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How To Map Your Most Critical Customer Journeys Blog Feature
John Zimmerer

By: John Zimmerer on June 16th, 2015

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How To Map Your Most Critical Customer Journeys

Customer Experience | Customer Journey

We've discussed the customer life cycle quite a bit, referring to the entirety of a customer's relationship with your company, from discovering your brand to purchasing a product or service, to using the product or service, to sharing about the experience and beyond. You should always be aware of that overall life cycle, along with all the people, processes and technologies that service customers at each touchpoint along the way.

However, sometimes you need to dive in more deeply and take a closer look at a very specific customer/company interaction and map out that particular customer journey to see what works and what doesn't from the customer's point of view. Do this periodically for most critical customer journeys – the ones that most directly impact your business objectives and/or potentially contribute to customer experience gaps that lead to customer attrition.

critical customer journey

For example, for a cell phone customer, upgrading a phone before the contract is up might be a frustrating process and a negative customer experience that leads people to choose a difference carrier next time (and worse for the brand, tell others to stay away from of the carrier next time (and worse for the brand, tell others to stay away from the carrier as well). For an auto insurance customer, the claims process is a critical customer journey that is often difficult and frustrating to navigate; a bad experience there is a good reason to look at other insurers. In healthcare, perhaps a hospital systems loses repeat business due to patients becoming irritated when trying to make an appointment with a confusing interactive voice response (IVR) phone menu system after having difficulty making contact through other channels.

Why You Should Map Critical Customer Journeys

There are countless places in critical journeys where CX is inexcusably bad and companies are losing customers as a result, but those companies will never know when or why those losses are happening if they don't take the time to map out their critical customer journeys, identify the gaps in service and communication, and take steps to fix the issues.

Have you ever done a "SWOT" analysis? SWOT stand for strength, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. Organization perform SWOT analyses as part of structured planning initiatives. That's essentially what you're doing when you're mapping out a critical customer journey – you're looking for what you're doing right (so you can do more of that), what you're not doing well (so you can fix it), what opportunities might be easy to exploit, and what stands in the way of accomplishing your CX goals in this particular area.

Selecting A Journey Map Template Or Model

Begin by selecting or creating a customer journey-mapping template. There are plenty available to use at little or no cost, and there are many publishing examples that will help guide you through the mapping process. 

Examples: 

Once you have a template and/or model that suits your needs, begin plotting out your most critical journey first –the one that not only has the most direct impact on your business objectives, but also is where you get the most complaints or where you lose the most customers or where your employees tell you the most confusion and frustration occurs. If at all possible, look outside of your own department, especially when a customer's journey clearly crosses your organizational boundaries.customer experience goals

Your goal is to use this mapping tool to evaluate the three E’s of CXease, effectiveness, and emotion. You want to know not only what happens to your customer at various touchpoints, but how they feel about their experience with you. Examine your findings to identify ways to align your internal resources with the customers' needs and your company's business goals.

Ask Lots Of Questions

When you map a customer journey, you're taking a walk in your customer’s shoes, examining the experience he or she might have while traveling a critical journey with your brand. As you do do ask many, many questions to get at the heart of what it feels like to be your customer trying to get information or issue resolution.

  • Why might the customer need to interact with your organization at this stage in their relationship with you?
  • When they do need to reach you, what channels are available to them to make contact?
  • How easy is it for them to find the best way to contact you?
  • Who will answer them, and what date will the company's representative have available to help solve the customer's problem?
  • What happens if there's a secondary problem?
  • What is the process for escalation?
  • How do you know if a problem is resolved to your customer's satisfaction?

Build a through picture of your current system's strengths and weaknesses to identify the gaps and opportunities that exist today.

Next Up: Walk Through The Process With Us

In a furture article, we'll map out an example critical journey – the insurance claims process – to demonstrate how journey mapping works and what to do with the insights a typical critical journey map might provide.

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About John Zimmerer

John Zimmerer is the senior director of marketing at Topdown, where he leads market research and outreach efforts for the company's customer communications and customer experience products. Most recently, John has been researching and writing about the future direction of the technologies that power customer experience, and is regarded as a thought leader in this area. John has nearly 20 years of software product marketing experience. His areas of expertise include market research, analyst relations, public relations and digital marketing.

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