Mapping the journey of Mapping the customer journey

(This was first posted as a guest blog for Custerian)

If an organisation has customers, by definition it also has a customer experience whether it realises that or not.  May as well make it the right one, then.

To fix the problem, much faith is put in mapping customer journeys.  Done properly they are powerful tools but there is also a significant risk that without applying “customer experience” as a way of thinking, the customers’ way of thinking, experiences can remain process-driven, unmeasured and somewhat unintentional.

For example, if you were lost in a city needing to be somewhere else quickly, you probably wouldn’t walk into a shop and rely on the first map you see to tell you exactly where you are, where you need to go and how to get there.  Chances are, it either won’t tell you or it will give you what you later learn to be misleading information, making the whole situation worse.

Finding the right place to start the journey mapping

Finding the right place to start the customer journey mapping

In the same way, the mapping of a customer’s proverbial journey cannot be done in isolation.  Sure, we can pick what we think is the most obvious issue to map and we’ll see some results.  But that is like me going surfing with an ironing board. It would work, but only to a degree.

As someone who mapped customer journeys as a practitioner in the corporate world, and now as a consultant working with a variety of organisations, all too often I see the enthusiasm to map a customer journey trample the need to put the journey into context.  The result is that we either get a linear process map or a nicely drawn graphical journey that everyone admires but, well, that’s it.

Hence the need to map the journey of mapping the journey.  There are three key stages, which might be labelled design, doing and delivery.  In each of those stages are a number of events and without proper thought for each, the middle stage that most organisations jump to – the “doing” – is potentially rendered a waste of time and resource.

So, how do we stop that happening?  Let’s look briefly at each stage.

Design: before setting out to map a customer’s journey, be absolutely clear that it’s the most important one for you and your business.  Gather the insight that will tell you what customers value most, what is most critical to the delivery of your customer strategy and how well you do it.

Then, make the scope as narrow as possible.  If you have four customer types, six products, five channels, ten things that people might be contacting you about, you very quickly get into having hundreds, if not thousands of permutations for journeys.  Pick one of each, the most important ones and do one at a time.  Anything more than that will take additional time and get in the way of findings becoming genuine insights.

Doing:  when it comes to the mapping itself, it’s time to get forensic.  Talk to your customers and your employees about what it’s really like;  the process map won’t tell you that your customers think your people are rude, yet your people don’t get why customers can’t follow the process.  Think like a customer; what does it say if when you put a customer on hold, there is no on-hold music.  First touch resolution metrics for complaints but no mechanism to put right the root causes.  Little things, they all add up.

Effective journey mapping relies also on having the right employees involved.  People are keen to tell their story to someone internally who will listen.  Every organisation has people who know their way around the systems, what the causes of unreported customer niggles and gripes are and where money is being wasted through the efficient processing of things that don’t matter.  Have them on the team and tap into them.

Today’s customers will readily share the story of what it was really like

Delivery:  even with the best journey map in hand, it is meaningless if there is not an improvement framework into which it can be plugged. Having robust governance in place to take insight from the mapping and prioritise it alongside all the other issues competing for the same resource is essential.  Cross-functional participation is also essential, and not just from the customer-facing areas.  Finance, Legal, HR and IT all have their own role to play too.  That needs strong influencing skills on the part of those leading and managing the customer agenda especially where there is no direct authority, but their interest and input will help themselves as well as you – and the wider business.If not, money will float out of the door on initiatives and projects that fall short.  A brand campaign for a telecoms company promising “We give you back time” will have little in the way of ROI when customers have to wait an average of 20 minutes to get through to the call centre.  A train operator relying on business travellers and commuters will lose customers to the car and video conferences because realistically these days they can’t work on a train without wi-fi.

In a highly task-oriented world then, where it’s all about outputs, tick-boxes and providing evidence for scorecards the thinking around journey mapping can easily take a back seat.  But this is one journey where those driving the agenda need to be firmly in the front seat, at the controls, aware of everything around them and taking everyone with them.

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