In the latest in our series of articles where IT leaders provide their take on the purchasing process, Marc Stickdorn, co-founder & CEO of Smaply, and Peter Haid, managing director of Touchpoint, share their tips for those looking to buy customer journey mapping tools.
MyC. What do practitioners need to consider before they start looking for customer journey mapping tools, to determine their requirements? What kinds of questions should they ask themselves?
Peter Haid. CX practitioners who are serious about taking journey management into scale need to get very clear on their vision for success. Is it enough to have maps in a digital format or is the goal to move maps all the way to enterprise action/management? Is there one map or one hundred? Is a template needed for scale? Does the team need professional education on journey management? Often times I hear from clients that the impetus for seeking a solution was that paper-based mapping is painful to scale. However, once they realise that the market has solutions for more than just scale they start to dream bigger. What if we can present our maps with rich media (video/audio/images)? What if our maps have a library of all the artifacts in the journey? What if we actually assigned initiatives to our collaborative team across the globe and reported on their progress? These are more advanced requirements but they take hold after the simple decisions around who is mapping and what education is required.
Marc Stickdorn. What’s your scope of using the customer journey mapping tool and how much knowledge does your team has regarding journey mapping? Depending on that, the tool you need might reach from paper templates, to a data collection tool like mobile ethnography tools, to professional visualisation tools. So ask yourself: Do you already possess enough data and only want to visualise it? Would it make sense to conduct a co-created workshop to generate assumptions on how the customers’ journey might look like? Or do you want to base your journey map on facts and do some research first?
Let’s exclude research tools for now and assume you already dispose of enough information on your customers’ journey. Who will work with the tool? Depending on if the person who’s supposed to work with the tool is used to customer journey mapping, the tool should provide more or less flexibility. Beginners mostly benefit from pre-configured templates – especially if they are straightforward, easy to use, and intuitive. Some tools guide the user through the software and even explain the basics of journey maps so the user can learn about the different parts of the journey map step by step. More advanced users might prefer solutions that do not restrict them in their own desires and creativity. However, even though more professional tools might offer more possibilities, they are likely to need more background knowledge for a successful usage.
Who do you want to share your journey map with? Many professionals need to present the outcome of their journey mapping activities to their stakeholders. In that case, it’s important to use a tool which output looks professional – in the digital as well as in the printed version of the map. However, you might also need to share the journey map even whilst working on it, in order to include your stakeholders’ opinion and suggestions. If so, make yourself clear if you want stakeholders to read only, to comment, or to edit. Especially editing with multiple users is an important factor to consider: journey mapping is often done collaboratively, and working in a team – particularly in a geographically dispersed team – requires adequate user management functions. Some tools allow you to manage multiple users and even teams so they can be authorised to work in specific projects only.
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Which additional tools do you need? You might plan to support your journey map by other service design tools. The most prominent example is personas – the basis of many journey maps. Hence it can be useful to get all tools from the same provider. This helps you to work with the interacting tools, and to assure a cohesive design. If you already know which additional tools you’ll need, consider this in your buying decision.
MyC. How can buyers convince the CFO that investment in this kind of tool is a wise decision? How can you get buy-in?
PH. Like any other technology solution you have to answer the question of ROI. Journey maps without a tool can land ROI with organizational alignment but this efficiency isn’t always clear to measure. With our prospects we help them identify five different sources of ROI to make the case to the CFO. ROI will always pull the levers of cost reduction, increased revenue or both.
- Channel optimisation (cost reduction) – Are you using the right channels for the right personas at the right time?
- Remove ineffective touchpoints (cost reduction) – Are you offering your customers touchpoints they don’t want or need?
- Word of mouth opportunities (increase revenue) – Are you providing your customers a chance to speak highly of you? At the right moment?
- Emotional segmentation (both) – Are you putting up emotional guardrails to keep your customer from going off the negative deep end?
- Organizational alignment (both) – Are your internal teams aware of what happens up/downstream from them? What would they do differently?
These sources of ROI are detailed out in a blog I wrote. Tools like Touchpoint Dashboard tag touchpoints with a source of ROI and help hold the organisation accountable.
MS. You could start a discussion about how marketing is changing; that negative experiences can result in terrible consequences for the company; that service design is of growing importance. You could even support that argument with some facts, e.g. the study by Gartner institute which states that in 2016, 89% of companies compete on customer experience. However, you can also simply try it by making the CFO aware of how much time you save if you illustrate the customer journey with a professional tool:
Let’s assume you create your journey maps with tools like Excel or PowerPoint. The results are often not only ugly, but they also take much longer. The more you work with journey maps, the more it makes sense to use a professional tool. Further, journey mapping remains a creative process. You should not concentrate too much on the tool itself. You should focus on the content, create ideas, and gain insights. If you’ve got an idea, the tool must be quick and enable you to add it. If the CFO agrees with the need of a journey mapping tool, but does not see the need to implement it for more than a 3-month period, here is another argument: journey mapping is a long-term process. New insights are gained regularly, critical issues are improved, new issues arise. The customer journey map has to be adapted to the new customer journey, and the loop continues. Many traditional software solutions are not flexible enough to efficiently adapt to this.
MyC. Are there any particular challenges in the customer journey mapping tool market that buyers need to be aware of?
PH. Yes, the market is saturated with tools that help you visualise the journey. This provides good choice but it only solves part of the problem. Ask your vendors how they will help you collaborate with peers, validate with customers/employees, present the journey to management, and manage action plans. You’ll find some tools cover only portions while others will go end-to-end. The true ROI comes from the action plans so look for vendors that go all the way to that final step. As a wise coach of mine once said “a fool with a tool is still a fool!” Take heed and be honest about the level of training/education your team needs. All of my clients who kick off with an in-person workshop on journey management education soar to new heights quickly. Those that decline this service are subject to struggles. All of this said, you need to ensure the vendor’s management team has a CX practitioner and thought leadership background. They need to show you that they aren’t CX fools that made a tool!
MS. You’ll find a great variety of solutions for customer journey mapping. However you’ll also find a great variety of pricing models. Depending on your use case it might be the best solution to opt for a monthly plan, or to benefit from the advantages of a one-year license. Some providers offer annual payment only. Another issue to consider for all online software providers is data safety and security as well as uptime of the software. Check the FAQ’s of the software solution to find out more about the respective policies. If you’re an agency and plan to use the journey mapping tool for the project of your customers, also check their requirements.
MyC. Once practitioners are at the solution/vendor selection stage, what advice can you share to help buyers find the most appropriate tool for their needs?
PH. I recommend buyers look for third party validation of the vendor situation. Research firms like Forrester publish a variety of frameworks to understand your requirements and which vendors might be a match. Consider putting a weight behind these five points and then go shopping to see who fits the bill:
- Visualise journeys.
- Collaboration and presentation.
- Journey validation.
- Journey management (scale your action plans across multiple maps).
- Thought leadership of vendor’s management team (in case a workshop is needed).
MS. Get to know the tool – before you buy it! Use video tutorials to find out if a tool includes the functionalities you need, and if you think it looks comprehensive and easy to use. If possible, schedule an individual demo session with one of the software provider’s members so you can clarify your questions and get some advice for your project. However, the best idea to get to know a tool is: just start using it. Many providers offer a free trial. Register and play around with the tool. Check the look and feel, and see if you get along working with it. You will take out the most of the trial if you do not work on a fictional project, but on your specific use case.
About Neil Davey
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.