Customer Experience Journey Mapping
Making customer experiences make a worthwhile difference
Many people, myself included, believe an essential element to success in Customer Experience Management is Customer Experience Journey Mapping. This is therefore a topic in which there is much interest. However it also seems to be topic that can cause confusion and/or misunderstanding. I therefore thought it would be a good idea to write a paper explaining what I believe are the key elements of a Customer Experience Journey Map and how to go about creating one that should trigger worthwhile outcomes.
Those of you that are familiar with the concept of 'Systems Thinking' or 'Lean' will know what 'Value Stream Maps' are and how they are created. Put simply, they are an 'Inside -Out' view of all the systems and processes in an organization, which show how they connect and work together to create the overall system. In essence, a Customer Experience Journey Map is similar except that it is the Outside-In' view of those same systems and processes, for the purpose of showing where and how customers ‘touch’ the organisation and their view of all their experiences in those ‘touch points’.
At this point it's probably worthwhile mentioning a bit about the science and psychology. Loyalty results from building trusting and value adding relationships with customers. Such relationships are created (or destroyed) over time, through the various interactions (touch points) that take place with customers. Within those interactions are experiences; some of which have a strong influence on how customers behave currently and others on how they will behave in the future. So if those experiences that are likely to create unwanted behaviours are removed, and experiences that create the desired behaviours are added or improved, Customer Experience Management is being used to positively influence customer behaviour and build the lasting loyalty that is wanted. So experiences can be managed to build customer loyalty and Customer Experience Journey Mapping shows where and how this may be done.
Let's begin by saying that there is no 'one right way' to do this. Whatever works best for you should be right for you. However, to be effective and to make the exercise worthwhile I believe there are a few key things that must result. Again these may vary slightly from organisation to organisation, and even from exercise to exercise, but the following outcomes are I think essential for success. -
1. The maps must enable people to clearly see, through customers' eyes and from their perspective, what your organisation makes them do (their experience journey or journeys) in order to do business with you.
2. They should help you to understand which parts of the journey(s) customers like and/or dislike and where you are adding or subtracting value for the customers.
3. They should make it easy to identify where and how loyalty can be built through improving or changing certain experiences at the ‘touch points’ in the journey(s).
This last one is really important; in fact I think it’s the key to success. As I mentioned above, the purpose of any Customer Experience Journey Mapping exercise is to highlight where and how customer loyalty can be improved through changing, adding or removing specific experiences within the overall customer journey.
So having explained what I think should be the outcome, it's time to consider where to start.
Getting Started - The First Steps to Success
If you already have created Value Stream Maps you will have identified what they show to be the 'touch points' with customers. Those touch points could then become the basis of your Customer Experience Journey Maps.
If you don’t already have Value Stream Maps then you will need to create a map or plan of all the touch points you have with customer. Some people draw these maps in a circular format, showing a customer’s journey from interest to purchase to usage to repurchase. Others draw them in a linear format, from beginning to end of a journey. It really doesn’t matter what format you choose so long as it clearly shows all the touch points between you and your customers along the journey or journeys they go through as your customer.
Drawing the journey map(s) from your perspective is the best way to start. But remember that what you will then have is your view of the customer journey or journeys. However my experience has shown that no matter how carefully you prepare them, they are never the same as the customers' view of the same journey(s). So this is the time that you must get customers involved.
There are various ways you can do this, but I have found the simplest and most effective way is to prepare the journey, as you see it, and illustrate it using adhesive notes on a wall chart. Then get customers together and talk them through what you have illustrated. While doing this invite the customers to add, subtract and move the adhesive notes around as they feel necessary until they have created a map that shows the journey from their perspective. Make sure you keep in mind you are there to learn, not to teach. So do not try to impose your views on what customers are telling you, do not argue with them, do not tell them they are wrong – even if they are. If something is their perspective, even if it is wrong, to them it is reality so you need to know that and deal with it. Also bear in mind that you may well have to do this more than once because different customers will have different perspectives on the different journeys they encounter.
Having done this with as many different customers as necessary to build a representative picture for your whole customer base, you will then know what customers' view as the journey(s) they undergo and the various touch points along the way. But you still will not know the key information that will enable you make a worthwhile difference. That key information is how customers view their experiences at these touch points and how much impact each one has or could have on their behaviour and loyalty. This next step is therefore critical for success.
The Middle Bit - Gathering the Key Information
What you now need to know is two keys bits of information for each touch point and experience within it. They are -
1. What is our performance like at each point compared to the customers’ needs and/or expectations and our competitors’ performance?
2. How important is this to customers in terms of how loyal they will be as a result?
These two key bits of knowledge will now show where and how you may work on experiences to improve loyalty. I call this Importance - Performance Analysis. In order to quickly and easily see the potential impact of this you could create a chart similar to the one shown below (see picture1).
As you'll see there are four main quadrants on this chart :
Vital Importance - Exceptional Performance
This is what you are aiming for and where you are doing the right things right. Here you are maintaining or building loyalty. And if there are things here that your competitors don’t do you are also creating competitive advantage. The key will be to consider ways you can further enhance the experiences here and/or add new ones that will make you even better.
Vital Importance – Abysmal Performance
This is where you are not doing the right things and/or are doing the wrong things. Here you are reducing or killing loyalty. You are also allowing your competitors to gain competitive advantage if they are better than you. This therefore needs urgent attention to turn all these experiences into ones that will enhance loyalty and build competitive advantage.
Trivial Importance - Abysmal Performance
In the short term it doesn't matter that you aren't very good at things customers aren't bothered about. But keep an eye on the things in this category; they may become important in the future or you may be able to increase both their importance and your performance to create additional competitive advantage.
Trivial Importance - Exceptional Performance
This is always an interesting one and I have ceased to be surprised at how many organisations have items in this box. It means you're really good at things your customers couldn't care less about. This usually results from a focus on things that the organisation thought would matter to customers, but where the right research hadn't first been done to validate the importance to customers. It also often results from things being done for internal reasons, that customers aren't at all bothered about, or even because a certain manager 'has a thing' about it and wants it whether or not customers do.
The point is that resources are being used here that are having no impact on customer loyalty. You therefore need either to find a way to make these things important enough to customers to make a worthwhile difference or to stop wasting resources here and invest them where you know they will deliver a good return.
This chart should therefore make it easy to decide where to allocate (or reallocate) resources so as to create or change experiences within the various touch points that will improve customer loyalty and strengthen competitive advantage.
The Last Stage - Continuous Improvement - With Pace
But having done all this, don't then fall into the trap of assuming that this alone will be enough. One thing for sure is that as fast as you remove experiences that customers don't like, others will appear. Also that as you create experiences customers do like, they will quickly be seen as 'business as usual' and cease to have the impact they did when first introduced. So to stay ahead you will need to continually repeat this exercise to keep yourself aware of and up to date with your customers ever changing perspective and so learn what next needs to be done.
Also remember that customers don't know what they don't know. By that I mean they will not be able to tell you about experiences they would like but haven't before experienced – you will have to ‘invent’ them. Often the really worthwhile strides forward come from new ideas that no one has had before. You therefore must develop ways to continually innovate and experiment with new experience ideas. This means creating an environment in which people are encouraged to generate and try new ideas, an environment where ‘trial and error’ is the norm and it’s OK to try and fail, so long as the intentions were good, we learn from the failure, and then use this new knowledge to have another go at finding success.
So there you have it; a few general thoughts on the subject of Customer Experience Journey Mapping and some pointers and techniques that should help. I hope this is useful and will enable you have a crack at it and create success. But if not please feel free to contact me (details below) and I'll be happy to comment, or if I can, help with any specific issues or queries you may have.
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