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What Is Customer Journey Mapping?

Originally posted on the CX Network on 01/11/2019.

Journey mapping explained

Whether we see it as an opportunity or a threat, the reality is that the customer is changing. Tolerance for frustrating or inefficient interactions is low and getting lower. Brand is no longer just about product quality but increasingly product AND customer excellence. These trends are driven by the ‘good CX’ companies lighting the way.

Defined as a ‘visual representation of every experience your customers have with you’ and labelled as both an art and a science; a customer journey map is comprised of rich data illustrating the places (touch points) customers come into contact with your company either on or offline.

The purpose behind traditional journey mapping according to Kerry Bodine - customer experience consultant - is to get a ‘holistic perspective of what the customer is experiencing from their point of view, on both a personal and human level’ with the ultimate goal of increasing customer loyalty by offering well-planned, well-thought of and streamline customer care and experience from start to finish.

However, according to research from Forrester Consulting, 87% of businesses do not currently have the ability to orchestrate customer journeys at scale. Journey mapping is the foundation to good CX as it deepens a business’ understanding on customer needs, pain-points and the best touch points to apply technologies, such as self service systems or where to draw the thresholds for human vs automated interaction. Without it, achieving seamless and consistent customer excellence is far more arduous.

Regardless of your approach, name or style of mapping, the end goal always remains the same. To reach a true visual representation of not only how a customer moves through each phase, but also how they experience each phase. Once you have conducted qualitative and quantitative research, adaptive paths can be implemented to build you touchpoint inventory.

The importance of journey mapping

In his powerful and much acclaimed book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey’s second habit “begin with the end in mind” is the embodiment of journey mapping.

The questions you want to be asking are; ‘how do I get my customers to do what I want them to do on my website?’ and ‘how do I help my customers achieve their goals on my website, whilst still achieving mine?’ and this is where journey mapping comes into place.

Spend time on your customer journey analytics and inevitably you will increase your customer loyalty. When the market grows, an increase of competitors comes with it, therefore companies need to be agile and build a well-structured, stable plan of action, or map to find out why their customers interact with them.

The most critical customer journey moments for building and retaining loyalty are quickly finding answers to basic questions and resolving customer service matters. Interestingly and counter intuitively, resolving non-technical customer service issues was revealed to be the touchpoint in most need of improvement in recent research from Oracle. Many customers who experience issues at a touch point will not bother to contact you, which places a real impetus on the brand to identify and fix points of friction.

Organisations need to measure interactions at touch points and collect feedback from the customers. If an issue is suspected, feedback facilitates the location of the root cause to eliminate the problem. By removing friction, the customer’s risk of dissatisfaction is reduced.

Designing your journey map

It can seem like a daunting task and you may be asking yourself, where do I begin? Are there shortcuts, or are they simply dead-ends? Is expensive software needed? Who needs to engage? And, is it one-size-fits-all?

“There is always some existing data in organisations pointing to some customer pain points and low hanging fruit. I encourage my clients to really go broad and look at quantitative data. Customer Journey Mapping is a qualitative process and it shouldn’t be compartmentalised but taking all of that and building on it. And start at the beginning. Start with on-boarding and the first experiences customer have,” (Kerry Bodine, Customer Experience Coach at Kerry Bodine & Co).

Pioneers in journey mapping often rely on using data to predict customer experience and shape the direction of the industry by mastering the ability to connect various touch points. By striving to obtain a customer centric focus to decision making and building empathy for clients, journey maps can be the perfect tool to demonstrate to executives and business stakeholders the impact of the process changes customers have to face.

Most organisations have some form of map for individual processes, often driven by their different routes to market, but Victor Milligan from Forrester counsels of the importance of having a single view.

Thus, building a single-view of the customer and identifying moments of truth and points of friction in user journey, you can kill inefficient processes, rules and policies that don’t coordinate with your companies ethos, or even more importantly, highlight those make or break moments that need more attention.

Whatever your approach, it has to suit your creative style, and allow all your employees to be involved, to help them further understand their customer participation and ultimately their satisfaction in your business process. Paul Sands said that Bang & Olufsen has a “three days to dream” approach; “we discussed where we should start and we decided the first thing we wanted to do was imagine the beautiful future ideal journey. We allowed ourselves the first three sessions just to dream… [we figured that] worrying about the current problems would be too much. We wanted this chance to imagine a no-constraints world. We swapped responsibilities and deliberately mixed things up.”

Relying on software is not a necessity either; Gero Niemeyer from Deutsche Telekom said that they don’t use any particular software, but what has been helpful was to integrate the journey map into the product development process. They have a design thinking approach; old school with post-its on the wall at workshops. Victor Milligan, Forrester reminds that “those kind of workshops are not only helpful to educate [your employees], but also to empathise with the customers as it makes a business understand what they put customers through.”

It is important to invite a broad mix of stakeholders to the table. If all of members are too senior, they may be completely disconnected from work happening on the ground with customers, which may skew how representative the map is. However, if the map is due to radically transform how the company works, C-level or senior stakeholders will be crucial to gaining buy-in for this customer experience strategy.

Getting started with journey mapping

It’s not all about you!

But rather, it’s all about your customer. We have to know our customers, although in many cases that’s easier said than done.

It’s not what we don’t know that harms us - it’s what we know that ‘ain’t so’ that does the most damage. Start with an honest appraisal… What do we know? What do we think we know? What do we know that we don’t know?

As iterated, journey mapping is all about understanding what motivates your customers; you need to find out what their needs are, their hesitations, and concerns. However, simply knowing who you’re talking to is not enough - by aligning yourself to what your customer wants to accomplish when they come to your website, your mapping pathway will help you know if their first interaction to their last, is achieving their goal.

Oliver Kipp, Chief Customer Officer at MaritzCX says: “The customer journey map starts by identifying the key moments a customer has with the company before, during and after the purchase of a product or service. The review should include customer’s desired outcomes, emotional needs and possible pain points.

The most successfully mapped companies are digging deep into the data driven research, giving them an insight on customer retention and reinforcing the bottom line. However this status doesn’t appear to be the norm. ‘Over 50% of global marketers report that they have fair, little, or no knowledge of the customer demographic, behavioural, psychographic and transactional data. Just 6% say they have excellent knowledge of the customer.”

By referring to more statistics and studies, reports reveal that businesses’ outpacing their competitors have a lot to do with synergising the right data about their customers and using it effectively. Subsequently, organising all this rich data will allow you to take actionable steps to improve how you manage your customers’ experiences with your business – and more specifically, your website.

Start the mapping process by defining the behavioural stages a typical customer will go through, then more specifically by each touchpoint. Once that is in place, you can introduce customer personas to create a ‘lens’ by which to view the journey. Each persona can yield its own map – becoming the reference point by which to base the journey.

From customer personas to customer journey maps

A persona is a “research based archetypal representative of your customer based on various attributes, attitudes, and characteristics.” Tony Zambito circa 2002 says: “Buyer personas are modelled representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behaviour, how they think, how they buy, where they buy and why they make buying decisions.”

However, it is noteworthy that not everyone believes that user personas are valuable. When marketeers got hold of personas, they had a habit of assigning frivolous names like, “Social Butterfly Brenda” or “Value Hunter Valerie” which effectively collapses nuanced research into a single concept and ultimately trivialising research.

The power of user personas fade when they fall within the following five categories of mistakes;

  1. Making up data,

  2. Using too much irrelevant data,

  3. Using only qualitative or only quantitative data,

  4. Believing your personas to be perfectly representative of reality, or that they never change and finally,

  5. Creating too many personas - 3-4 is generally the recommended amount.

User personas are only as good as the research behind them. Base your personas on a combination of qualitative and quantitative data or both exploration and analysis.

Your guide to journey mapping

The concept of journey mapping is to make the process of delivering exemplary customer experience better. So, to make your life easier, here is a simple journey map for journey mapping from top CX training institute, CXL!

Step #1: Define The Behavioural Stages

Use your research from the personas you built from your initial qualitative and quantitative research. From here you'll have pretty good knowledge of the process in which your customers navigate through your site.

Step #2: Align Customer Goals With The Stages

Arguably the most crucial step. Key in on understanding your customers' goals and what they want to achieve - make these your priority. Incorporate, wherever necessary; survey answers, user testing feedback, interview transcripts and customer service emails or support transcripts.

Step #3: Plot Out The Touchpoints

These touchpoints can be found by looking at your Google Analytics and will be grouped under the relevant stage in your customer’s journey.

1) Behaviour Flow Report

This provides a visual path showing how users move from one page or event to the next, helping you to understand where your users are struggling to get to where they want to go.

2) Goal Flow Report

This will help you to determine if users are unexpectedly leaving your site in the middle of the journey or if there's a place where your traffic loops back.

Step #4: Determine If Your Customers Are Achieving Their Goals

Ask yourself; where are roadblocks appearing? Are people abandoning their purchases on the checkout page in large numbers? Are you finding that the people clicking on your opt-in download page are not then signing up to get the download? The reports you’ve generated from Google Analytics will give you the precise points where issues are cropping up. Your qualitative research should help you understand the why behind the problems.

Step #5: Recommendations For Change

Prioritise which pages/touchpoints to be addressed first. You can rank your pages by ease and cost effectiveness to implement changes. Then, it’s a matter of determining what to test.

Final thoughts on customer journey mapping

A well-worn piece of advice is to ‘pick your battles’. If customer experience is going to be the battleground on which customers are won and lost, you can be assured that one of your competitors has put it high on their list of priorities. This is a battle worth winning.

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