In recent years, there has been a lot of focus on customer journeys to create an engaging customer experience. Each touchpoint of the customer journey offers an immense opportunity for organizations to engage with customers and provide a differentiated experience to clients on their journeys.
With this context, there has been a renewed focus on understanding Customer journeys at a micro level to understand customer pain points and understand their steps, needs, and perceptions of interactions to achieve an outcome. A rich understanding of Customer Journeys of certain target segments, also known as personas, provides insights to CX professionals to design a superior experience.
Customer interactions today span multiple physical and digital touchpoints and so the journeys customers take to make a decision have become more complex. For instance, an 18-year-old purchasing a smartwatch is unlikely to visit a store before making a purchase decision. Instead, she is likely going to rely on her social network to get feedback on various parameters like coolness quotient, features, and price to make a purchase decision, which by the way, is very likely to happen on a mobile app.
From an organization’s standpoint, this journey is not a straightforward purchase decision, but rather a non-linear process where a lot of back and forth happens and multiple channel touchpoints need to come together for a decision to happen.
Customer Journeys are non-Linear illustration for a smartphone purchase
Existing customers have an additional expectation that the firm ‘knows me, engages me and serves me’ on the channel and timing of my choice. Customer Experience professionals need to find ways to influence these journeys at the channel of customer’s choice and unlocking insights from customer’s footprints. This is really where firms need to power of the API ecosystem to redefine customer journeys. A well-defined API ecosystem provides a great way to tap into insights from each stage of customer journeys and tap into processes spanning front office to back office to provide an engaging customer experience.
To continue the previous example, a client who recently purchased a smartwatch, unfortunately, got a defective product and in a few moments tweeted about this. This tweet triggered a customer service case, met with prompt service from a call center rep, who assured to offer a quick replacement.
While this satisfied the customer, the experience can be taken to a different level, if she is provided real-time updates into the delivery of the watch (using the inventory management API’s) and a complementary Uber ride to her UC Irvine campus (using insights on her studying in UC Irvine, along with API integration of Uber)
Let’s now think about how a well thought out API strategy can meaningfully shape customer journeys. The emergence of an API economy with powerful platforms like Mulesoft has enabled organizations to think about API and micro-services in completely different ways. While in the early days, API’s were about creating a modular architecture, it quickly emerged that this modular architecture can be a foundation for shaping customer experience strategy. The below table highlights 4 different ways in which API’s can really shape customer journeys
The above figure highlights how a modular API is driven architecture can be a source of competitive advantage in automating Customer-facing processes, understanding existing customers better and using insights to tap into newer customer segments. However, the ability to foster ecosystems and redefine value chain using APIs is the most compelling source of competitive advantage for organizations. The below table illustrates various use cases for the 4 scenarios using API’s
|How API’s shape customer journeys||Examples|
|Simplifying and automating processes|| Perform Credit Check for lending authentication
Check inventory status in a particular location to drive pricing and deal decisions
|Improving Engagement for existing Customers|| Improve Banking experience for customers across multiple LOBs with customer 360
Better targeting and offers for cellular customers by leveraging family purchase history
|Tap into newer Customer segments||Cross-sell P&C insurance products to life insurance customers
What does this mean for Organizations?
The ability to provide modular information via API’s enables companies to really shape and influence the customer journeys. Addressing these needs require a well thought out CX architecture and API strategy. Experience API’s aggregate information from multiple processes to close a missing link for the customer.
Organizations need to use 3 D’s of API strategy to maximize value for themselves. These are
- Data: Unlocking data in various siloes forms the core of API strategy. Once unlocked, this data can be made visible in a wide variety of customer journeys.
- Decisioning: Process API’s provide a great way to aggregate system information and automate decisioning process
- Design: Experience API’s can be harnessed to design a contextual experience for customers
In sum, having a solid API strategy is one of the key ways to influence customer journeys and design superior customer experience. Organizations that invest in creating this foundation and work with various IT teams to unlock the siloes will ultimately get rewarded by having a better understanding of their customers, with an ability to engage and influence them.