Customer journey mapping: The opportunities and obstacles
What is driving customer journey mapping adoption and what are the key considerations for those looking to utilise it?
Once upon a time the customer journey was a linear progression from identification of the need, through consideration, information gathering, trial/review and decision-making to purchase. But this has changed. Now, the traditional purchase funnel is a complex cobweb across multiple channels, making it extremely difficult to identify when and where a customer was won or lost, or to understand the influence of touchpoints along the way.
This presents many problems for brands.
The baseline activity that should be bread and butter for truly customer-centric marketers becomes a guessing game. Communications may no longer be timely or relevant. In the absence of a proper understanding of customers' purchasing behaviours, retention activity becomes hit and miss. And ultimately brands are left with disengaged customers and ineffectually applied marketing budgets.
In order to counter this complexity, businesses need a way to achieve accurate visibility and understanding of the path to purchase that their customers are taking. Efforts to visualise the customer journey have traditionally involved the mapping of customer touchpoints.
Bruce Temkin, managing partner at Temkin Group and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association, explains: “Touchpoint maps have been around for decades. They look at where you’re touching the customer with a particular touchpoint and examine how you’re doing in the eyes of the customer. That is valuable, but it misses the fact that the customer has a whole bunch of interactions on the journey that don’t include that particular touchpoint and sometimes don’t include your business at all.”
What is touchpoint mapping?
To demonstrate this, Temkin provides the example of a business traveller. If a travel firm examines how the traveller is when he books a flight with them, what it might miss without looking at his entire journey is that often he likes to coordinate his travel with some colleagues. There would be a whole set of interactions with colleagues that have nothing to do with the travel firm, but if these are not understood then the company would never understand how to serve the traveller in a more broad sense.
With channels such as social media playing an increasingly important part in the customer journey, it is becoming vital that businesses understand the wider pathway to purchase outside of just the consumer’s touchpoints with the company.
Therefore, with touchpoint maps only being able to provide an internal focus of understanding customers, it is unsurprising that an alternative discipline has come to the fore that provides companies with more of an external view of how customers view the company. This is customer journey mapping.
With touchpoint maps only being able to provide an internal focus of understanding customers, it is unsurprising that an alternative discipline has come to the fore.
“The customer journey mapping process engages stakeholders and leaders to create a clear, cross-functional understanding of what happens to customers across the organisation and encourage consideration of processes from the customers’ point of view,” says Andy Green, director of The Customer Framework.
“It starts from the customer's start point, motivations and desired outcomes rather than the organisations and recognises that what the organisation offers is not always the entire customer journey. It addresses emotion in the design, rather than only focussing on the functional elements of the steps – what you want the customer the think, feel and say as they progress through the journey as well as what you want them to do.
“It provides a framework and set of guiding principles to apply to customer interactions as they evolve, rather than a rigid and inflexible set of processes that fail when the customer need does not conform to the design. The output, the customer journey map itself, is a practical and visual document.”
Temkin adds: “Customer journey mapping is the process of looking at the goals, objectives and pathways that customers take to achieve those goals and objectives. It then looks at how interactions with a company sit inside of their particular journey.”
What is customer journey mapping?
Continuing the example of the travel company, customer journey mapping would view the business traveller’s journey as being how he gets to a business meeting, feel comfortable at the meeting and return in time to see his children play football at the weekend. The travel firm would therefore need the customer journey map to cover what it is he wants, how does he feel, what are his objectives, and then examine in what ways the company helps him reach his goal throughout the journey, and how they interact with him across that journey.
“It starts with what it is the customer is trying to do, and how the customer wants to do it, and then looks at how the company fits into that,” says Temkin. “That is the notion of a journey map. It looks at the emotional states, goals and objectives throughout the journey.”
With all of this taken into account, organisations can potentially resolve some of the challenges presented by the rising complexity of the modern customer journey. With many organisations treating each customer interaction as if it is an isolated event, customer journey mapping helps businesses to understand and cater to their customer’s entire journey and ultimately improve the overall customer experience.
Dea Kacorri, a strategic design consultant at CX agency Lavender, summarises some of the benefits of customer journey mapping:
- Delivers a seamless streamlined experience that allows you to see the bigger picture during small company wide projects.
- See and approach things from a customer’s point of view.
- Identify what customers are being confused by/ are having trouble with.
- Identifies gaps and opportunities within the current offering
- Brings teams together with a shared vision.
- Provides relevant, timely and accurate information.
- Develop a consistent roadmap and experience strategy.
- Helps you anticipate what needs to be considered so better business decisions are made.
Ultimately, it helps to paint a holistic picture of each interaction and then ensures negative experiences are mitigated, while positive ones contribute to greater customer satisfaction and therefore their lifetime value to the brand.
For different sectors, there are different implications. Those in the energy sector, for instance, could be examining how customers are managed through their change of supplier to their first bill and onwards.
Other sectors are more complex. For instance, in the hospitality sector hotels are now often booked through affiliates such as Expedia. The customer journey is for all intents and purposes with Expedia, but the customer experience sits with the hotel. Repeat purchase will be driven by check-in experience, room comfort, food, etc. Expedia own the customer in a sense, but it cannot influence the customer experience.
There are also considerations around the length of customer journey that may be mapped. In the B2B world, the purchase process can take years, while post-purchase will last the lifetime of a product. It’s therefore essential to ensure a consistent narrative is maintained and customer knowledge is continuously demonstrated throughout that time.
The challenges and opportunities of customer journey mapping
Customer journey mapping is striking a chord with a growing number of organisations. MyCustomer's Customer Journey Mapping Research Report 2018 surveyed service/experience professionals from 250 organisations and found that 67% now undertake some form of customer journey mapping.
“More and more companies understand that each customer interaction is part of a bigger experience and are working to engage with them in a relevant way,” notes marketing consultant Susan Binda. “Brands with great trigger strategies are examples of this: abandoned basket emails, welcome back campaigns, lapse prevention campaigns and know-me campaigns are just a few examples. What customer journey mapping can do is predict likely future behaviours and needs, and set up journeys ready for consumers to follow.”
However, customer journey mapping isn’t a panacea in and of itself, and organisations that are keen to embrace CJM need to be aware of a number of complications:
- Investment is required (time and cost if external partners are used) to capture the current customer journey/experience. MyCustomer's Customer Journey Mapping Research Report 2018 found that a quarter of respondents who had yet to adopt CJM reported budgets to be a major barrier.
- The complexity of the journey and not knowing where to start can create confusion.
- Businesses may not have the appropriate skillset to capture the required data. In MyCustomer's report, over a third of those who were yet to adopt CJM (36%) told us that a lack of skills was a significant obstacle.
- It needs to be updated and validated to keep up with constantly changing user needs, behaviours, technologies and developments in an organisation’s proposition.
- There may be pressures on the business to deliver customer initiatives that can be more readily measured in terms of impact on bottom line.
A more fundamental barrier to customer journey mapping adoption is the mindset of the business itself. MyCustomer's research found that a lack of understanding or awareness of CJM was the predominant barrier to adoption, reported by over half (54%) of respondents who had yet to utilise it. Meanwhile, a quarter (25%) reported that a lack of buy-in from senior leadership represented a major obstacle.
Majid Shabir, founder and CEO of Instinct Studios, explains: “Customer mapping activities can only add value in an organisation where the management and leadership recognise the benefits of placing the customer at the heart of their business. This has to be embedded in an organisation’s culture and not just in specific departments in charge of customer experience and satisfaction.
“Some organisations are reluctant to embrace customer-mapping activities because an activity of this type will expose serious weaknesses in their business, which for whatever reason they are reluctant to address. Uncovering weaknesses doesn’t mean they all have to be rectified at once, on the contrary, a strategy needs to be adopted which gains some initial quick-wins, followed by a roadmap of incremental improvements, with a long-term view to improving the customer experience as a whole.”
What is driving adoption of customer journey mapping?
Yet despite these obstacles, customer journey mapping continutes to gather momentum. MyCustomer's research found that two-thirds (67%) of respondents are now conducting some form of customer journey mapping.
Several factors are driving this adoption:
- Customer experience is becoming a key competitive battleground for today's businesses, particularly for those brands where there is little differentiation in product or service quality.
- Challenges to demonstrate ROI and proliferation of marketing channels mean understanding the customer journey has never been so important. This links to the necessity to ensure that there is a positive total customer experience encompassing elements such as usability of digital channels - i.e. there has to be a consistent cross-channel experience.
- The rise of dedicated customer experience professionals and their place in the c-suite is becoming more prevalent.
- One size doesn’t fit all in terms of communication tactics.
Andy Walker, director of Medallia, adds: “Customer journey mapping will continue to grow in popularity as the customer touch points multiply and the data becomes more disparate. Companies will look for ways to integrate the different data silos they have in order to provide a seamless and personalised customer journey throughout the different channels. Some brands may also realise that by mapping the journey, they can find ways to improve in the areas where they lack control.”
Certainly evidence from MyCustomer's Customer Journey Mapping Research Report 2018 suggests that adoption will continue to rise, with a third of respondents (34%) who have yet to utilise CJM reporting that they are planning to invest in customer journey mapping in the next 12-18 months and have a budget in place.
But a final word of warning comes from Jane Linton, director of business development at Softvision – the customer journey is now a matrix of cross- and multichannel interactions, and the mapping process is not for the faint hearted.
“Since the business and customer journey is always changing, the challenge to create a CJM has become more complex due to the changing landscape of digital, particularly how customers absorb advertising and the number of touchpoints which influence the decision making process,” she notes.
“This goes one step further when looking at the total customer experience as to how customers are using your product, as we all gravitate towards mobile. The more touchpoints the more complicated yet necessary the exercise of creating a CJM becomes. The rise of social media creates even more complexity. Whereas 30 years ago marketers would have only considered a few channels, with a focus on advertising, the list of how the customer researches a brand message has now increased tenfold.
“Another significant change is what influences customers. The behaviour is still broadly the same and word of mouth recommendation remains influential, but with social networks now reaching much further than was ever possible before, a new dynamic has formed with the customer journey. Consumers are now listening to and being influenced by peers and people they don’t even know; take TripAdvisor in the travel industry as a prime example. Addressing these developments of how consumers research and learn about brands is fundamental within a CJM and is essential for achieving success within the new digital economy.”
With this in mind, those interested in learning more about how to conduct customer journey mapping successfully can find extensive advice in MyCustomer's comprehensive series on customer journey mapping.
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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.