Defining the journeys that matter and deciding where to begin the transformation requires both top-down, judgment-driven evaluations and bottom-up, data-driven analysis; pursuing both of these efforts in parallel is the best approach.
A journey mapping session, drawing on existing research, may be sufficient to identify the most significant journeys and the pain points within them. That research is typically fragmented and often includes data on the customer volume in a given journey, reasons for call center complaints, and obvious gaps in performance.
- Examples would be discrepancies between promises made in marketing materials and services actually delivered, or inability to connect customer touch points across various channels.
Journey mapping sessions direct attention to key customer journey problems. For companies seeking to fix a few glaring problems in specific journeys, such top-down problem solving can be enough. Those that want to transform the overall customer experience need to simultaneously create a detailed road map for each journey, one that describes the process from start to finish, takes into account the business impact of optimizing the journey, and lays out sequence of initiatives.
This is a bottom-up effort that starts with additional research into customers’ experiences of their journeys and which ones matter most, both to customers and to business performance. A company should draw on customer and employee surveys along with operational data across functions at each touchpoint, to assess performance and gauge how it is doing relative to the competition. Best-in-class companies use regression models to understand which journeys have the greatest impact on overall customer satisfaction and business outcomes, and then run simulations to get a picture of the potential impact of various initiatives.
Doing this research and analysis well is no small task, because it typically means acquiring new types of information and assembling it in new ways. For many companies, combining operational, marketing, and customer and competitive research data to understand journeys is a first-time undertaking, and it can be a long process; the reward is well worth it, because the fact base that’s created allows management to clearly see the customer’s experience of various journeys and decide which ones to prioritize.
Understanding Current Performance
Once a company has identified its key customer journeys, it must examine each one in detail in order to understand the causes of current performance. This deep dive involves additional research, including customer and employee focus groups and call monitoring. Combined with the initial bottom-up analysis, it allows the company to map the most significant permutations of each journey as the customer experiences and would describe it, revealing the sequence of steps she is likely to take from start to finish. The mapping exercise also exposes departures from the ideal customer experience and their causes, and often reveals policy choices or company processes that unintentionally generate adverse results. For example, many companies charge for phone-based technical support, thinking that imposing a fee will steer customers to self-service options. But the consequence may be numerous callbacks or inadequate do-it-yourself fixes, both of which degrade the customer experience.
A company may get millions of calls about a product and must handle each one well. It must also address the root causes of the calls.
Redesigning the Experience
Once a company has identified its priority journeys and gained an understanding of the problems within them, leaders must avoid the temptation to helicopter in and dictate remedies; they should refrain from any solutions (including ones from outside experts) that don’t give employees a big hand in shaping the outcome. Even if a fix appears obvious from the outside, the root causes of poor customer experience always stem from the inside, often from cross-functional disconnects. Only by getting cross-functional teams together to see problems for themselves and design solutions as a group can companies hope to make fixes that stick.
How Journeys Pay Off
Most executives easily grasp the journey concept, but they wonder whether perfecting journeys pays off in hard dollars, but various cross-industry customer experience surveys show that it does.
Companies that excel in delivering journeys tend to win in the market. Better performance on journeys corresponds to faster revenue growth: In measurements of customer satisfaction with the firms’ most important journeys, performing one point better than peer companies on a 10-point scale corresponds to at least a two-percentage-point out-performance on revenue growth rate. (“Good Journeys Fuel Growth.”) The companies that excel in journeys have a more distinct competitive advantage than those that excel in touchpoints. Most companies perform fairly well on touchpoints, but performance on journeys can set a company apart.
Optimizing a single customer journey is tactical; shifting organizational processes, culture, and mind-sets to a journey orientation is strategic and transformational. Journey-based transformations are not easy, and they may take years to perfect, but the reward is higher customer and employee satisfaction, increased revenue, and lower costs. Delivering successful journeys brings about an operational and cultural shift that engages the organization across functions and from top to bottom, generating excitement, innovation, and a focus on continuous improvement. It creates a culture that’s hard to build otherwise, and a true competitive advantage goes to companies that get it right.