Organisations continue to focus on improving the customer experience with the goal of increasing the lifetime value of customers, but for the customers themselves, real improvements to their experiences remain elusive for many organisations. Managers are still trying to understand customer experience, let alone measure it and pass benefits on to customers.
A pertinent question is, “Are organisations really walking in their customers’ shoes?” The answer is that they are clearly not, according to a survey published in the UK by YouGov; 83 percent of customers are expecting organisations to work even harder if they want to retain their business. The survey also reports that just 5 percent of respondents felt they had received better customer service in the last three years. As a result, more people are complaining about service.
However, the channels people are choosing to complain through are changing rapidly. While 63 percent use e-mail and 41 percent still use telephone, an impressive 20 percent of people are now using social media as a channel to complain about customer service. This figure rises significantly to 36 percent for 18 to 24 year olds.
Enhancing customers’ service experiences starts with mapping the customer journey. For a specific customer, the various interactions with the organisation, its people, and its processes build together over time to form the customer’s overall impression of the organisation. The customer makes a judgment based on the sum total of these interactions of the organisation’s level of service, as well as how easy it is to do business with the organisation. The individual interactions, or touch points, may be positive or negative and, added together, these service experiences are critical in determining whether the customer will stay loyal to the organisation or take his or her business to a competitor.
By mapping the customer journey, usually applied across different customer value segments and sometimes for the different products and services provided, an organisation can identify:
- How prospective and current customers use a service and when they interact with people and processes.
- How customers feel about the organisation at each touch point and what they would really like the customer experience to be like.
- How the organisation’s different business units should work together to better provide enhanced customer experiences.
- The potential barriers and obstacles that customers encounter and where processes break down.
- How to use this knowledge to design an optimal experience that meets the expectations of different customer segments.
During a customer journey, all the touch points experienced build up into the customer’s overall perception of the level of service provided by a business. Of course each touch point will make a distinctive contribution towards customer’s feelings. A bad experience can vary from something customers find frustrating or annoying right up to one where customers are so angry or demotivated that they withdraw their business entirely. In the same way, a positive experience can register at any point along a spectrum. A customer’s experience of a touch point might engender feelings of mild satisfaction or, at the other end of the spectrum, the customer could be so delighted by the organisation’s efforts in going beyond expectations that he or she becomes an enthusiastic fan of the business, telling friends, family, and colleagues about the outstanding service experience.
First impressions with customers are exceptionally important, and they tend to set the scene for the rest of the customer journey. Moments of truth—those key instances that are particularly critical in forming a customer’s view of the organisation, whether for good or bad—will occur throughout the journey. Some customer-centric organisations try to identify their customers’ most important moments of truth as a way of focusing their employees on where they can improve service within the customer journey.
Bad experiences have a highly significant impact on the customer’s overall perception. A bad experience for a customer, such as when a process breaks down, will result in a negative emotional outcome for the customer; however, most people understand that problems do occur from time to time. Most customers will accept such instances as long as the organisation has the motivation and ability to recover, resolve the problem in the customer’s interests, and learn the lesson to ensure it does not happen again. If, on the other hand, the organisation does not resolve the problem well, it could be the end of the line for that particular customer journey, and the customer will be lost forever.
Very positive outcomes at touch points add to customers’ overall experience of an organisation. These successes, where high service levels are delivered and perceived by the customer, can also be focused on by an organisation in order to win over new customers, make them loyal, and improve the organisation’s reputation. An organisation may have to make hard decisions about how to direct its resources: towards resolving and minimizing problems (the negative outcomes at touch points) or alternatively towards finding even more distinctive ways of delighting customers (the positive emotional outcomes at touch points). Realistically, the organisation will need to find an appropriate balance between the two in order to maximize its customers’ experiences.
Five Tips for Constructing a Customer Journey Map:
Step 1: Identify the Specific Customer Journey
Decide which specific customer journey will be mapped. This may be a journey for one particular customer segment or for one of your organisation’s products or services. In this step of the process, you can engage people in the organisation, together with customers if possible—all of whom should be familiar with the journey to be mapped—and then you will draw up an initial map by talking through the steps and stages involved for customers in achieving their objectives. This must be done from the viewpoint of the customer rather than based on what the organisation is trying to achieve.
Step 2: Identify the Journey Steps
Capture the major journey steps—not every element of the process, just the key points associated with customer interactions. It may be useful to write them on Post-it Notes, then arrange the major journey steps in chronological order, discussing and challenging the recorded order frequently to ensure you have the sequence correct.
Keep it simple. Ideally, map no more than approximately six journey steps. If your customer journey is longer, break it down into a series of shorter journeys, each with its own map. Be clear about the start and end points, linking any series of shorter journeys together clearly where necessary. Also, in this part of the mapping process, record the service channels that people use at each step.
Step 3: Identify the Touch Points
Each step on a customer journey can include one or more touch points, and these should be recorded. Include the interactions that are important for the customer, not forgetting that some may not involve human contact. For example, a customer may have a physical interaction simply by entering a building, or a remote interaction can take place by receiving an e-mail.
Step 4: Record Peoples’ Actions, Feelings, Thoughts, and Reactions
For each step of the journey, while taking the customer’s viewpoint, write down what they do and how they think and feel. Write this in the everyday language that customers use, using actual comments from customers where possible. Also note positive and negative emotional outcomes experienced by staff. Use a range of words to record what people’s emotions are and how strongly they are felt. Using emotive words helps to bring the mapping to life.
Step 5: Moments of Truth
Finally, discuss and review the whole customer journey and identify the moments of truth—the touch points that are agreed to be the most critical in forming the customer’s views about the journey and the organisation. They are the key points in the journey where customers may pause and evaluate the experience, or make a crucial decision. Encourage your team to be discriminating, avoiding the temptation to label every touch point as a moment of truth.
One of the biggest challenges facing companies when they want to become customer focused is that their own organisation is based around functional silos. This is not only noticeable to customers as they are passed from function to function looking for service, but also to companies themselves, either when they look to start a customer improvement initiative to implement change based around customer feedback. A customer wants to experience an organisation that provides a single, seamless journey from initial enquiry right through to post-sales support. Customer journey mapping is a good approach to overcoming these barriers.
Customer journey mapping contributes to continuous improvement in an organisation. However skilled and customer-aware your organisation's customer-facing people are, and however well designed and efficient your processes, if customers’ experiences are poor, then your organisation’s customer relationships will suffer. Customer journey mapping enables the organisation to focus on removing barriers for customers and allows you to improve service delivery to become a consistent and predictable experience.
Maybe it’s time to take a walk in your customers’ shoes!