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Annette Franz

Customer Care

Journey Maps for the Customer Experience

Not an exercise in futility

Published: Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - 13:30

One of the arguments against journey mapping I often hear is that it’s an exercise in futility. You map. You put it on the wall. Nothing changes. To that I answer, “You’re doing it all wrong.”

You map because you need to understand the customer experience; you know that you can’t transform something you don’t understand, but understanding only gets you so far. You must act on what you now know. It’s time to operationalize your maps, but how?

I assume you’ve started with what we call an assumptive map, which is created by internal stakeholders without customer input. It’s what stakeholders assume to be the steps customers go through to complete some task. It’s based on what they know as customers themselves, as well as on customer feedback and other customer data. This is a common starting point for maps, and it’s a common place for mappers to stumble and spiral into futile territory. Keep going.

The map must include more than just what the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling. In order for the map to be actionable, you must include various artifacts, e.g., pictures, invoices, packing slips, receipts, emails, and call recordings, as well as touchpoint data, customer data, and customer feedback. These items bring the map to life and really help those who will use it to analyze and prioritize improvement opportunities.

The next step for this type of map is to do some customer research. You absolutely must validate the map with your customers to make sure that the customer voice is heard and visualized as part of the mapping process. At this point, you’ll likely also uncover the customer’s desired future state. Hold that thought, though; let’s focus on the current state first.

Once you have customer input—and not before—you’re ready to ask, “What do I do now?”

With the maps, you’ve identified things that are going well and those that aren’t. Coach and train employees on these areas—keep doing the things you’re doing well, but make improvements where you’re falling down. Set up surveys and other listening posts to get feedback on those key moments of truth, especially those areas where you need more data for a clearer understanding of what’s going well and what isn’t. This feedback will amp up your coaching and training, making it much clearer for employees on what needs to change.

Probably the most important thing to do next is to socialize the maps. This is key to avoiding that “exercise in futility” mentality or outcome. Help the entire organization—executives, frontline, back office—understand what the customer experience is today. Share the maps with the relevant customers to drive awareness and bring the customer into sharper focus for employees. Incorporate maps into meetings, presentations, training, and when bringing people on board. Talk about recommendations for change as a result of the maps. Get the entire organization on board and on the same page. Use the maps to provide a clear line of sight for employees to the customer experience, how their contributions matter, and how they affect the customer experience, good or bad.

Those key moments of truth are where you’ll want to focus improvement efforts. What’s happening to break down the customer journey at those moments? What processes—both for the customer and behind the scenes—do you need to fix, update, or remove to simplify the journey and reduce customer effort and pain? You’ll have to prioritize based on what’s most important to your customers and, ultimately, to the business. You’ll also need to determine which among those priorities is most doable, i.e., assess ROI of pain points and their needed modifications.

Once you’ve agreed on the areas on which to focus improvement efforts, create a road map and make sure you have identified owners for each area. (You should have assigned owners during the mapping process; if not, do that now.) Who’s responsible for that particular touchpoint or interaction? At this point, you might need to map micro-journeys to delve deeper into the steps customers take to complete the task; better understanding leads to a more effective transformation. You’ll also likely create some process maps to get a better understanding of what’s supporting that experience from behind the scenes.

Last but not least, take action! Fix those things you’ve uncovered that are causing your customers pain and excessive effort.

Maps are actionable and an important tool in your customer experience transformation efforts. Once you start making improvements, be sure to update the maps so they always reflect the current state.

A few closing thoughts: As we know, improving the customer experience happens in baby steps. You’ll need to build your business case and show some quick wins. Maps can help with that. Pick a task and design the future state based on what customers have told you. Begin your redesign efforts with some of the low-hanging fruit, especially those things that have the greatest impact on both customers and the business. Be sure to establish metrics to track performance of the improvements. Keep updating your maps to reflect the current state, and continue to validate with customers as changes are made.

“The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat.”

First published July 7, 2015, on the CX Journey blog.


About The Author

Annette Franz’s picture

Annette Franz

Annette Franz, CCXP is founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. She’s got 25 years of experience in both helping companies understand their employees and customers and identifying what drives retention, satisfaction, engagement, and the overall experience – so that, together, we can design a better experience for all constituents. She's an author (she wrote the book on customer understanding!), a speaker, and a customer experience thought leader and influencer. She serves as Vice Chairwoman on the Board of Directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), is an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council, and is an Advisory Board member for CX@Rutgers.