Entering a new era of journey mapping
Customer journey mapping has been around for a long time; (Wikipedia says 1999). As a practice, it’s not widely disputed as an effective way to understand how customers and prospects interact with a company’s various channels and communication points, and even to pinpoint what they were doing before they got to you. Most CX professionals would agree that it’s a useful exercise at the very least to know what your customers go through to do business with you (or choose not to).
However, a lot has changed since 1999. What was once a linear approach from prospect to customer is now a matrix of possible approaches across layered digital and physical channels. It may have been possible in the past to pull together highly knowledgeable stakeholders in an organization (those who truly know the ins and the outs of the business) and piece together a rather accurate picture of the customer journey. Those types of “assumed journeys” are likely not possible anymore, save for the very smallest of companies.
As a recent MyCustomer article warned: “…pitfalls lie in wait for anyone who thinks that customer journey mapping is a process that involves booking out a meeting room at the office and inviting a few stakeholders to pin some post-it notes to the wall. 67% of any buyer’s journey is now done digitally, and this means an increasing reliance on data to drive decisions.”
Clicktools Guest Blogger, Daniel Newman, concurs in his post Making Customer Data Core to Customer Experience: “We’re moving toward a data-driven user experience approach that starts with our desired outcomes and leverages data to segment our consumers into different populations, ultimately leading to personalized experiences.”
In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2018, 60% of large organisations will have in-house customer journey mapping capabilities, up from no more than 20% in 2015. Similarly, in a recent Econsultancy survey, 73% of digital marketers said data was critical to underpinning their journey mapping exercises.
In other words, we now have the data to work backwards to devise our journey maps based on what customers actually do. We can use the data to reverse engineer the maps — and as a result, the customer experience.
That sounds cutting-edge and exciting, but wait! Let’s not forget about actual customers. We still have to include those flesh and blood humans to verify the assessments we’re making from data. The right solution is probably a combination of data about the customer and insights (and emotions) from customers. This allows for a real depth of understanding versus just raw data points, which can certainly be misleading. What if a large number of your customers make purchases in store versus online? Does that mean that your in-store experience is incredibly irresistible? Or does it mean that your online or mobile experience is bad enough to force customers to make a trip that may not really want to make?
Only by asking customers these questions in surveys and/or focus groups can you get to the bottom of why your journeys look the way they do. Combining digital info with human insights will enable you to create a more holistic view of the entire journey and not be misled by data points alone.
Keep in mind also that the end goal of journey mapping (beyond using them as training tools for customer-facing staff) is to identify gaps in information, content, service, etc. Your journey maps will lead you to better shaping, streamlining, and guiding customers toward their most ideal conclusions (e.g. sales, satisfied service encounters, repurchase, etc.). It is not about developing a fancy infographic for employees to tack to their cube wall or for executives to point to when claiming to understand customers.
Our friend and Clicktools guest blogger, Jeannie Walters, CEO of 360Connext, was recently quoted as saying: “I believe the biggest mistake is approaching the mapping as a one-off project, where the purpose is a slick poster or deliverable. I really believe there is magic in the process of mapping. Getting everyone to really examine, evaluate and understand what is happening to the customer TODAY in the journey helps everyone feel empowered to improve it. If the journey map is all about something to frame on the wall, it’s completely missing the point.”
One thing’s for sure: a lot has changed and we’re certainly entering a new era of journey mapping that combines technology with actual feedback (and removes much of the guesswork of times past). So, it’s safe to say that creating journey maps has become much more complex, but it seems that the rewards of doing so well have also strongly increased. It is the customer-centric age after all. You master those maps and you’re steps ahead in winning in the customer experience race.