Most executives know the importance of becoming more customer-centric. They’re also aware of the increased significance of differentiating on customer experience as competitors focus on better understanding and serving their customers. At the same time, smart customers are increasingly leveraging digital innovation to rewrite the traditional relationships between themselves and the companies that wish to serve them.
Together, these trends have driven broad recognition that embracing customer experience management is the critical path forward in an ever more complex business landscape. That leads us to one increasingly popular piece of the customer experience puzzle: customer journey maps.
What Is A Customer Journey Map?
Customer journey maps allow you to walk in your customers’ shoes by traveling with them as they interact with your company. When based on sound research, they provide an accurate outside-in view, focusing on desired outcomes from the customer’s perspective. You’ll see what customer needs are at each interaction, how well you meet them, and where opportunities for improvement lie.
A customer journey map is a tool that fits into the broader context of yourcustomer experience strategy; it requires significant customer insight-driven inputs and internal buy-in to be effective. They aren’t static–customers and systems change over time–and must be part of an effort that uses these insights to drive action, leading to actual improvements.
With this understanding, these are 10 points any company contemplating, planning, or already undertaking a customer-journey mapping initiative should consider:
1. Be clear on what you want to accomplish. Customer journey maps are excellent at showing the gaps between customer expectations and perceptions of the actual experience at key steps along the journey. They also help identify improvement opportunities and communicate the “why” and “how” with employees across channels, silos, and functions. In journey mapping, as in so many things, beginning with the end in mind will define the path for getting there. So know what you want and keep your strategic goals in the forefront to guide you in your employment of journey maps.
2. Know whose journey you are mapping. The power of a journey map is its ability to effectively illustrate the journey of a customer as they works toward achieving their goals. To do this, you need to look through the eyes of a single customer, most effectively represented by a research-based customer persona that represents a broader segment’s unique wants, needs, and objectives. Without this context, the map cannot effectively represent the relationship.
3. Talk to your people. Once you’ve identified whose journey you’re mapping, build an internal view of the relationship. Bring together a cross-functional, customer-facing group to map out their view of the journey, including touchpoints, opportunities, transitions, and issues. Internally driven maps are a great step to mapping the relationship and for identifying key interactions, inputs, and outputs. But you cannot stop there. You need to.
4. Talk to your customers. Most companies don’t regularly gather outside-in customer perspectives–or broadly share the insights when they do. But without an outside view on what is and isn’t important, and what does and doesn't work, your journey map will lack an accurate view of the customer, causing your employees to make decisions based on incomplete or flawed information.
5. Must-haves. It’s a journey, right? So start by understanding your unique customer relationship life cycle in the context of customer interactions. For example, what do they want and need from each interaction as they move through the journey? How do they transition from one stage (such as awareness) to another (such as learning)? Last, articulate what customers think and feel. Communicate their expectations at each step–and how well you are (or aren’t) meeting them.
6. Nice-to-haves. Customer journey maps can provide enormous amounts of data because customer journeys can be complex. Brand perceptions, individual touchpoints, operational performance metrics, moments-of-truth, customer pain points, improvement opportunities, and other customer-facing elements can provide great insight into your customers’ experience. Journey maps can also include behind-the-scenes people, processes, systems, and brand data.
7. The importance of design. A journey map is a widely shared artifact. There are dozens of ways to approach it depending on your goals, your brand, the depth of data displayed, and the breadth of the journey mapped. It should look and feel important to your organization. Use “your” language and ensure it is easy for the people who need to use it to understand.
8. Socialize and share. Journey maps need to be effectively socialized and shared across your business. Again, this means creating maps that are easy to understand. It also means involving key stakeholders early, and consulting them often. And it means showing the bad and the good; while a primary goal is to close performance gaps, it’s important to identify those best-practice areas where things are going right.
9. Take action. Journey maps aren’t meant to be purely illustrative. A typical exercise should identify a few quick fixes, including opportunities to boost enjoyment and improve the journey. And, of course, most firms discover the process helps drive broader customer experience improvements as customer needs are better understood and met. In brief, mapping the journey should help lead to specific actions–actions that improve the experience and drive the ROI to justify the effort and increase internal support.
10. Avoid analysis paralysis. Given the depth of data customer research can surface, it’s easy to try and include lots of it–quickly descending into dizzying complexity. Don’t. Remember that it’s a tool to help you easily understand customers and their needs–and that core message can get lost in the details. Clearly identify your customer, and include what’s most important to them–bringing the data (and your customers) “to life” as they pursue their goals. And be sure that you’ve read and understand the other nine steps in this post.