Mind the gaps – how to get more value out of customer journey mapping

When reviewing your customer mapping exercise, the first question shouldn’t be, “How can we fix this?” but rather, “How can we prevent this from happening again?”

You take out a mobile phone contract. You get a shiny new phone – it’s quite an exciting time for most people as they work out how to use their new toy and enjoy the extended suite of ringtones. You then get your first month’s bill and you are really surprised (and more than a little miffed) to find out that you are paying for phone insurance that you didn’t sign up for. You know what the contract cost was supposed to be for the month and now your bill is quite a bit higher. The people on the billing helpline tell you that “yes that’s right”, but the in-store staff at the point of purchase didn’t talk to you about it at all. You feel let down and you’ve had to go to substantial effort to try to resolve the issue yourself.

Sound familiar? It’s a fairly typical description of a customer journey where an error earlier on in the process has led to customer pain at a later point. In this instance, although the pain was felt at billing, it was actually caused when you ‘joined’ or took out the contract in store. It’s a typical occurrence within a customer journey.  

Customer journey mapping has been around since the early 2000’s and is something that everyone now seems to be doing to understand better how their customer interacts with their brand, including the good times and the pain points. It’s certainly a useful tool but it doesn’t go as far as providing the next step of insight - what you actually need to do to resolve some of your customer issues. It’s the reason why plenty of customer maps gather dust on the shelf...

Here are our top tips on how to get more value out of customer journey mapping:

1. Walk in your customer’s shoes

When you really put yourself in the shoes of your customer and break the journey down from their perspective, not yours, it’s much easier to find out where the issues lie. This means forgetting the corporate and the technical and just being a customer for a day - experiencing what they think, feel and do at a granular level. If it helps to physically walk in their shoes, then do it. It’s not to say that focusing only on the little things will solve all of your problems (although it can often solve many!), but if you don’t completely deconstruct every step of your customer’s journey, the main pain points or moments of delight could remain unseen. 

2. Establish the root cause

It’s all well and good identifying pain points in a customer journey but organisations have to trace back to the root cause. Often where it goes wrong for the customer and where the experience turns ‘bad’ or breaks down, is not caused at that moment in time (remember our mobile phone contract…). More often than not the pain or friction is actually caused because of promises made, expectations set or actions taken earlier on in the customer's journey. Organisations need to ask ‘why’ multiple times to get to the root of their customer issues i.e. where it’s breaking down in the internal delivery process. This way you can begin to solve problems, make changes, and prevent it from happening again, as well as transforming the customer experience into a positive one! Too many companies fix the symptoms and call it a day, only for the issue to re-occur and they wonder why.

3. Map the end to end customer experience

Our mobile phone contract is a really simple example but customers far and wide experience similar things every day. More and more organisations are mapping the end to end journey or life cycle of the customer rather than separate steps or stages – which is great thinking because if you do map separate journeys you are likely to miss the handovers and transitions as the customer moves from one step to another. The customer doesn’t see themselves as having a number of journeys with a brand – their contract renewal and billing experience are all part of the same overall experience for them, so why should organisations do it this way?

4. Map the parts you can and can’t control

Many customer journey maps I’ve seen only plot the parts of the customer journey that the organisation is involved in. So if they can’t control other interactions, albeit they are affecting their customer journey, they don’t explore it as if it doesn’t count. This means they are omitting chunks of the journey and more context or causes of pain points (and potential opportunities). The best journey maps plot all stakeholders and all interactions together. It has to be the whole journey and nothing but the journey - whoever delivers or influences it.

Our Customer Alignment Model™ looks at companies through the lens of 90 different customer experience factors to identify how aligned an organisation is with its customers now and what it can to do reach that customer sweet spot in the future. We focus on the total customer experience - this means the parts of the journey that your customer is conscious of as well as all of the parts that they’re not.

When reviewing your customer mapping exercise, the first question shouldn’t be, “How can we fix this?” but rather, “How can we prevent this from happening again?” It’s this question that leads to real change and improvement to the current Customer Experience.

Once you have the insight that customer journey mapping can provide, it’s a question of working out what the customer values most in the journey and how you can find simple ways to improve it. If your journey mapping has been done well, following the advice above, you should be halfway there already.