One of Temkin Group’s Six Laws of Customer Experience is that people are instinctively self-centered. Individuals inside a company are very knowledgeable about the company and its processes and often have a mixed understanding of customers. The result? Employees naturally tend to view their customers through an internal lens that focuses on the distinct interactions a customer has with their specific department. This inward focus makes it impossible to have a complete picture of the customer’s experience. Customer journey maps (CJM) help shift employees’ focus beyond individual interactions towards a broader examination of the customer experience.
Let’s start with a definition. A customer journey map is the representation of the steps and emotional states a specific customer goes through during a period of time to accomplish a specific goal that may include some interactions with your organization. A journey map visually depicts the major stages of the journey, the steps that the customer takes with and without the company, the customer’s expectations along with his or her perceptions of the experience, and how the customer feels during each stage.
I’ve worked with many CX practitioners and companies on how to create customer journey maps, and through the course of this work, five lessons have emerged that are essential to ensuring that the customer journey map will help to improve the customer experience.
1. Start your customer journey mapping by identifying your target customers.
Experiences are inherently personal. An experience that works for one customer could be a complete failure for another. That’s why it’s important to be clear from the onset of your CJM effort which customer is the “main character” taking the journey. Many companies develop and use design personas to inform their work. Design personas create a shared, vivid picture of target customers’ characteristics, needs, and behaviors. Companies should then craft a map to cover every important customer segment. If it turns out some of your segments actually do follow the same journey, then you can combine their maps. A journey map that isn’t crafted with a target customer in mind likely will result in a map that has a bunch of generalities and less useful insights to drive action.
2. Keep the journey in the context of the customer’s broader goals, objectives, and activities.
Customer journey maps are valuable because they help to identify how a customer views an organization by putting the interactions with a company in the context of the customer’s broader goals, objectives, and activities. Too often, companies mistake a CJM for a touchpoint map, which looks only at the individual interactions or “touches” with a customer, and not what is happening along the journey without the company. The problem with this approach is that it can be mostly internally focused and lose sight of how that touchpoint fits within the larger journey the customer is taking to accomplish a specific goal. For example, following a car accident, an insurance company customer is not just on a “file a claim” journey but rather on the journey to get his car repaired and have his own source of transportation again.
3. Make sure your customer journey map can pass the “I” test.
Because you applied lesson #1, your customer journey map will be based on the journey that a specific customer is taking. Therefore, everything on the map should be in words and phrases that customer would use. Often individuals struggle to avoid using company-centric language when drafting the CJM. When that happens, acronyms, technical language, and organizational references find their way into how the customer’s actions, expectations, or perceptions are written on the map. Instead, be sure that the customer would agree that everything on the map is something “I would say.” Tapping into customer research before and after creating the map can help to validate the insights employees contribute when drafting the map. Customer research will also uncover things the company simply didn’t know – especially in areas of the journey where the customer isn’t doing things with the company.
4. Focus on the customers and interactions that make a difference.
When it comes time to using the map to drive customer experience improvements, it’s important to recognize that some moments mean more than all the others on the map. We call these moments of truth – the individual interactions that have the greatest impact on customer loyalty. Even if a company does well on most of its interactions, customers will more vividly remember what happened during moments of truth. Organizations will often get the most value from their efforts if they disproportionately invest their time and energy into improving moments of truth. You can uncover moments of truth using qualitative or quantitative research. Qualitative research is helpful to uncover the moments where the customer demonstrates strong positive or negative sentiment, while quantitative analysis can identify moments that have strong correlation to CX or loyalty metrics (e.g., retention, willingness to recommend, satisfaction, effort). Typical moments of truth include the first time a customer uses a company’s product or services, when a product or service isn’t working correctly and is keeping a customer from doing something he or she really wants to do, or during a situation where the customer is worried, upset, or very concerned.
5. Remember that the “real” work begins once the customer journey map is finished.
The purpose of creating a customer journey map is not simply to end up with a pretty picture or cool poster. Our research has uncovered a variety of ways that companies are maximizing the value from their CJMs. It starts by ensuring that customer journey maps are part of the larger CX efforts within a company. The focus of the map should be linked to existing customer experience governance and objectives and the findings from the map should help shape ongoing CX operations, from fixing problems, to experience design and innovation, to monitoring and measurement. Furthermore, the customer journey map can serve purposes beyond just developing initial CX recommendations. Companies use CJMs for ongoing CX design, to educate employees about customer needs and expectations, and to prioritize listening posts for Voice of the Customer programs.
A customer journey map is a helpful tool that more and more companies are using as part of their customer experience efforts. The understanding that organizations develop through the customer journey mapping process allows them to push aside their inward focus and design better experiences by taking a more customer-centric view. By applying these five lessons, you’ll be in a better position to use your customer journey map to improve your customers’ experience.