What role does CRM play in mapping customer journeys?

CRM journey mapping
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In advance of the Gartner Customer Experience & Technologies Summit in London on 24-25 May, we talk to Gartner’s global research director, Brian Manusama about two key topics set for discussion at the conference – customer journey mapping and CRM.       

The potential benefits of customer journey mapping have been well-documented.

However, not every business is yielding success from the exercise. In 2016, 63% of marketing professionals said they relied on customer journey maps to guide their customer experience efforts, yet contrastingly, 2017 data stated that 55% of senior marketers were not confident in their company’s “understanding of the customer journey”.                

This paradox often exists in a business in which the end-result – the visual ‘map’ itself – is the core objective for undertaking the exercise. As Gartner’s global research director, Brian Manusama explains, too many businesses are taking action without gathering adequate insight – mapping the journeys of their customers without first constructing a detailed understanding of where the points of interaction exist, how often they’re used, how they connect together and where roadblocks exist.

To paint relevant pictures requires CRM; and more notably, a CRM that’s connected across multiple customer-facing functions – marketing, sales and service. Yet Gartner research says that the focus of more than 80% of CRM projects is currently too narrow, either “targeting the processes of a single department or seeking to fine-tune existing processes — or both”.

This is where customer journey mapping and CRM coalesce.

“Most organisations take CRM data and say – this is how different customers are engaging with us from a sales perspective, a marketing perspective, service perspective; here’s a bunch of engagement channels, a bunch of steps in the process,” says Manusama.  

“You have contact centre data, you have your transactional data, website browsing behaviour, etc. All that information together gives you a feel for what a customer journey would be like. You need to connect everything with the one goal of giving customers a better experience so they might buy more and become more loyal.

“CRM, therefore, has to be the input for the journey mapping. CRM gives you the insights required around what your customer interactions actually are. CRM and the transactions that happen from sales, marketing and service perspectives, is an input for getting an understanding of customer behaviour which can be taken and drawn up into a customer journey map.”

CRM has to be the input for the journey mapping. CRM gives you the insights required around what your customer interactions actually are.

Outside-in thinking

The problem for many businesses is that CRM often guides process, which can in turn lead to an inside-out approach to customer journeys.

But as Gartner research explains, the customer journey is, in essence, about shifting your thinking from ‘the customer wants a mortgage’ to ‘the customer is buying a house’; i.e. understanding that even if your organisation is only involved in one step of a customer’s journey, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make efforts to establish exactly what an end-to-end journey might look like. It’s an outside-in view of where your processes fit within a customer’s journey in its entirety.

As Manusama states: “There’s a difference between journeys and processes. The journey is always about making a full breakfast, whereas the process is making the bread. The journey touches upon a lot of processes but most of the time it’s done from an operational excellence perspective.

“Stepping away from this approach to think from an outside-in perspective is a costly activity, so you make a conscious decision that the journey isn’t good for the customer. For instance – it’s assumed that fewer touchpoints and interactions is a better experience for both customer and business because it’s more efficient for both. But what about in the case of billing, say, when a bill is set to be much higher for a customer and the business knows and can ring in advance to warn that customer? Isn’t that a better experience than the shock of no interaction at all? This is information that can be gleaned from joining a certain part of your CRM with your understanding of customer journeys.

“The question here is if you avoid taking this route and shoot for the more ‘efficient’ option, are you being customer-centric? No, because you’re taking operational costs over customer experience. To what cost is a company willing to have an ineffective process in order to serve the journey for the customer? That’s what businesses are grappling with.” 

The customer journey is, in essence, about shifting your thinking from ‘the customer wants a mortgage’ to ‘the customer is buying a house’

Replacing gut-feel ­

Manusama’s advice for better combining CRM with an outside-in understanding of customer journeys is to first remove any actions where gut-feeling might play a part in your decisions. That can often mean doing away with the classic ‘post-it notes on the wall’ sessions that are synonymous with customer journey mapping. 

“There’s a knowledge gap where people are relying on that specific type of gut-feeling,” he says.

“Yes, it’s important to establish an ‘ideal’ customer journey, but you have to lean on customer behaviour data in order to understand how you change current journeys to better align with that ideal journey.”

Gartner’s research in this area states customer journey mapping leaders follow seven key steps to ensure they’re able to better act on insights:

  • Audit and map the processes that affect customers: What do you know about your customers already? Research with your service, sales and marketing departments and their CRM data will help identify which processes currently matter most to your customers by using metrics such as volume, customer satisfaction rates, etc.
  • Identify the key processes your customers value most: It’s commonly recognised that the top 10 to 50 processes in the customer journey represent 99% of what matters to the customer, so establishing what those are is a critical exercise.  
  • Prioritise the customer-selected processes by the impact they have on your customer experience goals: This requires you to align the key processes to your CRM strategy goals (customer acquisition, satisfaction, customer profitability, cross-selling and retention measures, etc). Depending on the goals and objectives set out in your CRM strategy, some customer-selected processes will be more important than others to your organisation.
  • Give each key process an owner: Seeking out business 'champions' to oversee these processes, even when they cross-departments, will help highlight how important the processes are to people within your organisation.
  • Implement changes in the front office, back office and processes that affect suppliers and partners: This requires focus and good communication with IT and technology leaders – as many front office changes will require reengineering in the back office too.
  • Set up a customer SLA for customer-selected key processes: Communicating with customers about targets for service levels, appropriate compensation levels and feedback on improvements for individual processes will help ensure continuous improvement around the processes you’ve committed to improving.
  • Measure success and refine process changes for different customer segments: Segmenting customers and identifying the process improvements required for each segment is another way of further refining your changes.

Manusama states that many businesses fall foul of turning this type of journey mapping exercise into a one-off, or something that’s at best assessed once or twice a year. “You need to look at customer journeys in a continuous way.

“You need to bring tooling to your organisation and find yourself a way to look at your journeys on a continuous basis to see through all the different engagement channels that you are doing well. It’s not a one-off journey, it’s continuous and if your organisation has misunderstood this then it’s a big misunderstanding.

“The outcome of any journey mapping exercise should be that you can take better action to satisfy customer needs and it’s not the insight gleaned from your CRM in itself, it’s the action that corresponds with that insight, and vice versa. Many people do journey mapping as a one-off activity but if it only serves as a nice visual display without acting upon the insights you’ve gleaned.”

However, for customer experience leaders first dipping their toes into customer journey mapping, the exercise can be daunting, especially given how much collaboration is required with different departments in order to bring their CRM data together in a more cohesive manner. Manusama has some words of wisdom in these instances:

“Don’t overeat yourself. There are many companies saying ‘I have customers that come through the website, through the phone and live chat and all those different engagement channels. Let’s take all that data and start mapping journeys’.

“That’s not going to happen. You can’t normalise all that data and stitch it all together and get a beautiful journey map as a result. If you get started, make sure you pace yourself in terms of what you can get out of the process. If you’re able to just get browsing data, or just get phone channel data and map THAT into a journey, you can learn from that initial practice. It might highlight some disconnect in how that particular journey is unfolding for customers.”

About Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.

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