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The customer journey map helps businesses turn data into a rich narrative that explains the customer’s decisions, pain points and interactions at every stage.
If the customer is putting in more effort than you are then you will lose that customer.
If you have a great map of your customers and their behaviour, you are going to be able to build a better, easier and more rewarding journey for them.
The earliest maps of the known world, carved in stone in around 2,300 BC, had a clear purpose. They helped us to visualise our planet, to define it and to navigate it successfully.
Maps also conferred power. The better your maps, the better you could tax your subjects, find the quickest trade routes or win battles.
Without a good map, you are liable to get lost, make errors and blunder around blindly.
That’s why map-making has become so vital to the world of customer satisfaction. If you have a great map of your customers and their behaviour, you are going to be able to build a better, easier and more rewarding journey for them.
Just as the earliest maps helped us visualise the world, so do customer journey maps help us visualise the customer’s experience, placing it at the heart of the commercial relationship.
While most organisations collect a lot of data and information about their customers, the map helps them turn it into a rich narrative that explains the customer’s decisions, pain points and interactions at every stage.
The customer journey map identifies all the touchpoints that a customer has with your company and seeks to answer questions about their expectations, motivations, incentives and feelings at each of them. In the same way that you carefully plan a road trip from the moment you leave your home to when you reach your destination, the customer journey map traces the engagement from the first point of contact to the successfully completed transaction and, beyond that, to the development of the long-term relationship.
Many organisations like to plot these journeys on an infographic or flow-chart that allows a clear, simple visualisation.
Instead of a car or train, however, the modern consumer’s vehicle of choice for their customer journey is a mobile phone handset. But they nevertheless change vehicles frequently during the journey. They may start off looking at your website on their laptop before switching to their mobile to check in on social media to get some peer recommendations. Then they’ll turn up in person and talk to staff at your physical bricks-and-mortar store or branch, before later switching to their telephone landline to call your customer service department.
That can create problems for the map-maker. Anne Marie Forsyth, Chief Executive of CCA Global, the leading UK authority on customer experience strategy, notes that creating customer journey mapping strategies has recently become a priority: “Customer journey mapping is a question that’s vexing every organisation as it’s extremely complicated. The number of ways in which a customer interacts with a brand is increasing but the relationship is invisible to the organisation.
“The customer is looking at one thing – their mobile handset. But most organisations do not have sight of the overall customer journey – they have the impression of looking at a lot of different customers. As the channel model becomes more mixed, it becomes much more complicated.”
It is her experience that effective customer journey maps play a key role in removing friction and failure from the system.
“They allow companies to continually ask themselves ‘can we improve or remove this process?’. It should also take the effort out of the journey. If the customer is putting in more effort than you are then you will lose that customer. Lots of companies have experienced that.”
Examples abound, from the infuriating difficulty of trying to change your contact details on a company website to frustration with self-service check-outs that continually ask you to get ID approval or point out non-existent “unidentified objects in the bagging area”.
Plotting and understanding the customer journey allows a company to improve that journey and offer an enhanced customer experience along the way. It can do this by identifying the pain points where the journey becomes frustrating. This can happen when the customer moves between devices (for example, from mobile to PC), moves between departments (sales to customer service) or moves between channels (Facebook and Instagram to website).
Good customer maps don’t just highlight the touchpoints on the journey; they map the quality of the interactions. Was the customer made to feel welcome? Did they quickly find the information they were looking for? Did they use the FAQs? Did they hang up after being kept on hold?
It’s important to put the customer at the centre of the journey map, just as SatNav shows them the roadmap from the perspective of their own vehicle.
If it is delivered properly, an omnichannel approach provides a customer with a great experience with seamless connections across all channels, allowing them to switch between platforms without having to repeat their enquiries or re-enter their data.
Connected processes – such as seamless handoffs or contextualised engagement based on earlier interactions – are unlikely to form a linear journey, but Salesforce research shows^ (opens in a new window) they are very important to winning the business of 70% of customers.
Personalisation is increasingly expected too. For 84%, being treated like a person, not a number, is crucial.
Currently the best practitioners are delivering the seamless continuity of the omnichannel experience in their own environment. But in future, omnichannel will allow customers to browse and compare across multiple brands. That’s because the best practitioners already realise that omnichannel is not about owning the customer, it’s about competing on great experience.
Customers already scan and check prices across multiple providers whether it’s for the best interest rate on a loan, the largest discount on a pair of shoes or the most comprehensive bundle for a phone deal. They do not limit their search to one provider but instead they research, choose and transact across all brands. The purchasing decision will be based on who offers the best combination of price, service, relationship and continuity.
And omnichannel allows people to interact in the way that they choose to, based on their need at a particular moment in time. Digital natives, who grew up in the online world, may interact differently from Baby Boomers who perhaps still want a friendly face across the counter, but most people will use a combination of channels.
Many organisations still struggle with customer journey mapping as they are being held back by legacy IT systems. These systems are at the heart of managing the customer experience, but are often 20 years old and built for obsolete processes that can’t be adapted to meet the new approach.
A unified technology platform helps greatly in delivering the benefit of customer journey mapping, preferably one that has been designed by close collaboration between IT, marketing and customer service. It’s no accident that many of the new generation companies delivering great omnichannel experiences are cloud-based, free of legacy infrastructures and out-of-date tools.
The earliest maps allowed our ancestors to make sense of an emerging world. The new generation of customer journey maps enable businesses to make customer interactions much more rewarding and satisfying. Seamless and effortless engagement across all channels is the new industry standard for excellence in customer experience. The organisations with the best maps will get there first.
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