The real purpose of customer journey mapping

Customer Journey Mapping

This year has challenged the real purpose of many organisations. Some have stayed true to their meaning while others have shown their true colours.

As the dust hopefully settles on the rapid changes everyone has put in place we should, if at all possible, invest in the time to understand what it’s like for a customer. Our underlying vision, purpose or North Star may not have changed but our customers’ priorities and experiences most certainly have.

We always advocate that journey mapping is done and reviewed regularly but the events of 2020 make repeating it necessary, not just an option. Chances are, most existing journey maps were created pre-pandemic and so are already out of date.

How can we build back better if we don’t understand how our customers’ priorities, needs, hopes, fears and expectations have changed?

We therefore have a great opportunity to treat customers as if they have never been to our store or our website. We often make unintentional assumptions that our customers will instinctively know what to do because they’ve been here before. If we assume they are first-timers, we’ll have heaps more empathy and be in a better position to build on what we’ve already done.

However, a perennial issue with journey mapping is that as soon as the workshop finishes, everyone drifts back to their day job. The map gets written up, maybe converted into a neat piece of software, discussed and filed away. A lack of planning beforehand means the momentum comes to a rapid halt. To have so many ideas from the programme of journey mapping can be an uncomfortable reality-check about what to prioritise and what to do next.

There might also be a dawning realisation that this isn’t just a workshop or a project but if we’re going to get it right, it’s a cultural and very strategic way of thinking about our business.

If there are any positives to come out of the pandemic and carry into the new year, one of them is the sense of “We’re all in it together”. Before that feeling dissipates back to those siloed functions where so many managers (because of the lack of a genuine customer-centric culture) find comfort, we should tap into one of journey mapping’s biggest benefits.

It’s not just about the sticky notes on the wall or the Zoom-Mural online workshop. It’s not even always just about the write-up of the journey and list of improvements. Yes, those are clearly important but now more than ever before we should ensure journey mapping stimulates the right conversations across, up and down the business that lead to the right tactical, strategic and cultural actions.

Journey mapping shouldn’t be just about finding ways to fix broken processes or find incremental improvements to the experience. It should give the evidence for asking some tough questions about how committed the organisation and leadership is to the vision.

In the journey mapping sessions people learn about their own colleagues and the job they each do. They learn about their own business and start to piece together the culture from a wider perspective.  It becomes clear that while one part of the business is very much on the “Customer-first” agenda, some colleagues are working to different agendas. They are rewarded for perpetuating the processes that are convenient to the business not the customer.

It’s hard to ignore a colleague who says they come up with ideas but their line manager tells them that’s not what they’re paid to do. It’s hard to ignore the chasm between the “Customer-First Promise” and the reality of the experience they have just articulated.

It’s also hard to ignore the fact that despite saying “We put customers at the heart of what we do”, the Exec team is seemingly happy to get just one set of customer metrics every year. Why would that be? Are they as committed to putting customers first as they say?  What can they do to help make everyone believe in it?

All these issues need to be discussed if a business is to become more customer-centric. Journey mapping is often the catalyst to have those conversations, without it they may simply not happen.

A lot has clearly changed this year. If there’s anything to change about journey mapping, I’d suggest it’s that we try even harder to see things from our customers’ perspectives and make it lead to more of the right conversations. Your boss and customers will thank you for it…

Happy mapping!

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Jerry Angrave is Customer Experience Director at Empathyce, a CX consulting and coaching company. Jerry is a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) and author of The Journey Mapping Playbook published by De Gruyter in October 2020.

[email protected]   +44 (0)7917 718072

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