The idea is simple enough. If an organization wants to provide its customers with the best possible experience – the best possible “journey” – it needs to begin by coming to a complete understanding of that journey, from the customer’s point of view.
What are the highs and lows of the journey, where are the pain points, the frustrations? What emotions does the customer feel along the way, from first contact on through the sales funnel and on to – as every business hopes – a long and mutually satisfying relationship? What questions are they asking? What are the customer’s motivations?
Without answers to questions such as those, a company is hamstrung when it comes to providing its customers with a high-quality journey that translates into long-term customer value, loyalty, and profitability. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it exists.
Most businesses recognize the importance of optimizing the journey in our necessarily customer-centric digital age. But a surprising number of them haven’t yet acted on the knowledge, often because, as data-rich as they may be, they remain unsure about how to find the customer’s all-important story within countless bits of data.
The answer, according to authorities from no less than the Harvard Business Review is Customer Journey Mapping (CJM).
Customer journey mapping made simple
As the name implies, a customer journey map is a visual representation of the customer’s story when engaging with a business. But if the goal of customer journey mapping is a large one – finding and understanding the customer’s complete experience across time, touch points, and channels in order to optimize it and foster greater engagement – the CJM process is surprisingly accessible, according to nanorep, a leading customer experience management firm.
For one thing, most companies already have much of the data and information they need in order to begin telling the story, including customer analytics reports and user reports from its Customer Relations Management (CRM) system, the post notes. They also can readily mine sources such as social media and anecdotal reports from front-line reps and other employees to add a human touch to the narrative.
The essential point is that the CJM offers both important insights for refining the customer journey and, perhaps as important, a tool for keeping the customer always at the center of an organization’s focus and decision-making.
The nuts-and-bolts act of turning data into a revealing visual doesn’t have to be onerous, either. The internet offers countless templates that can be adapted to the specific needs of any business, and the specific elements it chooses to map. In practice, a customer journey map can take any number of forms and provide a graphic representation of any number and combination of different variables, but its essential purpose remains the same: to teach a business about its customers by letting the company walk in the customer’s shoes.
The customers aren’t making it easy
Today’s customers can be a hard bunch to please. They expect to be able to engage with a business when they want, how they want, by way of whatever device or channel they want. And they don’t expect to encounter jarring dislocations when they move from one device or channel to another, so it can be a tall order to deliver the seamless experience they require.
But a business must please them, if it is to secure its long-term viability and profitability in the digital environment. And more than anything else, it is the quality of the customer journey that will determine whether customers are going to stay loyal for the long run. The key to hitting that mark, of course, is learning from their stories and acting on those new insights.
Properly designed, a customer journey map offers an unparalleled tool to do that.