First, Map the Customer Journey

New research suggests that marketers should organize around a single, best understanding of the customer and her journey to drive personalized customer experiences across platforms and at scale.

In response, most marketing automation software vendors today are building customer journey functionality to support these types of personalized experiences.  However, smart marketers know that you can’t proscribe a customer journey…software can’t tell you how the customer feels about interacting with your brand or what attitudes she holds and how that affects decision making.  Neither software functionality alone nor machine intelligence algorithms can account for what is really meaningful to the customer – their story in their own words!  This post will take a brief look at the process of journey mapping and why it matters.

If you want to improve engagements with your customers, you need to first understand their goals, challenges, aspirations, expectations, attitudes, feelings, wants and needs enacted out over time across multiple stages and touchpoints as they engage with your brand.   There are a number of process steps that should be taken to map the journey (to be discussed in future posts.)  Generally, the best first step is to literally talk to them – via focus groups, brainstorming, and individual interviews – and to draw in the internal stakeholders to react and interact to the customer input.

When I speak with executives about customer journey mapping I hear interest and excitement around the process but a misunderstanding about the purpose.  Customer journey mapping is not entirely about how a customer reacts to the products, services and communications you serve up to them.  Rather it’s about understanding their decision processes and influences and then leveraging what you learn to make the engagement more rewarding and your investments more profitable.

Here’s a story to illustrate the power of direct customer input.

 A large manufacturer of medical equipment had recently upgraded its MRI machine to increase patient comfort, image consistency and professional satisfaction of the professional staff.  What they didn’t know was how to introduce the equipment to audiences that might find the equipment intimidating.  So they chose to map the patient experience. 

The process began with focusing on a specific patient persona and conducting interviews to capture reactions and behaviors associated with a diagnosis event. Functional and emotional needs were recorded throughout the process with an eye to isolating any specific moments that impacted the patient’s primary goal: to feel safe while having an MRI.

These were the moments that mattered – the company used them to re-design an experience that created a fun, engaging environment for the MRI patient.

Many experts agree that by understanding the “as is” state of the customer experience today, you can predict the “to be” or future behavior. As Siddharth Gaikwad, at Dell Digital says “by overlaying possibilities [what the company wants to sell] upon customer journey maps, organizations are able to better visualize which aspects of their business they should focus on…”

Customer Journey Mapping helps companies to understand the broader context of its relationships with customers but it is a means to an end rather than the end goal itself.  It’s just the beginning of closer engagement.

Ultimately, wouldn’t you rather create a differentiated experience that delivers on the brand promise vs. the tried and true journey based on what you perceive to be well-known pain points or stakeholder needs?

Lets start speaking about your customers’ journeys today!  email me at ann@dbmcatalyst.com.