Lost and Found: Why Journey Mapping Is Critical to Your Business

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Lost and Found: Why Journey Mapping Is Critical to Your Business
Lost and Found: Why Journey Mapping Is Critical to Your Business

Customer journey mapping is not a new idea. In fact, the concept of “journeys” has become so pervasive and so well understood that brand makers often find themselves being a bit complacent about their use.  Nearly all evolved brand and product marketers utilize journey mapping as a part of their toolkit.

That means it's probably time to shake the cobwebs off the traditional thinking and revisit not only just how much time and effort you're investing in journey mapping, but also consider whether you need to tweak how you're creating them so that they provide a quality input into your marketing schemes.

In a recent blog, Forrester Senior Analyst and customer-experience guru Jonathan Browne put out this not-so-gentle reminder to take a step back when it comes to journey mapping: “Most of us would like to think that we're more customer-centric than that individual. However, unless we check the self-centered tendencies of our organizations, we run the risk of being every bit as difficult to deal with—expecting customers to adapt to our language, practices, and policies. That won't cut it anymore because customers have plenty of options. Companies that want to thrive today had better understand how to meet or exceed their customers' expectations throughout their journeys.”

In theory, an effective journey map highlights the actual flow of the customer experience—from initial awareness of a need to fulfillment of that need. They force a business to look at all of the components of the experience, not just the ones that are well understood, currently surveyed, or well funded for innovation/process improvement.

I agree with Bruce Temkin, managing partner and customer experience transformist at Temkin Group, who says that Journey Maps are “about the process, not the picture,” and that “different customers go through different journeys. So the most effective CJMs [customer journey maps] look at the paths of individual customer segments. Sometimes there are even different CJMs for individual customers in a single segment.”

Each customer will take a different journey—just like snowflakes, no two are alike. The key is to create an optimal set of potential experiences for them, whichever path they take.

With the embracement of social media and mobile, new channels have become integrated into customer journeys, thereby requiring their own journey maps. In cases where products have a customer following that offer peer-to-peer help, a new product purchase journey for the social customer may include “feedback from community”, or elimination of “call hotline” replaced by “chat with helpdesk”, and so on.

The so-called “Social Customer” has also come to expect a higher level of speed, efficiency, and accessibility to brands. In certain industries, the new social channel journey has so altered the traditional or existing journey that it may be better mapped as a separate journey.

But wait! The Social Customer also wants the flexibility to interact across both new and traditional channels. As such it may be better to update an existing journey to reflect the new channels rather than create a new journey.

Again, a journey is industry, product, and service specific. That is the great news for marketers. You need deep domain expertise, coupled with both curiosity and data analysis, to determine the optimal journey mapping and the associated customer experiences to create success.

One of the most significant implications of new channels for customer journey mapping is the need for everything to be joined-up into a seamless set of experiences. The customer is dealing with one brand or product, not a set of silos/functions in a large enterprise. The interaction needs to be on the customer's terms; the marketer's responsibility is to not force organizational and operational process onto the customer's journey. Define what the best outcome is for the customer and work back from there, considering the multiple journey paths each customer segment may take. Look at the optimal experiences and what can go wrong along the way, and then mitigate the risks to ensure the best outcome.

With that in mind here is a five-point refresher course to snap some life back into those journey maps and get you on an even better path to customer satisfaction, loyalty, and creating brand advocates:

1. Customer's perspective: You would never create a journey map from your internal process flow, your experience survey, or interviews with your frontline staff because this info would mostly just reinforce your organization's conventional wisdom about its customer experience. The best journey maps are always created based on ethnographic research, contextual interviews, and, increasingly, analysis of social data.

With the advent of social media, a dataset now exists upon which to conduct virtual ethnography; a process that is more accessible and cost-effective than ever before. (As a side note: Virtual or digital ethnographies are an amazing way to map the customer journey and to uncover moments of opportunity to engage as well as the key drivers of engagement for content creation).

2. Easy for everyone: We've all had the experience where we've been charged with “embedding” a process or measurement throughout an organization. Journey maps use the language of the customer mapped to interactions—a language that marketing, operations, senior management, and the frontline understand.

3. Blind to politics: Ultimately, a customer journey is made up of the experiences that you are creating with them. Properly executed and measured, your journey map and associated customer feedback will highlight the barriers and the enablers in the journey. Each of these will likely correspond to a part of your organization.

This allows you to address the areas of your business that need improvement, be it awareness (marketing), out-of-the-box experience (product management), or service and support, etc. Your real customer pain points—the ones that are costing you share of wallet and new business—will no doubt be brought to light by measuring the journey and will highlight where you need to go to address the issue.

4. All Interactions! Businesses implement journey maps to understand a purchase experience or an account management experience. However, journey maps are at their best when used to map all customer interactions across the journey to develop an understanding of common pain points and challenges across all the moments of truth in different experiences and across different customer personas.

5. No single “customer journey:” A few marketers assert that you can control the customer journey. There are literally thousands of explanations of what “the customer journey” means. Nearly all include stages described as variants of awareness, research, evaluation, decision, and purchase. Many add additional post-acquisition stages like use, support/service, and long-term commitment. If you're looking to drive long-term commitment to buy and advocate, you need to address the post-purchase experiences that heavily affect a customer's willingness to repurchase and evangelize for your brand.

The truth is that customer buying behavior is complex, as is how customers create brand affinity—and there is no single path that every customer takes as he or she connects with products and brands.

Consider the early adopters—on the day the new Xbox One became available, they were lined up around the block to buy one. Instead of going through research and evaluation stages, the shoppers went straight from awareness to purchase. On the other hand, think about cost-conscious consumers: They know they have a need, maybe even a simple one like buying laundry detergent. Research indicates that they're very adept at comparison shopping and product evaluations because they need each maximize each dollar. They look to see what's on sale, what coupons they have, or what the generic brand costs relative to name brands and then make a very considered decision. 

The point is that different customers place a higher value on different experiences. Your job is to get to know them and to deliver for them.



David Clark is VP of marketing at SDL. Learn more about SDL's Customer Commitment Framework.

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