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Customer Journey Mapping: Waste Of Time Or Excellent Investment?

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Two options with blank road signs

Each customer has a story to tell, one that can be invaluable to an organization in understanding that customer’s needs and expectations in order to better build its business. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it can be all but impossible to find out what that story is. Typically, it comes in the form of disconnected data points or anecdotes that serve more to obscure the narrative than to reveal it. Each of those episodes can tell part of the story of the customer’s journey with a business, but in isolation none of them can tell the whole story.

For customer-focused businesses it matters, because understanding the customer’s story can reveal gaps and pain points that can undermine the customer relationship or even end it altogether if frustrations are allowed to go on unchecked.

That is where Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) comes in. By weaving the isolated elements of the customer’s journey into a comprehensive narrative, CJM is a tool that can shine a light on the goals people have and the questions they ask, as well as how they move through the buying process.

Not everyone has joined the CJM bandwagon, of course, with some business leaders taking a wait-and-see approach to what they suspect may be just another short-lived trend and perhaps a waste of time. For others, however, the insights to be gained from mapping the customer journey have all the markings of an excellent investment.

Understanding that journey, they reason, not only reveals pain points that can then be remedied, but also unrecognized opportunities for maximizing strengths. Either way, those discoveries can point the business toward actionable items that can enhance customer loyalty and yield greater profits.

How to get from here to there.

As the name implies, a customer journey map is a visual rendering of a customer’s pathway through his or her entire experience with a business. By turning the various engagements and transactions into a comprehensive graphic representation, an organization gains an overview not otherwise available. The map can take the form of an infographic or perhaps a flowchart, but in every case it assembles the various, sometimes disparate, contact points of the customer’s journey into a readily understood graphic.

Fortunately, most businesses today already have much of the data and information needed to begin crafting the story, as Yariv Mendelson, Vice President of Sales at nanorep, explained in a recent Blog post. Customer journey mapping begins with research, he noted, but given the large amount of data about customers that most businesses already have these days, the research doesn’t have to be onerous. Much of the information will already be available through the company’s Customer Relations Management system in the form of customer analytics reports and user reports. Other key sources of information include social media and the personal, anecdotal reports of interactions from front-line employees. These can go beyond the numbers and begin to humanize the customer relationship in important ways.

Putting all of that information into a useful graphic format might seem daunting, but the reality is there are countless templates available online through a simple search, regardless of the specific elements any business chooses to map. There’s no need at all to forgo CJM out of fear that it means reinventing the wheel. One useful resource that breaks it all down into a step-by-step process is UX Mastery, a site intended for designers but with accessible CJM information that can be adapted to many different businesses.

Where might customer journey mapping lead?

Given that today’s digital consumer at times begins a transaction through one digital channel or with one device and completes it through another, mapping can be a powerful tool for refining the digital experience. Is there consistency in the customer experience – and customer satisfaction – among the various channels in use, when moving from website to mobile app or a phone call to a rep, for example? Does the experience the customer have on a smartphone comport with the experience via a social media page or the internet?

The answers can point to sources of frustration that can turn off a customer, and they can help point towards desirable remedies.Who hasn’t had the experience of getting one answer from the sales department of an organization and another, contradictory one from customer service or accounting?

When all staff members are drawing on the same information and equally committed to the customer’s journey, it’s far less likely that the organization will stumble and alienate the customer.

Learning from history.

The familiar maxim is that those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it, and that’s no less true when it comes to the personal histories brought to light through CJM.

As much as the information made visible through mapping can influence real-time decision making within an organization, it can also identify historic patterns that can be valuable predictors of future behavior, both on the individual level and a more global one that attempts to understand the collective behavior of customers.

And that may be the most compelling reason of all for a business to adopt a CJM system. If each customer journey map tells a customer’s unique story, it also provides a business with the information needed to learn from history in order to extend that story further and further.