Q&A with Customer Journey Management Experts [The Entire Series]

By Karl Sharicz posted 10-04-2016 07:26 PM


Customer Journey Management (CJM) is a hot topic within the CX discipline these days and it represents an important and critical component of driving overall business outcomes and success. The customer journey map itself tends to get the most attention, but the map is only one part of the broader concept of customer journey management.  How it is implemented and how the organization embraces the changes that CJM offers is one of the most critical steps in the process.

The mapping methodology itself aims to deepen customer understanding, break down organizational silos, and instill a customer-centric mindset across the organization.  Customer journey maps are therefore powerful CX tools within the broader context of Customer Journey Management. To drive meaningful changes within the organization, these maps must be easy to create and develop, enable collaboration across functional groups, become adopted at all levels within the organization, and be flexible enough to customize and evolve as needs change.

One of the first steps in getting started is choosing an approach that is right for your organization. That's the overall objective of a first ever Educational Course being offered by the CXPA.  The 4-week course has come and gone but was led by nine CJM subject matter experts, all members of the CXPA and stepped in process of mapping and managing customer journeys.  Recorded versions of the course are now available for purchase from the CXPA.

Before the course began, I reached out to four CJM experts with eight top-of-mind questions about CJM that I believe most us at the beginner to intermediate levels of CX within our respective organizations would want to ask. 

Here’s are eight questions that I asked them along with the golden nuggets they had to offer.

SB:  Stacy Bolger, Senior Strategic Consulting Director, MaritzCX

JT: Jim Tincher, Mapper-In-Chief, Heart of the Customer

VP: Valerie Peck, President / CEO, East Bay Services Group, SuiteCX

PH: Peter Haid, Director, Touchpoint Dashboard

1. How do you define “Customer Journey Management” and where does it properly fit into the overall Customer Experience discipline?

SB: True customer journey management is a multi-faceted, integrated, proactive approach to enable your customers to experience their interactions / relationship with you along a defined set of criteria, purposefully designed to drive behaviors resulting in customers allocating a sustained or increased share of wallet with your particular brand.  Whew!  That’s a mouthful! But the term “Customer Journey Management,” is inherently comprehensive! It fits across all elements of the CX discipline. When I think about organizations who understand true CJM, these companies have got to get a lot of things right: Structure/Governance, Culture, People, Processes, Information and Customer Response efforts.  You cannot manage a journey without data and information, but data and information are only useful if you have the structure and accountabilities in place to best share and leverage the insights for decision making.  And “customer-focused decisions” are best made in an organization with a cultural belief and commitment to a “customer-first” philosophy.  And once those decisions are made, you need the right type of person to know what and how to act on that decision on the front lines with customers – both proactively and reactively, when things don’t go as planned.  So as I see it, there are a lot of moving parts that need to work in sync to most effectively manage a customer’s journey. I think frequently, CJM is thought of just as a “customer journey mapping exercise,” which certainly is important, but is much more narrow in scope and not actively managing anything.  Journey mapping is a key tool which can help to identify what an organization’s customers are experiencing, and this can be leveraged to identify and prioritize what they need to do related to the competencies I mention above, in order to develop a capability in customer journey management.

JT: Customer journey management is the discipline of measuring and improving a customer’s end-to-end interactions with you.  It varies from traditional management in that it deliberately considers cross-silo interactions, which are harder to both measure and manage.  Historically, companies focused on managing each silo – such as the call center or the website – independently. Customer journey management requires a company to think through and manage the process as a customer does, which often ignores the traditional boundaries found within the company.

VP: The visual representation of the alignment of the organization to the customer needs to create relevant, engaging and rewarding experiences that connect the brand with the customer.  It is representative of where the customer touches the brand, where the brand touches the customer, where they interact with each other, the multiple interaction points of a customer’s engagement with the brand, why the customer is seeking contact with the brand, and the customer’s expectations of their experience with the brand.

PH: Customer Journey Management is the discipline of understanding, planning, implementing, and optimizing a portfolio of journey maps to generate cost efficiencies and create loyalty through improvements that are most impactful to emotions. Journey Management fits into the overall CEM discipline within the Market Engagement portion of actionable areas to progress on.  Market Engagement is when a company identifies key customer transactions, gathers customer insights, responds to their feedback, invites customers to reshape future experiences, and implements changes integral to the success of the CX strategy. 

2. Why should any organization care about or want to pursue Customer Journey Management?

SB: I’ve never met an executive who believes in the philosophy that if you leave customers to their own devices, this will help them grow the business.  Rather, business leaders are looking every day to better understand their customers’ needs and desires so that they can deliberately put themselves on a customer’s path as he/she seeks a solution to his/her need.  To do this effectively, an organization has to deeply understand how consumers act and why they do so at all points in their relationship with the customer – and then understand if and how the current journey they are offering customers drives those thoughts and behaviors.  This is a far more sustainable approach to organizational success than “getting it right” at one point in the journey and hoping that nothing fails the customer further down the line.  For example, I purchased tickets (easily via an online portal) for an event for my kids recently.  The pre-event communication and information was excellent, and served to excite us and prepare us for the event.  Upon arriving at the venue and entering seamlessly, the concession stand ran out of the snack that was most popular with the age group at which the event was targeted.  Additionally, the bathroom lines were excessive and we missed part of the show waiting in line.  While the kids remember snippets from the show, I recall how out of sorts they were because their most basic needs were not able to be met. I’m not certain that I’d attend another show at that venue, to be honest.  I think this situation illustrates how certain functions can NAIL things for a customer which can cause a moment of truth further down the line to fall flat (and ultimately impact the repurchase decision) if the journey is not being managed in its entirety.

JT: In the HBR articles “The Truth about Customer Experience,” Alex Rawson and colleagues write “Companies that excel in delivering journeys tend to win in the market… 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 outperformance on revenue growth rate.” Simply put, if your organization makes it difficult for customers to accomplish their goals – if your information in one spot varies from another, or your policies contradict each other by channel – you lose customers.

VP:  Customer journey management can often help solve many business problems such as a decline in sales / revenues, poor customer retention, and competitive pressures.  It can also be used for strategic purposes such as fully understanding existing customer behaviors across the entire lifecycle and then using that information as valuable input to strategic planning.  Those same insights can also help drive new product development, user experience (UX) projects, and focused marketing initiatives.

PH: Journey Management enables CX practitioners to assign action items and tasks to touchpoints, teams, or individuals. The Touchpoint Dashboard system enables email alerts and calendar tracking.  The primary use case for this is moving your maps from "current state" into "future state" by taking action on improving the touchpoints most important to the customer.  Think of it like a workflow and tracking system that overlays on top of just journey mapping.  CX practitioners must use a program-level view of managing initiatives across multiple maps to drive change into the organization. 

3. How big or small of a project (and what expense) does Customer Journey Management represent to an organization?

SB: CJM is a strategic decision to enhance an organization’s “customer-first” capabilities at a root cause level.  If done comprehensively, it transforms the way an organization works – and the way they grow.  How long this takes and at what expense depends upon the direction set at the top.  Strong cultural belief and commitment can accelerate the timeframe for building the other CX competencies.  But that doesn’t mean that without strong commitment, progress can’t be made in them either.  It then becomes more of a grass-roots effort where an organization needs to generate small successes which they can then leverage in proposals for larger change efforts.  Too often, when “CX” is the newest buzz term in an organization, technology becomes the quick (and expensive) solution.  That organization would be best served by first understanding the critical competencies/elements that they need to consider, and then prioritizing which ones to tackle first.  In many cases, the low hanging fruit – quick wins – don’t cost a lot, and the return is increased stakeholder engagement, making the larger investment items an easier sell down the road.

JT: It’s a very strategic issue, requiring both cross-functional involvement and investment that can be very significant. What we’ve seen at Heart of the Customer is that organizations who are able to dramatically improve their journeys involve leadership from throughout the company. They first invest in understanding what it’s really like to be your customer through deliberate voice of the customer work (typically journey mapping), and then drive action plans that cross traditional boundaries. It’s not for the weak of heart! But the returns can be immense.

VP: CJM can be scaled to appropriately meet the need that a client might have – either fixing a pain point or looking at a lifecycle for purposes of planning etc.  Ideally each project has a link to a master governance to pull together over time. Given the opportunity to increase revenue, decrease expense and affect strategic decisions, it should be given the same weight as other major initiatives with staffing and support as needed. A consulting project could cost as little as $35k up to six figures to start out and get to a 90-day plan.

PH: In many cases organizations start small with journey mapping to ensure the ROI is fully present before taking on a large swath of maps to incite positive change.  Mature organizations are now putting nearly all of their CX team’s efforts into journey management and in some cases even organizing job responsibilities around customer intentions/journeys.  When there are over 50 maps being managed at any given time it does amount to a large project because it has large returns.  The cost of these programs is primarily connected to number of FTEs engaged whereas the software to support it would only be $50-100k. 

4. Is a Customer Journey Management project a “one and done” project and if not how can it be scaled and sustained over time?

SB: CJM done as a “one and done” project will be one of the worst investments an organization will ever make.  CJM is transforming the way a business operates.  To scale and sustain this effort, I’ll go back to the competencies I’ve mentioned several times.  It is critical that the organization build a foundation in each, however, one of the most critical for sustainability is having CX governance in place.  With governance, structure, roles, processes are all built for gathering data and insights, using them to make decisions, driving next steps from the decisions, measuring results from the actions, and reevaluating the customer journey in light of the changes for “what’s next.”

JT: Certainly not one-and-done.  Journeys are dynamic, and customers are always finding their own ways around the process.  While big deliberate journey mapping projects might be conducted every other year, that analysis and reactions are continuous.  This is where a centralized CX team is helpful – they keep the cross-functional nature going, as each team potentially gets distracted with their other efforts.

VP: No, like any other company crucial work effort it should be part of a continuous improvement, quality or even corporate dashboard project.  Generally, VOC is continuous, VOE quarterly and a full review at 6-8 months to see where progress has or has not been made. Customers change, companies change, products change, channels and service changes – static CJM wont serve a company’s needs.

5. What are the implications to any organization of ignoring or otherwise not pursuing Customer Journey Management?

SB: I think my answer in #2 provides some of this.  Additionally, though, I think the biggest risk is remaining relevant.  The required investment and effort to remain consistently relevant without a framework built on the end-to-end needs of your customers is at best, inefficient, and at worst, can be debilitating.

JT: Customers will accomplish their goals – with or without you. Even in situations where there’s a monopoly, improved journey management reduces the cost to serve.  In a cross-industry study, the CEB found that 58% of all callers to the contact center tried to solve their problem on the website first. And 59% of those callers are annoyed that they couldn’t solve their problems on the website. Annoyed customers are certainly more difficult to serve, and more at-risk.  Similarly, when Beyond Philosophy studied problem resolution, they found that the process for problem resolution had far more impact on loyalty than the outcome. In fact, customers who were frustrated with the process were significantly more likely to complain again in the future. So proper journey management impacts both the revenue (customer retention) and cost (costs to serve) of the value equation.

PH: The implication of ignoring journey management is that we get stuck in the cycle of “death by survey”.  Customers have often told the organization where the pain is on their survey responses.  If that pain is not construed into a larger journey of multiple pain points than any efforts to fix one pain point may miss the larger context.  It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a cut when there are three more knives waiting to re-open the wound for the customer tomorrow. Journey management is the ongoing context that organizations need to understand, based on customer intention, how to remove all the pain.

VP: Not knowing where you are weak from a customer viewpoint is the first nail in the coffin!

6. Does pursuing Customer Journey Management depend on the size or type (B2B, B2C, non-profit, government, etc.) of the organization?

SB: The way in which you pursue CJM yes, can depend on the size or type of the organization – not because of size and type, but because customers of each of these divisions are different and have different needs.  I’d further argue that while the competencies required for an organization to nail CX are not different across sectors, regions, etc., the importance of each can vary, AND that each business that pursues CJM will have things that must be considered, causing the “how” again to differ.

JT: Any company with silos needs to manage their journeys. Even in our 7-person company, we have to be deliberate about our silos, who does what, and hiding that from our clients!  Every company needs to manage their journeys. Of course, how they do that will vary significantly by the type of company and size.  B2B companies have very different journeys to manage than B2C, for example. Similarly, a supermarket’s journeys will be very different from mobile phone carriers, and the silos to be concerned about will be very different.  Even within an industry, the culture and history of your company will also impact how you manage your journeys. How each company manages the journeys will vary – but all need to do it.

VP: No – any and all can benefit.

7. What do you believe is absolutely necessary (non-negotiables) for Customer Journey Management to stick within an organization and lead toward proven ROI?

SB: Cultural belief and commitment in CX, and established governance for driving change. All of my other answers have been lengthy, and I’m hopeful that they provide insight as to why my response here is so simple.

JT: The critical three items are a CX vision, effective measurement, and CX governance. The CX vision needs to differentiate your organization from another. “Customers first” isn’t a CX vision. “We’ll be the easiest company to work with,” or “We are a relationship-first company.” The vision needs to be specific enough that you can use it to say “no” to projects. If you want to be the easiest company to work with, then that may result in the elimination of options, whereas a relationship-first organization may retain the options, because they have staff to help maneuver those options. Regular measurement is the second capability. The measurement needs to be informed by the journey map, showing those operational items that the journey map shows are crucial to effective journey management. For example, lost customers, length of time for a customer to complete the journey, or number of customers who drop out, not completing the journey. Third is governance. Without governance, everything is important. Effective governance drives from the vision, and uses the measurement to evaluate and prioritize, and to ensure continuing effectiveness.  And governance is the area where this most frequently breaks down.

VP: First and foremost, CEO and COO interest, involvement and active involvement is the key difference between success and failure.  I have yet to see a company implement and keep CX and supporting tools such as CEM Planning and CJM without the funding and support of the top execs.  Second is empowering the CX team to drive changes across departments.  Often times they are placed in Marketing or Service and do not have the remit nor power to effect the change needed to drive results. Lastly, metrics – company dashboard metrics on CX and how it impacts the company holistically with appropriate incentives across the whole company for it.  People do what they are paid for.

PH: I typically see five sources of ROI in any given journey mapping effort—Channel Optimization, Removal of Ineffective Touchpoints, Designing for Word of Mouth, (WOM) Emotional Segmentation across business lines and personas, and Organizational Alignment.

8. If I’m going to do CJM, how and where do I start?

SB: I’d say in understanding what the framework looks like for evaluating your progress toward your goal.  What makes up that scaffolding and what is your planned path to the top?  Too often, I see companies addressing individual pain points (very important!) or with a hodge-podge of a “CX Initiative list” (also important!), but without a clear understanding of why they have chosen to focus on those things and what they are gaining (or losing) by doing so.  And yet they are disappointed when results don’t change or worsen.  Without a clear understanding of where you’re starting and where you need to go, you won’t be able to develop a plan nor gauge your progress on the way there.

JT: The three questions you need to answer in this order are; what do I map, whom do I map, and whom do I include in the process.?

What do I map: We spend a lot of time on two questions—Do we map an end-to-end experience or do we dive into a specific journey?  This really depends on the business problem you’re going after. For example, we worked with a non-profit who was experience loyalty issues. Their membership lasted for years, so we did an end-to-end experience map.  One of the challenges we discovered was how they recruit and onboard members, so a follow-up item was to do the journey map for this specific activity.  Similarly, we worked with a software company who wanted to understand how their clients purchase software solutions, so we studied this process, and identified two personas.  One of the items we discovered was how reliant their customers were on word-of-mouth, and how the effectiveness of the software really played into recommendations, and future sales. So we then mapped out how their clients used their software, studying different roles and a completely different journey than the first study.  So you need to start with the business problem, and let that drive your decision on what to map.

Whom do I map: Do you include every customer, or a specific segment?  The choice on what to map will help drive this decision, but not entirely.  We worked with a supermarket who has a specific target customer, so studied them, but also added a second focus on Millennial shoppers.  This left out about half of the people who shop there, but our client knew that by being tight on their target customers, they would get a strong halo effect for others.  When we worked with a health club, they recently conducted a loyalty study that showed issues with Millennials, and that the key was how often they visited in their first few months.  So we studied Millennial members who had just begun.  Again, it ties back to the business problem.

Whom do I include:  This ties back to internal.  Most organizations make the mistake of being too exclusive and using a small team.  While that lets you do the initial project more quickly, it slows down the implementation because these other teams don’t have the first-hand exposure to the voice of the customer that the core team does.  So you also need to consider this.

PH: The first step is to identify a list of all of your customer’s intentions (e.g. “I want to pay a bill” or “I want to get service on my product”).  From there you’ll want to categorize each intention with High, Medium, and Low across these three dimensions: Frequency, Revenue/Cost, and Negative Emotion.  Once these lists have been made you’ll want to prioritize the first 2-3 journeys that have high scores across the board.  Consider this group a ‘pilot’ and get formal training on how to achieve results with journey management.