A Tool For Positive Change: Five Tips for Building a Customer Journey Map


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Whether transactional or holistic, journey maps need customer data to be relevant and credible.

In last month’s article, I discussed how to get the most from customer journey maps and how to make them work for your organization. Many of you asked for more details about how to build one, so I will share some of the lessons we learned in building ours.

As we said last month, there is no right or wrong way to develop a customer journey map. Still, it’s not a free-form exercise. There are proven guidelines to ensure success. Here are five tips.

1. Decide what kind of map you need.

CX teams often ask what kind of journey map they should develop—a detailed transactional one that focuses on improving a specific event, or a map that takes more of a holistic view of the end-to-end customer journey. Both identify “moments of truth” that strongly influence customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Some CX leaders view holistic maps as a luxury they don’t have time for; they’re under pressure to solve immediate problems. Transactional maps might seem like the best place to start, but their limited focus keeps you from addressing what happens to the customer before and after the touchpoint being mapped. It’s a good argument for making the initial investment in a holistic map and its supporting customer data first, and then drilling down to solve transactional issues in the next phase.

I confess my bias toward the latter approach. Why? Customers don’t care about our processes, our departments or how well we do or don’t work together. Customers view us as a company regardless of where they interface with us. Holistic maps help us take the customer’s view—and that’s not always easy for a company to do if they are looking at a single part of the journey.

2. Start and end with the customer’s perspective.

Whether you choose a transactional or holistic map, it’s important to begin with the customer perspective. It can be risky business to start CX projects based on internal views only, without validating them against customer data.

For example, in the process of building our journey map based on customer interviews and survey data, we found there was a chasm at each handoff in the customer lifecycle—from sales to service to implementation to support. Though we had procedures and forms in place for each handoff point, they weren’t sufficient, and in many cases our customers were having to repeat themselves at each new point in the lifecycle. They fell into the chasm, so to speak. We learned that we needed to implement a formal, inter-departmental meeting at each handoff point. We also learned that, in many cases, what we thought we knew about our customers didn’t at all match their perception of us. Such is the value of a holistic journey map.

3. Don’t reinvent the data wheel.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to customer data for journey mapping. You can leverage data from an existing relationship program and update it with interviews, or use the interviews to target specific transactional details.

We brought in a CX consultant to help us develop our ever-evolving journey map, and when we did we had already collected data from more than 10,000 customer surveys, as well as results of focus groups and one-on-one interviews. After reviewing the data, the consultant interviewed 20 customers and 20 employees, and found that the interviews largely reflected our data findings. The consultant’s work was of value because he probed on issues that he found in the data and gave us a good view of where we were and weren’t meeting customer expectations. It was well worth the investment to get that outside view.

One caution: Don’t let internal colleagues discount the information you gather in interviews or surveys, or decline to take responsibility for certain survey findings. It’s simply human nature to want to do this, so be prepared. The customer journey map exercise and accompanying customer data can help you get very specific about interactions that need to be improved, and who is responsible for them.

4. Get executive buy-in.

Start customer journey mapping with an open dialogue with the executive team and all stakeholders. The first step is to be sure they understand the purpose of a journey map and what value it can deliver to the organization. Executives can be fuzzy on the definition, or think you’re proposing a process map. Be clear that a journey map shows the view of your company from the outside in.

Next, find out what kind of information from the CX function would be useful for them. Continue the dialogue by setting up a steering committee with senior stakeholders who interact with and/or impact customers. They will provide valuable guidance. In turn, you can develop a meaningful plan on what to do with the CX information and insights once you get them, including how best to share them, validate them and have the organization act on them.

5. Keep it under control.

A customer journey map can easily get crowded. There is a tendency to try to put everything on it. If you load it with too much information, it becomes a monster, something that needs a voiceover to be understood. It no longer tells its own story. Holistic maps should focus on interactions, moments of truth, key themes and emotional impacts. They should reference real data and focus on the touchpoints that are most important to your customers. That’s where you’ll make the biggest impact.

Our map is 25 feet long and three feet wide. Constructed in Microsoft Office Visio, we added graphics to help our client visualize key parts of the story. Our map also has removable sections so we can change information depending on our audience, whether internal or external. This is a good way to ensure your map stays focused on your audience. When I show our map to customers, for example, I include content illustrating improvements we have made based on their feedback. When I show it to internal departments, I make sure the map shows customer emotional reactions at key interface points.

A tool for action and positive change

Building the dream journey map, and getting it right, can be a difficult task. In our experience, the soundest approach is to make the initial investment in a holistic map and its supporting customer data, and then drill down to solve transactional issues in the next phase. Real world demands might intervene, but the truth is the more you know about your customers, their experiences with your company and what’s most important to them, the greater the return you’ll get from your mapping investment.

Above all, keep in mind that the map is a tool. Its purpose is to present information not for its own sake, but as the starting point for CX analysis, action and positive change.

Nancy Porte
Nancy Porte is the Vice-Chair for the Board of Directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). Previously, as Vice President of Global Customer Experience for Verint and with a background in operations management, her passion is developing differentiated customer experiences through cross-functional collaboration and employee engagement. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and frequent speaker at industry conferences.


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