Customer Journey Map redefined: Customer Journey Management

Let me make a suggestion right out of the gate. While many customer experience practitioners have readily adopted customer journey mapping as a best practice, too many of us look at it as a “once-and-done” activity. We mistakenly see the effort to understand and document the customer journey as almost a checklist step in a project plan with little if any utility value other than the production of a graphical “map” to hang on the office wall and to inform our design process only at the onset of new initiative.

Instead, may I offer the suggestion that we need to consider the customer journey as an evolving, living thing that will change over time as customers find new preferences and manners of interaction and experiences with us. As such, I’d like to offer up the idea that we look at the journey with fairly frequent revisits and, in doing so, work to manage the evolution of the journey. This will keep us from seeing the effort to understand it as a static step we often consider only at the beginning of a new customer experience improvement process.

We accept the notion that our customers are not sitting still and limiting their interactions with us to the same ways and for the same reasons they always have. They do not have a permanent “business as usual” approach to literally everything. Why then could it be sufficient to seek to understand the customer journey as only a single point-in-time exercise? Instead, why can’t we consider revisiting the process a few times a year as our markets and customers mature and evolve?

The purpose of follow-up journey assessments is to re-focus on gaps created by market conditions and changes in customer preference. These updates will bring value as we prioritize our own transformational efforts, focus on areas where we can implement customer-centric innovation and process improvements, and develop and launch new solution offerings. They will enable us to align our new developments with the refreshed journey map and moments of truth along it.

We can (in a progressive mindset) consider customers and their journeys with us as assets, no different from cash in the bank or infrastructure. Then why not do a new journey assessment and artifact map even quarterly, just as we produce financial statements several times a year? It’s just another way to look at this unique asset class; our customer relationships.

Even if you’re thinking to yourselves that your customers’ journeys with your company don’t change that much, that often, I’d still bet that your priorities change.

Some touchpoints along the customer journey may be necessary to make the customer experience more functional or efficient, while not being drivers of customer delight in and of themselves. But in time, these touchpoints, sometimes referred to as “experience hygiene,” may become more important to customers and grow into moments of truth. Similarly, factors that are loyalty drivers at one point in time can lose their importance for customers as the world changes.

It all changes based on the natural heartbeat of our businesses, our customers, and the markets we serve. Losing sight of new priorities or moving targets for optimization may create, at best, avoidable inefficiencies and, at worst, significant market setbacks. If we don’t stay up to date, we allow our competition to seize customer relationships, market share, and profits that should have been ours.

I’d like to strongly urge you to consider the best practice of frequently refreshing to your customer journey mapping work. Perhaps we could also consider, as the title of this post suggests, renaming our process – from customer journey mapping to something with a sense of repetition and continual improvement, like customer journey management. Doing so sends the right message about the process being “alive,” and suggests the need for the continual reprioritizing and frequent critical visits that will benefit our programs.

Let’s refocus on our takeaways: changing our old process of thinking about the map as an artifact to considering the fact that the journey has a heartbeat and is alive with change. The more clearly we understand this, the better the experiences we will create for our customers. Those customers will reward us long into the future with their wallets and their loyalty.

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