Who should own customer journey mapping?
Research reveals that customer journey mapping projects without a programme leader can flounder. So who should own journey mapping in your organisation?
Recent trends in the airline industry are a great example of why having a clear understanding of customer journeys is so important.
According to research from SITA, almost every flight is now booked using self-service technology.
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75% of people use a website; only 4% say they will seek out a human. 91% of people who use self-service technology to check-in say they will do so again, and when dissatisfied, the same number say they will simply look for an alternative technology as opposed to seeking out human help.
Having this kind of insight gives clear guidance to brands about how consumers alter their channel choices, and the thought process when the chosen channel isn’t up to scratch.
But to stay on top of such shifting sands and crucially, react when they move, requires an understanding of customer journeys.
It's unsurprising, therefore, that customer journey mapping has become such a well-adopted practice.
Indeed, when MyCustomer conducted a survey of 100 CX professionals in 2018 to examine their customer journey mapping practices, two-thirds of respondents said their organisations used journey mapping.
However, one of the most striking findings was the importance of having a project owner - a fifth of practitioners whose customer journey programmes had no leader reported that customer journey mapping was delivering no value. To put that in context, none of the practitioners who had a programme leader (or leaders) reported that their journey mapping was delivering no value.
So having a leader is clearly valuable. The question is, who should take charge?
Should customer journey mapping be owned by the board/CEO?
When MyCustomer conducted its survey of CX professionals, there was little consensus regarding who in the business should take ownership of journey mapping. Two-thirds of practitioners had programmes led by CEOs, COOs, heads of customer service, CMOs, or indeed any combination of the above.
The seniority of these leaders certainly reflects the appetite at the top of many organisations to improve customer experiences. By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator and 91% of business leaders say they aspire to be among the customer experience leaders in their industry.
In order to do this, many argue that business leaders themselves should become more engaged with the journeys customers take to interact with their brand.
“Board level sponsorship is mandatory in order to get the best results,” says Matthew Fairweather, director of self-titled customer experience design consultancy, Matthew Fairweather Ltd. “If not, then individuals who have influence and leadership that covers the complete range of departments or business units and functions that contribute to customer touchpoints. Ideally organisations need to represent both the customer and the organisational lenses.”
Supporting this assertion, MyCustomer's journey mapping research found that those programmes led by the CEO were most likely to report extremely positive results, with over two-thirds of the practitioners running programmes led by the CEO reported ‘extremely positive’ results. But there is also a caveat here. The caveat here - those that reported their CEO led journey mapping were exclusively practitioners at smaller (under 50 staff ) organisations, where perhaps the CEO had a more hands-on role than the typical CEO at an enterprise.
Should journey mapping be owned by a CX leader?
Despite the lack of consensus from the research, by far and away the most common owner of customer journey mapping was a head of customer experience or equivalent - reported by a third of respondents.
While 86% of chief marketing officers have predicted that marketing will own the customer experience by 2020, the last few years have seen a sharp rise in the introduction of heads of customer experience - such as chief customer officers (CCO).
The core responsibility of CCOs is often developing customer experience from a series of ad hoc practices to a systematic programme of improvement over time. Frequently, this means overseeing a portfilio of customer experience projects, that are underpinned by a design process based on customer research. Central to this research is often mapping customer journeys.
“The role of chief customer officer is the natural senior sponsor of customer journey mapping,” adds Andrew Green, a director at the Customer Framework. “The key to success is to elevate ownership above channel and functional responsibilities to avoid overly focussing on the objectives of a single channel or function. The owner needs to be judged on the overall successful outcome of the end-to-end journey and should therefore have the ability to influence delivery across its entirety, not necessarily being accountable for every step.”
Joris Beets, director of service design at EY-Seren believes this trend will continue whilst larger organisations still have silos that hamper their capacity to connect customer insights from different departments, but has some reservations about the CCO as owner of journey mapping.
“CCOs own a certain end-to-end core journey and so are accountable for and remunerated based on KPIs that are linked to but stretch beyond the monetary, like NPS and CSAT drivers monitored within a journey-based measurement framework.
“In the past, customer experience teams have often evolved from UX departments that were merely brought to life as a digital self-serve add-on to customer service and existing products, and so their background can mean they are stuck in digital-only thinking and have a lack of understanding of and access to the operational aspects of the business.
“What we’d ideally see is journey owners that sit above the various service, marketing, sales, ops, CX and product departments, reporting in to a CCO or the like, that sits on the board.”
Should mapping be managed by specialists?
This certainly fits with the findings of Joana van den Brink-Quintanilha, senior analyst of customer experience at Forrester Research, who has spent a number of years studying where journey mapping sits in larger organisations, and feels some are leaning towards devising journey specialists across different departments.
“The age of the customer pushes companies toward customer-oriented structures,” she says. “One way companies are structuring around their customers is by customer journey. For example, each member of the customer experience team at Pitney Bowes is aligned to a journey and has journey-specific responsibilities written into their job descriptions. This gives the team focus and sends a clear message to the business that journeys matter.
“Similarly, the customer experience team at E.ON has journey managers, journey designers, and journey performance managers to support local journey transformations in each of E.ON's 11 markets.”
E.ON is as clear example as any in that its shift in approach towards journey mapping has allowed it to unearth pain points in the current channel choices its customers have to make.
Following a collaborative project with Engine Group in the UK, the energy giant leant on journey specialists in its billing team to rework its customer journey between web and call centre, finding it was able to cut call numbers by 5,000 a year whilst increasing direct debit acquisitions by 133,000.
As in the E.ON case study, customer service and contact centre teams can often play a crucial role in unearthing truths about the customer journey, because of the close proximity they have on a day-to-day basis.
“Typically middle or senior managers who may own areas of an organisation such as ‘customer service’ - or may own a particular project or service initiative – are charged with ownership of journey mapping,” says Fairweather.
“This isn’t necessarily bad, as mapping projects within departments can be a great catalyst for others to follow, which can – in the end – create a better and more involved view of the entire customer and operational lenses.”
And whilst there are undoubtedly benefits to this approach, the danger (and something E.ON was able to avoid by building a Customer Experience Maturity Model prior to offering journey mapping out to local teams), is handing journey mapping to local teams without consistency driving the project forwards, as Beets explains:
“We’ve seen multinationals where the various subsidiary local markets had picked up journey mapping and other service design tools, all using their own definitions of journey steps, different ways of measuring, doing research etc, and all looking only through their own ‘lense’ (my app, my sales target, my data, etc.). People can be very enthusiastic when they get going, but this approach subsequently leads to a mishmash of initiatives that eventually have little impact or get shelved because they are not based on a coherent approach that unifies a deep evidence-based understanding of their customers with a holistic and thorough overview of their entire business.”
The emergence of journey managers
A further option that has emerged of late is that of journey manager. Kerry Bodine, CEO at CX consultants Bodine & Co, has been tracking the emergence of this role over the last couple of years, and has published research into the roles and responsibilities of journey managers. Unsurprisingly, the auditing and mapping of all customer journeys across all channels, is a core responsibility of this new breed of CX professional.
“There has been a natural evolution from thinking about customer experiences generally, to then wanting to specifically understand customer journeys, and indeed employee journeys as well to some extent,” says Bodine. “Organisations are really starting to think about the customer journey as being the unit that needs to be managed and measured and they are recognising that this is a way to be more concrete about the way that customer experience improvements can be implemented.”
She continues: “Journey managers have the potential to reinvent their organisations, bringing together colleagues from across departments and those unavoidable silos to ensure that customers have a smooth experience, no matter what part of the end-to-end journey they’re currently in.”
Nonetheless, with less than 1,500 journey managers listed on LinkedIn - a proportion of which may not even be related to customer journeys - it is still very early days for this particular role.
Working it out
As with most business processes, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and no sole stakeholder to drive journey mapping forwards. However, there are a number of decisions a business can make in order to determine who should take ownership across departments.
“In deciding who should own customer journey mapping organisations should think about the purpose of the journey map that is being produced,” says Andrew Green. “A customer journey map should describe the interaction with the organisation from the customers’ perspective – i.e. describing how they satisfy the need they have, end-to-end.”
In order to work this out systematically, Green says this requires the following considerations:
- What need they are trying to satisfy and the steps THE CUSTOMER goes through (against which are mapped the organisations’ role).
- The customer’s attitude / emotions as they enter each step.
- What the organisation can do to meet the customers’ needs.
- What data is needed to do it.
- What they need to do differently in order to collect and use the data effectively.
“The convergence and mobility across physical and digital channels must also be considered,” he adds. “The basis of design is shifting from research-based questioning and anecdotal observation to one drawing on observing and sensing actual behaviours. This further complicates design responsibility and ownership as those with accountability for the delivery of the customer experience resulting from the journey are likely not the ones with the data-driven understanding to inform its design.
"Additionally, measurement of the impact and the way tracking can be used to continually improve the experience at critical points on the journey is also evolving and needs to be incorporated into the decision on ownership.”
Indeed, such is the necessity for data to drive decisions that 73% of a recent Econsultancy survey of digital marketers said data was critical to underpinning their journey mapping exercises.
Above all, however, the process must start with one vital trait among stakeholders - enthusiasm. “Ultimately, thinking about how your decisions on product features, communication channels and timings or business processes impact the end-to-end customer’s experience “on the other side” has to start somewhere,” adds Beets.
“Journey mapping is a useful tool for any department, in that sense there are no ‘wrong people’ for this. I’d encourage any department or person to start doing it. Journey maps come in many shapes and forms and even just doing some very simple ones based on your gut feeling, just putting yourself in your customers’ shoes, can already help to make more customer-centric business and design decisions. It’s a start.”
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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.