Customer Journey Mapping: Tips and Principles

By Stephan Sigaud of CMA’s Customer Experience Council

Since the rise of Customer Experience as the new competitive battlefield where brands thrive or die, Customer Journey Mapping has become somewhat of a buzzword.  From boutique consulting firms to ad agencies to management consulting firms, and an ever-growing field of SaaS technology companies, everyone seems to have their own definition of what Customer Journey Mapping is and how it should be done.  We aim to clarify this confusing picture and offer a few simple principles that any organization looking to better understand their customers can apply.

The goal of Customer Journey Mapping is to help organizations optimize their customer experience – which in turn provides the business benefits of higher customer loyalty (loyal customers forgive mistakes, stay longer, buy more, and recommend to others).  It typically consists of identifying the steps customers go through that need improvement and then the internal processes that need change in order to produce those improvements.  It is however a bit more complex and a successful approach will take into account a number of dimensions:

1. Segment your customers

Not all customers go through the same journey.  Whether individuals at different stages of their life, or with different levels of comfort with technology, or small companies compared to large ones, different customers will take different paths and experience your touchpoints through different lenses so a one-size-fits-all Customer Journey Mapping exercise won’t work.  It will be important to have done the segmentation work ahead of time, using personas or other approaches, so make sure the improvement work produces the expected results with the various segments.  And if you have to start with one segment, focus on the one that generates profits (tip: some of your most loyal customers might generate losses!)

2. Look at the whole customer lifecycle

The path a customer takes to become aware of your brand, make a buying decision, and use your product or service is made of a multitude of moments during which he or she will experience one of your organization’s touchpoints (for example, seeing an ad online, talking to a salesperson in your store or dealing with customer service).  One of the first principles of Customer Journey Mapping is to take an exhaustive approach to the identification of all those moments and touchpoints (tip: they’re not all physical).

3. Recognize and measure emotions

It’s not what the customer actually experienced that drives their future behavior, it’s their memory of that experience (the two can be very different!).  So don’t forget to identify what emotions customers go through – what they feel - as they make their way through their journey.  You also want to look at the ‘emotional amplitude’ as they move along the journey. Customers will often change their minds and turn away from a brand if an emotionally charged stage of the purchasing process doesn’t generate a consistent level of engagement (this typically happens with proactive updates). You need to overlay an “emotional blueprint” on top of the typical rational one.

4. Line up the internal processes

Once you have the customer side of the map, it’s time to develop the organization’s side.  If you will use a visual representation, it will usually sit in the bottom part of your visual because most of the internal processes that line up with the customer touchpoints are “below the water” (think about everything that needs to happen inside a bank for the money to come out of the ABM!).  Don’t forget to dig a few levels deep – sometimes it’s the process improvements far upstream that have the most impact on what’s delivered downstream and back office, front line and every process and group of people in between must be taken into account.

5. Prioritize the allocation of improvement efforts

Remember, you started this because you wanted to reap the financial benefits of higher levels of customer loyalty.  So you will need to use your loyalty KPI (whichever it may be) as the outcome against which to measure the impact of positive customer emotion at the touchpoint level and then to prioritize your improvement efforts accordingly.  In other words, not all touchpoints count the same toward your goal and – assuming you are like most organizations and do not have unlimited resources – you need to focus on the ones that will get you closer to your goal.

6. Manage your CX cross-functionally

The results of your Customer Journey Map – in fact, the whole process - shouldn’t belong to one functional area of your organization in particular.  Granted, Marketing will say they need them the most to improve communications, but Operations will want them to learn where to focus production, delivery or customer service processes and Finance should want them to see whether contracts, terms, warranties and billing can contribute to a better experience.  A cross-functional governance system will ensure that all internal stakeholders are involved upfront and have access.

Customer Journey Mapping can be a critical success factor into helping organizations become leaders in Customer Experience.  Following these few principles will ensure that your organization is using the right map and is on its way to success.

Tell Us What You Think
  1. If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by CMA before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry.
    Thanks for waiting. View CMA's Blogging Policy.

Tags: customer journey mapping, customer experience, loyalty, kpi, marketing, operations