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Don’t Map Your Customer Journeys… Listen to Them

I love strategy. I’m the one who pushes for a plan before action, and I advocate the same with my clients. I've created my fair share of strategic recommendations for customers and each time I've believed in the value they could bring.

But I’ll be the first to say “don’t bother” with strategy if you don’t intend to commit to the hard work executing on what the strategy requires. If the strategy is intended to create and inspire vision, further action might not be needed. But if the strategy’s intent is to drive change, then it won’t bring any value by sitting on a shelf.

Lately, with the ever-increasing and much needed focus on improving customer experience, it’s hard to ignore the uptick in customer journey mapping services. It's the latest buzz in digital circles. I recently saw the phrase printed in big bold letters on an SI’s vendor booth at a conference. Buzz, buzz.

Journey map visuals can be complex and intriguing to look at. They ooze in “cool-factor” as far as visuals go. And they have several upsides as a strategy – here are just a few. 

  • They can be pivotal in generating interdepartmental dialogue – so critical in our age of customer experience.  
  • They can raise awareness to gaps customers may face in your business. 
  • They quickly reveal just how many separate and disparate systems an organization has that create a fractured customer experience. 

Yet, there’s an inherent risk in spending time and money on customer journey maps (or any strategy for that matter) – failing to act on them.

Sometimes not following through on a strategy is a priority issue – teams are unable to execute because of a lack of upper management support and funding. Other times it’s "paralysis by analysis" due to the sheer complexity and overwhelming amount of scope that needs to be touched, changed, and executed.

With journey maps, I see a few additional hurdles that can get in the way of execution. 

  1. Based on assumptions.  Even when journey maps are informed by customer interviews, they’re based on the perspectives and experiences of subset of customers. And no two customers will behave in the exact same way. Therefore there is no single shared customer journey, but rather journey trends. Most journey maps leverage personas to define the customer audience. Personas, by their very nature, rely on assumptions in order to group customers into a small set of interest groups. When it comes to the real world of customer experience, assumptions and generalizations will only go so far. 
  2. Based on theory.  I’ve yet to see an organization with new shiny journey maps have either a tangible plan for how to connect all of their customer-facing systems and processes, or have a plan that can be realized and achieved within less-than-several years of tough integration and system overhauls. Journey maps clearly portray the need to connect systems as an underlying theory, but a journey map won’t tell you how to achieve it. This is the challenge for the future of CX – bridging the disparate system silos of today in order to gain visibility into how customers are actually moving between them.
  3. Based on business goals. Again, even when customers are involved in journey map discovery, the temptation to look through the business lens is far too strong. I’ve done it myself. When journey maps mimic lead gen funnel stages, they risk missing the customer’s perspective completely. 

(For more on how the lead gen funnel is being impacted by our present age of the customer, watch for my future post responding to claims for the funnel to die.) 

The funnel can be a great communication vehicle between marketing and sales. But please, please don’t try to push it beyond those conversations. Customers don't care about how your business is structured or which one of your conversion goals they fall into. They don’t want to be thought of as a "lead" for you to convert and then to sell. Customers have real needs and their own very real goals. Do you know what they are? 

Thankfully, there is a solution to each of these challenges. And it’s one I’m pretty excited about.  

Thunderhead's ONE Engagement Hub addresses each of these issues head on. ONE is a quick-to-deploy, light-touch, truly omni-channel cloud solution that sits above all channels, departments and technologies where you may be having conversations with customers – web, mobile web, mobile apps, call centers, outbound mail, in-store, physical, email, and social.

ONE enables your organization to listen to your customers while they are on their own journey across your various disconnected systems, learn from their needs, and engage with them in relevant conversations in real time. 

ONE leaps over the journey mapping hurdles by moving you. . .  

  1. From assumptions. . . to Actual Customer Interactions  Placing ONE’s simple and lightweight listening agent across your various online and offline systems creates a powerful journey visualization of actual customer journey interactions and flows between those systems. ONE’s Journey Analytics feature provides the means to watch customers move beyond the silos of campaign content, sales agent interactions, or post-sale support and observe their actual, not assumed, journey over time. 
  2. From theory. . . to Connected Channels  ONE assigns a unique Thunderhead ID, or TID, for each customer on each system or channel. Once a customer is recognized in ONE, based on customer keys you configure that are linked to a single customer profile, the multiple TIDs are then linked to one customer profile, giving you a truly complete omni-channel view of how a customer is behaving across your systems and channels. All without changing your existing technologies. 
  3. From business goals. . . to Customer Goals Thunderhead’s mantra is "It's their journey, not yours." The information you glean from ONE’s journey visualization and customer profile feature helps you learn over time how your customers move, engage, and interact. Only then are you equipped to tailor your view of the journey from your customers’ perspective. And because you’ve been listening to your customers’ interactions, you’re able to leverage ONE’s optimization features to design, test, and publish rules that deliver optimization assets and messages to your various systems providing meaningful and valuable conversations wherever your customers are on their journey. 

ONE gathers insights about key interactions with customers and provides automated and informed recommendations around future information and/or conversations that will be most relevant to a single customer’s needs and interests. To that end, ONE performs real-time optimization based on a powerful “decisioning” engine, versus the static personalization rules most tools rely on today. The insights and conversations that ONE facilitates can be shared with an existing CRM or call center application providing sales and support staff with a rich subset of customer information, activities and interests. 

My firm, Aware Web Solutions, is one of Thunderhead’s initial North American partnerships. I’ve had the privilege to go deep into the ONE platform over the past six months while showcasing its transformative features to clients, and their amazement and enthusiasm is evident. Their need to improve the full lifecycle of the customer experience across a diverse and independent set of systems is very real, but they’ve never before known how. Until ONE.  

I unabashedly believe that ONE is positioned to provide some serious disruption and transformation toward improving customer experience. 

Let ONE and Aware show you how - contact Aware

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