More and more companies now actively recognise that customers are their biggest asset. Without customers, they wouldn’t exist. Moreover, the link between positive customer experience and overall business success is compelling. It’s no surprise, then, that customer experience management is increasingly playing a role in successful companies’ growth strategies.
Columbia Business School’s Bernd Schmitt describes customer experience management as “the process of strategically managing a customer’s entire experience with a product or company”. It covers the length and breadth of the customer’s journey with the company, brand or organisation from start to finish. Ideally, it even extends beyond this, as a company seeks to re-engage and win back any lost customers. Customer journey mapping forms a key element of this strategic process.
What is a customer journey map?
In order to design great customer experiences, it is critical to understand the current customer experience. A customer journey map (CJM), or visual representation of customer interactions with a company, provides an ideal framework for this. The CJM is a blueprint for the journey taken by the customer, noting all points at which he or she interacts with the company. It should begin with touchpoints designed to raise awareness and interest, for example advertising, marketing and PR, through to those associated with usage, sales reps, accounts teams and complaints handling.
It can even extend to the cessation of the relationship, such as switching to an alternative provider, as the handling of this stage can be critical in inviting future return to usage.
Customer journey mapping requires us to step into the customer’s shoes – which means every CJM should incorporate:
- A flowchart of the journey customers take.
- All interactions and interfaces (touchpoints) between the customer and the company/brand.
- Likely ‘pain points’ (areas where the customer may experience difficulties or negative emotions).
- Key moments of truth (areas where there is the opportunity to make or break the relationship).
Most large corporations separate functions such as ordering, technical support and complaint handling. This is generally felt to be necessary to build expertise and manage operations. However, unless the various functions are joined up, the customer can feel this disconnect or even fall between departments. By tracking and describing the customer’s experience at each stage of this journey, a company is able to:
- Deliver seamless, streamlined products and services that cut across departments.
- Tailor services to meet the needs of both customers and the business.
- Understand the experiences, thoughts and feelings of customers. G Develop compelling propositions.
- Problems and pitfalls
Customer journey mapping is not without its problems. Knowledge and perceptions are required, both internal and external, and pitfalls when embarking on the process may include:
- Getting buy-in from senior management.
- Getting co-operation from staff.
- Availability of resources.
- Difficulty getting started (also known as ‘blank sheet syndrome’).
How do you do it?
The usual starting point is to define groups of customers and establish how different their journeys can be. Typical approaches are to segment customers on firmographics (geography, age, Standard Industrial Classification code), behaviours (what they buy) or needs (what they are looking for).
The next step is to map the journey of each customer segment from end to end, detailing all the customer touchpoints and the customer responses to these. Various methods exist to engage stakeholders involved in the process and ensure their input. These include:
- Internal workshops, usually of senior management, to establish a high-level view of the customer journey, establish buy-in at a senior level and start thinking about things from the customer’s point of view.
- Internal staff interviews, usually departmental, to validate the high-level map, ascertain more touchpoints at particular stages and understand pain points and important touchpoints.
- Current and lost customer input through interviews, focus groups and social media to validate the journey both in terms of stages and touchpoints, understand important touchpoints and pain points and understand gaps in internal vs external perception.
The value of journey mapping
Customer journey mapping is just one stage in the move towards a customer-centric approach. It provides an overview of how customers interact with the business, focusing the organisation’s thinking on the customer and how the service appears from an external perspective. It is all too easy for large corporations to think in terms of departmental tasks. Journey mapping facilitates cross-departmental working to understand the impact on the journey for the customer.
The outputs from customer journey mapping deliver a tool for identifying outstanding and problematic areas, as well as ‘delight points’ and ‘choke points’. Using the CEM process cycle illustrated above, the next steps are to design the ‘ideal’ experience, put in place processes and people to deliver it, and develop a feedback mechanism to measure progress. In this way, valuable resources can be targeted where they will have the greatest impact for the customer while boosting the organisation’s efficiency.
As a key element of customer experience management, customer journey mapping is a ‘step back’ exercise, and one that affords the opportunity to design truly innovative experiences which differentiate. However, it has real value in engaging staff at all levels within an organisation with its customers and their experience of the company/brand.
Customers are the greatest advocates of a brand, product or service: they tell stories and make recommendations. Their enthusiasm can be infectious, and they have to be seen as a core element of long-term strategic growth.
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