The benefits of mapping your customer experience

The benefits of mapping your customer experience

Customer experience leaders now see that a better experience can result in long-lasting relationships with a greater lifetime value. A Forrester study in 2020 showed that 81% of leaders agree optimizing the customer journey to increase customer retention is important.

In a modern world in which B2C and B2B customer experiences are almost interchangeable, there’s a huge incentive for companies to produce seamless buyer journeys. CX leaders must introduce journey ways of working to remain competitive.

Customer experience strategy is predicated on some degree of diagnosis to assess the problems that should be solved before planning commences and actions are agreed upon.

Without the right set of tools, it becomes very difficult to run diagnostics that evoke meaningful assessment. We hear a lot about insight to action, but we can’t rely on disparate data sources to draw meaningful conclusions and the best possible outcomes.

By instilling a “journey-first” culture, organizations can align themselves to the most important customer tasks to be completed. The first step toward becoming truly customer-centric is to build a journey map. This is a continuously evolving initiative intended to enable data-driven decisions by analyzing the customer journey.

To identify important moments in the customer experience, 71% of companies use customer journey mapping. Customer journey maps (CJMs) can provide the source of truth for making informed strategic decisions related to the customer experience (CX). Great CX across all journey stages requires a reliable view of the authentic customer journey.

Often misunderstood, undermined, or just plain ignored, CJMs often aren’t given the attention they deserve. They are typically seen as a “nice to have” rather than the focal point of customer experience management.

CJMs help answer critical strategic questions.

A CJM is an effective tool to diagnose areas of improvement for enhanced CX.

A new perspective

A journey mapping program helps companies determine each touchpoint and where there’s friction when it comes to task completion. Often, customers want to partner with organizations that fully understand and continuously optimize each touchpoint across the buyer journey.

Through the customer journey, we see opportunities for multiple customer experiences depending on who’s involved and where in the journey they are.

For example, a buyer of automation software might move from having a close relationship with an account executive through the drive purchase stage to working with a customer success manager during onboarding. These “experience branches” must all be deconstructed to gain an end-to-end view of the buyer journey.

Critical customer engagement interactions are often referred to as “moments of truth.” Coined by Jan Carlzon in his 1987 book Moments of Truth, these moments are when we must show our customers that SAS (the company where Carlzon was formerly the CEO) is their best alternative. By understanding these “moments of truth,” organizations can address customer needs and assess optimization opportunities in the buyer journey.

Typically, the first moment of truth is seen as the time a customer decides to buy a product or service, and the second moment of truth is the first experience customers have using the product or service. The application of moments of truth can be tailored to each organization’s mapping requirements, but the premise should remain. Moments of truth represent the key touchpoints for a buyer along the journey.

Data from Google shows that, as with B2C, B2B customers mostly start their product research using the internet (71%). Therefore, the first digital touchpoint for a brand often takes place through search. Google calls this digital connection the “zero moment of truth” (ZMOT). ZMOT will inevitably occur, and CX teams must be prepared with omnichannel experiences that enable customers or prospects to progress forward toward more moments of truth.

71% of B2B customers start their product research using the internet.

This article doesn’t explain how to conduct customer journey mapping, but it aims to explain what can be achieved through a global CJM program. Our research shows that with established journey mapping programs, companies can see the following benefits:

Tracking key moments

An organization can benefit by scaling the number of touchpoints it tracks using a network effect of data. These data points provide a source of competitive advantage. A journey-based analytics deployment provides an absolute dataset, providing customer-centric insights. Armed with this valuable journey-based data infrastructure, the organization can use a range of data qualitative and quantitative models to make digital experience optimizations.

Equipped with these deep insights, CX teams can work to improve the experiences that matter most to the customer and remove those that are no longer required. CX teams must measure impact with outcomes.

Each touchpoint in a customer journey contributes to either a positive or negative sentiment, to some extent. Excessive email sending, poor use of personalization, or engagement with the wrong customer profile could result in a negative experience. Equally, there might be certain touchpoints that could result in a strong competitive advantage if exploited.

Moments of truth should not be assessed in isolation. What’s important is how these moments combine to deliver a full experience. CJMs provide a strategic tool for developing a holistic perspective on how moments of truth come together unilaterally to forge a good customer experience.

Through this lens, analytics teams can assess how customers are transitioning through any given end-to-end journey. With these insights, CX leads can make better decisions related to experience enhancements.

Enhancing the customer experience

Bruce Temkin, a key figure in customer experience, explains, “Companies need to use tools and processes that reinforce an understanding of actual customer needs. Used appropriately, these [customer journey] maps can shift a company’s perspective from inside out to outside in.”

With this new perspective, organizations can be more strategic when considering which enhancements should be made to the CX. Each journey step requires a different level of attention, but each step should follow the same process for assessing new developments to improve the CX.

CJMs aren’t simply an inventory of possible touchpoints. They offer deep insight into the motivations and attitudes of a customer through qualitative and quantitative research. CX teams must turn insight into action by making continuous experience optimizations.

Once a CJM is constructed, it’s likely that some low-hanging fruit has been identified by participants in the mapping exercise. It can be tempting to dive in and immediately start brainstorming tactical improvements to overcome these new known issues. It’s important, however, that CX teams take the time to get an outside-in perspective before making experience enhancements.

While quick tactical changes might help in the short term, organizations should apply design thinking principles to focus on future capability and design investments. Any transformation should be value-driven. By framing the new CJM as a value-based activity, team members can stay focused on the strategic goal of the transformation at the same time as pursuing quick wins.

Engage the organization in CX culture

CJMs should be seen as both a customer experience and employee experience initiative. These tools provide a means to communicate organizational purpose effectively. By combining a trifecta of customer-centric culture, strategic CX, and journey-focused purpose, employees can feel more engaged and fulfilled by their contributions.

Often, it’s not knowing the impact of one’s performance in an organization that leaves employees feeling disillusioned. If the company anchors itself around key journey maps, all teams can orient their purpose around delivering customer value and enhancing the customer experience.

Everyone in an organization is part of creating the customer experience and demonstrating how employee experience is inherently connected to the CX. To be customer-obsessed, an organization must also be employee-obsessed. As Southwest Airlines said, “Happy employees = happy customers = increased business/profits = happy shareholders.” The idea is that if employees are treated right, they will treat customers right. The end result of this cascading effect is a greater amount of value being provided to customers.

CJMs extend this EX to CX relationship by offering a visual representation of where value can be delivered by employees at each moment of truth. Some organizations go a step further in mapping exercises by closing the loop between employee contributions and customer experiences.

An additional layer can be added to a customer journey to show front stage and backstage interactions required by different functions and internal personas. This additional step helps employees to grasp their influence on customer journeys.

A shared responsibility

While CX teams ultimately manage CJMs on a day-to-day basis, organizations must tackle the question of who really owns the CJM. To achieve a true journey-first culture, organizations must share the responsibility of CJM ownership. All teams and employees contribute either directly or indirectly to the customer experience. As experienced contributors and designers in their own right, they should also take accountability for experience delivery.

Aligning all employees to the CX can also guide quarterly business reviews and check-ins. For example, defined journey stages could inform objectives and key results, or personal reviews could include target outcomes from relevant journey stages.

A cross-functional center of excellence (CoE) helps teams to define roles and responsibilities related to the CJM program. With a degree of accountability, teams can quickly and more comprehensively enhance the end-to-end customer journey through continuous iterations.

CX teams must work hard to prevent CJMs from being forgotten and relegated to an unused SharePoint site. CJMs must be made visible and readily available throughout the organization once they’ve been created and approved. They can make for great wall charts to attract attention and discussion among colleagues — all valuable levers to exercise in becoming a “journey-first” organization.

Drive the CX transformation

Journey maps can become catalysts for breaking down silos. More importantly, they should enhance the customer experience, creating a platform for analytics and CX teams to merge processes. Strategic analytics teams must forge a productive partnership with customer experience teams to deliver value through each touchpoint along the customer journey.

A combination of wall posters and interactive digital assets provides compelling artifacts for teams to ponder. CJMs can become vehicles for driving cross-functional collaboration and, subsequently, new customer-focused initiatives.

Organizing around experience embeds a journey-first culture at a deep level. It’s not easy to achieve, and it requires unilateral alignment across functions. If organizations can become customer-obsessed, they can pave the way to a sustained competitive advantage. And aligning the whole organization around CJMs creates a unique and engaging employee experience.

Be more interested in CX maps

CJMs provide focal points for an organization to become truly customer-centric. By understanding the key customer journeys, all functions can align toward the customer experience. This fosters an ethos of making investments and developing new processes with the customer journey front and center.

There is no finite way to design a customer journey — it’s multifaceted and complex. It requires testing at scale to determine the best combination of experiences. Even then, further iterations are required.

Having a grip on the journey through a sophisticated mapping program helps CX teams to understand customer pain points, actions, and motivations concretely as they engage with your brand. Ultimately, companies that excel at CX will be more profitable and enjoy a significant competitive advantage.