Achieving success at any level of customer experience maturity

Despite the ever-increasing amount of attention being paid to customer experience, particularly in industries like retail, improving customer experience remains a massive untapped opportunity.


Because there’s a major gap between the customer experience consumers expect, and the experience that most brands are capable of delivering. While research tells us that companies are making customer experience a top priority, it’s easier than ever for consumers to switch between brands, and more than half say that they will switch if experiences are not personalized.

While there’s a big revenue opportunity from improving customer experience, many brands struggle with siloed processes and internal misalignments that make it difficult to get better, even if they want to. Meanwhile, customer expectations only grow loftier - creating a major misalignment.

At Kitewheel, we’ve identified four distinct phases of customer experience maturity - we’ve seen our top clients work through these stages over the last 5 years of working with them. We now share this model with the goal of helping companies derive business value at any stage of sophistication, while also ideally moving towards a more mature state.

Here’s how brands can learn how to move towards a more proactive and consistent customer experience, no matter their current level of expertise:

Phase 1: Realization

At this first level of maturity, a company has come to the realization that customer experience is critical to achieving success against competitors and, further, realized that the customer journey is what ultimately accounts for most of the overall experience.

It’s critical to understand customer experience in the context of the customer journey, because journeys provide the framework to map, analyze and leverage towards an overall CX strategy.

understand customer experience in the context of the customer journey

Most brands likely fall under this category - understanding the importance of using customer journeys to improve customer experiences, but unsure of how to proceed. Companies at this stage usually assign someone to lead customer journey initiatives and identify potentially valuable use cases - usually aimed at addressing a current CX pain point - with the goal of understanding the customer journey on a theoretical level.

The ideal outcome in this phase is determining the critical metrics that dictate the success of any CX initiatives.

Phase 2: Mapping

Companies at the mapping phase are moving from the theoretical - how could we take advantage of customer journeys? - to the actual - how can we get started? Companies in this phase have moved from a single point person in charge of customer journeys to a stakeholder committee, and have begun executing journey pilots to get a better sense of what does and what does not drive results.

The outcome of this phase is one or more actual business cases for customer journeys. From here, companies should have a good sense of how to execute a customer journey program that creates a strong and ultimately lucrative customer experience, and will have moved from the theoretical to initiating tests of a real-time customer journey approach.

Phase 3: Analytics

The analytics phase consists of companies with a real customer journey program underway. In this phase, companies have typically moved past first pilots to rolling out several customer journeys projects across the business. 

These pilots should cover a range of use cases which could include customer acquisition, loyalty programs or customer service, and involve connecting different customer-facing channels and tactics into single journeys.

Project teams execute the customer journeys using a test and learn approach, which is where analytics really comes into play. The key outcome of this phase is actual return on the investment in customer journeys, delivering a measurable benefit to the business to feed funding of expanded efforts. 

Phase 4: Optimization

The fourth phase is when customer journeys become an integral part of the business and customer experience by scaling up and out.

customer experience so strong that it becomes the biggest differentiator beyond price

Companies at this stage are rare, because they exert significant resources towards scaling customer journeys across every customer-facing element of their business to ensure a consistent and personalized experience, and have an in-depth understanding of the many journeys their customers take via a consolidated Journey Atlas for the business.

Not only is there a return on the investment in customer journeys, but the customer experience itself is so strong that it becomes the biggest differentiator, beyond price. At this stage, companies have appointed specific Journey Managers to run key journeys.

Amazon, and particular Amazon Prime, is a great example. Amazon Prime is so personalized, convenient and flexible, that many consumers turn to it for every purchase without investigating any other vendor (many of which do offer lower prices), simply because it’s such a strong and easy experience.

The Path Forward

No matter where your company fits within the spectrum of customer experience maturity, it’s critical to understand that a customer journey strategy should be a lean, iterative process that provides business benefits at any stage.

These principles should guide any journey strategy:

  • Stay focused on addressing specific customer pain points
  • Prove value very early on to ensure buy-in
  • Orchestrate real journeys as soon as possible, then test, learn and improve
  • Work within the existing tech stack - change the processes, don’t make large new tech investments

Following these principles, and being aware of the above customer experience phases, should have you well on your way to building a better and more competitive experience that retains customers and drives business results.

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