How to navigate the customer journey

A conversation with customer experience expert Annette Franz

customer journey

Small missteps in customer service can cost companies dearly. More than a third of consumers globally say they would walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience; 60% won’t return if it happens a second time.

As a hedge against those scenarios, companies have long relied on customer-experience journey mapping to visualize all the major touchpoints where a customer might jump ship. Their ability to map customer journeys is improving rapidly thanks to the wealth of data available, including customer relationship analytics, real-time transaction surveys, behavior tracking, sentiment analysis, social media insights, and more.

In an interview with Workflow, Annette Franz, a customer experience consultant and CEO of CX Journey, explained why journey mapping is a critical and continual process of discovery.

What is the most common mistake you see companies make today when it comes to mapping the customer experience?

When I speak to business leaders, I ask, “How many of you journey map?” And all the hands go up. After I go through my presentation and take them through the process, I’ll ask again: “Who’s journey mapping?” And two hands go up.

Don’t view journey mapping as a project—it’s a continual process.

What most people are doing is “process mapping,” which is inside-out. It’s their perception of the customer experience. Or they’re “touchpoint mapping,” which is taking inventory of all the touchpoints in the customer lifecycle at a high level.

Journey mapping captures everything directly from the customer’s perspective. And that’s not happening very often.

Not that long ago, journey mapping was done with butcher paper and Post-It notes. How does it work now?

Journey mapping was, and still is, a visualization that allows us to walk in the shoes of customers as they interact with brands. But now we have access to so much more data that captures the voice, or sentiment, of the customer.

We’ve long had Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT), tied to various points of the journey, that show us the key moments where people drop out of the experience. Now we also have mountains of data on customer behavior and sentiment that we can integrate into the map.

We can also bring in internal data for a reality check. In a survey, a customer may say, “I waited 10 minutes to talk to someone. Why did it take so long?” But our internal data shows it actually took five minutes. That’s an aha moment, because even though we think we’re doing it quickly, customers don’t. Data lets us look at those perceptions and helps us redesign the experience. But it has to be the right data.

What is the right data for journey mapping?

The right data gives us what an individual customer might say, what problems they’re trying to solve. It gives us detail on a personal level so we can really understand them beyond demographics. One of the most common mistakes is starting with a target demographic, such as “men 18 to 49.” That doesn’t really help us.

When you’re mapping, you need to build customer personas, which are research-based—using market research, focus groups, surveys, data from your CRM. Some data is very helpful for the process, but some isn’t. For example, most companies do relationship surveys once a year. That data is how people remembered something from six months ago, so it’s not as fresh, and not as helpful.

Transactional surveys, on the other hand, are point-of-sale feedback or surveys taken immediately after a customer service call. They tell us what the customer might say, what problems they’re trying to solve, what they’re feeling, hearing, and seeing. It’s going to give us detail on a personal level so we can really understand them beyond demographics.

Haven’t companies always had access to this kind of feedback from surveys and focus groups?

Yes, but now we have so much more. Before we might have had feedback from a focus group of 30 people. Now we have data from 3,000, or 30,000, customers over a six-month period. We have their mobile and web behavior, their social media activity. That scale of data adds credibility and validity, and lets us use our journey map much more analytically. You can build much more detail into your personas to add color and bring the map to life.

Once you’ve completed your mapping, how do companies get the most value out of it?

Don’t view journey mapping as a project—it’s a continual process. It needs to be shared and socialized among all stakeholders who impact the customer journey. You’ve got to look at your current processes to understand where things are broken and why, and then look at what’s happening behind the scenes to support the customer experience. Then you’ve got to do future-state mapping, which is designing the new experience for the future.

You have to focus on affecting change. For example, you can find out if employees don’t have the right tools or processes, or weren’t trained properly, to deliver the experience that the customer is expecting.

With fresh data flowing in all the time, you can constantly update your journey map so it reflects the current customer experience. It’s a living, breathing tool. As your customers’ experience and expectations change, so should the map.