What is customer journey management?

Khoros Staff

4 steps to effectively manage the customer journey in contact centers

Service leaders should take proactive steps to create a favorable digital-first impression. According to Trustpilot's findings, 90% of consumers actively avoid businesses with negative reputations. Your contact center and customer support teams are the front line of customer interactions, where inquiries, complaints, and feedback come together. A substantial 63% of contact center leaders grapple with staff shortages, prompting them to employ innovative and proactive strategies not only for agent recruitment but, more crucially, for retaining their current workforce.

Changing how customer service works means you should no longer believe in one person or department handling all customer interactions. Instead, customer service is a team effort involving multiple functions. Customers emphasize the importance of connected and consistent experiences in building trust. Surprisingly, just 7% of contact centers that offer multi-channel service can seamlessly transition customers between channels, preserving their data, history, and context for the next agent or system. In today’s digital landscape, an integrative approach to coordinating all aspects of customer service is essential, with 93% of respondents reporting high customer satisfaction (CSAT) when experiencing a smooth channel transition.

Customers will now and forever expect the flexibility to connect with your brand anytime, anywhere. To your customers, a subpar experience on one channel could drive them away from all. That explains why prioritizing channel investments remains a top agenda this year, with 69% indicating their intention to expand or continue expanding service channels over the next two years. Forbes highlights a significant consensus, with 97% of consumers and 98% of contact center leaders agreeing that customer service interactions directly impact consumer loyalty — ultimately, the bottom line.

Effective customer journey management transcends the realm of sheer buzzwords; it represents a strategic approach capable of redefining the operations of your contact center and yielding substantial ROI.

If you recognize the pivotal importance of delivering exceptional customer service, understand its multifaceted nature, are looking for a blueprint to achieve more with less, or are redefining your customer service approach, then discover the secrets behind consistently delivering outstanding customer service.

Our blog offers expert insights on managing your customer journey in four steps: deflect, contain, serve, and optimize. It will provide you with strategies and best practices to enhance customer service for a digital service funnel that guarantees quality and efficiency in your contact center operations.

Defining your service funnel (trickier than you might think!)

The jargon brands use to describe the customer journey, and the corresponding business systems can be confusing. Terms like "buckets," "pipelines," and even "flywheels" are thrown around, but we prefer a simpler metaphor: The funnel. Why? Because customer inquiries flow towards your brand, a straightforward hierarchy of processes should efficiently resolve them with minimal brand effort.

At the widest part of the funnel, representing the initial stage, brands implement systems demanding the least effort and human intervention. As you move towards the narrowest part at the bottom of the funnel, where fewer inquiries await resolution, brands deploy higher-effort systems, often involving human agents.

The challenge arises when managing the top of the funnel at scale. Modern organizations have hundreds of potential entry points — not all under brand control. Customers may engage with your brand via:

  • Contact or support pages

  • Email footers

  • Physical collateral (such as mailers or paper bills)

  • Billboard or bus stop ads (anywhere you can place a QR code)

  • Mobile app

Additionally, a customer's initial interaction might occur on un-owned platforms like Google Search results, Wikipedia, or review aggregators. The digital surface area brands need to cover can be overwhelming — not just because it’s so big but also because it constantly evolves and expands.

1. Deflect inquiries to self-service and messaging channels (the best way to boost efficiency)

1. Deflect inquiries to self-service and messaging channels (the best way to boost efficiency)

There are three key components to successful deflection:

  1. Offering substantial self-service options,

  2. Ensuring messaging entry points exist in as many places as possible,

  3. Communicating with customers through proactive messages

The goal is to resolve as many inquiries as possible with self-service options with high first contact resolution (FCR) rates to prevent as many inquiries as possible from moving farther down the funnel. Another goal is to increase your brand’s CSAT scores by quickly resolving queries.

Self-service options

Providing your customers and potential customers with effective self-service options decreases your brand's workload and efficiently addresses customer needs. Currently, 74% of organizations are testing or implementing customer-facing chatbots to varying degrees. Meanwhile, over 80% of consumers seek additional self-service alternatives for direct brand engagement. That means over four of every five consumers don’t actually want to speak with anyone on your customer service team unless they have to.

You can manage inquiries through self-service options, such as:

  • Brand-owned digital resources like FAQ pages,

  • Knowledge bases,

  • Status lookup portals (for shipping, tracking, etc.),

  • And in-product or in-app assistance.

But the most potent self-service tool brands have at their disposal, and the best place to centralize these options is a brand-owned community. While communities undeniably decrease the volume of inquiries, their advantages extend beyond this aspect. 93% of customer journeys start with search, and communities dominate results for both generic, short queries like “Khoros customer service” or “contact Khoros support” — and long queries like “trouble logging in to Khoros” and “[brand product] I need help with.”

Communities don't just decrease the number of inquiries; they also encourage customers to use more effective channels like messaging. You can deliver a seamless experience by offering community-specific chatbot flows so customers can easily register, create tickets, check status, and find content. This way, fewer inquiries are escalated to higher-effort channels.

Measure the deflection value of your community with success rate surveys

Online communities significantly improve customer experience, yet traditional data gathering methods (bounce rate, page views, time on the page, NPS, and CSAT) have become obsolete. The most effective way to measure a community's influence is by asking the customers themselves with success rate tracking.

Success Rate determines a customer’s experience with your brand with just one simple yet crucial question:

  • “Did you find what you were looking for today?”

You can add a follow-up question, like:

  • “If you hadn’t found what you were looking for, what would your next step have been?”

To learn even more about the value of your community, you could ask:

  • Would your customers have called, emailed, or connected on chat if not for the community?

  • Would they leave your brand’s online properties and seek help elsewhere?

The success rate metric provides insights into customer preferences, enabling you to enhance your community's content, page architecture, and design. When defining your community's deflection value, you can:

  • Identify inquiries that would have otherwise required calls, emails, etc.

  • Calculate the percentage of solved inquiries.

  • Apply the average cost-per-contact for that channel.

Offer messaging entry points everywhere:

Provide messaging points across all channels. Yes, across all channels! Despite the goal of reducing volume, it is not counterintuitive to flood as many points of entry as you can with messaging. In fact, it is the opposite. You are taking control when you guide customers to contact your brand through the most effective channels for your team.

It’s important to understand where customers are coming to you from, and the specifics might look slightly different from brand to brand. Still, the big ones include:

When customers look to these sources to get in contact with you, offering messaging entry points makes it easy for them to click a button and chat, scan a QR code to direct message, or fire off a quick text message to initiate a conversation — instead of placing an expensive, inconvenient call.

Reducing strain on your contact center is excellent, but not when it displeases the people who matter most — your customers. Don’t simply shut off channels that customers like to use, always give them an option to contact you through the channels of their choice, and never hide your customer service channels.

Send proactive messages

Proactively communicate with your customers about company updates and alerts. This approach can help you efficiently address customer inquiries and satisfy them with personalized and timely messages.

If, for example, your brand is experiencing a service interruption or there are widespread product or delivery delays, you can proactively send outbound messages to groups of affected customers to alert them to the issue. Another excellent use for proactive messaging is to educate new customers about your product or service so that they can navigate successfully from the beginning.

If your brand gets proactive messaging right, you not only reduce incoming volume, but you can increase customer satisfaction and retention as well. SMS and WhatsApp are the two most common ways brands proactively message customers. Customers are becoming more accustomed to the pace of 24/7, anytime, anywhere communications with brands — which these channels excel in delivering.

2. Using AI-powered chatbots to contain simple inquiries (freeing agents to handle the more difficult ones)

2. Using AI-powered chatbots to contain simple inquiries (freeing agents to handle the more difficult ones)

As the funnel narrows, inquiries that couldn’t be deflected still need to be addressed by conversational AI or human agents. For most brands, 20-30% of incoming conversations stem from the same common, predictable, simple questions that can be resolved with a single link or short message. Implementing AI chatbots in contact centers could result in significant cost savings of up to $80 billion by 2026, with that number increasing to $240 billion by 2031, according to a report by Gartner. Basic routing, FAQ, and status lookup bots are designed to handle your brand’s most common inquiries and can manage them at scale.

The best FAQ bots master the simplest, highest-volume inquiries first — then expand to handle increasingly more complex and minor questions. Most chatbots are either simple button-based decision trees, conversational AI that handle natural language, or some blend of both.

To determine which style best addresses a given intent, ask these three questions;

  1. Can it be automated with buttons?

  2. Will customers like that kind of flow?

  3. Can we maintain and optimize that kind of flow?

customer journey management banner

The answers will guide your chatbot design. They also help structure the best customer journeys, giving guidelines for when your bot should deflect inquiries to a self-service portal, escalate to a human, or handle the inquiry.

Build a routing and authentication bot to increase precision and speed

Routing and authentication bots are easy ways to increase precision and speed. Most conversations can be addressed simply, “Do you need help with product information, billing, or support?” You can fully automate these interactions with menus, quick reply options, and buttons.

Sometimes, using bot-enabled forms for data collection can benefit agents and consumers, saving time and effort. Questions like the below can be effectively answered by bots since they are better suited for such tasks:

  • Data gathering: What’s your name, address, and account number?

  • Qualification: Are you a consumer or enterprise customer?

  • Case creation: What kind of insurance claim are you filing?

Build specialized and integrated bots to handle high-effort inquiries

For complex conversations requiring agents to reference a CRM, tech documentation, inventory, or other back-end system, it’s often worth investing in more sophisticated bots. Product troubleshooting, account management, and refund processes are all highly suitable for specialist bots.

Measure containment value from full and partial bot conversations

According to a study conducted by a third party, brands that utilized the Khoros bot reported successfully containing 25% of their inbound inquiries, on average. The containment rate achieved is due to a combination of end-to-end managed conversations and partially managed conversations that are escalated to human agents.

  • To determine the cost savings of a bot that handles incoming volume end-to-end, take the percentage of bot-resolved conversations and apply your cost-per-chat.

  • To approximate the value of partially-handled conversations, compare the average handle time of partial-bot conversations to human-only conversations, and you’ll see how much time bots save, on average. You can then apply the cost-per-chat to that ratio

3. Use AI-powered chatbots to assist agents and serve (but never to replace them)

3. Use AI-powered chatbots to assist agents and serve (but never to replace them)

In step two - contain, AI did the heavy lifting while human agents either stayed out of the conversation entirely or entered just at the end. The third and final step in the digital service funnel is to switch the weight of lift: Here, AI and bots serve human agents while they address high-effort inquiries. The best customer engagement platforms use AI and machine learning (ML) to tag and route conversations, connect every channel in an intuitive agent workspace, and enhance agents with AI-powered tools.

Khoros tools like suggested responses and intent detection use a natural language processing (NLP) engine to determine the intent of a specific message, then apply a specific tag or suggest an answer for an agent to use. Using data from conversation quality (like sentiment and length) and conversation outcomes (like CSAT and resolution rate), the NLP can be trained to improve intent recognition and response accuracy over time.

It’s also important to make agile changes to accommodate fluctuations in inquiry volume and staffing levels. Volume spikes happen, and they’re usually difficult to predict, but they’re manageable: Create an alert so you’ll be notified when volumes rise, that way, you can quickly make adjustments before SLAs are affected. You can also measure agent service efficiency and process enhancement value with the right tools.

4. Optimize the service funnel (by moving from insights to action)

4. Optimize the service funnel (by moving from insights to action)

The last crucial step involves enhancing your customer service funnel through comprehensive end-to-end customer experience insights. Notably, a significant majority of companies, currently exceeding 66%, prioritize competition through the lens of customer experience. This reflects a substantial surge from the 36% figure recorded in 2010. Given customer experience's pivotal role in a brand's overall success, optimization becomes the linchpin, necessitating proactive investment to ensure your customers consistently enjoy a positive and memorable experience.

The first step to optimizing your brand’s service funnel is to aggregate and analyze all voice of the customer (VoC) data your brand has available. And, if you’re only using surveys to gather customer data, you’ll want to think about deepening your insights. There’s a difference between measuring customer feedback and the entire customer experience. Surveys can provide 'how' but not 'why' or 'what,' lacking representative data and context. So, brands must tap into existing contact sources (phone, email, chat) and leverage analytics platforms to aggregate and classify data, to reveal customer friction points and enable proactive solutions.

Finally, create a Brand Experience Score (BXS) to measure value. A Brand Experience Score is a fully integrated CX/VoC assessment dashboard that evaluates each area of your business that has the potential to impact customers. A BXS uses natural language text and sentiment analysis to curate, classify, and score contextually rich, unsolicited feedback your brand is already gathering from sources like phone, chat, and email. A BXS score can be used by senior management for executive oversight and by operators as a starting point for deeper analysis. With effective service funnel optimization, including a BXS score, your brand can get to the root cause of customer challenges and substantially improve customer experience.

    Build a world-class service funnel with Khoros as your partner

    The secret to genuine digital service isn’t a single chatbot or automation strategy, a new service channel, or a new agent platform. The answer is to conceptualize customer service as a funnel. We covered four actionable steps to build an effective service funnel — managing inquiries by deflecting, containing, serving, and optimizing.

    The key to success is always being available for your customers wherever and whenever they need you. Khoros Service is a solution that helps enterprise businesses scale their customer service operations quickly, seamlessly blending synchronous and asynchronous modes. ​​

    We are firm believers in the idea that every component, whether it is AI-powered bots or business applications, should work together to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of customer engagement strategies.

    Our customer service software allows brands to serve customers on their digital channel of choice with unmatched operational insight to boost satisfaction and reduce costs. When you unify multiple channels in a single workflow, you empower your agents with the ability to engage across all touchpoints, including but not limited to:

    • Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Apple Messages for Business, and Google Business Messages, Line

    • Social networks like Facebook, X, LinkedIn and WeChat

    • Review sites, like Google Play Store, iOS App Store, Yelp, and Trustpilot

    • Brand-owned channels, like web chat, in-app, email, SMS, and voice

    • Owned communities, forums, and knowledge bases

    Though the customer journey is ever-changing, it’s possible to put a system in place that keeps your brand nimble and ahead of the curve with fast, convenient support while keeping costs low and improving customer satisfaction.

    Ready to deliver exquisite customer service? Join the ranks of global leaders achieving exceptional results.

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