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Where are you on your customer experience (CX) journey? Well down the path? Just starting? Dreaming of the days when “customer experience” will become a conversation topic, never mind a priority?

Regardless of where you are, I believe a customer journey map is in your future. If you’ve never created one or have never even heard of one (your name wouldn’t happen to be Barney Rubble, would it?), then some basics are in order.

What is a customer journey map? In simplest terms, it’s a way to walk in your customer’s shoes and chart his course as he interacts with your organization (channels, departments, touchpoints, products, etc.) while trying to fulfill some need or do some job.  It allows you to identify key moments of truth and to ensure that those moments are executed delightfully. The map is created from his viewpoint, not yours. It’s not linear, and it’s not static. But it is the backbone of your customer experience management efforts.

Consider for a moment you want to go to Starbucks to get a cup of coffee. Your journey is not as simple as “want coffee – get coffee” or “get coffee – drink coffee.” No, there’s more to it than that, but hold that thought for a moment.

Why do you need a customer journey map? I believe customer journey maps provide clarity for the organization. There are a ton of benefits, including (to name just a few):

  • getting organizational buy-in for customer focus and customer centricity
  • understanding your customer and his interactions with your organization
  • aligning the organization around a common cause
  • speaking a universal language (customer)
  • breaking down organizational silos
  • getting a single view of the customer
  • improving the customer experience

Is there a way that you can simply explain customer journey mapping to the folks within your  organization? Yes. I stumbled upon a video a couple months ago, and I’ve shared it with several people to do just that. Here’s the video. (If you have issues viewing it, I’ve linked to it in the previous sentence and in the paragraph below.)

Remember the scenario about going to get coffee. In the video, Stanford outlines the journey to get coffee. While some of the initial steps in the coffee journey have nothing to do with the coffee shop, they are still important steps. Why? Well, there are many choices for coffee, so when your experience is so great that the customer doesn’t mind walking the extra block or sitting through one more traffic light, you win.

The video clearly demonstrates how the journey for a job a customer needs to do – whatever it is – is not as simple as going from point A to point Z. There’s point A and point B and point C and point D and more, perhaps even circling back to point C before going all the way to point Z. Mapping the journey forces you to think about all of those points and to learn how you are performing at each one. As they say, your experience is only as strong as your weakest link. Identify the point of failure. Fix it. Monitor it.

If you’ve never created a map, it’s time to do it – and then show it to your executives. Help them understand the journey your customers are taking in order to do what they are trying to do. I wonder how many of the execs will be surprised?

If you’ve already created maps, then it’s time to dust them off and update them.

Let’s declare 2014 the Year of the Journey Map!

The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. -Chinese Proverb