Leadership

Customer Journey Maps: The Key To Competitive Differentiation

May 2, 2018

Ask an avid Starbucks-goer why they love Starbucks and the answer is sure to go beyond the coffee. They may talk about the ritual of grabbing a coffee in the morning and knowing they can rely on that consistent, familiar experience at any starbucks around the world. Or they may rejoice over the ease of ordering and managing the loyalty perks with the Starbucks mobile app. Or the excitement of waiting for seasonal drinks and custom designed cups around the holidays every year.  

What brands like Starbucks and other customer-centric giants like Virgin America and Amazon have mastered is the ability to differentiate themselves through the value of a memorable customer experience.

In order to get the customer experience strategy right, brands need to commit to not only understanding their customers, but being empathetic to their experiences and journey as well. Only through empathetic interactions and customer understanding can brands anticipate customers expectations and provide a customer journey map that adds value at the right time and in the right place.

In this article, I will walk you through the necessary steps to build an informative and actionable Customer Journey Map that will be an invaluable tool for your brand to understand customer needs and improve your business model.

So, what is a Customer Journey Map and why should I create one?

Customer Journey Mapping is the process of identifying and describing all the experiences customers have today as they interact with your brand.  It takes into account what happens to customers during their experiences, their responses to them, and how those experiences make them feel in every step. By building a customer journey map, an organization can identify and manage the customer experience at every point of the journey,  address the processes and tools that are creating friction and then create new and effortless intelligent customer experiences.

Combine that with customer data and you have a compelling picture that can help uncover any gaps between what customer expect and what they actually experience, allowing organizations to optimize a customer experience strategy that closes that gap and increases customer satisfaction.

Here are some examples of how you can visualize your Customer Journey Map.

customer journey map - Rail Europe
Source: http://uxmastery.com/ux-marks-the-spot-mapping-the-user-experience/

In addition to uncovering value for customers, breaking down the business model across stages of a particular customer journey has business benefits, too.

Brands that have a clear understanding of their customer experience strategy and tactical options from the customer journey map view, enjoy operational cost savings by eliminating unnecessary trustpoints, boosting conversion rates and increase customer loyalty and advocacy by creating effortless journeys, improving brand equity by enhancing value and improving customer awareness, and increasing employee satisfaction and engagement by improving their experience.

Next we’ll walk through a step by step guide on creating a strong customer journey map.

How to build an informative and actionable Customer Journey Map

customer journey map - the steps

1. Define the business goal.

Start by clarifying the business goal that your journey mapping initiative will support.

For instance, if you are a Home Improvement retailer, the business objective might be to retain your market position against a competitor like Amazon. 

2. Identify your most valuable customer.

Start with the needs and priorities of the most valued or most “growable” customer and think of a problematic journey for that customer.

If you don’t have personas defined, you should include the development of personas as part of the journey mapping initiative and overall customer experience management strategy.

Personas are rich narratives describing needs (both known needs that the customer can identify, and the latent needs that they can not), motivations, attitudes, goals, behaviors, preferences, and pain points. 

Personas development should always be backed by data and research. Both qualitative and quantitative research assist uncovering customers’ experiences and their emotional states throughout their journey. Collect internal insights by taking inventory of the customer knowledge the company has. Leverage front-line employees as they will typically have already amassed a lot of insight into the voice of customer,  (VOC). They will be able to help provide information about some of the trustpoints and which ones they feel have the most significant pain points associated with them.
By drilling into the voice of the employees (VOE), it is possible to see which trustpoints are the biggest drivers of satisfaction and loyalty.

Understand your personas expectations as they can help inform what value means to them and ensure your value proposition is framed correctly. It will also assist in your customer experience management by ensuring they have the best possible interaction with your brand.

Let’s continue with our example of the Home Improvement retailer.

One of their personas is “Melissa”. Melissa is a single mother of two living on  a single family income. She loves to entertain and showcase her home to friends and family, so maintaining and improving her space is important to her.

While Melissa loves the idea of remodeling and updating her space, she hates thinking about what it’s going to take to get there: finding a contractor she can trust, managing the communication with all the parties involved, keeping the project on-track, etc.

3. Define The Job To Be Done (JTBD).

The Job To Be Done is specific to customer types and occasions, and it is typically written as an actionable statement.  

Melissa’s JTBD is “Remodel my kitchen”.

It is also essential to understand the key drivers behind the JTBD part of the customer journey

In Melissa’s case, she’s looking to get her kitchen remodeled in preparation for a big anniversary celebration at her home.

4. Establish stages from the customer’s perspective.

It is paramount that your team understand the end-to-end journey before you begin getting into the details. You should build an intelligent customer experience with stages that represent your customer’s Job To Be Done, not your organization’s internal process steps. The stages of this customer journey map should represent a key purpose your customer is trying to achieve in their overall journey.

By clearly understanding your customer’s goals in each stage of their journey,  your team will be able to evaluate the customer experience management strategy the organization is currently delivering and how close or how far you are from meeting your customer’s goals.

Take a look at some possible stages for Melissa’s customer journey map below:

1. Inspiration: – How do I want my kitchen to look like?
2. Planning: – How much is this project going to cost and where will I be buying everything from?
4. Committing: – I’m ready to start.
5. Execution – What now?
6. Enjoyment – The party will be a success and my kitchen is going to be the topic of the night.

5. Identify the “Trustpoints”.

A Trustpoint is any point of interaction along the customer journey map between the brand and the customer, where a brand can make or break the customer’s trust. Achieving clear insights into the different Trustpoints across the customer experience strategy and the relative importance for each Trustpoint will bring visibility into customer’s moments of truth.

In some cases, there may be too many Trustpoints to realistically map out while maintaining a 10,000 feet view of the customer journey. The key to an intelligent customer experience is always to keep a holistic view from the customer’s perspective.  

For our example, Melissa goes from the web to get inspired to the store to see materials, talks to an associate to get additional ideas, and goes back home and continues on her ipad with customers reviews on products. All valid trustpoints under the “Getting Inspired” stage.

6. Capture customers emotions.

To fully understand and manage the customer’s experience throughout their journey with your brand, you must capture the customer’s emotions. You can leverage the empathy map tool which it’s used to garner deep insights about how your customer think, feel, hear, and what they do.

customer journey map - customer experience
Source: https://boagworld.com/usability/adapting-empathy-maps-for-ux-design/

While Melissa may experience great excitement in the initial inspiration stages of her remodel, she can quickly become overwhelmed during planning, with too many design and product possibilities to potentially frustration is she is not able to buy the products she wants once she makes a decision.

Understanding your personas’ emotions at each stage of the journey allows your company to anticipate potential points of friction and proactively take steps to remove them and optimize your customer experience strategy.

7. Evaluate your customer’s experience.

Now, you translate all the analysis into a simple visual representation including the assessment of their experience. The experience evaluation identifies the points in the customer journey map that are creating friction and those that are delighting your customers.

The customer experience improvements could be evaluated based on:

  • Emotions.
  • Customer’s level of effort.
  • Customer’s time spent.
  • Importance of a trustpoint.
  • Satisfaction with a trustpoint.

Moments of truth are those make or break moments in the course of customer experience management when you have the chance to earn their true loyalty by removing friction. Identifying moments of truth allows you to focus on the customer’s experience (actual and desired) rather than the transactional relationship and highlights which of those trustpoints are the most important to optimize for your customer.

By walking through Melissa’s customer journey map, our retailer has uncovered a few potential points of friction.

From here, they can evaluate their current customer experience strategy and optimize as needed:

  • Option Fatigue: Were they able to personalize her experience and guide her with the right options to remove option fatigue?
  • Execution Resources: Did they have a network of vetted contractors for her to choose from to carry out her remodel?
  • Item Availability: Is there a communication system in place to let her know if a product was in back order and provide additional options for her big party?

8. Identify the Backstage elements.

Customer experience and digital transformation requires organizations to go a few levels deeper from the customer journey map, this is known as Service Blueprint.  

Service Blueprint is a perfect approach to omnichannel customer experience. By mapping the frontstage and backstage on one customer journey map, you can create visibility to the internal resources, technology, processes and regulations that are responsible for delivering an intelligent customer experience. They pinpoint dependencies between employee-facing and customer-facing processes in the same visualization and are pivotal in identifying pain points, simplifying interactions,  reducing costs for the organization, and improving the experience for its customers.

There are some key elements to be considered in Service Blueprinting:

  1. The line of interaction which shows the direct interactions between the customer and the organization.
  2. The line of visibility which separates all service activities that are visible (frontstage) to the customer from those that are not visible (Backstage).
  3. The line of internal interaction which separates contact employees from those who do not directly support interactions with customers.

Service Blueprinting forces organizations to represent what occurs internally throughout the totality of the customer journey map, giving organizations insight to redundancies and dependencies that departments alone could not see.

How can our retailer create a customer experience management strategy that had a single view of the customer to ensure we remove any effort and frustration from Melissa’s journey? What are the systems behind supporting Melissa’s journey? Which departments will have to work together to ensure a smooth journey?

If a product is on backorder, distribution center will create an update on the backend that will trigger a notification for the associate who has been working with Melissa on her Kitchen remodel. The associate will see how imperative is to meet the deadline and looks for similar products that can keep Melissa’s project on track. The associate connects with Melissa and while Melissa is not happy about changing plans, appreciates that the associate has other good options for her to choose from. 

9. Prioritize areas for customer experience strategy improvements.

By now, the Moments of Truth have already provided a lens through which you can prioritize investment for the most critical trustpoints in the customer journey map. One way to help you prioritize is to create a top ten list of improvements projects.

To prioritize your customer experience management, you can use a simple Prioritization Matrix with importance to the customer, importance to the business,  and the technical feasibility. You can also consider using conjoint analysis, asset classes, or regression analysis.

Keep in mind the multidimensional nature of a customer journey and assign a weight to the impact of each step to the organization success.

Also, remember that customer experience improvement should:

  • Prioritize reliability over “wow” moments.
  • Reduce pain point across the trustpoints.
  • Fix inconsistent experiences.
  • Ensure issues are prevented from reappearing.

Once the opportunities for optimizing your customer experience strategy have been prioritized, list out the key opportunities on the map itself. Now, the customer journey map is a tool you can use for action planning where you can identify key opportunities for improvement, assess their impact, their ROI, and ultimately set investment priorities for your organization.

Making Sure Your Strategy Works

Always remember that customer journey maps can only provide value if:

  • The exercise is developed with an outside-in perspective (the customer is at the center of the stage).
  • The information is widely shared to get internal alignment across multiple teams in the organization. The customer journey maps highlight how and where the various components of your organization impact your customers, shaping their perceptions of your organization, your products, and your services. Tracking customer trustpoints through every department with a direct link to your customers brings the importance of an aligned customer-centric mindset to your customer experience strategy.
  • Once broken moments of truth have been identified, action is taken on the insight. The organization will need to prioritize and design new experience to increase customer loyalty, focus on reducing the effort customers make, head off the need for follow up calls, and address the emotional side of interactions.
  • Long-term owners are assigned to sustain the learning over time.

Conclusion

Like a road map, a Customer Journey Map bridges the gap between customer experience  strategy and the supporting tactics that will bring that new experience to live. A Customer Journey Map cuts through the clutter and provides a comprehensive view of your current customer interactions across departments, services/products, segments, and marketing efforts.

By breaking down the business model across stages of a particular customer journey, it is possible to model where cost can be reduced, and revenues can be generated in relation with where the value is created for the most valuable customer. Once you have the understanding of where you need to improve, you will be able to deliver innovative solutions with an optimized customer experience strategy that responds to your customers’ needs.

A branded customer experience that delivers consistently across all customers channels in a way that adds value to the core customer proposition will intentionally differentiate you from the competition.

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