I originally published today’s post for Oracle CX. It appeared on their site on October 7, 2019.
I’ve been known to say that you can’t transform something you don’t understand. If you don’t know and, more importantly, understand what the current state of the customer experience is – especially, what’s going well and what isn’t – how can you possibly design the desired future state?
Customer understanding is the cornerstone of customer-centricity. It’s really about learning everything you need to know not only about your customers, i.e., who they are, what they expect, what their needs and pain points are, what jobs they are trying to do, but also about their current experiences in order to deliver the experience they expect going forward. And then using those learnings in how you conduct business day in and day out.
One of the most powerful tools to understand your customers, the experience they are having, and the experience they desire is journey mapping. With journey mapping, you walk in your customers’ shoes to understand the steps they take to do whatever it is they are trying to do with your organization.
Journey mapping is both a tool (the actual map) and a process (how you use the learnings from the map plus additional mapping exercises, i.e., service blueprint and future state maps). You’ve got to know and create the tool, but you’ve also (and especially) got to embrace the process. You’ve got to do the work; you’ve got to execute on the learnings from the map.
I also want to be clear on what a journey map is not. It is not a lifecycle map, which outlines the stages of the customer lifecycle, usually in internal/corporate speak. It is also not a touchpoint map, which captures and inventories all of the touchpoints in each stage of the lifecycle. These are important distinctions to make because many marketers believe that the latter, especially, is synonymous with journey mapping. This is just not the case.
Having said that, let me outline how you can use the touchpoint map as part of the overall journey mapping process. As mentioned, touchpoint maps are used to inventory all of your customer touchpoints, anything from marketing emails to signage to boarding passes to invoices to mobile apps to contact centers and beyond. Start with outlining the various stages of the customer lifecycle; remember that the experience begins long before someone makes a purchase and doesn’t end after the purchase. Then capture everywhere and every way the brand touches the customer and vice versa within each lifecycle stage. This is an important and eye-opening exercise, for sure. Most brands don’t realize how much and in how many different ways they touch customers.
Once you’ve captured the touchpoints, you must validate with customers to ensure that you haven’t missed anything. Remember, you always want to operate from the customer’s viewpoint and get the customer’s perspective, even in touchpoint mapping.
Next, identify all of the touchpoints for which you have feedback or other customer metrics. What you’re looking for here are painful touchpoints for customers or places where you are losing customers (hence, the need to add customer metrics, e.g., shopping cart abandonment) – and the importance or impact of those touchpoints on the customer.
Now, on to journey mapping. There are a lot of different ways to identify which journeys to map, but what you’ve just done with the touchpoint mapping exercise is highlight painful touchpoints that are important to customers through which you must map the journey and improve the experience.
In order to create a journey map, you’re going to start with a few things:
- What is the scope of the map? Which of those painful touchpoints are you going to map through?
- For which persona(s) are you going to map?
- What are the objectives and the desired outcomes? Why are you mapping and what are you going to do with what you uncover?
- Which customers and stakeholders will you invite to participate in the mapping session?
Remember that maps must be created with customers, from the customers’ perspectives. This is all about learning about customer needs and expectations. There are a lot of journey mapping frameworks, but they all include what the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling. Can’t capture those without customers!
Coming out of the journey mapping workshop, you’ll add data to the maps to identify key moments of truth and then conduct root cause analysis to get at the root of issues happening during the experience. I won’t go into all of the steps of the journey mapping process, but suffice it to say that it’s not enough to map. You’ve got to do something with what you learned.
On that note, here are four important ways marketers should use journey maps:
1. Understand the Experience
When done right, you’ll come out of the journey mapping workshop with a solid understanding of the customer’s story – not only the story she told about her needs and the problems she was trying to solve when she chose to interact with your brand but also the story of interacting with your brand. That story helps you feel what the customer feels and creates empathy for her.
Use the story and the learnings from this map to ensure that the experience aligns with your brand promise. Ask yourself:
- Are we delivering on the expectations we set?
- Are we communicating in a way that suits our customers’ needs?
- Is our messaging on point with the customer story, with her reason for interacting with our brand, with the problems she is trying to solve?
2. Design a Better Experience
It’s not enough to just understand the current experience; you’ve also got the design and deliver a new and improved experience. Ideating and designing a new experience with customers happens in future state mapping workshops. These workshops provide you with the opportunity to hear from customers what the ideal experience would be; know that they don’t usually go overboard with their ideas – they just want things to be right.
Coming out of this exercise, ask yourself:
- What are the challenges we face in designing the ideal experience?
- Is it time to update our brand promise?
- How can we be sure to communicate with our customers in a relevant and timely manner going forward?
- How will we need to adjust our messaging?
3. Strengthen Customer Relationships
When you understand who your customers are, what problems they are trying to solve, and how well you are performing in helping them solve those problems, you hold the key to building stronger relationships with your customers. How could maps not do that?! When you listen to customers, understand them, co-create with them, close the loop and let them know about improvements that have been made, and more you buy yourself a lot of goodwill with customers. And a better experience that simplifies interactions along the entire relationship is a recipe for strengthening the bond with your customers.
After you’ve identified the moments of truth, you’ve got to focus on those to ensure that you don’t continue to leak customers from those points. Moments of truth are make-or-break moments, decision points for customers on whether they continue doing business or go elsewhere. When you ensure that those moments are executed flawlessly, you’re confirming a customer’s decision to do business with your brand.
4. Align Your Work Around the Customer
Journey maps place the focus on the customer and on her experience interacting with the brand. They help to align your work – and the organization – around the customer in a variety of ways. Journey maps help:
- Connect or break down silos within the organization. By definition and because of the way they are created and the way they must be used, maps bring the organization together for a common cause.
- Encourage and strengthen partnerships with other departments, as a result.
- Bring the customer to life. Share the maps with all employees to share the story and to build that empathy.
- Remind you that there’s a human on the other end of that interaction – not just an account number, policy holder, or case number.
- Shift your thinking away from touchpoints to the broader experience or journeys. Move beyond lifecycles and touchpoints; journey maps remind us that the experience is so much more than what happens at a single touchpoint.
- Alter your approach from inside-out to outside-in, reminding everyone to always bring the customer voice and perspective into conversations, decisions, and design.
Journey maps are multi-faceted. There are so many ways they can be used and so many benefits of using them, but these four areas give you a pretty good idea of why they are such an important tool to have in your toolbox.
Marketing is not the art of finding clever ways to dispose of what you make. Marketing is the art of creating genuine customer value. It is the art of helping your customer become better off. The marketer’s watchwords are quality, service, and value. -Philip Kotler
Annette Franz, CCXP is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In September 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.