Even with the very best of intentions, and an insurmountable volume of data, organisations are still offering boring, dull, lifeless customer experiences.
For most organisations, it is normal for the everyday focus of their business to look internally. This is astoundingly visible when a client attempts to interact with them through either a member of staff or through one of their products or services.
Each and every time a customer “touches” an organisation; However that is, it impacts customer retention, client satisfaction and in-turn the overall profitability of the business. In order to highlight, or better understand the viewpoint of the customer, taking the time to create a customer journey map can help an organisation to understand and appreciate the customer journey, thus enabling a much deeper relationship between the two parties.
The Meaning of A Customer Journey Map
This is a graphic or visual representation of your business, your services, your products or your brand from the perspective of a customer. It shows you the story or the journey they take whilst being associated with your organisation over a range of different business channels. In some instances, there is a requirement for a more data-driven approach; that is perhaps more narrative in order to better outline the nuances and intricate details which are linked with the customer experience. Although this story is always “how the customer sees it”, there is always a balanced approach which keeps in mind the importance of balancing the expectations of the customer, with the needs of the business.
A customer journey map is stimulated by customer research, each and every customer journey is different in some way and inspired by the viewpoint of their clients, rather than the people within the organisation itself. This is an exceptionally powerful tool which, if used correctly can enable an organisation to transform itself into a customer-centric company. One that doesn’t just transact business, one that is dedicated to long-term relationships with customers which are founded upon integrity, consistency and mutual respect.
The majority of businesses will have objectives, KPI’s or other goals that they wish to achieve. Using customer journey maps as a tool to support those objectives enables an organisation to keep the customer at the heart of what they are doing, and in mind when they are making important decisions that could impact upon them. Ultimately, these viewpoints and the feedback gained throughout this process can aid a company when looking for new opportunities to provide a better overall experience for both their new and existing customers.
How can it be used in business?
True customer engagement is about your business integrating with the life, or lives of your customers. It is about a synchronicity which exists between both parties. Often, people think that just by simply getting someone to “like” a post you have made, or through the action of them downloading something of interest from your website. These are customers interactions; this is not customer engagement. The latter delves into the how, and why behind your customers thought processes and decision making, it goes beneath the surface, rather than skimming over it.
Customer journey maps can be used to generate a general agreement between colleagues about how to deal with customers over a range of different channels. Collaborations cross-functionally are a really good way to encourage communication between teams that don’t always work together. Often, the different perspectives can results in great initiatives, particularly in larger organisations. Looking across the different channels in this way will give stakeholders from various areas of the organisation the opportunity to fully understand the entire customer experience, and not just focus on their own area. It helps an organisation to truly understand what their customers are thinking, and how they want to be dealt with, what they want to see, as well as what they don’t. In fact, customer journey maps allow a business to get answers to their questions; it can also help with questions that may crop up during product development and conceptual design processes.
Essential Elements for an Effective Customer Journey Map
There are things which you absolutely need to have, and then others which are “nice to have” included within your customer journey map. They are listed below:
Need to Have in your Customer Journey Map
- Channel Identification – Knowing which channel, and what part of your business the customer interacts with you is very important. Website, call centre, retail, mobile app or other. Essentially it is “where” they choose to interact with you.
- Timeframe – A specific time value, this could be 1 week, 1 month or 1 year, or, it could vary. This is the time of awareness, the time it takes for them to make a decision, the purchase and can also include any renewal.
- Feelings – Plotting of the highs and lows of customer feelings. This outlines satisfaction levels, frustrations, successes and other emotions.
- Customer Personas – These are characteristics which demonstrate the desires, objectives, emotions, viewpoints, prospects and pain points for the customer.
- Actions – These are the different touchpoints, the actions which people are taking when they are interacting with the organisation. It is “what” they do to interact with you.
Nice to Have in your Customer Journey Map
- People who support the customers – these are individuals who could be friends, peers, caregivers, family or colleagues who may add to the overall experience.
- Additional Feedback – Positive engagements which have made a positive impact on an individual, or alternatively touchpoints which can cause challenges.
Customer Journey Mapping Process
- Whether you have a product or a service, you need to consider the overall business objectives for this, including specific targets or desired outcomes for the journey mapping exercise.
- Using both quantitative and qualitative research, reviewing carefully and considerately in order to gain valuable consumer insights within the overall customer experience. There is a range of different methodologies which can be used such as; ethnography, customer surveys, complaint records, customer support logs, client interviews, web analytics, social media, competitor analysis and contextual inquiries.
- Create a detailed list to include the different channels and touchpoints. Within a team, look at the different touchpoints that may occur within the future. An example can be seen within a touchpoint when a customer connects with you to pay a bill. The different channels would be “pay in person”, “pay online”, “pay via the post”, “pay with Apple pay”.
Create an Empathy Map
- These maps are a description of the numerous aspects of a character, along with their different experiences in any given situation, or event. The exercise of creating an empathy map is to generate an organised understanding of experiences, allowing you to take away insights into what it is that clients need. They are also a really useful tool to give you extra information for your overall customer journey mapping process. It gives you a well-rounded understanding of exactly how it feels to be your customer, allowing you to look at the different emotions and feelings that your customers go through. You get to see what they see, hear what they hear, and focus on what they do and say.
- The objective of this is to create idea’s; as many as possible in fact. In order to gain a focused perspective. While you have got the creative juices flowing it is a good idea to use words to represent the attributes of your brand, mindsets or key concepts that enable you to evaluate a scenario in an alternative way. It is recommended for this exercise that the team focus on 3-5 words only such as; affordable, reassuring, popular, and accessible. Set a timer for 3 minutes per word, and then each member of the team can pen all the ideas that they can come up with during the allotted time. After the time is up, move onto the next word, until all of the words have been utilised. This way, everyone gets to have their say, and there are a lot of ideas in the pot to work with.
Find Focus with an Affinity Diagram
- Affinity Diagramming is a great way to sort through ideas, finding synergies in the concepts of the team. It allows you to take control and focus on the ideas, or solutions which are best for your audience, or customers. How it works, all ideas from the targeting brainstorming session are put on a board or wall for all to see. It works best if the ideas are arranged into groupings, or categorised. Then, as a collective, start to think about where you might be able to combine, remove, or refine some of these ideas in order to help you to achieve your objectives and enhance your customer's experience.
Put The Pieces Together
You have now reached the point where you can start to put the final pieces together. These are the channels, the touchpoints, the timeline, the highs and lows, along with the fresh new ideas that have been created by the team. All of which is focussed on how to improve the customer experience, and the future customer journey. You don’t have to set it out in any standard format, so it’s time to get creative!
Digitise and Refinements
- It is possible that not every journey, or idea you have outlined will make it through to a deliverable within your organisation. The colourful post-it note that sits on the wall might be last you ever hear about it. For the most, after taking time out to perform activities such as this, it is always important to conclude with a definitive customer journey map. Take the time (or hire someone) to make it look amazing. Digitalize it, and proudly share it across your organisation.
- Going through the process outlined above is a crucial activity, it forces you to think deeply about how people perceive your business, and how you can adapt things within your organisation that bring about a positive experience for your customers.
Evaluation, Adoption and Utilisation
- Having these processes and journey as “working documents” that are dynamic and can be adapted over time is a great way to continually evaluate the adoption of the journey, along with any associated changes within the organisation. Often, setting a fixed review period, such as on a quarterly basis is a good place to start. If your business is also in the habit of tracking KPI’s, these can also be integrated into that process.
- It can be beneficial to maintain journey maps over time. For example, you could set a time each quarter or year to evaluate how your current customer experience matches your documented vision journeys. If your organisation tracks quantitative KPIs, you can start to build up a picture of the impact these changes are having. The results and ideas that come out of a journey mapping exercise can also be utilised for future initiatives and strategic recommendations.
It is so important that you take the correct amount of time out to carefully and considerately go through the recommendation process. It is possible to outline and document in full, a customer journey in the current state, in around three hours, and a future customer journey in around five hours, making one day, for one persona achievable and realistic.
In order to get the best results out of this process, you need to have a good mix of people from across the organisation who are taking part in this exercise. Of course, stakeholders need to be present, along with individuals from different grades, or levels of seniority.
After the journey maps have been successfully digitised and created, be proud, show them off and shout about them as loud as you possibly can!