Customer Journey Mapping is a popular tool that helps an organization understand the full spectrum of a customer’s experience and uncover experience strengths and gaps along the way. There are a few different ways an organization can develop a customer journey map. One approach is to conduct a large-scale journey mapping project, often with the help of a consultant, which includes upfront primary research conducted explicitly for the purpose of constructing the map. Journey mapping projects are especially helpful to understand large, complex journeys around which the organization has little understanding or research, or if the organization is new to journey mapping.
Another approach is to begin with existing research and internal subject matter experts, who immerse themselves in the customer persona and insights to develop the map together in a facilitated customer journey mapping session. The map is then validated with customers after the session. Journey mapping sessions can be valuable in situations where the journey is less complex and the organization has more maturity in its CX program, when there is existing customer research it can draw upon, and when there are internal subject matter experts who are willing (and able) to contribute to the effort.
I experienced my first customer journey mapping session nearly 10 years ago when the company I worked for at the time adopted the approach as part of its innovation and new product development approach. From that very first experience, I realized that the session provided not only a tangible benefit – a completed customer journey map we could use to make more informed decisions on how to meet customers’ needs – but generated a number of positive side effects that rippled across the teams and departments of those who were involved. And those same side effects have been experienced by many of the organizations where I’ve facilitated these sessions over the past 8 years, whether they are financial services companies, B2B manufacturers, technology firms, or even local not-for-profit organizations.
So what are these side effects from journey mapping sessions and why should organizations that are focused on CX want to replicate them? Well, four that have stood out the most to me are that a CJM session:
1. Highlights the value of cross-functional perspectives. The very nature of organizational structures reinforces siloed thinking and functional self-centeredness. It’s very rare that a customer journey is touched by a single department, so journey mapping sessions by their nature require cross-functional involvement of subject matter experts. Spending time together working on the map exposes this group of stakeholders to a variety of helpful cross-functional perspectives over the course of the session. One of those new perspectives they are exposed to comes from the collection of customer insights and operational data that are shared to help illuminate the journey. Usually, these participants have only seen insights specific to their department, along with some enterprise-wide metrics and key findings. The wider view of X- and O-data that are incorporated into a journey mapping session not only informs the journey map, it also goes back with the participants to their respective teams. It provides additional context for the participants and their teams when viewing customer feedback and data within the confines of their department, opening up new paths to understanding what’s happening with customer experience across the enterprise.
2. Demonstrates the power of collective knowledge sharing. If the CX team – or any other individual department – tried to map a customer journey using just existing insights and what its team members know, it might get partway to a useful outcome but will come up short because of what it doesn’t know. That’s why the company needs to tap into valuable expertise about the customer that is distributed across the organization. Journey mapping sessions provide that venue. When internal subject matter experts get together in a session, their collective knowledge can lead to a “1+1=3” effect. By connecting their individual areas of expertise across a journey, everyone involved can see the upstream and downstream effects of existing processes, policies, and decision-making in a new light. During the journey mapping session, this cohesive view helps to identify experience gaps that need to be addressed. Participants leave these sessions with a greater appreciation of the value of getting others from across the organization involved when tackling a problem or innovating around an opportunity to make sure things are fully explored and understood – and then tend to find ways to do just that, even when a journey map is not involved.
3. Creates a greater appreciation of what ‘being customer-focused’ means. If an organization has been working on building a customer-centric culture, it likely has spent time on internal communication and training efforts to connect employees to CX. While those efforts are well-intentioned, they often aren’t enough to help employees really understand what it means to “see things through the customer’s eyes.” For me, it has been a predictable occurrence during a customer journey mapping session – sometime after immersing participants in the customer persona and before we hypothesize moments of truth – that one or more participants in the room will say, “Before coming to this I thought we were good at looking at things with a customer-centric view, but now I really understand what that means.” During the course of a facilitated session, there’s a constant reminder to “go back to the persona and the research to see what it tells you” and challenges of “would the customer really use those words to describe what is happening in this stage?” Those verbal prods from journey mapping sessions are very real take-aways that many participants bring back to their team meetings and incorporate into their daily routines.
4. Delivers learnings that can be used in other settings. The most noticeable source of value back to the organization of any customer journey mapping effort are the actions taken to improve the experience based on what the map reveals. As I’ve been sharing above, individual participants also go through some mindset shifts during journey mapping that positively change how they approach their work following the session. But that might impact only the 5 or 6 or 8 people who were part of the session. Smart organizations get even more mileage out of completed journey maps by using them to raise awareness and understanding across the broader employee base. Some of the ways I have seen companies do this are to:
- Incorporate personas and journey maps in new hire orientation to give an introduction to the company’s primary customers and key experiences
- Use journey maps in role-specific employee training to help employees, whether they directly interact with customers or not, understand the bigger picture and how their work impacts CX
- Leverage personas and journey maps with marketing and sales teams to drive more customer-focused alignment of campaigns and pitches
- Introduce journey maps and personas to process improvement, product development, and innovation teams whose members can sometimes be degrees-removed from direct customer interaction
The ins and outs and whys and why-nots of customer journey mapping can take up a series of posts. But often overlooked (or under-appreciated) in the discussions of mapping mechanics are the broader benefits that can linger in the organization over time. So while preparing for, facilitating, and (most importantly) taking action after customer journey mapping sessions requires a lot of time and effort, I’d argue the pay-off is worth it for the organizations that do it well.