We are in the era of customer-centricity – in all its manifestations.
In a nutshell
- Customer experience has become a core focus in business, despite the fact that the jury is still out in many companies as to where in the organisation customer experience sits.
- Tools have evolved to enable companies to become more customer-centric, one of these is journey mapping.
- Successful journey mapping takes into account the context and emotions of a customer's life, and their unique perspective as opposed to the organisation's.
By which we mean focusing on the customer’s needs and putting customers at the centre of the company’s thinking. Further, some companies have truly adopted a more compassionate and empathetic way of being in regard to those they serve – their customers. By definition this requires a better understanding of what makes people tick, what they care about and what their lives are like and the rules that govern how they behave and make decisions.
Any new era or new way of thinking spawns new frameworks and tools to aid the development of theory, strategy and execution. Look back at any period in history and there will be examples of technology or systems that grew to meet the needs of the time. So too with customer-centricity, where there are a number of frameworks, models and tools that have evolved to drive customer-centricity within marketing, sales, operations, new product development and transformation teams.
There is plenty of evidence that performing well on customer experience is not an idealised altruistic goal but instead delivers a clear payback in terms of business lost or gained. Crudely put, it delivers dollars to the bottom line. So not surprisingly customer experience as a new function has become a core goal in business, despite the fact that the jury is still out in many companies as to where in the organisation customer experience sits.
Aside from these internal frameworks and the reorganisation of companies to become more customer-centric, external facing tools have also evolved. Two that dominate are journey mapping and voice of the customer (VOC) platforms.
The customer experience as a journey
When a framework or a metaphor rapidly becomes common currency, it’s not usually difficult to see why its meme rating is so high. People get it, it feels right, they can use it, it’s easy to communicate. And it helps if it is visual.
Customer experience journey maps meet all of these requirements. We understand maps – from the childhood memories of treasure maps to the excitement of getting out the atlas to plan the big OE – so we can see how the metaphor works, but why is it so powerful as a tool to represent customer experience?
There are two forces that together make customer experience appear to be linear, journey-like and therefore map-able.
The first is that the starting point for most companies when they look at customer experience is the company’s processes and touch points. By necessity these have an operationally sequenced structure.
The complexity of the processes often breaks these down into micro functions and touch points. Steps and stages are sequenced – one thing has to happen before the next stage and so on. The visual manifestation of this is linear with a start and a finish and therefore feels like a journey.
If we turn this inside out and look at it from the customer’s perspective instead, superficially the process also appears linear – something triggers the start of the process and their experience progresses along a path to purchase and at the end the experience has led them to a destination.
The definition of a journey may vary by the nature of the journey, but there is enough common understanding for us all to see that something with a start and a finish and that follows a linear process fits the definition. And a journey map is a great metaphor for showing the route.
So far so good. The problem with great metaphors is that we forget that is what they are – a metaphor. As the greatest proponent of semantics Alfred Korzybski said, “the map is not the same as the territory”.
Does it matter? Yes, it matters a lot, because it can lead us astray and send us off in the wrong direction completely – we can miss critical opportunities to not just change and tweak but to transform the customer’s experience of our brand.