period: key measurements such a leads, sales, profit which show you how fast you are going
- forecasts: showing your ETA to reach the goals
- recent activities: the marketing RPM, a measure of the effort going in to achieve the results
- planned activities: this together with future resources and available budget,tells you what is in the tank
- where problems are emerging, timelines are slipping and forecasts being missed: your hazard lights
- customer experience: tuning in to the sound of the car, the smoothness of the ride
- major changes in the market, industry or underlying technology: the all-round view
What measures you choose for each of these areas, depends on your organisation and its current position.
The skills lie firstly in identifying the elements that you can change to make the most difference to the results and secondly in designing it so that the key measures are easy to read and warning lights show critical situations.
This continues my series of articles discussing the synergies and differences between marketing and learning. Both marketing and learning are having to adapt to today’s interconnected, always-on, social world. Here we examine the need to be involved with micro-moments throughout the whole customer or learner journey.
Historically there have been three main “moments of truth” (MOT) where marketing and sales are involved in the customer journey. The first moment of truth (FMOT) is where the customer first saw or looked at the product or service, after they had decided they were interested in buying. The second (SMOT) where they purchased and started to use it. Finally the third moment (TMOT), where they gave feedback on their experience. This is shown in the first diagram below.
In 2011 Google introduced idea of ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth). This reflects how customers now react when they first think about something new – either to address a pressing need or with the dream of something better or more exciting. More and more often people will go online to ask “How can I …?” or “What is available to…?”. Marketers must be ready with answers at this zero moment of truth. And they must then accompany the customers on their journey, providing the appropriate content for the micro-moments when additional questions crop up (“Will it work in my situation?”, “Is it compatible with…?”).
The second diagram shows the new marketing involvement – from the very beginning of the journey through the decision process all the way to the aimed-for loyalty at the end. Companies that do not engage with potential customers right from the beginning find that by the decision point they are probably already out of consideration. Those who have engaged have already demonstrated their value to the customer.
The journey of a learner has different stages. Traditionally L&D and training companies were called in to provide training in support of some change. The change might have affected an individual such as the induction of a new hire or a change of job or responsibility; or there might have been a change effecting a large group or the whole company e.g. the launch of a new product, introduction of new software, or enhanced compliance requirements. With the focus on training courses, learning after the event was often left unstructured and supported only by some generalised user guides. This journey is shown below:
Marketing has to adapt to users finding out for themselves online and via social media. Similarly L&D and learning providers have to help learners who expect to be able to find out answers at the point of need and whose go-to resource are the mobile phone and internet. Happily, this learner demand fits in with the increased use of learning methods such as 70:20:10 and the emphasis on performance support.
So as users are demanding more support at the point of need, learning providers are putting in place learning tools that are available as tasks are being done. They are also providing bite-sized learning modules that can be consumed when the learner has some time.
Micro-moments for learners occur when they come across a problem in their everyday work. Learners want to consult a support community or find help that is specific to their situation – and they expect a rapid answer. They also want to use spare moments, maybe while commuting, to learn something to help them for tasks that are coming up.
Learning resources need to be provided to help coach people who are putting new skills into practice. Then at the point of need, they need support for their situation, from guides or from communities of use. Providing these learning resources will allow them to gain expertise more quickly. The added benefit is that they will then be able to share their expertise with the community and so help others on their learning journey. The final diagram shows the constant involvement in the learner journey.
Google has identified key elements for being involved in the customer journey. Two of them apply just as strongly for learning:
- Be present in the moments that matter
- Have something relevant or engaging to say
This is the challenge for marketing and learning. The rewards, however, are great, in being able to understand and satisfy customer and learner needs. This allows solutions to be tailored to their needs – building loyalty in customers and expertise in learners.
In the last week I have come across two great examples of companies taking simple steps to engage well with their customers.
Firstly I bought a PowerAdd external battery backup for my laptop. The laptop does not have an exchangeable battery (at least not without taking it apart) and on days when I was using it intensively away from external power, I was sometimes running out of charge. The PowerAdd PIlotPro that I purchased provides enough power to recharge my battery and so see me easily through the day. It also comes with adaptors and settings for many different types of laptops as well as USB output, so it is really flexible – and it looks good.
The simple step that PowerAdd took to engage me as a customer was to put in a small folded piece of card. On one side there is a smiley face and on the other an unhappy face, with a short message of the reverse of each face. On the reverse of the smiley face is a simple message to say that the company is pleased I am happy and a request to share a review. On the reverse of the unhappy face is the message that their support team is ready to support me with details of different ways I can contact them. The messages are shown on the image at the top of this page.
What is brilliant is how simply the message is delivered: Happy – please share. Unhappy – here’s how we can help.
Many other companies try to achieve the same effect, but don’t execute as well – the messages are hidden in lots of documentation, or delivered at the wrong time, or swamped with questions that the company would like you to answer. With PowerAdd the messages were obvious, quick to read and delivered at the time I was trying out the device.
The other recent example, was on the invoice of a company, CDRC Roofing, who did some repairs to my roof. The invoice arrived with a request to review them via Checkatrade – a simple form to fill in was enclosed with postage pre-paid – or else to like them on Facebook. Again, asking me for a review is a simple thing to do, but so few traders I use bother to do this.
Those who have just purchased are the most important people for suppliers to engage with. But so often we either forget to do so or do not work hard enough to make feedback easy. Satisfied customers are our best source of future sales – via recommendations, referrals or follow on sales. If they are dissatisfied, then the sooner we know, the easier it is to correct mistakes and turn them into satisfied customers.
The three key steps to engaging new customers shown in these two examples are:
- Make it clear how they can get support if they have any issues
- Ask them to recommend, refer or review
- Keep it simple
Starting with these, you can then build up further conversations with the customer over time.
The impact of GDPR
I attended a very interesting talk at the TFM 16 (Technology for Marketing) conference a week ago. It was given by Simon Blanchard of Opt-4 Limited who discussed the implications of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). While this EU regulation is not due to come into force until 25 May 2018, as the UK has not yet triggered the exit mechanism, we will still be in the EU when it comes into effect. Just as important is the fact that we will need to continue to comply with many EU rules in order to keep trading with them. Also the EU regulation is likely to influence very strongly any UK legislation that replaces it. In other words, we need to pay attention to it.
The regulation applies to everyone who processes personal data or who asks a supplier to do it for them. It covers both B2B and B2C so it affects all marketing. It strengthens the requirements to obtain explicit customer consent for using their data, broadens the definition of what is included in personal data and add requirements to allow customers to have their data erased or transferred to a new supplier. It also applies to existing data, not just new data obtained after the direct comes into effect.
If you want to find out more details, you had better go to the experts – look at the details on the Information Commissioner’s website or download Simon Blanchard’s presentation from the TFM16 website – it is in the Data Analytics file. But you do not need to be an expert to see how this will make it far more difficult for marketers to buy and sell data in future.
Data protection advantages for customer engagement
While some might view the new rules as a restriction, they should prove no problem for those marketers who have fully embraced customer engagement. Engagement means talking to customers and prospects, listening to their requirements, asking them questions and understanding their needs. It requires empathy as Brian Carroll pointed out in his DreamForce presentation. Respecting their concerns and building trust are key to building a long term relationship from which both sides benefit – the customer with products and services that match her needs and are developed to continue to provide more value, and the supplier with a long-term customer and an advocate.
So while those who practice customer engagement will have to ensure they follow the details of the GDPR, they will already be following the spirit of it.
Ride the wave of customer control
GDPR and new data protection regulations will benefit those whose marketing is built on building trust and creating relationships with customers. It is not a new way of thinking – many companies have thrived by having this engagement built into their ethos. But it needs to be adapted to the modern digital world. Marketing companies such as Ctrl-Shift, who talk about ” giving customers the control over permissions and to use their data to better manage their lives” embody the way trust can be built into relationships which are often primarily or totally online.
Customers nowadays are given power by online information and the power of social networks. To date they have seemed happy to give away their data in exchange for free services, but this is changing. They may be more willing to share than in previous generations, but they want to control how their data is used. Organisations that use engagement marketing or conversation marketing well can ride the wave of customer control.