Associate Partner Optima Partners
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The six traps that mean customer journey mapping could be a mistake

Customer journey mapping has been embraced by many organisations, but its misuse has created a number of traps for organisations. But there is another way. 

4th Nov 2020
Associate Partner Optima Partners
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Journey mapping has been the hottest topic in customer experience for the last couple of years. But all this attention has come at a cost – it has increasingly become seen as an end rather than a means. Maps are created but nothing done with them.  

Journey mapping is a great tool, but a tool is all it is – a means to making the improvements required so your business can deliver the target experience. For these enhancements to take place, additional deliverables are required - these should cover interventions, messaging and capability development. But amid the fervour for journey mapping, they barely merit a mention.

Given the importance of these additional artefacts – a focus on journey mapping is too narrow. Far better to think in terms of journey orchestration. This elevates the objective from creating a map to doing something with it and delivering a better experience.

The six mapping traps to avoid

When mapping becomes the end rather than the means, it creates a number of traps - overcomplicating the map at a cost to operationalisation, just mapping the future state and not using gaps to drive initiatives and giving insufficient attention to decision points and data enablement.

Focusing on orchestration rather than mapping will stop your business falling into these traps and other traps such as focusing solely on customer interactions with your brand, ignoring brand promise, and creating a one-size-fits-all map that ignores the different jobs-to-be-done that different segments must complete.

Trap 1: Creating a complicated map that is hard to operationalise

When the map is the focus, there is an incentive to create a map that is attractive, clever and complex. But the more complex a map is – the more layers it has – the harder it is to operationalise.

One example of increasing complexity is seeking to incorporate behavioural heuristics into journey mapping. (For more, see this previous article highlighting the risks of taking such an approach.)

Another example is adding layers covering emotional and cognitive factors. Now clearly it is helpful to understand what customers are thinking and feeling while they are interacting and transacting, particularly at moments of truth – interactions which are highly influential in shaping the customers perception of the business. But two questions arise.

Firstly, how are you going to monitor what customers are thinking and feeling on an ongoing basis? Secondly, how are different interventions and messaging going to be tested to determine their impacts on these two dimensions? Because if you are not going to do either of these two things, including customers’ cognitive and emotional states in your map based on a one-off research study with a small sample of customers is going to be of limited value. If you are not operationalising regular collection of accurate insights and using them to improve the experience you provide, then the question you have to answer is ‘are we including these elements to make the map look good or because they are integral to continually improving the experience going forward?’ 

If the latter, then great. The overarching point I am making is that if you can’t operationalise it, don’t include it. That is the value of thinking in terms of orchestration rather than mapping. Adding complexity may make the map look better – create an illusion of it being more value-adding – but the reality will be the opposite.

Trap 2: Solely focusing on customers’ interactions with you

How the customer interacts with your brand is clearly the starting point for understanding the current state of the experience you are delivering but the customer journey is more than that. It is, after all, the customer’s journey that you are looking to understand, support and influence. This is more than their usage of your products and services and their interactions with your touchpoints (and certainly more than the external representation of your internal processes).

A good analogy for a customer journey is a story. The script-writing guru, Robert McKee (whose former students include over 60 Academy Award and 200 Emmy Award winners) argues that all great film stories start with an Inciting Incident – an event that radically upsets the balance of forces in the protagonist’s life. He or she then spends the rest of the story attempting to return their life to equilibrium, something finally achieved at the Resolution stage in the script.

A customer journey is the same – you go to the fridge and realise that you don’t have enough food to feed the family. That triggers feelings of stress that won’t go away until you have completed a supermarket shop. (Hopefully without the intervening script stages of Progressive Complications, Crisis and Climax that make a compelling story but an emotionally draining customer experience!)

While there will be the potential to improve the experience within the scope of what you are already providing, many opportunities (or risks if your competitors pre-empt you) lie in the lifecycle stages before or after customers typically contact you. It is the customer’s journey to their desired outcome – including the journey trigger, the component jobs customers need to complete and the potential intervention points – that you need to include in your journey’s scope, not just the customer’s current journey with you.

Trap 3: Giving insufficient attention to decision points and data enablement

What drives a film story from Inciting Incident to Progressive Complications and beyond are the decisions that the protagonist makes. It is the same with customer journeys – they are fuelled by decisions, most notably at each point when the customer decides whether to continue the journey with your brand, or not.

My Optima Partners colleague, Graham Hill, has long argued the case for deconstructing customer journeys into the jobs customers need to complete and focusing on the decisions that they must make. While using customers jobs-to-be-done as the driver for journeys is increasingly prevalent, breaking them down into different types of customer job is less so. 

A simplified example can be seen in Figure 1 below. This builds on the supermarket analysis in the previous article on value proposition creation. Also the journey outlined is also one everyone can relate to. 

As with any journey, there is an event – for example, finding nothing to eat in the house – which triggers a number of customer jobs designed to achieve the outcome of being able to feed yourself for the next few days.  

The journey has been split into three phases – pre-shop, shop and post-shop. And the component customer jobs have been colour coded to reflect the different nature of the task – dark blue for an information collation job (e.g. assessing what food you have in the house currently, seeing what delivery slots are available), mid-blue for an activity (finding items from the shopping list, waiting at home for delivery driver) and light blue for a decision task (deciding on a meal plan for the week, creating a shopping list, etc.).

In this example, roughly half the customer jobs are decision tasks with another quarter relating to gathering information so a decision can be made.

Customer Jobs for Completing an Online Supermarket Shop

Figure 1: Customer Jobs for Completing an Online Supermarket Shop

Three-quarters of jobs being directly or indirectly related to customers making a decision has massive implications for journey enablement, particularly data-driven enablement.

Incorporating data, information and decision support tools into customer journeys helps customers make better decisions and more easily. The result being that they can achieve an optimal outcome more quickly and with less cognitive effort. Effective orchestration also requires data-driven prediction – inferring what outcome the customer is seeking, then modelling the best intervention for helping the customer achieve their desired goal.

These developments help brands as much as customers. Many of the decision tasks arise in early stages of the journey, meaning purchase decisions can be influenced and switching costs created.

Imagine a supermarket using RFID tagging to provide customers with a reliable inventory of the food in their house, comparing with historic levels to identify gaps, then automatically populating a shopping list in the app. Or suggesting a meal plan based on previous food purchases and populating the basket with the required ingredients. Or in the supermarket, helping customers find the best substitutes for out of stock items by means of a predictive model they can access via the app.

All of these have potential to make life significantly easier for customers while at the same time creating relationship bonds that competitors will struggle to overcome. Incorporating data, decision support and predictive modelling (of both customer intent and next best conversation) into customer journeys will be an increasingly important CX differentiator over the next few years. And the starting point is calling out in journey maps what decisions are being made, by whom and what information they need to make those decisions.

Trap 4: Ignoring brand promise

Brand promise should be the foundation stone for journey mapping. It encapsulates the value proposition and how the business differentiates itself versus competition. But frequently it is ignored.

As pointed out in an earlier article, the most powerful marketing advantage a brand can have is owning a word in the customers mind – Volvo owning the word 'safety' in the automotive industry, for example. As well as being communicated in advertising, that word needs to be reinforced at every interaction with the product and across every service touchpoint, both physical and digital.

For example, Volvo cars are engineered to scream ‘we are focused on your safety’ at their occupants. But if Volvo was to give the impression of being casual with customer data, or not that bothered about health and safety in its show rooms, its whole brand strategy would be undermined.

Customer journeys should be focused on delivering an outcome to both the customer and the business. But the jobs required to achieve this outcome will differ by customer segment.

The brand promise should be reflected in two ways. Firstly, in how you help customers with all the standard jobs (the ones that you and your competitors currently address). Secondly, in the selection of additional jobs to help customers with – ones that at the moment neither you nor your competitors support.

So if you are looking to own the word 'convenience' in your category, developing services that make easily available the information customers are seeking (what they should be looking out for and how products can differ in features, how to be select which features to prioritise) will help realise and reinforce the brand promise.

Trap 5: Just mapping the future state

Articles on journey mapping often feature a beautiful end state map but with no map that shows the truth about today – warts and all.

To drive effective action, you need to understand the gaps between where you are currently and where you want to be in the future. It is those gaps that define the new interventions you need to make, the new messaging you need to create and the new capabilities you need to develop. 

Unless the differences between the As-Is and To-Be states are clear, your ability to drive change is limited.

Trap 6: Creating a one-size-fits-all map

A further trap is creating a single map that doesn’t reflect different customer segments.

Customer journeys should be focused on delivering an outcome to both the customer and the business. But the jobs required to achieve this outcome will differ by customer segment. Take mortgages for example, someone with a poor credit history will have to jump through more hoops to prove they can afford to make repayments than someone with a good credit rating. The bank will also be more cautious in their decision-making. This means different customer segments require different journey maps.    

A secondary risk here is not segmenting on jobs-to-be-done and using other factors. This risk has become increasingly prevalent with the rise in popularity of personas. There is nothing wrong with the use of personas, per se – they help bring the customer to life and make them more human. But the starting point needs to be segmenting on the jobs that need to be completed. Then bring that segment to life with personification rather than doing it the other way around.

A six-step approach to journey orchestration

Focusing on journey orchestration leads you down a different path that helps avoid these traps.

Step 1: Listen

While the customer’s journey is broader than their contact with your touchpoints, understanding those interactions is the first step. And it doesn’t require any additional expenditure on Voice of Customer research (at this stage), just collating data you already have.

The starting point is tracking customers journeys across all your channels to understand what they are doing currently. This helps identify what journeys they are currently undertaking (as opposed to the ones you think they are making). It will also identify failure points – where customers are dropping out completely or retracing their steps or switching from an automated journey to one that requires contact with branch or contact centre colleagues.  

Step 2: Understand

Once you have identified these failure points, you can start performing root cause analysis into why they are occurring.

In some cases the reason will be obvious – for example if an email designed to encourage purchase is causing lots of customers to return to the previous stage in the journey, then it’s clear the content of that email needs reviewing.

While the customer’s journey is broader than their contact with your touchpoints, understanding those interactions is the first step.

Others will require gathering additional internal data. For example, if you identify a cadre of customers who are switching from the mobile app to the contact centre, you can interrogate the CRM system to gain a better understanding of what is triggering these switches.

Similarly there will be a wealth of information in social media comments on what isn’t working as well as customers would like. All of which can be tied into the data collected in Step 1 so that you can understand what is creating problems for customers and why. The quick wins this will deliver will help your initiative gain organisational traction.  

Step 3: Expand

The next step is expanding your understanding to cover all steps in the customer’s journey to their desired outcome, including those where customers typically don’t interact with your brand. Front line colleagues will have some insights but much of it will need to come from voice of customer research.

This research should identify the jobs customers must complete to achieve their desired outcome, how they are being completed at the moment, how those jobs vary by segment and what the moments of truth are.

At the end of this stage you will have a good understanding of the end-to-end journeys that customers are currently completing. 

Step 4: Differentiate

Ultimately the goal is to deliver a differentiated and more valuable experience than competitors. The anchor for this is the brand promise. This has two implications.

Firstly making sure the brand promise is infused in jobs you are currently helping customers complete, ensuring that the value created by interactions aligns with how the brand is positioned.

Secondly there is a question as to what additional jobs you should help customers complete. This raises further questions as to what help would be provided (e.g. collate information for them, create tools to help their decision-making, etc.).

Given that this will likely require additional organisational expenditure, a business case will also need to be created.

Step 5: Operationalise

In addition to the journey maps completed in Steps 2 and 3, two other deliverables are required for action to be undertaken.

The first describes the potential interventions (often described as next best actions or next best conversations) and their trigger points across each journey, including how triggers will be identified. The interventions define what you are trying to achieve with the customer – how you are seeking to help them progress towards their desired outcome.

The second deliverable translates these interventions into interactions. It defines the communication requirements – the content and messaging for each intervention, with variations based on customer eligibility criteria and delivery channel (email, messaging, banner, etc).

The gap between current messaging and what is defined in these requirements then drives your content creation strategy.

Step 6: Sustain

The ability to deliver the desired experience on an ongoing basis requires a clearly defined operating model – one that enables listening and orchestration of content provision across all aspects of the journey.

This requires a third additional deliverable – one that defines the necessary capabilities for customer identification, verification and authentication; data capture and storage; insight development and predictive modelling; campaign management and targeting; content delivery and conversation management. 

Again desired capabilities need to be compared with current capabilities so that gaps can be translated into initiatives encompassing all elements of an operating model – process, technology, data, competency, organisation design and culture. 

When creating your operating model, there is another key input - the journey that your business wants to take customers on, the journey to maximum lifetime profitability. This involves two steps – calculating a customer’s potential value to the business and performing customer lifecycle analysis, which identifies the most common paths to achieving full potential based on how the relationship with similar customers has developed.

This other type of journey will be covered in the next article alongside all the other elements of creating a business case for investing in customer experience. 

Replies (3)

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Steven Walden
By Steven Walden
10th Nov 2020 07:06

The biggest problem with Journey Maps is the Map itself.
You start by asking, what is this for? A nice picture that sits on the wall perhaps? If so, forget it.
For me a Journey Map is a design tool and should be seen as such. Hence, one of the biggest problems is the concept of 'a map' itself. Far better to use the approach of a guide.
For instance, in digital transformation, I combine each component of a process map with a screenshot of the experience received (i.e., the visual look and feel). So your process maps says 'click password' above which you can see the view of what that means in terms of experience quality. Overlay that with comments from UX research (UX and CX are the same), and you have a Journey Management Guide. This can then be used for ideation and training. As you can see this visual extension can be applied to earlier and later parts of the journey.
The utility is ideation and redesign, its useful when build teams are considering process maps and training teams need to see where they are in the journey,
No need for over-abstracted nonsense, just use what already is there.

Oh I forgot. No need for quant nonsense that sells software. Sure define key moments through hard data and soft data, but a map should be releasing our own innovation and understanding of 'where we are'.

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Replying to Steven Walden:
Steven Walden
By Steven Walden
10th Nov 2020 07:06

Thanks

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Replying to Steven Walden:
Customer Experience
By Ian Williams
20th Jan 2021 13:25

Yep - we say that the map is not the point of journey mapping, it's a by-product. The point is the identification of issues and opportunities that form the basis of future transformation efforts.

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