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Customer journey mapping and the social customer: The four implications to know

30th Apr 2012
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Andy Green explains how customer journey mapping principles apply to new channels like social and mobile - and why they mean that CJM has become less about what we can do and more about what we should do?

New digital channels, particularly social media and mobile, have changed how customers interact with organisations and brands. Their basic needs have not changed. However, these new channels have provided greater opportunities and led to raised expectations.
Many marketing courses teach Maslow's hierarchy of needs 'being' (B-needs) needs.
In the area of Love & Belonging, social media present many opportunities for individuals to satisfy their needs better and feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.
We all need respect, self-esteem and self-respect. Social channels provide opportunities to feel valued by others, to gain recognition and a sense of contribution - Esteem needs.
They can also help with achievement of self-actualisation, or realisation of potential (B-needs).
Convergence of computing and communications technologies now gives customers better access to information and choice, whenever and wherever they want to make 'purchase' decisions.
A recent study by Pew Research Centre showed that 22% of US adults use their smart phones to look-up prices online for a product they've found in store before deciding to buy or not. The same proportion seeks product reviews on-line while in-store.
Over a third call friends on their mobile for advice on buying a product while in the store.
The path to purchase is no longer a linear progression from when the need is identified through consideration, information gathering, trial/review and decision making to purchase.
The traditional purchase 'funnel' is now a complex matrix of cross- and multi-channel reality - making it very hard to identify when and where a customer was won or lost and to understand all the points of influence along the way. So, the social customer has a control they never had before. Organisations and brands must listen, hear, interpret, understand, respect and respond to the needs and desires of customers if they want to attract, keep and develop them.  They must do this in an integrated way across multiple channels.
However,  as InSites Consulting show in their December 2011 study of 200 British and 200 American senior marketers, only 16% have fully integrated new media channels in the marketing mix, while 42% believe they are "still in their infancy" when integrating social media channels.
The implications for customer journey mapping are clear.
When it comes to mapping 'social' customer journeys, it is easy to conclude that, because the social customer is interacting in new ways, through new channels, we need to create new journeys for them. This may be necessary, but can lead to disjointed and isolated experiences that reinforce channel silos and fail to meet customers' needs.
So, to summarise, becoming social has not changed customers’ needs much, but, the path to purchase is more complex. Customer expectations are greater. There are more opportunities to delight or dismay them. Therefore, companies have to try to provide an integrated experience across multiple channels.
There are four levels in customer journey maps:
  1. The overall ecosystem of journeys that describe ≈80% of customers’ interactions with the organisation.
  2. Each specific journey in the ecosystem, comprising its key steps and describing the purpose from the customer’s perspective.
  3. What the customer wants at the end of the journey and their mindset at the beginning of each step.
  4. Application of the journey to each touch-point, describing what needs to be done at each step.

Level 1 - The overall ecosystem

There are two situations where a completely new journey must be added to the ecosystem:
  1. Where new channels like social media or mobile allow the organisation or brand to address new customer needs (needs the customer didn't have before, or ones the organisation could not previously address), for example, a 'peer-to-peer service provider journey' - satisfying a need for recognition and esteem. A new journey might address identification, recruitment, recognition (possibly reward) and management of social customers who want to advise and support others, ultimately delivering highly respected advocates.
  2. Where the new channels have so altered an existing journey that it is better dealt with as a separate journey. A further consideration here is how far a customer wants to interact across new and traditional channels. Where the customer wants to move across and between channels, the journey mapping process should be highly integrated. It may be better to update an existing journey to reflect the new channels rather than create a new journey.
A good example of this is online shopping. The basic shopping steps don't change much from traditional bricks & mortar shopping, but customer expectations and organisational processes to deliver the on-line experience are very different. For a grocery shop, the end-to-end journey will usually take place in the on-line world without the customer wanting to interact with the traditional store, so a separate journey should be mapped. However, for other products that the social customer eventually buys on-line, the end-to-end purchase path may blend traditional and new channels. This is more likely with items that need to be seen, tried on or fitted, or where talking to an expert is necessary (e.g. clothing, home furnishings, electrical goods). Here, mapping a separate on-line shopping journey could create inconsistencies in the brand experience across channels and even the breakdown or termination of the purchase path.
There is a big risk of getting stage 1 journey planning wrong. This is highlighted by IBM's paper From Social Media to Social CRM, which showed a significant misalignment between the reasons customers use social media to interact with organisations or brands and what business believe their customers reasons are, as shown below.
Customers list their top reasons for interacting with organisations or brands via social media as “getting discounts or coupons”, “purchasing products and services” and “reading reviews and product rankings”. By contrast, businesses believe "getting discounts" and "purchasing" are the two things customers are least interested in doing.
The report also states that "businesses are three times more likely [than customers] to think consumers are interested in interacting with them to feel part of a community." They also much overestimate customers' desires to "feel connected" to their brand.
So, customers will interact with organisations and brands via social media only if they think there's something in it for them, not to 'engage' or 'participate'.  Social customer journey mapping must take this into account.

Level 2 - Specific journeys

New channels lead to changes to steps in existing journeys. Consider a patient with high blood pressure. Historically, a patient journey to maintain an acceptable blood pressure consisted of steps to book a check up and to visit the surgery for a blood pressure check. Today, patients can check their blood pressure at home, using a monitor linked to a smart phone to send the reading to the doctor. Making an appointment and going to the surgery is only necessary when the readings indicate a problem. In this case, a 'self monitoring' step is added to the journey map.
Where products have a customer following that offer peer-to-peer help, a new product purchase journey for the social customer may include a 'set-up' step of "ask other customers". On-line help may replace "call the helpline", although the customer must be comfortable with and capable of using the new channel.
New channels may condense the purchase (or service) cycle, combining previously separate journey steps. This might not be a real change in the journey if the steps (e.g. information gathering and purchase) are still there, but simultaneous. If a customer is toggling between different e-commerce sites, eventually buying from one, they may still be going through the same discrete steps. However, if, they only go to one site, find what they want and buy without any other research, the two steps have combined.

Level 3 - Customer needs, attitudes & mindsets at each step of the journey

Here, the impact of new channels on customer journey mapping is the most significant.
Customer expectations may well have been influenced by the opportunities new channels present, particularly with regard to speed of response and breadth or depth of information. Attitudes and mindset as they enter each journey step and what they want and expect as an outcome may have evolved. Each existing journey may need to be re-evaluated. 
For example, the journey 'book a holiday', has always included a step "choose where to stay". Wanting to know what other travellers thought of a hotel, resort, or holiday is not 'new'. Customers have always wanted this information, but they accepted that they were limited mainly to what the brochure presented. They may have seen the resort or hotel featured on a TV holiday programme, or know someone who'd been there before.
New channels have empowered them and raised their expectations. It is now reasonable to expect to see what others thought of the hotel. Consulting sites like Trip Advisor as part of the information gathering step of the journey is now normal for many customers. They can even filter the information to only see the opinions of people similar to themselves.
Not getting immediate confirmation may put the prospective customer off. They are as likely to move on to their next choice as to wait for the hotel to reply. Now prospects buying online outside office hours expect someone to answer the phone if they should call. They may be frustrated if the person answering the phone doesn't already know what they were looking at.
This highlights one of the most significant implications of new channels for customer journey mapping; the need for everything to be 'joined-up'.

Level 4 - Applying the journey map at each touch-point

At this, the most granular level of the journey map, we define what the 'best outcome' is for customer, what can go wrong and how the organisation can ensure the best outcome and mitigate the risks of things going wrong. How each of these is affected by new channels must be considered.
Each journey step should be analysed for how new channels affect the opportunity to delight or dismay the customer at that step. These may arise from changes in customer expectations, or result from new technologies or multi-channel process complexities. For example, in the past, an airline calling passengers to advise them of a delay would be an opportunity to delight. Today, the customer expects it. Not doing it would dismay them.
Once outline journey maps are complete, the knowledge and insight they contain should be translated into a customer experience design for each touch-point. With each new channel, complexity increases, not just because of the increased number of touch-points, but also because of how social customers move across and between them.
Prioritisation is now a key consideration in journey mapping. As discussed in an earlier article, customer journey mapping should not try to cover every possible interaction or scenario, but about 80% of customer interactions. So, before mapping a new journey (or changing existing ones), check how many and what type of customers it will affect.

Andy Green is the director of The Customer Framework. The Customer Framework helps large organisations and brands engage, win, keep and develop the right customers, influencers and advocates, cost effectively, by integrating traditional customer management with evolving social business techniques.

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