The Power of Journey Mapping to Help Create the Perfect Customer Experience
How do you keep your customers–and keep them happy? Marketers have asked this question for decades. The answer has changed over time, and the tools we use to do so have evolved. One thing is certain: Marketing isn't a movie. This isn't Field of Dreams. If you build it, they won't come.
In the real world, a killer product doesn't guarantee success. You don't just put it out there and expect customers will find it. In fact, the opposite is true: You have to find your customers. You need to build a path to your product. First, you must understand your customers’ pain points and problems they are trying to solve. Only then can you a build an experience that meets their needs. And don’t forget, you must get the right message to the right customer at the right time.
The Evolution of Customer Experience
I've been working in the customer experience (CX) space for the last 25 years, having started my career with J.D. Power and Associates back in the 1990s. I have spent most of my career on the vendor/consulting side of the industry, but I've taken a couple of in-house gigs, one at Mattel and the other at Fidelity Investments.
Six or seven years ago, I started writing, consulting, and speaking as side projects. I had a day job, but wasn't quite ready to go out on my own. Then, last year, the stars and the planets aligned, and I founded my own consulting firm, CX Journey Inc. It was the perfect time to go solo. Great opportunities were coming my way, and I was having more fun with my side projects than my day job. It was now or never.
These days, I work with clients in a variety of ways, from full-scale engagements, in which I coach/advise on how to develop and implement employee experience and customer experience strategies, to more project-based assignments, where I’m running journey mapping workshops or designing surveys. I also create content for several clients and speak at company and industry events.
When I started in this industry, we didn’t even call this thing “customer experience.” We talked about customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. Customer relationship management (CRM) was a new buzzword. We were still light-years away from customer experience management (CEM).
Having said that, I stumbled into customer experience at J.D. Power and Associates. I love to write, and I love math. Customer research is all about numbers and translating them into useful information, telling the story of the data, so it felt like a solid fit for me. Over time, I started to realize I was making an impact, as my recommendations to clients, grounded in customer feedback, changed people’s lives by helping to transform the customer experience.
As I was taking these early steps in my career, the industry was shifting. At least from where I stood, customer listening was moving away from market research to focusing on the voice of the customer (VoC). This was a natural evolution, and technology was a big part of it. Online surveys emerged and evolved into functional tools that allowed companies to listen, and respond, to customers–one or many–in near real time, sample sizes be damned.
Unfortunately, the early days of VoC focused more on ratings and scores. We knew how customers rated the business, but analyzing verbatims was tedious at the time, limiting contextual insights, including sentiment, around the ratings. Text analysis has evolved over time, as well; we now use natural language processing and AI to analyze this unstructured data, giving us much faster and more accurate details around customer sentiment.
Customer listening evolved into customer understanding, and with that came other tools, like journey mapping. Some folks will tell you they've been mapping for decades; but many just thought in lifecycle terms: need, awareness, consideration, selection, etc. In other words, they were thinking about the buyer funnel or journey, i.e., high-level sales and marketing talk that had little or no impact on the customer experience. Thankfully, this kind of thinking around customer experience has evolved, too, although I still need to remind folks that lifecycle maps are not journey maps.
Going Beyond Numbers with Journey Mapping
Customer experience is more than metrics and numbers; it’s about the journey that your customers take when they interact with your brand to complete some task or to solve some problem. The metrics are a reflection of how well you have delivered the experience. Through journey mapping, you can analyze the steps customers take to interact with the brand and create a timeline of what your customers do, think, and feel along the journey; this adds a level of color and detail to the numbers that you can’t get in any other way.
Journey mapping allows companies to walk in their customers' shoes, to capture every single step a customer takes to complete some task, e.g., an online purchase, with your brand. Maps tell the story of the whole customer journey, not just the good stuff, but also the pain a brand puts its customers through.
As I like to say, "You can't transform something you don’t understand." You can't design a new customer experience for tomorrow if you don't know what's going right or wrong today.
Managing CEM with Quadient
Customer experience software has grown more sophisticated over the last 10 years. The expansion of CX technologies sunk in when I first encountered GMC Software in 2015 or so. They have since rebranded and are now known as Quadient. Knowing my experience with journey mapping, Mirza Baig—who is now Quadient's Director of Digital and Advocacy Marketing—reached out to me to share what they were working on.
They had just added journey mapping functionalities to their customer communications management (CCM) platform. Mirza asked me to write a white paper about journey mapping and CCM. I didn't know the company at all, but the more we talked, the more I loved how they think and the product they created.
Quadient is awesome. They were so smart to incorporate journey mapping with a CCM system. Companies often forget communication and messaging when mapping out the customer experience. A digital management platform like Quadient helps connect the messaging to the journey.
Why is this important? A brand’s messaging must be timely, consistent, and relevant, and Quadient helps companies deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. When you combine Quadient with journey mapping, the magic begins.
In my journey mapping workshops, we map using butcher paper and Post-It notes; while that may seem old school, using this approach is a creative process that gets people up off their chairs and thinking on their feet.
Once we’re done mapping, the next step is to digitize the map. Why?
Do you know what happens when you roll up the butcher paper map and take it back to the office after the workshop? The Post-It notes fall off when you unfurl it! Say good-bye to all of the great learnings and ideas. Trust me; we all do that once. Just once. And then we learn to tape down anything that can move before we roll up the paper!
And that’s just one reason you need a digital journey map: the physical kind is too cumbersome. A digital journey map is an effective collaboration tool and platform. It allows mappers to adhere to some of the basic rules of mapping, which include collaborating, sharing, and updating the maps.
As an example, consider the online purchase process. A customer gets an email that there's a sale this week. She clicks on a link that takes her to your website. You’ll capture this interaction to confirm your targeted email worked. And you’ll need to ensure the landing page is consistent with contents and branding relevant to the email, i.e., if you offered a 40% discount, but she doesn’t see it on the site, she may think she’s in the wrong place. It's a sure way to lose her business.
And when the customer clicks Place Order—or even if she doesn’t—you have to follow up: send a message the next day saying she left three items in her shopping cart. When she goes back and clicks Place Order, you send a confirmation email. And you follow that up with a tracking number and shipment status updates.
All of these messages are points along the customer journey. You have to make them timely, relevant, and consistent. Getting them to the right person at the right time sends an important message: You know the customer, and you understand where she is in her journey.
Mapping Messages to the Customer Journey
Have you ever waited three days for an e-mail confirmation of an order? That happened to me last week. I was left wondering whether the transaction had even gone through. The lack of follow-up didn't inspire much confidence. That’s what I mean by the right time.
With Quadient, I get a view into any point along the customer journey. I can see whether an appropriate message is being sent at the right time. If there is no message, you can add one. If a message isn’t working, you can change it or move it to another point on the map. Quadient helps us fill those communication gaps along the journey.
To make a big impact and to create a better understanding of the customer experience, I like to drill down to the detailed steps that customers take while completing a task with a brand. This helps companies not only understand the complexity of customer journeys, but also identify where things are going right or wrong. Like I said before, you can't change something you don't understand. This is the first step in transforming the customer experience.
It's a lot like feature creep. Many companies have the best intentions. They add new processes to enhance the customer experience, but don’t always consider the big picture or how the new processes impact the experience. The result is a major fail because you can't add a new point along the journey without adjusting or reviewing how it fits with all the other ones.
Creating and Nurturing Customers
The purpose of a business is to create and to nurture customers. But, to acquire customers, you can't just build a product, slap together a website, and then expect customers show up. It’s critical to design an experience that meets their needs and solves their problems. To succeed, businesses must first understand their customers.
There are still companies that don't even try. I bet they believe their customers can't live without their products. They won't admit as much in public, but I'm sure they're out there. I can also tell you they're in for a rude awakening.
Remember what happened to BlackBerry after the iPhone was introduced? Now, Blackberry’s a classic example of the customer experience perception gap, i.e., the finding that 80% of executives think they're delivering a superior customer experience, while only 8% of customers agree. They're off by a factor of ten. It's crazy, right?
What are they doing wrong?
They just hit the Easy button. They think they know what’s best. They think they know what their customers want. They apply what they deem to be best practices, but they don’t listen to customers to really understand their needs and pain points. These companies aren’t building responsive customer experience teams or mapping customer journeys. And they certainly don’t use CEM and CCM platforms like Quadient.
Too many companies are applying band-aid solutions. They're not stepping back and looking at the big picture. The result is an inconsistent experience.
Simplifying CCM and CEM with Quadient
A platform like Quadient can simplify customer experience management and journey mapping. But you can't just install Quadient and expect the software to transform the experience—remember, the technology is just a tool to facilitate the experience.
To get the most out of Quadient—and CEM, in general—you must accept that everything you do is about the customer and the customer experience. It’s a mindset shift that starts long before you acquire new technologies. If you haven't already done so, you must first realign your goals, your values, and your culture. You must put people—employees and customers—first. This is the only way to build shareholder value. If you don't have commitment across the board, none of this will work.
Mapping your customer journey and adopting Quadient is only the beginning. Once you see customer steps in living color, you can start to change the experience. When you have all the facts and figures at your fingertips, you can put an end to quick fixes and think more strategically. And you can then focus on building a better culture and a stronger business.
Quadient helps you find and remove the obstacles uncovered in your journey maps. It helps you synchronize your messaging with touchpoints along your customer experience timeline. It will do a lot of the heavy lifting, but you have to do the deep thinking. And let's be honest: The difference between you and the competition is just the way you think.