By Stephanie Ventura

Digital transformation priorities took center stage during the pandemic. A McKinsey survey found that organizations’ digital product experiences accelerated by four years and their digitally-enabled portfolios are now nearly a decade ahead of schedule.

There’s now more pressure than ever to digitize product experiences and create efficient, intuitive digital self-service opportunities for consumers. Product leaders prioritize user experience and rely on product analytics tools to determine which initiatives will improve key metrics like adoption, usage, satisfaction and more.

But your customers’ journeys don’t begin and end within your product. Customers interact with multiple channels and products to achieve their goals. To optimize engagement, it’s crucial to understand not only what your customers are doing, but why.

It’s time for product owners to look beyond user experience.

In this post, we’ll explore how product leaders can use customer journeys to move beyond product performance metrics and connect digital product experiences to business outcomes like retention, NPS® and average revenue per user.

digital product optimization ebook cta

Why Product Leaders Struggle to Optimize Digital Product Experiences

Product owners and managers leverage analytics tools like Pendo®, Glassbox®, FullStory® and others to measure, monitor and improve the user experience within their products. These platforms capture and visualize behavior in web and mobile apps, allowing you to understand how users interact with a product.

However, a critical piece of the story is missing.

kano model explaining digital product experience

Product Analytics Platforms Fall Short

Identifying when and why customers choose to use each product and the larger goals they want to achieve is paramount. This is the key to deciding how to design a user experience that fosters excitement rather than indifference or dissatisfaction.

But it’s also important to discover what users do after using your product in order to gauge their success. Do they navigate to a community forum or help page? Do they contact the care center? Or utilize another product like a diagnostic bot to address an issue with your product?

Without understanding why customers use each product and gauging their level of success, it’s easy to incorrectly prioritize your product roadmap. No one has time to waste on enhancements that will yield minimal improvements in your customers’ experiences and your business objectives.

Omnichannel Interaction Data is Siloed or Nonexistent

While it’s imperative to understand what customers do outside of each product, most product teams can’t access and/or analyze customer data from other business units. Enterprises are often constrained by legacy systems, and the status quo makes it extremely challenging to significantly improve user experiences and metrics.

illustration of data silos

While marketing, CX, customer care and other leaders within your organization may strive to share insights, accessing the data in their systems is cumbersome at best and rarely happens in real time.

For example, one product manager at a credit card company owns billing and another owns the mobile app. These two products intersect, as cardholders can pay their bill via mobile. Things get more complex when each region, from North America to Asia Pacific, have their own product owners as well. To get the information necessary to effectively optimize digital products and services, product leaders need to access data from other business units or lines of business.

But the resources and cost necessary to integrate product data with data from other business functions are staggering. Those who try to tackle this problem struggle with lack of focus, competing priorities and significant costs.

Why Customer Journeys are Key to Improving Digital Product Experience

Customers engage with one or more products along a journey to accomplish a goal. Your customer forms their objective before their first click and often engages with other parts of your business before using a particular product.

Journeys Reveal User Intent and Goals

To accomplish your overall product objectives, successful product owners look beyond the user interface to understand what drives customers to engage with their product and understand how product usage can lead—or impede—successful outcomes.

Broadening your view to the diverse journeys customers take gives context to product usage and engagement. It also helps you gauge whether customers are successful or not. 

Traditionally, issues are identified using product analytics, but customers can encounter product issues that manifest outside your purview. Taking a journey-based approach, such as customer journey management, allows you to pinpoint friction across all products and prioritize the impact potential improvements will have.

example of a dispute claim journey

This way, you can easily answer questions such as:

  • When do customers use your products?
  • What drives customers to engage with your product?
  • What do customers do after engaging with your product?
  • When are customers leaving the product to seek help?
  • How should we prioritize potential product improvements?
  • How do product improvements impact key metrics like adoption, engagement, usage and satisfaction and revenue?

Journeys Enable You to Connect Product Metrics to Business Outcomes

Monitoring what happens before, during and after a digital interaction gives you the information you need to identify, prioritize and justify digital experience optimization initiatives.

To connect product behavior like adoption, usage and sessions per user to outcomes like retention, cost to serve and NPS, product leaders must see what happens before, during and after digital interactions in order to gauge the impact of digital customer experience on the entire organization.

For instance, an internet service provider sees usage of their virtual assistant rising, as well as an uptick in visits to the “how to restart my router” forum page. If the analysis ends here, digital leaders would not know that customers end up contacting the care center, increasing call volume, and requiring a technician to resolve their issue, increasing costs.

Using a journey-based approach, the product owner can easily quantify how much the product issue impacts business outcomes, so she can more accurately prioritize it amongst other initiatives on her roadmap by determining the return on investment for addressing the issue.

5 Ways to Optimize Digital Product Experiences with Customer Journeys

Taking a journey-based approach provides measurable benefits that provide value to your customers and your business.

Using a journey lens enhances digital product optimization and measurement, and provides you with journey-driven tactics you can act on to increase engagement, satisfaction and more.

1. Upgrade Your Digital Product Measurement

Traditionally, digital product experiences are measured by channel, product or location. 

Monitoring key metrics like daily active users, conversion and usage rates help each product owner assess their performance and prioritize improvements for their specific roadmaps, but it’s difficult for product leaders to determine how individual customers impact UX and CX outcomes.

When tracking KPIs this way, you can guess how different initiatives might improve certain metrics, but you’re likely wasting time and resources on actions that will help a little or not at all. Customer journeys take the guesswork out of understanding the impact and return on investment on digital product initiatives.

Customer journeys expand your scope beyond isolated user interactions, which can fluctuate for a million reasons. Broadening your approach from user journeys to holistic, end-to-end customer journeys enables you to connect the dots between user behavior within a digital application and its impact on overall customer experience and business objectives. Journeys reveal the goals your customers want to reach, as well as the contribution their interactions make on KPIs like revenue, cost and customer satisfaction.

dashboard measuring digital product journeys

For example, the digital team at a healthcare organization overseeing a supplemental Medicare purchasing application noticed that a high percentage of users were dropping out of the purchase workflow at the point where they compared plans. Optimizing this part of the purchase journey seemed like a good idea.

By analyzing the entire customer journey, the insurer found that members were calling the care center to complete their purchase. An analysis of these calls revealed crucial information about why these members couldn’t complete their selection, which enabled the digital team to fix the problem quickly, before the open enrollment period ended.

By leveraging a journey-based approach, you can identify and prioritize initiatives that are sure to improve customer experience and business outcomes, rather than simply reducing the number of clicks for product-specific metrics like usage and activity.

2. Identify Drivers of Usage and Friction

Product analytics can tell you what is happening within your product, but it’s just as important to understand why customers use your product in the first place. Customers may encounter obstacles that prevent them from accomplishing their goals, so it’s critical for product leaders to understand what customers want to achieve when they engage with your product.

Further, the experience users have with your product impacts other parts of your business. If customers can’t dispute a fraudulent charge, add a dependent to their health plan or fix a connectivity issue easily, they may contact the care center. This is costly for any enterprise. Identifying the root cause of these issues is crucial to mitigate costs and, most importantly, delight customers.

That’s why a customer journey-based approach is so crucial for digital product experience optimization. It enhances root cause analysis by analyzing all the steps customers have taken in order to recognize the customers’ goal and the channels they have leveraged to accomplish that goal prior to engaging with your product.

Journeys in Action: Identify the Root Cause of a Decline in Transaction Approvals 

A leading health insurance provider uses Pointillist to identify causes of a decline in the transaction approval rate for their flexible payment product.

The flexible payment product owner at a national health insurer is alerted to a significant decrease in the approval rate for transactions using the insurer’s flexible benefits card. Using Pointillist, she sees that the decrease in approvals is linked to an increase in self-service chatbot usage and FAQ pageviews. 

By analyzing the entire journey, she finds that the decrease in approvals is largely driven by an increase in denials for purchases of eligible over-the-counter products by members using their flexible payment account. Some eligible expenses are incorrectly coded as ineligible expenses within theflexible payment system. This leads members to access the web portal and navigate to the FAQ page or use the self-service chatbot to diagnose their issue.

digital produce experience in the health insurance industry

The flexible payment product owner works with engineering to fix the coding issue for eligible expenses. They also arrange for contact center agents to reach out to members to notify them of the issue and provide a temporary workaround.

3. Increase Digital Containment

“The consumer is the most demanding, and has had the earliest start in terms of self-service. They want to take the remote control in their pocket… and be able to do everything on it.”

Dominic Venturo, Chief Digital Officer, U.S. Bank

Improving digital products and services goes far beyond simply enabling the consumer to process basic transactions on a computer or mobile device. When your customers encounter an issue, they want to address it in the most efficient way possible. 

Typically, the easiest way is to use digital channels to diagnose and resolve the issue themselves. A study conducted by Dimension Data found that 73% of customers prefer to use a company’s website, instead of using social media, SMS and live chat for support.

Customer-centric organizations know that self-service options must be stellar to compete with human-assisted help channels. Today, enterprises are prioritizing digital transformation in the hopes of providing more efficient, intuitive experiences.

Further, supporting customer calls and queries is expensive. Helping your customers resolve issues within unassisted digital channels results in lower cost to serve, a major expense for most businesses.

Journeys in Action: Decrease Digital Leakage with Customer Journeys

A credit card issuer uses Pointillist to increase digital self-service and containment rates.

The Head of Digital, Fraud Solutions at a large US credit card company sees that self-service and containment rates are declining. She uses customer journey analytics to analyze all fraud-related journeys. 

Next, she sees that 137M cardholders try to  make a purchase that exceeds $1K, when an SMS is deployed to verify that the cardholder is indeed the person making the purchase. She finds that of the 48M cardmembers who confirm that they intend to make the transaction, 65% call the contact center within 24 hours to complete their purchase. The rise in call volume has increased the cost to serve by $187M.

example of digital product experience journey - banking

The Head of Digital sees that 90% are attempting to buy a product from Amazon. She connects with the Merchant Services Product Lead, who will work with Amazon to fix the issue. Once the issue is resolved, call volume and cost to serve decreases and self-service returns to average levels.

4. Orchestrate Actions to Drive Personalized Self-Service Experiences

“Integrate context into the design and functions of the [self-service] portal… Build in an understanding of where customers have come from when they reach your portal, and provide them with relevant personalized information immediately.”

Bain

When customers want to update their account information or pay a bill, they expect to achieve their goal without needing to interact with a customer service representative. If they encounter issues with your product or service, most customers want to diagnose and triage issues themselves. Regardless of their goal, the experience your users have should be seamless across channels and products.

Journey orchestration allows you to leverage omnichannel customer behavior to ensure that their experiences within your products reflect each customer’s individual’s unique context and help them achieve their goal more easily. This ability is key to increasing personalization for every customer.

Product leaders are now adopting journey orchestration to improve digital product experiences. Fueling your digital channels and products with real-time customer journey data allows virtual assistants and agents alike to provide next-best experiences that are informed by each customer’s historical experience and current goals.

By optimizing self-service options, you can delight customers with personalized, low-effort experiences that also mitigate costs for your business.

Journeys in Action: Improve Self-Service Rates with Journey Orchestration 

A leading digital media services provider uses Pointillist Journey Orchestration™ to increase self-service usage and satisfaction rates.

The SVP, Video Streaming at a digital media provider is alerted when usage rates decline and customer satisfaction plummets.

He uses Pointillist to identify the journeys that impact these metrics the most. His analysis reveals that customers start streaming content on a mobile device but then experience involuntary playback interruptions. After further analysis, he sees that the majority of customers are calling into the contact center to address the issue with an agent rather than troubleshooting the issue on the mobile app or website.

The SVP reaches out to the customer support team, who uses Pointillist’s journey orchestration capability to send an email to customers who have already encountered the problem, as well as any customers who start streaming content on a mobile device that are likely to experience this issue in the near future. 

Meanwhile, he connects with the Senior Product Manager Video Streaming to create an in-app message that deploys when playback is interrupted, which will help guide users to the company’s digital self-service channels. 

example of journey orchestration in the pointillist platform

While he works with the Video and Live Streaming Technology Manager to fix the issue, usage and satisfaction rates begin to recover while contact center volume decreases.

5. Improve Cross-functional Collaboration

“It is no surprise that a lot of digital journey transformations struggle to succeed. It requires a combination of traditional transformation elements … and cross-functional teamwork, as well as more digital elements, including agile delivery of technology, along all-journey transformation phases… We regularly observe up to 15% revenue increases and simultaneous reductions in cost to serve of more than 20%.”

McKinsey

Customer journeys are the key to unlocking and sharing information across your organization.

Seeing how customers engage with other parts of your business helps you understand why customers use your product, what goals they want to achieve with it and how their behavior impacts digital product experiences and business outcomes.

As discussed, customers expect their experience to be seamless, as if one person were in charge of everything. Journeys encourage product owners to look beyond the confines of a single product’s user experience and provide them with the context they need to work together to deliver consistent, connected experience across every product and channel. 

Further, other business units benefit from accessing information that is often siloed within product teams. Understanding why customers use certain products, in addition to knowing how they use them, helps product owners determine which improvements to prioritize to hit company goals and objectives.

Summary

Customers expect digital products to be easy, seamless and delightful to use. Increasingly, traditionally high-touch or complex interactions are becoming fully digitized, expanding your digital footprint as well as the ways in which customers can achieve their goals. Your products can serve as competitive differentiators that improve the overall customer experience, as well as your business KPIs.

Aligning on customer journeys improves the strategy, design, development and measurement of digital products and channels. Understanding what comes before and after user interactions allows you to quantify exactly how your product impacts business-critical outcomes. Using journeys, you can easily identify the larger goals your customers are trying to accomplish as they use various products and self-service channels, as well as how successful they are at achieving those goals.

The benefits of using customer journeys to optimize digital product experiences not only impact satisfaction and cost to serve, but also extend across your business to other customer experience metrics and, most importantly, to your customers.

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