Six Steps to Better Customer Journey Mapping

According to a survey conducted by Quadient, two-thirds of firms (not just financial institutions) do customer journey mapping. About a third of them, however, have been using the approach for less than a year, with another third having less than three years' experience with journey mapping.

Despite their short history of journey mapping, many of the firms doing it seem quite happy with it--more than eight in ten said the impact of their efforts on the customer experience has been either "extremely positive" or "positive."

And the benefit to them? More than seven in ten of the firms indicated said they've seen an increase in customer satisfaction, more than half said they've seen improvement in Net Promoter Score, and about half have experienced fewer customer complaints.

My take: I'm not buying any of this self-congratulatory nonsense. An organization that's been doing customer journey mapping for a year or less has not been doing it long enough to implement process changes and see the impact of the changes they've made reflected in customer sat and NPS surveys.

Ain't Wastin' Time No More

I had a conversation a while back with the CEO of a large credit union his firm's journey mapping efforts. I asked him how it was going and he told me that after a couple of months of work, the team invited him into the "war room" to show him the results of the process mapping they were doing.

After reviewing the work he asked the team "so what's the ONE thing we could change that would produce a disproportionate improvement over all the other possible changes?" The team couldn't answer the question.

Please don't try to convince me that this is an isolated example.

Stop Making Sense

Some more data points from the Quadient study that convince me that all is not well in customer journey mapping land:

  • Despite the high percentage of respondents citing benefits like improved customer satisfaction, increased NPS score, and fewer complaints, the number one barrier to using customer journey mapping--cited by 54% of respondents--was "lack of understanding/awareness of the benefits." Huh? 
  • Three-quarters of respondents listed one of the following five roles as the owner of customer journey mapping efforts: head of customer experience, multiple stakeholders, customer insight team, other, or no one. As a result, 36% of respondents cited "lack of internal ownership/accountability" as a barrier to their mapping efforts. To emphasize the importance of C-level involvement, in firms where the CEO owns the process, 69% cited "extremely positive" effects. In firms where the head of customer service owns journey mapping, only 20% cited "extremely positive" effects--and that's the same percent who cited that level of impact when no one owns the process.
  • Firms employ a wide of range of data inputs, with nearly three-quarter surveying customers, and more than half soliciting employee feedback. Yet, 60% said the methods they use don't give them enough insight into the customer journey. 

So let's get this straight: Half of firms lack an understanding of the benefits of journey mapping, six in ten aren't satisfied that their data collection efforts give them sufficient insight into the process, and more than a third face internal ownership issues--and yet 85% say the impact of their effort has been positive to extremely positive. Yeah, right.

Six Steps to Getting Journey Mapping Right

Based on my experiences, and the experiences and expertise from a couple of my colleagues, here are some recommendations for focusing your journey mapping efforts and getting the best bang for your buck:

  • Draw a journey mapping objectives bulls-eye. "Improving the customer experience" is a horrendously bad objective for a journey mapping initiative--you don't need a journey map to do that. In addition, a laundry list of meaningless platitudes ("streamline the process") isn't any better. You will have multiple objectives, but they're not all equal--one has to be the primary objective, and sit in the middle of the bulls-eye so everyone knows what you're aiming for. Quantifying a reduction in cycle time, increase in close ratio, or decrease in transaction or interaction processing costs is what goes into the center of the bulls-eye. Other objectives are important, but go in the outer rings.
  • Streamline the journey mapping exercise. You don't need four to six months to do journey mapping. And documenting every possible step in every possible channel across every possible type of customer isn't the goal. Plan for the exercise to take two months, centered around a one-day journey mapping "off-site" meeting. One month before the mapping off-site, identify and define the major components of the process, define customer personas, and develop a survey to be fielded with personnel involved in the process to assess the strengths, weaknesses, gaps, issues, and opportunities regarding the process. In the three weeks leading up to the off-site, analyze the results of the survey and prep for the off-site. The day of the off-site should focus on completing the journey maps and refining the list of gaps and opportunities. Use the month after the meeting to refine and prioritize the opportunity list.
  • Hold off on doing consumer surveys (at first). Many firms like to jump right into journey mapping by surveying their customers. What could be bad about getting the "voice of the customer," right? Two potential problems here: 1) At the outset of the process, a customer survey about a process might be a fishing expedition for problems that your staff already about, and 2) A customer survey excludes people who went through a sales-related process but didn't become a customer. Wait until after the journey mapping exercise before conducting customer surveys, so those surveys can help make prioritization decisions instead of just identifying processes and problems.
  • Focus on the pain points. Journey mapping efforts often attempt to capture consumers' moods during the process, mapping the "highs" and "lows" from an emotional perspective. If it makes you feel better to do that, knock yourself out. The real challenge is finding specific pain points, and those pain points can be those felt by the customer/prospect or by employees. Eliminate or alleviate the pain points in the process and you've made progress. Trying to "delight" the customer/prospect is a nice concept, but a waste of time. The only time you're really going to "delight" a mortgage applicant is when you approve the application.
  • Map opportunities by complexity and impact. It's a shame to see so many organizations spend months on mapping the current process. The hard work is (and should be) in prioritization and implementation planning, not process mapping. Journey mapping often produces a long list of opportunities, and many firms are tempted to tackle them in the order of the process. Bad move. Take the opportunities you've defined and slot them into a 2x2 matrix along two dimensions: Impact (low to high) and Complexity (low to high). Three things should emerge: 1) A clearer picture of which opportunities will have the biggest bang for the buck; 2) A better sense for which part(s) of the process will have a bigger impact if fixed; and 3) Better alignment and agreement among the management team for what to do going forward. 
  • Find Waldo. Remember the Where's Waldo series of books? In a complicated mess of animated figures on the page, there was one Waldo. Finding Waldo during a journey mapping exercise is about finding the one thing that if you did--and nothing else--would still produce significant process improvements. Waldo is what my credit union CEO friend was asking for. The journey mapping team has to find Waldo.

Every management improvement approach that has come along in the past 35 years has been over-hyped, and journey mapping, apparently, is no different. In addition, the early "experts" in each of those approaches all point to the need for senior management support, and journey mapping, apparently, is no different.

I was there at the beginning of the reengineering revolution in the late 80s/early 90s, and remember every consulting firm coming out with a methodology for how reengineering was supposed to be done. Here's what I learned: there was no "science" there, and there was (and is) no science to any of the other management techniques that have come out since (see Knowledge Management). The only methodology that works is the one that gets to results the quickest for your organization.

It's fine to start with some consulting firm's methodology, but you should push on them to customize it to your needs. Hoping these six steps help you do it.

I want to thank my colleagues Ryan Brogan and Ryan Myers who are the real journey mapping experts at Cornerstone Advisors, and whose methodology and experiences I drew on (and bastardized) for this post.

Ron Shevlin
Director of Research
Cornerstone Advisors