In a recent webinar, Michael Good, Brad Linville and Jeff Marr of Walker Information took time to speak about the intricacies of mapping out the customer journey. This has been a trending topic since the summer of 2014. Walker defines journey mapping as a process of developing an understanding of those things that your customers value when interacting with your company. Essentially, what steps do your customers go through to meet their needs?
The benefits to diving into this process are many. First of all, it exposes the customer experience to the broader organization. This allows for an assessment of the actual versus ideal experience. Second, those critical interactions customers have at each stage in the journey are identified. Also known as “moments of truth” these interactions serve to highlight the value the customer sees in interacting with your organization. These maps serve as a living document to educate new and existing employees as to the best way to communicate value – or those elements of the experience the customer sees as most important. Lastly, measuring the customer experience helps add value to the brand and reinforce the ways that your brand creates value.
From the B2B perspective, Walker identifies the interaction stages as:
- Learn about the brand
- Decide to purchase
- Start the relationship
- Use the product
Each of these stages can be viewed from three perspectives – customer, company, and partner as seen in the diagram below. In Walker’s experience, journey maps serve as the foundation for your customer feedback system. As a communication tool they also help to reduce organizational silo conflict by getting buy-in from multiple customer-facing departments. Journey maps help drive a sense of value by aligning employee actions with what is stated as important to customers and prospects. Lastly, they serve as a common tool for strategy development.
Key questions to ask before launching an initiative:
- Which customers to focus on – direct customers, channel partner affiliates and their end customers, certain market segments, vertical industries, top-tier customers
- Who are the role players – who is on the buy-side,
- What to map – what experiences and issues are critical, mode of buying, customer pre-sale phase, etc. These elements should come from your organization go to market strategy.
Looking inward is critical. This involves drilling down into internal processes and organizational groups. Who are the internal stakeholders that need to be involved? Can a few customers be included to inform the process?
Workshops are useful as they are interactive and critical for building the basic framework. These events start with cross-functional teams with a customer-facing focus. No ideas are considered unworthy at this stage. A potential side benefit of these meetings includes identifying existing processes that are candidates for improvement.
External validation is the first stage where customers really get to provide their perspectives in-depth. Often this stage involves focus groups or in-depth interviews. These events allow for first-hand comments on moments of truth, the ability to provide feedback on perspective frameworks, etc.
The final stage is the folding of all information into a map or series of maps. Be prepared for an iterative process on creating the visual look. There will also be recommendations that need to be conveyed to stakeholder groups, along with suggestions on how to make the indicated improvements.
Journey maps are a visual tool with significant underlying input from internal stakeholders, channel partners and customers. They provide a roadmap which allows organization to align strategies with what customers perceive as most important.