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How customer journey mapping can help shape people-centric design

13th May 2016
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Ahead of this year’s Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit in London, we catch up with Brian Manusama, Gartner’s research director for CRM, to discuss why journey mapping is becoming increasingly synonymous with customer experience strategy, and what businesses can do to start the customer journey mapping process.  

As the number of channels and touchpoints connecting customers with brands increases, as does the need for brands to glean more insight about the different types of journey those customers take.

A 2015 study found that 34% of large organisations regularly undertake customer journey mapping exercises, however this figure is widely expected to increase as technology evolves to make the mapping process more sophisticated and evolutionary.

“The need for companies to understand customer behaviour and act upon it is crucial. Customer journey mapping is the common approach used in people-centric design processes,” says Manusama.

“In the past, organisations used customer journey maps to describe how they wanted the ideal customer journey to be and the emotions they wanted customers to feel on that journey. But they made limited use of data from sources like customer surveys, focus groups and user groups to understand the journeys that customers actually took.

“The customer journey maps were often created in workshops and roundtable sessions with flip charts, whiteboards and post-it notes — a very manual approach. In the last few years, customer journey modelling and visualisation tools have started to become popular, often used as part of a consulting service from boutique digital agencies.”

As a result of this burgeoning need, three approaches — manual customer journey mapping, customer journey modelling and customer journey operationalising – all now coexist in the same technology market, and some large organisations use all three of them in combination.   

However, the majority of brands often begin their foray into journey mapping by engaging with digital agencies to establish ways in which they might improve customer experience. It’s here, Manusama states, that the most manual approach to the practice occurs, and where brands first start to imagine what stepping into the shoes of their customers actually looks like.

“At this stage, digital agencies are delivering customer journey mapping using a "pencil and post-it" manual approach, but occasionally via customer journey modelling and visualisation tools too.

“After the first project, many organisations will start building these journey mapping skills and toolsets in-house using their own resources so that they can be reused on other customer experience projects. A critical skill that needs to be developed is building customer personas to better understand the variety of experiences that different customers might encounter. It is an outside-in design approach that requires putting oneself in the shoes of a potential customer to understand what his or her experience is when engaging, or not engaging, with organisations.

“Only a small number of organisations get to the third step of using technology to automate — and map, track and influence via real-time data — the customer journey. That’s where the real sophistication lies.”

Stepping back to step forwards

By 2018, Gartner predict that 60% of large organisations will have in-house customer journey mapping capabilities, up from no more than 20% in 2015.

Customer journey mapping is the common approach used in people-centric design processes

These resources may be in a central customer experience management team, in marketing, customer service, operations, sales, or in the business process competency centre. But in addition to this, Manusama also expects organisations to build technical competencies in their IT departments to select the right technology, then architect and operate the customer journey analytics solutions themselves:

“We foresee that the maturity level of organisational use of customer journey mapping technologies will increase over time. Once they have gone through the initial modelling and design process manually or by using a visualisation tool, the next natural step is to operationalise customer journeys.

“In these organisations, customer journey mapping will no longer be limited to a design and discovery exercise, followed by a reporting exercise. It will result in the implementation of an operational technology that delivers a customer experience that is planned and designed, then monitors and triggers responses by the organisation.”

But to get to this point in the evolution is not easy, and Gartner recommend companies go through a four step process in order to be able to potentially automate the journey mapping process in the future:

  • Seek out anyone in the organization who has internal customer journey mapping skills, then investigate which third parties are doing customer journey mapping on behalf of the organisation.
  • Discuss with heads of marketing, customer service, operations, sales and business process management to decide which department(s) these resources should belong to.
  • Start building expertise in customer journey mapping in the IT organisation to match the skills in the enterprise as a whole. Be aware that you may not be able to train these resources from within; instead, you will need to hire at least some from external markets.
  • Research the appropriate technologies that can be used to operationalise customer journeys and encourage the use of these technologies by those doing customer journey mapping.

“Organisations that build customer journey analytics and journey mapping capabilities in-house require a combination of data analytics skills and user experience design skills,” Manusama adds.

“These skills exist today in many organisations but in different departments — it's just a matter of getting them to work together. The challenge we see is not obtaining these skills, but the lack of an intuitive and discovery-thinking culture that will make use of the skills.”

Customer journey mapping will be examined in detail at Gartner’s Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit on May 25/26 in London.

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By Yuri Vedenin
23rd May 2016 16:01

Hello Chris!

Thank you so much for your article! One can hardly disagree with the importance of the topic you've raised.
A year ago we've launched UXPressia (http://uxpressia.com), an online tool that allows to create appealing and easy to support Customer Journey Maps (Experience Maps).
I think we are on the right track with our product to help companies to operationalise their customer journeys in the future. However I would love to hear your feedback and recommendations about our tool!

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