Saturday, October 4, 2014

Let’s use this post to summarize what we’ve covered over the last several months, and then set the stage for an extended discussion focusing on the development and use of customer journey maps.  In my opinion, journey maps are the must-have tool for a customer experience manager because they capture the customer’s perspective on how he or she interacts with your company.  As a result, journey maps play a critical role in informing the strategies of not only customer experience, but also those of marketing, product development, public relations, and any other part of the organization that directly or indirectly touches a customer. 

So, as a new CX manager, we had two strategic challenges to address: 1) establish credibility for a new initiative that, in many companies, is greeted with some skepticism; 2) under the heading of “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” we needed to develop a method for systematically capturing customer feedback and then acting on that information to resolve immediate problems and prevent future recurrences.  We reasoned that implementing an initial customer feedback approach would also help us in establishing the credibility of CX.

To recap, let’s again look briefly at each of the key components of our CX foundation that’s built on customer feedback and problem resolution:

We started with an initial assessment of the customer landscape guided by the question... “what is the state of key CX performance?”.  In this case, some basic assessment items include any recent customer research, with a particular eye on satisfaction and loyalty metrics that might be available.  Coming across a recent industry satisfaction report, we learned that our company trailed most competitors on a variety of service and product metrics, and that the underperformance was especially apparent in specific sales territories as well as in some key service channels.  As a result, we now had a reasonably good high-level understanding of some customer (and company) pain-points. 

We then determined whether the company as whole, or any individual department or business unit maintained some type of issue resolution method focused on identifying and responding to sources of dissatisfaction at the individual customer level.  As suspected, this key CX component, “the foundation”  as we call it, was not in place.  Barring a more urgent finding, we had a pretty good idea at this point that developing the company’s CX foundation would be our first major undertaking.

Our next step in the assessment was to arrange personal discussions with a few selected staff.  Our interviews included customer-facing employees, as well as back-office staff who have a supporting connection with the front-line.  We also talked to a few vendors who are involved in some way with contributing to the company’s customer offerings.  

Finally, we synthesized our initial findings using a one page summary capturing the most salient customer facing issues.  From this, we used Forrester’s Customer Experience Maturity Assessment (1) to determine where our company stands on the customer centricity continuum.

As we initially thought, the design and implementation of a robust customer feedback system would serve as our starting point.  Indeed, customer feedback, and the objective interpretation of this information is the lifeblood of a strong customer experience undertaking.  Together with the introduction of a transaction survey, we also implemented the problem solving process...these two items serve as the foundation of our CX initiative. 

Recall that our transaction survey was a modest undertaking in that we focused on collecting feedback from a single customer journey…the online purchase process.  Too much data can be overwhelming to work with, so starting with results from a single transaction type will facilitate the development of potential responses that we may need to develop.  Effective responses will, in turn, contribute to the credibility for CX that we’re initially wanting to establish in the organization.
Lastly, remember that our problem solving method consists of two components: 1) an immediate (tactical) reply to a dissatisfied customer and the presentation of resolution to their problem, or an appeasement if appropriate; 2) in cases where the source of customer dissatisfaction is due to a systemic issue in the organization, a (strategic) decision to potential develop a more permanent solution that will prevent the dissatisfaction from recurring.

Now let’s turn to a brief introduction of customer journey mapping.  At its simplest level, a journey map is a visual depiction of how a particular customer type (a Persona) interacts with your organization throughout the course of a particular transaction or event.  As the name implies, a journey has a defined beginning and end, which represent the logical starting and completion points of the transaction.  Again, at its simplest level, the journey map captures the “jobs” the customer is attempting to complete as she proceeds through the event…we’ll explore the concept of “jobs” in a lot more detail in a future post.  

Beyond a basic depiction of the customer’s interactions, the journey map can become more informative by including what Forrester Research describes as the customer “ecosystem”(2)…that is, capturing the complete environment of employees, vendors, technologies, and marketing communications that enable the customer’s transaction.  Visualizing the ecosystem allows for a fuller understanding of the strong and weak points of how a customer experiences the particular transaction, and this facilitates the development of corrective actions and enhancements to the process.

It’s important to also note that a journey map’s use should not be limited to the CX context.  A well developed map can serve to inform the strategies and tactics for marketing, I.T., public relations, advertising, product development, and any other organizational function that touches the customer in some way.  Over the course of the next several posts, we’ll discuss the various facets of journey mapping, including development, assessment, and most importantly, utilization for fixing customer experience issues as well as leveraging the insights from the map to proactively guide CX innovation.

(1) (2) From Outside-In, by Kerry Bodine and Harley Manning

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