Ringing in a New Year is a great time for businesses to take some time to reflect on the successes and challenges of the prior year and to think strategically about the goals and outcomes they hope to achieve in the New Year. In Stephen R. Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” he introduces the concept of first seeking to understand. While this concept was discussed as an important skill that effective people practiced, the same concept applies to the customer service journey. Before a company can create a customer service strategy, the customer journey must first be understood. As technology continues to quickly evolve and disrupt our patterns, this understanding of the customer becomes increasingly important. With so many touchpoints for customers to interact with a product or brand, learning the habits of your customers is crucial to create the most effective strategies for customer service success.
There are many tools and charts that organizations rely upon to best understand the intersection of the customer and the company’s brand or product. Customer service journey mapping is probably the most important tool for your organization to track and understand so that relevant practices and communication strategies can be implemented. Quite simply, customer service journey mapping is the process of putting the steps, stages and touchpoints your customer goes through while interacting with your product, brand or service, along with their emotional journey, into a visual map. A detailed map conveys the hows and whys of your customer’s journey. For instance, how is your customer connecting with your company; how do they feel at various touchpoints; why are they choosing one entry point over another; and why are they choosing your product or service over your competition. A comprehensive customer service journey map goes beyond the purchase and delves deeper into the customer experience before, during and after interacting with your product, brand or service.
Even if your organization has the structures and tools in place to guide your customer journey, these structures aren’t static and need to be revisited annually to ensure you remain on the right track. Whether your organization is in its start-up phase or has been established for years, the same rules apply: mapping out your customer service journey requires commitment, input and updating so you can meet your customers where they’re at and provide them with incentive to keep returning to your product or brand.
Creating the Customer Service Journey Map
Sometimes not knowing where to start is what prevents us from achieving our goals. Let’s break down some of the steps to creating a customer service journey map so you can feel confident about implementing this important tool within your organization. Keep in mind that the customer service journey map is all about your customer and his perspective. Customer journey maps are tools to provide insight into how your customers perceive and interact with you and isn’t a marketing tool for how you want to be perceived.
Step #1—You know more than you think
The easiest place to start in understanding your customer is with your existing customer related data. Mining your web analytics, combing through the most frequently asked questions posed to your live-chat and call center operators, and querying your existing stakeholders will offer up loads of valuable data as a starting place. To begin making sense of the data, the next step is to break it down into the various touchpoints your customers interact with your brand or product. Web analytics, c-sats, customer service logs and other sources will allow you to understand the customer through each of the channels that your customers interact with you. Although your employees are valuable resources for improving your customer service delivery strategies, be careful not to turn to employees when mapping your customer service journey. Employees are biased toward their experiences and not necessarily thinking about the where the customer is coming from. Remember, you are creating a tool that allows you to walk in your customer’s shoes to get an outside perspective as to how your brand/product/service is perceived.
Step #2—Give equal time to all your touchpoints
Companies are slowly realizing the importance of creating omni-channel customer service strategies, and mapping the customer journey is the place to start. With so many options for customers to access companies, whether it’s a bricks-and-mortar store or virtual, make sure to include ALL the ways your customers access you. Be prepared that there may be entry points that you aren’t aware of and don’t have control of, such as word-of-mouth, friends and family. Just because you can’t control these touchpoints and the fact that they’re harder to quantify, doesn’t mean they don’t warrant attention. Again, when thinking of your touchpoints from the customer’s point of view allows you see which channels need improvement.
Step #3—Understand the emotional triggers
Every journey and touchpoint your customer encounters with your brand or product has an emotional impact. Understanding the emotional triggers involved with your touchpoints is important so you can craft your responses to either mitigate negative emotional responses or enhance positive ones. Keep in mind that trying to eliminate ALL negative responses is not only futile, but unnecessary. Customers are willing to “suffer” a bit so long as certain touchpoints are perceived as positive. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it makes sense when you start to think about it from the customer’s perspective. Take for instance the call-center. While customers may respond that they experience “negative” emotions while holding to speak with a representative, so long as their needs are met once they do speak with a representative, they’ll remember the overall experience as positive, not negative. Understanding emotional triggers along the customer service journey is important, as customers make purchase decisions based upon their emotional responses.
Step #4—Know the moments of truth
Knowing which moments have high impact on your customer allows you to focus on targeting those areas and focus resources. A “moment of truth” is when your customer pauses to assess if she is satisfied or dissatisfied with her experience. Depending on her experience, she’ll either continue on with you or decide to bail out. Learning these pivotal decision points is important for all the obvious reasons.
You’ve developed a Customer Service Journey Map—now what?
Once your map is completed it will be a tool that will benefit most everyone in your organization. Customer journey maps aren’t limited to only those who interact directly with customers. Branding and marketing departments use these maps to understand where the tipping points are in the journey and create campaigns around those points to nudge customers toward a purchase. Product Development teams benefit because understanding the customer allows for the creation of products that customers actually want. Customer service staff, distribution teams and executives all benefit as well. Seeing your organization the way your customer perceives you allows for realistic budgeting, marketing campaigns that ring true to the customer, and training that is targeted to providing top-notch customer service. Keep in mind that the customer journey map is an evolving tool, so revisit it annually and enjoy the benefits of truly knowing your customer!