Is NOW the right time for customer journey mapping?

This article is the last in our series about customer journey mapping (CJM). Below is the full list. If you'd like to hear more, go ahead and sign up for our CJM webinar on Feb 24 at 12:30PM Eastern. As a webinar bonus you'll receive the whole series as an e-book.

  1. What is CJM? 
  2. Seven benefits of customer journey mapping 
  3. Best practices for customer journey mapping
  4. Is NOW the right time for CJM? [below]

CJM now!

Okay, you've bought in! What's not to like about customer journey mapping? It answers the question: “How does my customer experience the relationship with my company?” It "has enormous top-line and bottom-line potential for your organization." It draws out emotions that allow you to connect more meaningfully with customers.

But... Is there a but? Should everyone be doing CJM?

Of course not. Like any transformative endeavor, CJM requires support and resources. Here is the checklist, and below is discussion of what it means with Michael Dolenko, co-head of Phase 5’s innovation practice and customer journey mapping expert.

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A clear understanding of the customer's view

Question: What's the starting point? When do you know it's time to start thinking about customer journey mapping?

Michael: This will often happen when I'm working with a client on their research road map for the next year. We're talking about the big picture, about the key business problems that they might want to get market input on, and we start talking about customer intuition. The question is, "If you were to ask your functional leaders, would they say they have good intuition about how customers encounter Acme Company's products, and why they choose Acme, or don't choose Acme? Do they know customers' pain points and emotions as they go through that process, how they feel as they use the product, or get help with it?"

At some companies the answer is going to be no. They might have good insight into one part of the relationship -- say, onboarding -- but not the entire process. If that's the case and you have broad agreement that understanding the big-picture customer viewpoint could be of use to Acme, then that's a good starting point for thinking about customer journey mapping.

Hunches about problems

Michael (continuing): At the same time that the functional leadership feels like they need the customer's viewpoint, they'll almost always have hunches about things that aren't right. For example, they might say, "I'm concerned that our after-sales service is hurting new sales by giving us a bad reputation and also driving away repeat customers."

That's a hunch. It's not a classic research question, where you're wanting to make a decision and you need research insights to inform that decision. It's something fuzzier -- but it's important nonetheless. If you have a situation where you have a couple strong hunches, along with this general feeling of being a little out-of-touch with the customer view of your category, then that's a strong hint that customer journey mapping might be beneficial.

Wanted: Strong journey mapping project manager

Question: So let's say you've met those conditions. Who should lead the research?

Michael: At the tactical level, any customer journey mapping project needs a go-to person within the organization. There can be a team to help divide the work, but the team needs a recognized leader. The go-to person can work with outside consultants, but the outside consultants cannot replace the go-to person -- it has to be an insider. The go-to person should have good relationships around the organization to be able to exercise influence without power.

And here's why - because your go-to person is responsible for some key organizational activities:

  • Keeping the executive sponsor abreast of progress and developments in the journey mapping
  • Gathering research hypotheses from the different business functions and making sure functional leaders are involved in their part of the map
  • Selecting and managing internal staff and/or outside vendors to advise on process, do data gathering, and analyze results

This go-to person is usually found in internal consulting, an insights group, or a customer experience group. The right person can usually be found, but I stress the importance of the role because sometimes no one actually bothers to go and find that right person and make sure they can be allocated as needed to execute the project. You'll see undertakings where several people are put on the project part-time, with no one making final, day-to-day decisions. That's not a situation you want to be in.

Research capacity

Michael [continuing]: But that doesn't mean that you have to do the entire customer journey map with internal resources. One of the early assessments, in fact, needs to be where you are going to get your research capacity, your customer research capacity.

The biggest mistake you find on the research side of customer journey mapping is that companies simply fail to do it. They get started on the project. They do a lot of internal interviews to develop hypotheses: "This is what we think our customer journey looks like."

And then they stop.

Maybe it's a budget constraint. Maybe the maps look good enough. But there are organizations out there that claim to have customer journey maps that they have created without talking to any customers.

And that's really unfortunate. Because all that internal work, that's a good foundation. It gets the organizational creativity flowing. It develops hypotheses that you can test with customers, but it's not the customer's view of the world. Customer research is the core of CJM that you can't live without.

So make sure that you have the capacity internally, or that you have the budget to go externally, to complete robust research with the right customers and to digest the findings.

Executive sponsorship

Michael [continuing]: Of course in most cases you're not going to get the internal resources or the budget without executive sponsorship. And executive sponsorship is worth a lot more than just budget dollars. Even though I'm talking about it last, it's the cornerstone of a successful project. Everything else hinges on it.

Think about the starting point we talked about: seeing your company through your customer's lenses. The executive sponsor is going to be the one who says loudly enough to get people's attention, "It's true. We're not thinking like customers today. We're not thinking from the perspective of the journey that our customer takes to find us." And just acknowledging that reality can be pretty important.

Or the hunches. The executive sponsor will have visibility across more of the organization and will have strong hunches about what is working and what is not. Following those hunches is vital to creating a journey with actionable results.

We find that companies with an enthusiastic executive supporter create more robust customer journey maps and implement the findings more deeply into their organizations. They can see across the silos and make necessary changes that might be unpopular within a particular part of the organization.

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Again, this article is the last in our series about customer journey mapping (CJM). For more, please sign up for our CJM webinar in February  and we'll send you the whole series as an e-book after the webinar.

Customer journey mapping (CJM) series:

  1. What is CJM? 
  2. Seven benefits of customer journey mapping 
  3. Best practices for customer journey mapping
  4. Is NOW the right time for CJM?

Written by Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen, MBA, is the President of Phase 5 US. With almost 2 decades of experience in client-side marketing strategy, market research, and product management, Steve brings a client’s mindset and drive for actionable results to each project. He has extensive experience in capturing the view “from the outside” with a special focus on product and service innovation. Steve is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.