Like the term "ironic," customer journey maps are frequently used but seldom used properly. Despite their ubiquity on the forefront of the battle for improved customer experience, they often fail to inspire meaningful change, stalling out before initiating customer experience innovation. At Baker Tilly, we see it with our clients before we start working together: They're not getting the lift out of their journey maps that they need to and the process is not helping them innovate.
At its core the "customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company," explains Frog Design Creative Director Adam Richardson in the Harvard Business Review.
This simplicity leads to its potency. As we explain in the white paper "Pairing Art and Science to Innovate on Customer Experience," the "real power in these maps is their ability to communicate complicated, disparate, and numerous interactions in concrete, understandable terms."
"Customer journey maps have the potential to be a powerful tool. So what's inhibiting companies from using them to drive customer experience innovation?"
Executive leadership within B2B organizations have embraced this technique as a concrete task to check off the customer experience to-do list. In fact, respondents to Baker Tilly's 2015 B2B Trends and Topics survey were most likely to name customer journey mapping as their best customer experience skill. But the same survey found the biggest execution gap is actually innovating around customer experiences.
Customer journey maps have the potential to be a powerful tool. They are popular among executive leadership. So what's inhibiting companies from using customer journey maps to drive customer experience innovation? Through our research we have noted three wrong turns that organizations commonly make around customer journey mapping:
1) Broad Strokes: Not Enough Detail
Too often the content of the journey map just grazes the surface, never digging deeply enough to elicit any customer-based revelations. Without adequate research, the map will lack the depth of detail necessary to suggest actionable results. Baker Tilly recommends a variety of research, including (but not limited to):
- Ethnographic research: Observing the customer during all interactions with your product or service "to see people's behavior on their terms, not ours" can reveal patterns and conduct that customers themselves might not even notice.
- In-depth interviews: Explore all aspects of stakeholder interaction: What are customers doing during interactions and what's going on in their heads? To whom are they comparing you? Consumers may be making comparisons you never imagined. Without eliciting these details, you won't know how to adjust accordingly.
Right Direction: Dig deep with research, using a granular-level of detail to uncover new opportunities for innovative customer experiences.
2) Tunnel Vision: Stuck in the Product-Centric Mindset
Some organizations are so accustomed to approaching problems from an internal vantage point, that they have a hard time shifting their perspective away from their product or service and towards the customer experience. The resulting journey maps are thinly disguised promotions for branding improvements and technology solutions which end up cheating them out of any potential insight. In today's marketplace the interaction with the customer is part and parcel with what you're selling. Among innovative organizations, customer feedback creates a personalized experience at least as valuable to the customer as the product or service itself.
A glimpse at B2C-based innovation can reveal the direction where B2B is heading. In the world of consumer goods, online experiences are eclipsing the products they promote. "The upcoming paradigm shift of customer experience is one where we are currently offering product with easy accessibility to a premium experience where we anticipate customer needs before they can," explains Chris Oliveri, Design Manager to the Integrated Play Team (Digital/Physical Integration) at HASBRO, Inc. "The trick is having consumers trust this system." Today's premium experience is tomorrow's baseline.
Right Direction: Close the loop by incorporating customer feedback into experience design.
3) Gathering Dust: Shelving your journey map instead of taking action
As noted in "Pairing Art and Science," most organizations don't know what to do with these maps after they are created. Once you've expended the resources to craft an effective, actionable journey map, the journey has just begun!
- Get the word out: Make sure to disseminate it thoroughly. By using your journey map throughout the organization, you help all stakeholders understand and appreciate the entirety of the journey. Then the real work can start.
- Don't look for answers, look for questions: The map is not an action plan. The answers to how to delight your customers will not be in the customer journey map, because your customers likely don't yet know what will delight them next. Ideally the map will reveal potential pain points, problems to be addressed, but not the solutions themselves.
- Spring into action: The journey map is a springboard. By identifying pain points it provides an opportunity to brainstorm solutions. By reframing the journey, you can develop new ways to systematically innovate around the experience.
Right direction: Disseminate the finished customer journey map, so it can be used as a springboard to spark discussions about customer experience innovation.
Charting New Territory
"There is no single right way to create a customer journey, and your own organization will need to find what works best for your particular situation," notes Richardson. So your process will vary based on your goals.
One of our clients, a mid-sized manufacturer of innovative residential and commercial kitchen products, was focused on maintaining and growing market share while facing competitive pressures from low cost manufacturers. The Baker Tilly team worked with them through a variety of steps, including research, workshops, surveys and current and future state customer journey mapping. Collaboratively, we developed a current state customer journey map and an actionable future state journey map.
Together, these tactics unveiled a new perspective and the deeper understanding needed to develop effective innovation. "Baker Tilly helped us understand our customers and customer journey at a level that we hadn't gotten to before," explains our client's Director of Customer Experience, "which helped our organization think about customer experience in a more meaningful way."
The map is a first step, not an end product. Looking for guidance on your customer experience journey? Download the white paper "Pairing Art and Science to Innovate on Customer Experience."