• Donald Davis

8 of the Most Powerful Customer Journey Mapping Steps

Don Davis PhD, MBA

Customer Journey Maps are not just a buzzword. They are a useful tool in taking others along on the journey that your customer experiences.  A customer journey map is also a great way to sketch out the feelings of both highs and lows that a customer experiences so that you can clearly illustrate the feelings of your customer to people in your organization that cannot take a field trip to experience it themselves. 

The most valuable thing that anyone at a company can have is substantial customer input.  Understanding a customer’s perspective in many companies will help you overcome the stagnate or possibly short-sided views of individuals so that you can solve more significant company problems.  In Lean, there is a term Genchi Genbutsu which translates to “real location, real thing,” and frequently, this statement is simplified down to “go and see.”  If at all possible, get out of the office and “go and see.”  Calling people is fine but immerse yourself in this journey.  

At the beginning of your journey, before you ask a customer the first question, you need to understand “why” you need a customer journey map.  Some of the examples I have seen from companies I have worked with are: 1. We are working on a transformation of one part of the organization and we need the customer’s perspective to ensure we are changing the right things.  2. We want to build tremendous customer satisfaction with their experience with the company.  3. We are building a product, and from the start, we need the customers’ perspective to ensure customer buy-in.  

In the eight steps below, we are going to walk through some high-level portions of the customer journey.  Customer journey mapping is not a simulation, and it is not you sitting somewhere trying to think like your customer.  This may be obvious to some of you, but I feel like it needs to be said, Get out there and ask your customers!

1. Setting Things Up

Suppose you are going to ask a customer for their valuable time.  Why should they give it to you?  Make sure that you are going to take action.  If not, please do not start this process.  It takes time and energy on your part, but it will be a harsh reminder that you do not follow through with your customers if you do not take action.  

Try this:

Write out why your customers should give you their time.  Describe why you want to interview them and how you are going to put it in action. 

Write out what you are going to do to follow up with them and let them know how you have used their input. 

Work with your stakeholders to identify customers that you should interview.  

When setting up the interviews with customers, describe the “WIFM” (What is in it for me?).  What you are trying to do and how you hope to use the data?

2. Personas

Who is buying your product?  Who is calling in for customer service?  Who is it that makes all of the decisions about what is most valuable, from the customers perspective?  Is the person that you are focused on biased in one way or another from the start of the journey?

Understanding the personas will give solid input about the point of view that your customer holds of your company.  As you think about this starting point, stay focused on what your customers goals are within their persona (i.e. is the goal of something they purchased to improve productivity in their department?  Maybe they are measured on good outcomes based on what you are offering). Understanding what the goals of the different personas are is key in this process.  

Try this:

Create a list of personas and validate that list with other people in your company.

While you are interviewing customers on their journey validate your list of personas.

3. Where does the customer journey start?

How does your customer begin whatever journey you are mapping?  If it is a sales process, how do they get in touch with Sales?  What is that experience like?  Is it via email, a phone call or do they reach out via SMS

As someone who has led service teams in the past, I have seen where customers will go around call centers to avoid the initial screening that goes on to try and direct them to the right person.  Instead, customers want to directly reach out to a person.  In many cases this could be someone who is routinely on the phone or working directly on solving problems.  If the journey starts with going around the process that you are looking at, it is time to ask why?

Try this:

Ask a customer to show you what it is like to start the process with your company.  Capture what it takes and especially capture the mood of the customer as they go through the process.

4. Follow the Customers Footprints

At each step in the customer journey you want to gain the customers perspetive, through their eyes.  What are the major steps and how are they feeling about that portion of the process?  

Try this:

Ask a customer to show you.  There is nothing more validating than getting to see what your customer is seeing.   I am writing this at the time that COVID-19 has many of us locked up.  Ask a customer to screen share with you.  Interview them with video and watch their facial expressions.  

Develop a high level process map with steps and feelings from start to finish for the customer journey. 

Have one person capture notes with the customer while another asks questions.

One of my favorite shows as a kid was Columbo.  For those of you who have not watched it there are episodes on YouTube and from my perspective it is classic TV worth watching.  Columbo was a detective and while investigating the case he often times would start asking questions of a suspect.  The scene then would turn to just when you thought Columbo was walking away.  He would then turn and say “just one more thing” and then the most important question of all would come out of him.  

As you go through your interviews think of yourself as Columbo.  You are trying to solve what excites your customer about your company and what could be improved.  Use your detective skills to really dive into what is going on.  

5. Capture the detail

After the initial interview is over make sure you take time to capture the details.  I would plan at least one hour per interview to clean up your notes and walk through the interview in your mind to ensure that you have fully outlined what is happening and when.  

Try this: 

For every customer meeting you schedule make sure you plan time to capture the detail after the call.  Schedule at least one hour per interview to think through what you just heard.  Write down the details and try to adequately capture the valuable information you have just been given. 

Raw notes about the customer experience are what we need at this point.  Walk through the steps and what the customer was doing. Did you get all of the information that they gave you?

6. Build the story

When you search online for customer journey map templates you will find hundreds of different ways to capture what you have just learned from your customer.  In large part these are summary templates for telling your story.  I personally use Visio or PowerPoint to build a customer journey map for a client.  No matter how you do it there are a couple of details you want to make sure are in the materials for telling the story:  A high level process map, an area to talk about what you observed and a place to show the customer emotion (Note: PowerPoint now has icons that you can use for all sorts of emotions).  

Try this:

Google customer journey map templates.  After you review a few of them print out some versions that you like.

Build your template in either Microsoft Visio or Powerpoint. 

7. Build what the future will look like

As you fast forward to the future what do you want to change?  Is there one major pain point in the customer experience that needs to be changed?  Can you change or shift something that the customer is experiencing from a real downer to something that will end with a flat or upward emotional feeling?  How can you build real excitement about what the customer is doing with you?  How can you make sure that their next step will leave a positive emotion behind?  If you could time travel into the future 3 years from now what do you want customers to be saying about your process or your product? 

Try this:

Hold a team brainstorming session.  What do you want to remove or significantly change?

Use this future looking exercise time to develop the “guiding principles” for the future state customer journey.

8. Comunicate, Communicate, Communicate

Your customer has just provided you with absolute gold, their point of view.  Too many times this information is just shared with one department or even worse, one individual.  In this step you need to get out there and share with people that are on your project what was just given to you.  To use Stephen Covey’s analogy of the circle of influence, you need to be communicating to your circle of control, circle of influence and circle of concern what you learned from your customer. 

Try this:

After building your story setup meetings with people all around your circle of influence to talk about the findings.  

Start to build how you are going to put your findings into action.

Don’t forget to circle back when the time is appropriate and tell the customers you interviewed what you have done with what they told you.  

Now that you have the 8 steps for building a customer journey map, get out there and give it a try.  

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