Define Your Customers Journey

The output of the customer journey mapping process is the map itself – a practical and visual document that should be able to communicate a number of things.

These include:

  • The steps the customer takes, their expectations, concerns and state of mind and the outcome they are seeking at each stage.
  • What success looks like from their perspective and from the organizations.
  • What the organization can influence and how their policies and processes affect customer experience, engagement and value.
  • Moments of truth – the points in a journey that define the overall experience; positive and negative:
    o  The moments that present an opportunity to delight the customer.
    o  The things the customer expects and does not notice unless they are absent.  These are the hygiene factors, or the opportunities to dismay.
  • What the organization needs to do to deliver the desired outcomes.

A good journey map should be something the organization could share, without embarrassment, with a customer. It should be possible to hand it to those responsible for delivery of the journey and have them recognize the steps and be immediately clear what is expected of them and why.

However, there is no standard blueprint for a customer journey map. If you want to build one utilizing high-quality design principles, that’s fine. If you’d prefer to use smiley faces, that too is fine. It can be a work of art or something fairly rudimentary.

But beyond the cosmetics of the map, there are various ingredients that good quality maps will possess.

The elements of a customer journey map

Customer journey maps (as used by front-office employees) in their simplest form should contain the following elements:

  1. Context or stakeholder map. We list all stakeholders and we order the hierarchy in circles of influences around the center, where you are. When working with customers you’ll have the customer in the center. Describe all relationships on the map by answering the question: what do we do for them; what do they do for us? This map shows you the landscape or force field you are dealing with. And you can discuss how this influences the quality of your work and how a customer benefits or suffers from it.
  2. Persona. We need a rich customer profile or persona. Describe his/her personal and business situation now (present situation) and in the future (ambitions).
  3. Outcomes. A description of his/ her desired outcome – what is he/she trying to achieve?
  4. Customer journey. We list all actions (as far as possible) the customer has to take to reach the outcome (placed in a horizontal line). Don’t start listing actions when the customer uses your service the first time. Start before the moment he/she decided to use your product or service. This way we visualize behavioral patterns.
  5. Touch-points. Underneath every action we list all channels and touch-points services the customer encounter. Not just yours! This way you’ll discover the landscape you are in form the customer’s perception.
  6. Moments of truth. Then we identify the moments the customer encounters your touch-points and channels. We start focus on those (you can move them down a bit). Identify the most important ‘moments of truth’.
  7. Service delivery. Underneath every touch point, we write down who delivers the service. Who is directly responsible for it (e.g. front office personal)?
  8. Emotional journey. Then give every vertical line a grade for the experience (Actions -> touch point -> who delivers the service -> grade). Don’t grade the functionality, grade the work. For the emotion, how do you think the customer felt at that moment? Use a scale from 0 to 10. The higher the number, the better the experience. This can be visualized (e.g. by a line going up and down), and is very effective as a conversation starter. It can often be a real eye-opener.
  9. Blueprint. Now, to make a long story a bit shorter, we can go on listing the organization underneath, writing down who supports the people delivering the service (back-office), and in turn who influences the back office (we link back to the stakeholders map), until we have a complete organizational blueprint, a complete picture of the working of an organization and emotional journey, from the outside in.
  10. Improve and innovate. Use creative, brainstorming and any other ideation techniques for the service opportunities you identified (low grades) and/or design complete new and ideal journeys or services. This usually is the moment people have the most fun. I have been surprised many times by the talent and eagerness of people to engage in this creative process. People are usual a lot more creative than you think. We just need to put them in the right situation and mood.

With the ingredients of a basic map in mind, how can organizations take a systematic approach to building a map? Here is a rundown of the tasks you need to undertake as part of a typical map building process.

Define your objectives

Identify what it is that you want to accomplish – for instance, do you want to fix current problems or build a new experience? Be clear on what you want to accomplish. Customer journey maps are excellent at showing the gaps between customer expectations and perceptions of the actual experience at key steps along the journey. They also help identify improvement opportunities and communicate the ‘why’ and ‘how’ with employees across channels, silos and functions. In journey mapping, as in so many things, beginning with the end in mind will define the path for getting there. So know what you want and keep your strategic goals in the forefront to guide you in your employment of journey maps.

Clarify ownership

From the start, you need to know who will own what part of the outcome. Ownership should not be arranged afterwards. Each department must assign empowered managers to own the required changes and outcomes.

Engage your executives

Make sure that relevant executives are bought into the objectives and are engaged in the process. If the end goal is improving your customer experience, obtain commitment and a budget to do so. If management refuses to commit, you know your customer journey mapping is nothing more than a fishing expedition.

Define the scope of the project

Identify the specific processes and target what customers are to be examined as part of the journey mapping procedure. A CJM should be undertaken for every important customer segment. It may be that some of your customer segments follow the same journey, in which case you can combine them but you don’t want to have CJMs that are an amalgamation of multiple segments. You’ll end up with a bunch of generalities and less useful insights. It’s okay to have the output show one journey with different variations after you’ve examined each segment individually.

The power of a journey map is its ability to effectively illustrate the journey of a customer as they works toward achieving their goals. To do this, you need to look through the eyes of a single customer, most effectively represented by a research-based customer persona that represents a broader segment’s unique wants, needs, and objectives. Without this context, the map cannot effectively represent the relationship.

Conduct internal research

Revisit customer insights and speak with internal stakeholders the length and breadth of the business to gauge their opinions about the existing processes. Build an internal view of the relationship. Bring together a cross-functional, customer-facing group to map out their view of the journey, including touch-points, opportunities, transitions, and issues. Internally driven maps are a great step to mapping the relationship and for identifying key interactions, inputs, and outputs.

Draft your customer journey map

This draft should be a high level outline of the key stages and interactions in the customer’s journey. This can be either for an entire life-cycle of a customer (such as the multi-year journey of car ownership), or for a specific stage (a family vacation in the car).

Conduct customer research

Speak with different segments in your customer base to ensure that your CJM is accurate, does not miss out any steps and reflects the perceptions of your consumers. Without this contribution, you could make decisions based on incomplete or flawed information. Listen to their feedback to understand how they view the overall journey, validate the stages you have proposed, and find out further information about specific interactions and steps within those stages.

The best journey maps are always created based on ethnographic research, contextual interviews, and increasingly analysis of social data. With the advent of social media, a data-set now exists upon which to conduct virtual ethnography; a process is much more accessible and cost-effective than ever before. As a side note: virtual or digital ethnographies are an amazing way to  map the customer journey, uncover moments of opportunity to engage and the key drivers of engagement for content creation.

Identify those interactions and steps that should be prioritized and opportunities for improvement. Not every ‘broken’ touch-point is critical to customers. In fact, some are not important at all and customers are still satisfied without those interactions being great. Every organization has limited resources, so make sure to prioritize the proposed improvements to your customer experience so that the actions you take have impactful results.

Build the final customer journey map

Update the map to incorporate the insights that you have gathered from your customer research. This should pull together all the steps that customers go through, their emotional states throughout, identifying places that are key moments of truth where customers have a strong emotional response (either positive or negative) to what you’re doing, and highlighting opportunities to really improve.

When it comes to what it should look like, there are a lot of examples of the physical maps, but that’s not what’s important about the process. You are doing CJMs to uncover specific insights that you will use for fixing problems, wowing customers in the future, or establishing measurement tracking systems. If you focus too much on copying someone else’s CJM, then you will often miss the nuances that are key for your customers and your company. And, more importantly, you lose the institutional learning’s that come from going through the process.

A journey map is a widely shared artifact. There are dozens of ways to approach it depending on your goals, your brand, the depth of data displayed, and the breadth of the journey mapped. It should look and feel important to your organization. Use ‘your’ language and ensure it is easy for the people who need to use it to understand.