Customer journey mapping is a concept that has received a lot of attention lately in the customer experience world. But it is not new. Companies and consultants have been white-boarding and power-pointing customer journeys for many years.

What surprises me is how little time most companies put into creating a simple, high-level customer journey map that is understood by all parts of the organization. This journey map is a valuable anchor for almost any kind of customer experience work within an organization. And it can serve as a powerful tool to help companies organize around the customer.

How Would the Customer Say It?

At most companies, employees live and speak the language of our departments and processes: “The customer places an order, the order gets routed to the fulfillment department, then the package is shipped to the customer and a bill is sent from the billing system. Finally, we collect payment.”

But how would a customer describe this? The customer’s view is usually much simpler, and it is the right starting point for understanding the customer’s journey: “I want to buy something.” The customer may understand that their order will wind through a labyrinth of processes before arriving at the doorstep, but the customer’s objective is simple: I want the product in hand. If there were a way for me to telepathically place the order and then have it beamed directly into my home (think Star Trek), I would be tickled pink!

Similarly, the customer may have a problem and need to get help. They may choose to do this by calling your customer service center, by going online to check discussion forums, or by stopping by a retail store to ask for assistance. But their goal is simply to “get help,” and have their problem solved.

This singular focus on key customer objectives, stated in plain language that a customer would use, forms the foundation for conversations about the customer journey.

Know Your Purpose

Journey maps come in many flavors. What’s valuable for your business will depend on what you want to accomplish.

A high-level journey map spells out the key customer objectives or interactions across the entire lifecycle, such as “make a purchase” and “get help.” I believe it’s best for most companies to tackle this simple, high-level journey first, for three reasons:

  1. It creates a shared view of the ultimate customer objectives, and provides much-needed simplicity to guide priorities in large or complex organizations.
  2. It clarifies how different departmental “silos” in your organization need to collaborate to deliver on the customer’s objectives with each interaction.
  3. It helps you organize a customer feedback program, so you can understand how you are doing and take action to improve the customer experience.

At the other end of the spectrum, you may use a journey map to support customer experience design work. These maps can be very detailed, with specific experiences and interactions designed to “wow” customers of a particular profile. For example, “How can we tailor a unique experience for a couple who have just had their first child and are considering a life insurance policy for the first time?”

Journey Map_Life Insurance copy

Journey Mapping with Cross-Functional Teams

When you involve all departments in the development of a high-level journey map, large organizations can start to align around the key objectives and outcomes that matter for the customer. Silos start to come down, and employees start to understand the importance of making strong connections across teams.

One executive I worked with stressed the importance of pushing beyond the usual discussions of internal processes. For example, if Julie works in the fulfillment department, she can probably describe in great detail the processes her department follows to make sure the customer’s order is shipped without errors and within a specified turnaround time. But she may not consider whether the third-party delivery service gets the package there on time. “It left our dock within 24 hours. We met our commitment,” versus “The customer didn’t get it in time. We need to work with our vendor to fix that the next time around.”

Another company used a cross-functional workshop to reassess their existing customer experience program. They had been very successful driving improvements based on customer feedback, but wanted to explore other parts of the customer journey that were growing in importance. A journey mapping workshop offered a practical way to engage multiple business units in a review of customer experience objectives and an analysis of potential gaps in their current feedback approach.

A third executive who had used cross-functional journey mapping many times told me why it was so important to her company’s customer experience program. Key employees in critical functions sometimes met for the first time at these workshops. More important, they rarely had spent time together discussing their common goals for the customer. It was a pivotal learning opportunity, and a way to get engagement across the organization while building momentum for the customer experience strategy.

All of these powerful successes resulted from the simple exercise of mapping the experiences that a customer has with a company, from the customer’s point of view.

Are You Organized Around the Customer?

Internal silos and processes may not matter to the customer, but they are pivotal when it comes to how you operate. And this is often the biggest challenge uncovered by an effective, customer-focused journey map.

Once you understand the key objectives from a customer’s point of view, list the internal processes and teams that support each key step in the journey, such as “make a purchase” or “get help.” How many departments or channels are involved? How do people, processes, and systems need to cooperate to create a seamless experience for the customer? Do you have a logical and accountable point-person who can take action if the customer’s feedback is less than stellar?

Your customer journey map may reveal that your entire business is wired for efficiency, but not for the customer. The good news? The journey map can serve as a guide to create a customer-focused organization. It may sound like a tall order, but why not accept the challenge? Your customer is waiting.

Find out More

You can learn more about journey mapping in the context of customer experience program design in the Medallia Customer Experience Certification course. Some other good references include this useful advice from Bruce Temkin, of Temkin Group, and a more provocative (but good) piece by Colin Shaw of Beyond Philosophy called “Why Journey Mapping Sucks” – both available at the CustomerThink website. There are also some good journey mapping background in Forrester’s book, Outside In, written by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine.

Photo credit: Land Rover MENA