Journey mapping is a time-honored method for identifying friction and pain points in customer journeys. But a journey map’s true power is acting as an ongoing strategic mechanism that removes the risk of pain altogether.
In a previous post, I described one form of qualitative research, in-depth interviews (IDIs). They deliver a level of detail and customer understanding that helps you gain true empathy for your service or product users. Journey mapping is another way to obtain valuable qualitative information from customers.
For years, design teams have used journey mapping exercises to help build customer empathy. The resulting journey maps allow them to enter the customer’s shoes and follow their footsteps as they complete tasks along the road to a purchase or other interaction. That makes it easier for cross-functional teams to help customers navigate common experiences such as:
- Making a purchase
- Scheduling an appointment
- Onboarding to a new service
- Contacting a call center
- Paying a bill.
For the best customer experience, researchers and designers must understand where friction and pain exist within each task, and you must hold your team accountable for removing it. As a customer understanding method, journey mapping accomplishes this by providing a qualitative assessment of a series of combined activities that culminate in a particular outcome. Journey mapping also makes orchestrating those steps simpler, more relevant and more rewarding.
Over the past five years, journey mapping has evolved dramatically by incorporating analytics and automation. These modern journey-mapping tools have grown alongside customer self-service tools and digital interfaces, which provide new ways of solving old problems or completing the same activities. One way to analyze tasks in today’s environment is visualizing them as “Jobs to Be Done” and “Job Statements.” To illustrate, consider two everyday day tasks, paying bills and listening to music:
- Job to Be Done = Pay a bill
- Job Statement = I used to pay my utility bill by mailing a check. Later, I would log on to their website and pay the bill. Now, I have it set up to pay automatically through my bank.
- Job to Be Done = Listen to music
- Job Statement = I used to listen to CDs until MP3s came out. Then, I started using things like iTunes. Now, I just stream everything on whatever device I want.
In both examples, the task remains the same (pay a bill or listen to music). However, the process to accomplishing the task is very different. That’s why journey mapping is still a much needed and relevant insights methodology.
Journey Mapping as a Strategy — Don’t Miss Out!
Journey mapping can also be a powerful strategic vehicle for shaping your overall customer engagement model. By understanding how, what, where, when and why people perform activities, organizations can focus on “moments that matter” for customers, technologies, operations or teams. This allows you to imbed customer centricity into the operational construct of your organization.
Unfortunately, journey mapping is rarely used as a strategy mechanism. Instead, it is often and mostly used only as a design tool that provides a point-based approach to solving known problems. It’s OK to start there, but a better use of journey mapping is as an ongoing learning mechanism that removes the risk of problems altogether. This is the biggest opportunity you have to truly harness the power of a journey mapping capability.
Case in point: Large U.S. retailers have done a great job of addressing the ongoing supply-chain issues by increasingly pushing customers to their websites. One chain in particular used journey mapping to discover that a significant customer pain point was traveling to their store to pick up an online order, only to find the product was not in stock after all. To address the problem, they transitioned to “online order integration,” allowing them to limit disruption for customers, increase the volume of orders, better manage their inventory, and decrease disruption in their stores.
This retailer is also using journey mapping across the merchandising and product assortment architecture to identify patterns of behaviors that help simplify operations and maximize various attributes of the business:
- Store space
- Product recommendations
- Product placement
- Marketing automation
- Loyalty program design.
For this organization, journey maps provide a visualization of the customer experience, and the company is rallying around how the customer interacts with the brand across all channels to maximize each step of the journey. For example, everyone from cashiers to order fulfillment personnel and web designers know their role in the process and appreciate how much easier their jobs have become — and how much happier customers are. The maps themselves have become a strategic blueprint for creating a shared goal and vision for who does what, why and when throughout each customer’s journey to meet their needs.
Improving Experiences with Journey Mapping
Another useful strategy is analyzing moments that matter and placing them into three simple options based on business objectives:
- Repair: Fix broken moments that matter across interactions to limit the negative effects of bad experiences on customers.
- Reconstruct: Rebuild solutions to solve problems and drive toward more innovative experiences.
- Reinvent: Iterate on experiences without reconstructing the fulfillment of the experience’s operations.
This retailer met its need by assigning people within each product category (clothing, sporting goods, and so on) to focus only on their areas. That approach allowed them to carefully analyze how to change the moments that matter more carefully. For example:
- Things like broken links on their website called for repair.
- Other experiences still worked but had not been optimized for the best customer experience. These experiences were reconstructed.
- Finally, they identified other customer experiences that need to evolve more readily with customer expectations, such as a need for completely touch-free interactions. These experiences called for reinvention.
While this is obviously a very mature organization, their experience is a great example of how you can use a form of customer understanding as a strategic activation vehicle.
Of course, this company didn’t start with this process, and neither should you! Most organizations perform journey mapping when a known issue arises. At Centric, we hope that once you conduct your first mapping exercise, you will continue to use this methodology to create a baseline experience you can operationalize around. In some organizations, a specific group like Customer Experience will own this process, while others will embed the roles and capabilities into the functional teams themselves, much like this retailer did.
Align Your Map’s Visualization to Goals
When developing your journey mapping capability, it’s also important to understand the myriad options available for visualizing the map itself. You should prioritize your visualization method by what are you trying to learn, because some techniques are better than others for viewing your customer journey through different lenses. As an organization, you need to decide if your goal is to:
- Increase the pace of your operations to make processes like order fulfillment go faster
- Build your map for veracity by making sure you have enough customer input to understand where customers are using your brand’s products and services, as well as who in your organization should be involved in customer decision making and why
- Use the data to better enumerate how long a task takes, how much friction it involves, the number of steps needed to complete it, and so on. Knowing these things allows you to change customer or employee behavior and your operations if that is your goal.
By seeking visualization methods that address your business’s journey mapping goals, you will begin moving toward a more strategic approach to journey mapping rather than simply using your hard-won journey maps as simple design tools.
From Journey Mapping to Service Design
When you use journey mapping as a strategic analysis mechanism rather than a design tool, you can meet your customers’ demands for modern fulfillment to alleviate pain and friction. In addition, you can visualize how changes in your processes will affect the current state of your organization, operations and technology. This is critical as you determine the best way to deliver any customer experience change you define in a future state journey.
With journey maps in place as a strategic vehicle, your customer experience can then evolve. Naturally, this will affect things like front-office orchestration and tooling. The team’s job then shifts to reducing the cost to serve the customer as opposed to adding cost and bloating the operation.
You will then need a broader team to help identify risks and solutions around orchestration and delivery. This technique is called Service Design, and it leverages journey maps to understand the vertical slices of each of moment that matters, allowing you to map the varying layers of activities and execute against your customer-interaction goal.
I hope I have made a strong case not just for journey mapping but for using journey maps strategically to make customers (and employees!) happier by speeding processes and reducing costs — all while building your capability to evolve experiences more quickly so you can meet customers’ rapidly changing needs.
To sum up:
- It is OK to start simply — for example, with a single journey or sharp focus solely on what the customer is doing within the context of the map — but let that be the start to furthering your understanding, not the end.
- Journey maps come in at least two forms, current state for analysis and future state for design. You need both to truly help your customer.
- You must talk to customers to get your data. Don’t assume you know what the steps and activities are to meeting their needs.
- Most of the outcomes for modern customers have not changed. People still need to buy products and services. We’re just changing the facilitation of the outcome.
In my next post, we’ll consider observational interviews, another qualitative approach to informing process design, gaining customer insights and performing analytics.