Trust me (no really!)

This article is about trust. To be more specific, I am writing about how an experience centric organisation may go about gaining trust, in particular by the use of the customer experience journey map.

Why am I writing about trust and why the customer experience journey map? You don’t have to go very far in the headlines to read about customers losing trust with incumbent organisations across all industries. Think Royal Commission into financial services in Australia, Facebook, Google…the list goes on!

Thankfully, there are a great many organisations that continue to foster trust among customers and thrive in this highly challenging environment. Many of these organisations claim that putting the experience at the centre of their organisation is the key. Notice that I didn’t say customer…but experience at the centre of the organisation.

Experience matters!

Customer expectations continue to grow as they become increasingly savvy, less patient and constantly comparing experiences regardless of the product, service or associated industry.

Think of when you’ve had a good experience with a product or service, this becomes the benchmark for your next experience. Not only are customers judging a product or service in comparison to their previous experience, they are also judging competitors or alternatives by the same standard.

With technology giants and start-ups hoovering up marketshare with experience at the centre of their strategies, no incumbent can afford to ignore or neglect the discipline of placing the experience at the centre of the organisation. I believe long term success for organisations is not possible without the customer experience being central to the organisational DNA. This involves continuous investment in building a culture and capabilities that align to and rally around customer experience excellence and continuous improvement.

Why have we not fixed the customer experience and moved on?

This is a question that Simon Clatworthy raises in his book, The Experience-Centric Organisation. Simon’s answer to this question is that customer experience is not just a feature of a product or service, instead, it is an organisational imperative.

Clatworthy goes further to say that despite many companies knowing this well, there continues to be an emphasis on the immediately tangible, more well understood areas of business transformation: digitisation, cost reduction, outsourcing, etc without alignment around how these initiatives translate across the entire customer experience.

So how can your organisation create a good customer experience?

There are a few key factors that often come up when seeking out excellence in customer experience:

  • Delighting customers
  • Making it easy for them to act
  • Consistency

The customer experience journey map provides a simple way to identify how an organisation might deliver on these factors.

The Customer Experience Journey Map

The customer experience journey map is an effective tool to understand where your customers may be experiencing highs and lows in their engagement with your business and where you should consider investing in change. Ultimately, it is tool that if acted upon can help foster trust and long term relationships with customers.

As a tool, the customer experience journey map provides a simplified, visual articulation of a customer’s relationship with your business, product or service overtime across various touch points.

The beauty of the customer experience journey map is that it cuts through the maze of complexity in today’s internal and external environment and articulates which touch points customers value the most and where they are likely to make trade-offs. This goes to the heart of good business decision making: invest scarce resources where it matters most to customers and where the business can generate value!

An experience journey map should answer the following questions:

  • Who are our key customers?
  • What is their journey today?
  • What are their key touch points with our products/services?
  • What challenges are our customers facing?
  • How does our product/service address those challenges?
  • Where can we improve the overall experience?

So what is required to successfully use a customer experience journey map?

Done well, the experience map empowers people within a business to work cross-functionally to sort out where the customer experience is failing. The experience journey map should serve as a long-term asset that guides strategic and tactical decision making and is adopted as a continuous process vs. a once-off activity.

The most important outcome of defining an experience journey map are the actions it triggers. From my experience, unless an experience map informs the business strategy and associated tactics, it risks becoming nothing more than an intellectual exercise.

The below is an example of how your customer experience journey map might be translated into strategies, hypothesis, success metrics and tactics.

In this example, the output of the experience journey map is a number of ideas/tactics associated with various stages of the customer experience.

These ideas/tactics then help to create and redefine strategy which can be validated through rigorous hypothesis based testing. Tactics/initiatives can then be prioritised within your strategic/product roadmap based on the level of value that was identified as part of framing the experience journey.

10 steps to defining a customer experience journey map:

So if you’ve bought in to the customer experience journey map as a critical tool for your organisation, how do you get started?

The below outlines 10 steps to help you frame up your experience journey map.

  1. Define the goals — without answering the ‘why’ of the experience map, the exercise is likely doomed to failure from the start.
  2. Research — this can take many forms including primary and secondary research. Internal and external stakeholders are important sources of information as part of this phase. Of course, the customer will play a central role within this stage.
  3. Define the target customer — define who they are, what are their needs, motivations and desires. The use of personas are commonly used within experience journey maps.
  4. Define the customer job — this is a task that is either functional, emotional or social that helps a customer achieve a goal. To read more on customer jobs see this article in the HBR.
  5. Understand the journey — this component defines the stages of the journey and time associated to each stage.
  6. Define the touch-points — these include actions that a user might take and the various channels and platforms that a customer may experience on this journey (eg. physical store, sales person, website, app, etc).
  7. Customer thoughts and actions — simply, what customers think, feel and do. This can also include the ‘moments of truth’ in the journey.
  8. Identify the Paint points — what is stopping a customer from achieving their goal?
  9. Identify the Emotions — understanding the peaks and valleys in your customer’s emotional journey, you’ll identify those areas for improvement.
  10. Opportunities for improvement — this is critical as it distils from all of the previous steps into something actionable, specifically the tactics and initiatives that your business should consider investing in.

If you look across a number of the example experience journey maps below, you’ll be able to identify how these common components have been used based on various different contexts.

Without exception, the customer experience journey map is a key tool used by experience centric organisations. The experience journey map helps to identify where an organisation may be succeeding in establishing trust with customers, where they may be falling short and ultimately helps to understand what elements of the customer experience matter the most and warrant investment.

Tools to help create your own customer experience journey map

So there you have it, a blueprint to build trust (if only it was that easy)! See below a range of tools to help you get started in framing up your customer experience journey map. Good luck!

  • Uxpressia — Provide the ability to visualise customer experiences and collaborate with teams in real time
  • Experience Fellow — a research tool to track customer experience of the entire customer journey across all online and offline channels, through mobile
  • Smaply — creates personas, journey maps, stakeholder maps
  • TandemSeven — a hub for different CX tracking tools
  • Map ovate — a new tool for journey mapping

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