Image courtesy of Pixabay

Today’s post is a modified version of a post I originally wrote for Confirmit in March 2013.

What steps are you taking to create a single view of the customer so that you can deliver a more-personalized customer experience? None? Don’t worry! You’re not alone.

Why is this important? How do we achieve that single view of the customer? Let me start with an old story that provides a great analogy for the importance of that single view.

Three blind men, who had never seen an elephant, thought it would be great if they could at least touch an elephant so that they could get a sense of what it was all about. As they were talking, a man who owned a herd of elephants happened to walk by and overheard their conversation. He offered to bring one of his elephants by so that the men could touch it. He came the next day with an elephant, and the blind men each took turns touching it – each one touching a different part of it. Depending on the part they touched, they came up with different conclusions as to what it was: a tree, a spear, a fan, a rope, a wall. The three, however, could not come to an agreement that what they touched was, indeed, an elephant.

How can you understand or describe the whole thing without knowing the sum of the parts? How do they all add up? How do they all work together?

That is the risk we run into with multichannel and cross-channel customer experiences. Without knowing the big picture, we can’t really understand who our customers are and what they are trying to achieve – and as result, we can’t deliver personalized customer experiences.

Today, there are many sources of data from and about our customers:  surveys, POS data, CRM data, phone interactions, website visits, social media content, and more. The problem is, wherever the data are collected, that’s often where they stay. Data doesn’t get shared across departments. And when we have disparate data or data sources that are not connected in any way, i.e., they are siloed, then the customer experience suffers. At each touchpoint, customers end up saying, “Wow. You don’t know me at all.” And that equates to a lot more effort for the customer. At this point, we know that’s a bad thing.

How do we make sure all of that disparate data is combined in such a way that we can create a single view of the customer and, hence, are able to deliver a more-personalized experience? How do we break down those silos? How do we get a holistic view of our elephant?

Quite simply, the best place to start is with a customer journey map.

Several years ago, journey maps were very basic, with a simple mapping of high-level touchpoints, or companies mapped the lifecycle and called it a journey map. At the same time, there weren’t as many channels or data sources as there are today. Today, customer journey mapping is imperative and requires a cross-functional effort to create.

First things first. A customer journey map is a view of customer interactions with your organization; it’s created by taking a walk in your customers’ shoes as they purchase and consume your products and services – as they try to achieve some task with the organization. To begin to create a journey map, you must first know who your customers are – and how their needs differ. Different customers have different journeys, so you’ll need to define your personas and then uncover and prioritize those Moments of Truth that are most important to each persona.

I call a customer journey map the backbone of your customer experience management strategy. Why? Because everything the customer does with you feeds into it, and everything you do for them stems from it. But how does that allow us to break down the silos and get that single view of the customer? Well, there are some basic tenets of journey mapping that must be adhered to in order to do that.

  • They link the customer to the employee. Included in your journey map is the linkage between the customer interaction and the department with which the customer interacts. In the end, this helps employees in each department – customer facing or back office – understand how they impact the customer experience.
  • They evolve as the business evolves. Journey maps are not static depictions of the journey; as your business, products, processes, etc. change, as the customer’s needs change, so must your maps, in order to accurately reflect new experiences customers are having.
  • They require collaboration. Customer journey maps are not meant to be created solely by one person or by a centralized team. They must be built in conjunction with cross-functional teams. This helps to create buy-in and understanding, and opens the doors for data to flow freely across the organization.
  • They must be shared. These maps cannot just sit on a shelf or on someone’s desk; they must be shared throughout the organization so that everyone understands the customer journey and buys into the organization’s primary focus: the customer.

Does any of that sound like it can be done in a vacuum? No, right? Those rules explain how and why you’ll break down silos with journey maps. You’ll work together and share data, and – through that –  achieve that single view of the customer.

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man. -Heraclitus