This is the second in a 3-part blog series covering the role of the customer decision journey map in designing the optimal customer experience and how modern companies can stay on top of this dynamic and vital tool for marketing excellence.
In the previous post in this series, we discussed what a customer decision journey map is and why it’s an important element of creating an optimal customer experience. In Part Three, we’ll look into how these same guiding principles for customer experience design using customer journey maps apply on an international scale.
Today, we’ll get into the details of how to actually create and maintain a useful customer decision journey map.
How to create a customer decision journey map
Creating a customer journey map requires a focused study involving carefully crafted customer interviews, and strategic segmentation.
The first and foremost requirement for building a useful customer decision journey map is to actually talk to the customer.
This seems very simple, but it’s a step too many companies skip because they assume they know what their customers are going to say. But that’s a short-sighted and dangerous attitude.
As we noted in the previous post, one of the main reasons customer experience design is so necessary and so challenging is because of the rapid rate of change affecting businesses around the world. No company can safely assume that their current or future customers are going to continue to follow patterns that were noted yesterday, let alone last year. Digitization, improved access to information and data, globalization, and regulation changes are some of the many factors which lead to constantly changing customer needs and buying processes.
Understanding the customer experience and building a journey map must begin with an in-depth conversation with as many live customers as possible to get a large pool of answers from which to draw conclusions. To make the process effective, we recommend speaking to multiple examples of each type of customer (various sizes, business models, etc.) and multiple stakeholders within the customer firm. It is also important to speak to external influencers in the value-chain who may have a significant role in the end-user experience and their decision-making process.
When speaking to the customer, it’s best to set up separate time outside of the normal course of business to have this discussion. Don’t use this conversation as a sales call or get defensive about a customer response. Listen more than speak and take copious notes.
We have found the most effective method for the interview is to use broad, open-ended questions that allow the customer to tell their story without inadvertent guidance from the interviewer. Then, probe into various aspects of that story to pull out additional detail. The more details, the better, as often the true insight about a customer need or experience gap doesn’t come after the first question.
As the customer moves through their story, the interviewer should focus attention on information sources, types of data, other players in the journey, and specific pain points the customer reveals.
Now that all the customer interviews have been completed, it’s time for analysis. The data must be broken down into manageable groupings that make sense for your particular business needs. If you have a customer segmentation in place, review each segments’ responses together. If there is no existing segmentation in place, look for patterns in how seemingly similar customers make decisions differently or have a different set of needs, and group interview data accordingly.
Once you have identified the customer groupings, create a journey map (or multiple journey maps) that is representative of the customer grouping.
The main point of this exercise, is to be able to view your valuable research data through the right lens so that your company can accurately determine what steps your customers take on their individual journeys. Given the complexity of the market conditions and dynamic nature of business, expect to identify multiple customer journeys and experiences through this process.
While the basic guidelines we’ve covered here apply to every journey map project, it’s important to note that each project should be approached as a brand new effort. Start from scratch and customize each mapping study so that preconceived assumptions don’t effect the value of the finished product.
It’s also important to remember that the journey map itself is simply a tool with which professionals can identify gaps in the customer experience so they can be filled. Simply creating a customer decision journey map and letting it sit in a drawer is of no value at all.
How to maintain a customer decision journey map
While it’s tempting, once a quality journey map has been built, to frame it and consider it the textbook for customer interactions from that day forward, this is unrealistic at best.
Just as the customer experience is a dynamic event, the customer decision journey map is a living document. Once you make improvements that address experience gaps and customer needs, the map in its current iteration becomes outdated. It is vital for forward-thinking companies who are emphasizing customer experience and marketing excellence to arrange a means of continually collecting customer insights and analyzing them.
That way, real-time adjustments can be made and the map and customer experience can continually be improved.