Continuous improvement and innovation: Successful customer journey operations

Learn the essentials of feedback loops, experimentation and agility to deliver continuous improvement in customer journey operations.

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Creating a great customer experience is a top priority for most brands because customers value the entire journey, not just the products or services they purchase. However, delivering on this promise is often more challenging than it sounds.

In this series, we looked at the collaborative aspects of customer journey operations and what successful governance looks like. This article will discuss how to keep a great approach to top performance by continually assessing and improving it.

Feedback loops

Let’s start by talking about the “engine” that will feed the decisions you make and what you prioritize in your continuous improvement efforts. Because, in order to continuously improve, you need to have the necessary information to do so. 

A feedback loop is like a system that takes important information and data points and then organizes it in a way that makes it useful for your team or the tools you use. In the case of customer journey orchestration, this often means a next-best action, offer or other type of recommendation that will yield the best results for the customer and the business.

A good feedback loop gives you actionable information and answers key questions, such as the best channel to reach a particular individual or audience segment or what offers are most compelling. Feedback loops go beyond simpler reporting and give you information that you (or your automated platforms) can use, often in real time.

Benefits of feedback loops

When feedback loops are done well, you will be able to rely on several benefits, including:

  • Building a scientific method into your customer journey orchestration work that requires a hypothesis and statistically significant amounts of data.
  • Helping to battle the trap of acting on anecdotal evidence.
  • Consistently pulling valuable information and data across multiple channels and teams that may all contribute to customer journey orchestration but may not always share information regularly.
  • Getting a diverse amount of customer data that paint a fuller picture of the customer journey, including both pain points and opportunities.
  • Giving customers better content, offers and experiences in real-time or near real-time without lengthy internal review processes, manual content creation, etc. 

Feedback loops are an essential part of the continuous improvement of your customer journey operations efforts because they give you the information you need to act on real data in a timely manner.

Experimentation

Part of improving means continually asking questions. This is where things can sometimes get uncomfortable because not all of our assumptions are right, and not all of the questions we ask may improve our customer journeys. 

That said, it is critical that organizations still build a culture of experimentation without fear of “being wrong.” As I’ve often counseled my customers, as long as you learn something from experiments, they are never failures. This applies to any type of marketing (and beyond), but it can have specific implications for customer journey orchestration.

Benefits of experimentation

When experimentation is done well, you will be able to rely on several benefits:

  • Increased collaboration among often siloed teams which becomes particularly important in customer journey orchestration, where cross-channel team coordination is vital to success.
  • Innovation in the work performed. Collaboration among diverse teams leads to new insights, and experimentation builds on that by giving everyone permission to come up with new ideas. When there isn’t fear of being “wrong,” teams are liberated to try new things and be more creative and innovative in their work.
  • Brand new insights that can be applied directly or in other business areas. The freedom to experiment and try new things means that the business can benefit from learnings in one area and apply them in an entirely different one. Experimentation gets teams thinking outside their “lanes,” and everyone (including customers) can benefit.

You need to ensure your experiments’ results are tied into your feedback loops. This process of continual experimentation, measurement and improvement can transform an industry laggard into a leader through the sheer speed of innovation.

With feedback loops in place, building a culture of experimentation can become a competitive advantage. When married with your customer journey operations and orchestration efforts, it means that your customers are continually benefiting from the best and latest ideas and methods to reach them with the most relevant content, offers and experiences.

Dig deeper: Keys to successful marketing experimentation

Agility

Finally, what good are feedback mechanisms and a collaborative culture of experimentation if your organization is not nimble enough to adapt to the good ideas and insights that all of that work produces? This is where agility comes into play.

There are many reasons why agility is necessary these days in general. Still, when undertaking something as complex and interdependent as customer journey orchestration, there are several considerations:

  • New channels and platforms. One of the great things about customer journey orchestration is that it allows a brand to connect with its customers on the right platform at the right time with the right message. Because of this, as customer preferences change or new channels are made available, your teams need to be nimble enough to take advantage of them.
  • New ways of working. There are also potentially new ways of work being performed, including greater reliance on AI-based tools to create work and even interact in real-time with customers, so make sure that you are evaluating best practices in how work is performed regularly.
  • Determining what is working and what is not. Quickly determining what is working and what is not is a measure of agility. A key metric here is velocity — or how quickly work is completed.

Benefits of agility

When agility is done well, you will be able to rely on several benefits, including:

  • Improved velocity of improvements and quicker fixes when something goes wrong
  • Internal teams will offer up more ideas because they feel like things actually get done
  • Customers appreciate quick and noticeable enhancements

When an organization is nimble and agile, it can take advantage of opportunities and often avoid challenging situations regarding its customer journey orchestration and operations. 

Dig deeper: Agile marketing: What it is and why marketers should care

Bringing everything together

While all of the above elements individually contribute to the long-term success of a brand’s customer journey orchestration, true success is achieved when everything is tied together. 

There are several things to remember here because the details matter. Not only do your internal teams need this, but your end customers, for whom the journeys are designed, managed and improved in the first place, will feel the effects of a lack of continuous improvement.

  • Rely on your governance structure here and ensure good governance is in place.
  • Remember to gather diverse insights — qualitatively from your teams and quantitatively about your results — to avoid making decisions based on anecdotal evidence.
  • Even continuous improvement needs to be continuously improved: make sure that you take a look at how you evaluate the success of your customer journey orchestration regularly.

Thus, putting everything together to create a holistic continuous improvement system within your customer journey operations means that you and your organization will continue to benefit.

Conclusion

It’s not enough to have a good strategy, initial implementation and even a strong team supporting your customer journey orchestration work. All of them are important, but if you aren’t continuously assessing and taking steps to improve your work, you’ll quickly find that what was once a strong plan and approach has become seriously outdated.

Continuous improvement is a holistic approach considering the people, processes and platforms that make up your customer journey operations. Incorporating methods to continually assess, evaluate and improve them means that you are building the foundation for continued success, which will benefit both the business and the customers your journeys are serving.

Thanks for reading this series on customer journey operations. While some details, team structures and data and platform considerations may vary from organization to organization, the best practices and ideas in these articles should help you on your organization’s journey to create better, more beneficial relationships with your customers.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About the author

Greg Kihlstrom
Contributor
Greg Kihlström is a best-selling author, speaker, and entrepreneur, and serves as an advisor and consultant to top companies on marketing technology, marketing operations, customer experience, and digital transformation initiatives. He has worked with some of the world’s top brands, including Adidas, Coca-Cola, FedEx, HP, Marriott, Nationwide, Victoria’s Secret, and Toyota.

Greg's podcast, The Agile Brand, is one of the top-ranked enterprise marketing shows and features brand and platform leaders discussing the latest trends and best practices in marketing and CX.

He is a multiple-time Co-Founder and C-level leader, leading his digital experience agency to be acquired by the largest independent marketing agency in the DC region in 2017, successfully exited an HR technology platform provider he co-founded in 2020, and led a SaaS startup to be acquired by a leading edge computing company in 2021. He currently advises and sits on the Board of a marketing technology startup.

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