The Company That Maps Customer Journeys Together Works Better Together

I was introduced to Customer Journey Maps in 2009, when I was doing some research to compare the capabilities of UK interactive design agencies. I remember being very impressed with a diagram that one agency used to describe the emotional curve of a customer who had an ongoing contract with a telecommunications company.  I shared it with colleagues who were writing about emotional experience design, and we agreed that it was a brilliant way to understand how customers’ feel about their interactions with a company over time – an essential starting point for designing experiences that drive positive emotions.

In the years since then, Customer Journey Maps have become a core piece of the customer experience practitioner’s toolkit. That’s because they enable teams to take a customer-centric perspective of events that take place, whether they’re looking for ways to improve processes that customers deal with today, or planning experiences that might serve the future needs of customers. The practice of customer journey mapping has advanced, as one might expect. For example, a category of software has emerged to enable companies to automate and manage customer journey maps – linking maps to data from operational systems, for example. In addition, many companies use graphic designers to transform insights from journey maps into infographics with high production values that employees will want to share and discuss with colleagues.

Rail Europe customer journey map
Source: Polaine, Løvlie, and Reason. 2013. Service Design: From Insight to Implementation

Despite these advances, many organisations fail to generate value from their customer journey maps. That’s often because they lose sight of something that’s vital to the success of any customer journey mapping effort. That vital element is collaboration – It’s important to bring together people from across organisational silos and have them work together to build a picture of the evolving goals, expectations, preferences, and emotional states of the customer who is interacting with the company. Without collaboration, you might be able to produce well-researched and beautiful maps, but you’ll struggle to get the rest of the organisation to take the time to understand them or the valuable insights that they contain.

When smart people with a range of experience, from different parts of an organisation, spend some time together and engage in a well-facilitated, structured, journey mapping process, great things emerge: First,  the participants share the wisdom that comes from experience of working in different areas of the business. It becomes possible for them to step back from departmental points of view, and get aligned by examining issues from the customer’s perspective. They develop a shared understanding of the problems that need to be tackled, and by pooling their abilities, they come up with creative solutions to issues that they might not have fully grasped before. Finally, when people have worked together in this way, it lays the foundation for subsequent changes – People take back an understanding of the need for change to their departments. Bridges are built between the organisational silos that need to work together.

That’s not to say that just bringing people together will generate results. It won’t. A lot of thought and preparation goes into preparing for a journey mapping exercise – defining  business objectives, determining which customers and which journeys to focus on, conducting background research, selecting the right participants, planning the activities,  gathering supporting materials, and setting up a suitable environment. On the day itself, facilitators have their work cut out to ensure that everyone stays engaged, activities don’t run over time, everyone’s voice is heard, and all of the valuable insights are captured. It’s not an insignificant effort. Taking twelve to twenty people away from their regular jobs is also a significant investment of resources. But that investment of time and resources is worthwhile. It makes the difference between drawing a map that merely decorates the office, and building a driver of customer-centric change in the organisation.

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