Identifying your customer experience gaps

Customer Experience Gaps Header

Gaps and their impact

It’s easy to lose sight of the complete customer experience with increasing customer expectations, a proliferation of touchpoints, the integration of products and services into our lives and complex organisation ecosystems.

The impact of poor customer experiences cannot be underestimated as gaps often result in a deterioration of brand loyalty.

Significant gaps in the customer experience create barriers and friction for the customer, which in turn may convert them into a neutral or worse still, a detractor.  

This, coupled with an increased investment in customer onboarding, is reducing switching costs; making it easier for customers to move from one company to another.

Here’s a worked example of poor customer experience

Jennifer calls her local bank to open her first checking account but isn’t able to proceed because the customer service representative requires age verification.

The bank is nearby and assuming they won’t question a 40 year old about her age, Jennifer decides to go down and open the account in person.

Unfortunately, the customer service representative on the phone didn’t advise Jennifer that there are different requirements for opening an account at that particular branch.  

So, once again Jennifer is frustrated! “Don’t they talk to each other?” At this stage Jennifer is on the verge of trying a different bank.

Deciding to try one last time, she goes online. Once again, the website has a different set of rules compared to her local branch or the call centre.

The bank may consider these to be three separate departments, but to the customer they are ‘the bank’.

Mapping the experience (in this case, opening a savings account) is the first step in identifying where gaps exist and improvements can be made.

Below is a step by step guide to get you started.

The three channels in this example are represented by cubes. The blue lines represent the current disjointed customer’s experience of opening a bank account. There are some small consistencies; links between the channels, but ultimately there is no continuity or consistency between them.
The three channels in this example are represented by cubes. The blue lines represent the current disjointed customer’s experience of opening a bank account. There are some small consistencies; links between the channels, but ultimately there is no continuity or consistency between them.

Step 1. Identify the gaps

Map the horizontal experiences

A horizontal experience is the way a user interacts with your organisation throughout a value chain across multiple channels, platforms or touchpoints.

There is tremendous value in improving consistency, cohesion and persistence. For example, the experience across bundled applications (e.g. Facebook and Messenger) or completing the same task across multiple channels (e.g. transferring money between accounts via an ATM, bank teller or online).

Research and define the vertical experiences

A vertical experience views products and services against a series of contextual themes. It’s an excellent group activity for teams wanting to do a deep dive into an individual product or channel.

Start by walking through each of the themes and placing sticky notes in the columns that relate. Use a different coloured sticky note for each category to help visually differentiate the current state, idea and opportunity.

Vertical analysis: call centre example

Vertical analysis: call centre example
Example of sticky notes in themed columns for the bank’s call centre channel.

Step 2. Ask yourself some questions

Align to why

What is your product’s purpose? What reasons does it exist? Does it offer customer value outside of what it was originally designed for?

Onboarding

How do customers enter your system? What are the entry points? Calls to actions? This could be anything from a footer link in an email through to a marketing campaign.

Awareness

How do people find your system? Are there any existing communications, campaigns, channels or touchpoints promoting your product? i.e. social media, email notifications etc.  

Personalisation

Is your product having a conversation with your customer? How is the user experience being tailored? What benefits does personalisation deliver to your customers?

Manage

How can customers manage your product or service? How do they currently do it? Are there multiple methods for the same outcome? What would they like to manage themselves?

Task

What are your users’ available activities? List existing tasks that users can complete that are relevant e.g. review product, leave a comment or print tickets.  

After sale

What post-sale processes are in place? Upsell? Cross-sell? Do you have post-sale triggers for other services/features in your ecosystem?

Support

How are your customers supported when they transact with you? What existing support channels or functions are there?

Define success

What does success look like? What metrics can we use for each channel, product or service? Note – there may be multiple.

Step 3. Bringing it all together

Collate the information you collected and place it on a horizontal map. This map is a rotated version of the one you have been using; themes down the left and channels across the top.

Horizontal map: the bank’s channels

Example of the three channels the bank uses, showing all vertical analysis with sticky notes.

Now you will be able to see where there are gaps, inconsistencies and opportunities for synergy.

Start populating and exploring solutions that will create a consistent, connected and meaningful experience across your channels, products and services.

Now back to our worked example at the bank

The bank has completed the horizontal experience mapping, identified gaps and opportunities and implemented two main changes.

The bank has completed the horizontal experience mapping, identified gaps and opportunities and implemented two main changes.

Change one: A single message across all channels that communicates customer options which is supported by functionality and training.

Change two: The bank has loosened its requirements to open a savings account over the phone and in person. The website now also doesn’t require an account to proceed to the next step.

Result: The realised customer value is that Jennifer has more flexibility to complete her goal and the realised business value is an increased conversion rate and customer satisfaction score.

Illustrating the three products connected by a horizontal blue line; representing a continuous and consistent experience between all three channels.
The above image illustrates the three products connected by a horizontal blue line; representing a continuous and consistent experience between all three channels.

The blue horizontal section in the above illustrates cohesive and a consistent product or service across multiple channels or platforms. No matter where the user interacts with the organisation, it’s consistent and repeatable.

Summary

Poor customer experiences are typically symptomatic of siloed departments, misaligned strategies and poor communication between teams. At the end of the day everyone suffers.

The framework brought to life here identifies the gaps and opportunities to treat the symptoms, but not solve the root cause.

Creating this awareness can improve ongoing fostering of consistency and cohesion between your touchpoints.

However, maintaining a good customer experience requires diligence and structure to ensure it’s always part of the conversation.

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