First, what do we really mean by customer journey mapping?
In any of its existing forms—and there are many—customer journey mapping is simply the act of describing what occurs at every stage of interaction between a customer and your business. That could cover everything from how they find the business (online or physically), what happens during any visit or transaction, how they experience customer service or even how they talk about your business” on social media before, during and after the transaction.
Most journey maps are built along a timeline. Usually, the timeline is broken into stages, like Awareness, Research/Inquire, Purchase and Possess—the specific titles depend on the type of journey, industry or mapping technique. Further, for each of those stages, the map provides places to record the activities, motivations, rewards, barriers, challenges or questions the customer faces at each stage.
What stages command your greatest attention will certainly depend on your specific business. But there is always something to be learned from formal observation and documentation of the customer journey and, simultaneously, examination of our assumptions and biases. So, how can you get started?
Before you begin, have a goal in mind
First, understand ahead of time what exactly you want to do with the information gathered throughout the process. It will help determine what structure or formats make the most sense for documenting your findings. Most businesses can bucket those goals into three main categories: improving the customer experience, creating a new experience altogether and aligning the organization around the needs of the customer. So, how can customer journey mapping help you achieve those goals?
Goal: Improve your existing customer experience
Even the best customer experiences can be improved. More importantly, they can be copied and improved upon by nimble new competitors should you choose to rest on your extremely comfortable laurels. Journey mapping exposes the places and moments most critical to delivering a superior experience. At what point in the journey are your customers most concerned? When are they most confident? When are they open to learning? What moments turn them from interested to evangelist? A thorough journey mapping exercise can bring those moments into focus and help inform and prioritize innovation efforts at multiple points.
Goal: Create an entirely new customer experience
When working on innovation projects with clients, one of the most basic questions we ask at the beginning of any engagement is, “Does [it] have to work like this?” So often companies assume that if the entire industry conducts business in the same fashion, it must be the best way. But as we see disruptive competitors enter markets, they succeed because they look to the incumbents’ strengths and see a weakness. Journey mapping is a great way to explore those new ways to structure a transaction or business model. It forces you to think about satisfying motivations and emotional needs first, then architecting experiences and behaviors around those.
The trick is starting with more audacious foundational questions. You don’t create an Airbnb experience without asking something like, “How might we give travelers a hotel option almost as inexpensive and comfortable as staying at a friend’s house?” Or, more generally, something like, “How might we increase the number of available rooms without investing in more real estate?” Either of those questions could lead to a number of potential solutions. Journey mapping gives you the opportunity to uncover the emotional bumps in the road that will either make or break your service or product design.
Goal: Align the organization around the needs of the customer
In most larger businesses, different moments along the customer journey are likely owned by different departments. Marketing owns the message and fills the funnel. I.T. builds and maintains the digital storefront. Sales fields inbound leads. Operations fulfills. Customer Service, well, services the customers. And everyone may be optimizing around different and sometimes competing goals.
Taking the time to examine the full journey, end to end, and exploring how every physical, digital and interpersonal touch point affects the experience creates an opportunity to document, in a single place, just how competing incentives and KPIs create friction. As important, documenting the journey creates visibility into moments that drive positive momentum along the way and perhaps areas where an alternative incentive structure could improve the experience and create greater internal alignment.
A journey of a thousand miles…
Regardless of the various styles and formats of journey mapping, or your specific business goals, the universal benefit is a deeper understanding of your business from your customers’ perspective. And that is always a valuable perspective for any business.