The most common method for improving the customer experience journey is to map it to identify the potential breaking points – those points where prospects or customers ride off into the sunset – in your existing processes, enabling you to prioritize process improvements. The more you understand your customer’s journey the better you create the expected and exceptional customer experience
Before we offer advice for mapping the customer experience journey, it might be useful to make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of what we mean by customer experience. At VisionEdge Marketing, when we refer to customer experience we mean the points of interaction between the customer and your organization. These touch points include, but are not limited to, interactions associated with pricing, purchasing, servicing, payment/billing, support, and delivery of your organization’s offerings (goods and/or services).
Understand Perception vs. Expectation
How customers evaluate their experience is based on their perception of the actual performance of the organization at that point of interaction compared to the customer’s expectation. James Allen from the Harvard Business School revealed that while 80 percent of businesses state that they offer a great customer experience, only about 8 percent of customers feel similarly about their experience. Understanding this perception versus the expectation, and the gaps across all experiences, enables you to create customer experience performance targets and key performance indicators.
The Purpose of Creating a Customer Experience Journey Map
Before we launch into how to create and use a customer journey map, let’s get on the same page as to what constitutes a best-in-class customer experience journey map. In 2010, Adam Richardson, author of Innovation X: Why a Company’s Toughest Problems are its Greatest Advantage, crafted this definition, a customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination. He highlighted that “the more touch points you have, the more complicated — but necessary — such a map becomes.” The purpose of a customer experience journey map is to illustrate the path your customer’s take from THEIR perspective for whatever aspect of the process you need to map.
The foundation of any customer experience journey map is capturing your customer’s steps and the touch points, such as analyst reports, peer reviews/testimonials, demonstrations, product information; and channels, such as phone, in person, online, etc. that they prefer in each part of the journey
Customer experience journey mapping is a vehicle for capturing the perceptions versus the expectations across all points of interaction, ideally for each customer segment and/or persona. The mapping process should enable you to develop processes and skills designed to deliver an experience that sets your organization apart in the eyes of your customers, hopefully resulting in customer loyalty and becoming advocates for your goods/services.
Many organizations often mistake creating a process map with creating a customer experience journey map. While similar, their focus is quite different. A process map describes your company’s internal processes, functions, and activities and generally uses the company’s internal language and jargon. A customer experience map describes the customer experience in, and only in, the customer’s language. What makes customer experience mapping challenging is the fact that the customer experience is typically quite complex, because it cuts across divisions, departments, and functions and typically is not linear.
Apply Seven Best Practices to Your Customer Experience Journey Mapping
- Define the customer experience journey stage. Mapping the entire end-to-end journey can be a very daunting undertaking. It helps to have focus. Therefore, you need define what part of the customer experience journey you are going to map and what market community will be the focus of the journey. For example, are you trying to understand the customer journey for large established global manufacturers, or a particular group of emerging niche manufacturers? If you’re not sure what stage deserves your attention, use existing data, such as customer satisfaction data that reveals potential breaking points, voice of customer data about buying preferences, sales data such as win/loss analysis, marketing data related to what did or didn’t produce action, and so on to identify the most important sub-journeys or stage within the overall journey. Many journey stages fall into one of these common four sub journeys: Pre-sales/Demand Gen; Sales/The Journey of the Deal; Consumption/ The Journey of Usage and Community/The Post-Sales Experience. Start with the universal touch points that can be applied across all your customers (you can create more specific experience maps as time goes on).
- Choose the persona(s). Different personas may approach a sub-journey differently. They may have different motivations and may react differently to situations. Visionary Victoria may be far more flexible and experimental in a beta test situation than Risk Averse Randy. The type of content and touch points, their order and frequency may vary significantly even though both Victoria and Randy are CIOs at large global companies. Each persona should reflect a type of prospect or customer you can easily recognize. If you haven’t developed personas, take this step first. Learn more about personas, their value, and how they differ from roles and profiles.
- Create your Map. Identify the path for the experience stage you’ve selected. Do your best to take the walk from your customer’s vantage point. For each step in the journey capture the following:
What they do (behavior)
What motivations they are experiencing and thoughts they are having at that stage
What questions, issues, or challenges they are likely to experience at that stage that might deter them from moving forward
What moves them (content, conversation/interaction, etc.) to the next stage. This step provide insight into what content (a revision in the help or qualification scripts), touch points (call center, internal technical support, inside sales), and channels (phone, online chat, etc.) additions or changes are needed. Identify the location on the map for each of these.
- Make a list of each of each touch point. Write a description, method of interaction, and customer expectation. We have found that this step is best accomplished by:
Involving as many people as necessary, including members of your customer advisory boards, to identify all touch points
Holding working sessions and conducting interviews to capture and incorporate the expected and actual emotional, experiential, and functional experiences for each touch point.
- Validate your map. Before you make decisions or take action, you need to verify how accurately the map reflects the actual journey. There are various ways to validate the map. You can engage customer advisory boards or focus groups and have them go through the same exercise. Or you can circle back to the persona research participants and invite them in the next phase of the study.
- Determine what constitutes success. Establish the measures and metrics how you will measure improvements in the customer experience (for examples the reduction of leakage in a particular stage, the change in adoption rate, the amount of time to problem resolution, overall improvement in customer satisfaction, reduction in time to renewals, etc.) AND success of map implementation.
- Go live. Produce a visual of your map, develop your implementation plan, implement your action plan, monitor results, document your learnings. Build a plan to address James Allen’s “Three D’s,” which he believes enables organizations to offer an exceptional customer experience:
Design the correct incentive for the correctly identified consumer, offered in an enticing environment.
Deliver the proposed experience by focusing the entire team across various functions.
Develop consistency in execution.
Sometimes organizations need help with this, which is why there are experts out there! Be willing to ask for help—it’s important to correctly capture your customer experience journey. It is the primary vehicle for aligning your Marketing and Sales teams and processes.
- The original version of this article was first published on Vision Edge Marketing.