In the maelstrom of customer experience, the customer journey has become an increasingly popular tool with which to look at services from the customer’s perspective. How does a customer click through the website? What emotions are felt during the journey? What are the most important steps in the journey? All questions which require different applications of the customer journey in order to answer them correctly. We often refer to the customer journey. But does it really exist? There are so many different types of customer journeys nowadays that you run the risk of them becoming a veritable tower of Babel.
Before discussing the different variants, the 1st step may be to determine your objective. The different variants of the customer journey offer many applications: reinforcing brand perception, channel steering and/or reducing contacts, determining customer satisfaction drivers, innovating services, boosting efficiency.
This also applies to the softer side of customer centricity, i.e. increased internal awareness: what does it mean to truly regard your services from the customer’s perspective? The role played by a customer journey process on this softer side is by no means inferior to the harder results. But which variant is required by which objective?
In the emotional journey, you conduct quantitative research among a small group of customers to identify the emotions felt by the customer during the journey. When requesting a product for example: can we locate the negative and the positive emotions? And can we turn the negative ones around and/or add extra positive ones?
In a Lean-based value stream diagram, the entire process is mapped out with various actors. The customer is one of the actors, but so too may be other departments or a system. At the risk of doing injustice to Lean experts, I must say: in my experience with Lean value stream diagrams, in which the customer certainly plays a role, I have found them to be too internally focused. They are much more an internal process diagram than a customer journey.
As an illustration: the customer journey we formulated for a customer process, entailed 13 steps for the customer. The value stream diagram for that same customer process comprised only 3 steps; quick and easy. I would therefore never use this variant from the customer point of view, as it misses the necessary details. It is more suitable as an application for internal process optimization.
The online channel is becoming increasingly important, so you need to know for sure that your customers are optimally served there. During an online journey, you follow a customer’s movement through your website, (search terms, clicks, conversion and other such data). And the application which I generally discover here, is that of sales funnels. Service funnels are given much less attention however, even though the same technique will render them equally profitable.
If, for example, I know that customers searching online for ‘change details’ tend to give up in the third screen and call me instead, I can take action. This will avoid a contact moment which is otherwise irritating for the customer, expensive for the organization and also unnecessary. This is often a win-win between customer experience and efficiency.
Many organizations are at real risk of drowning in the sea of customer journeys. A useful starting point is often what I refer to as the main customer experience journey: what steps does a customer take with your organization, at the highest level? In an insurance company for example: I become a customer, I pay premium, I claim damages, et cetera. This highest level has two uses: providing an overview of the journeys and offering insight into those steps which are most important, by means of research and data analysis, allowing you to prioritize. This highest level is scarcely suitable for any other applications, as it will always be generic.
The detailed customer journey looks only at those steps taken by the customer with your organization, in that single customer process extracted from the main journey: ‘I become a customer’ for example. It does so in detail. The delivery confirmation is therefore also a step in this journey. You are not determining whether a step is positive or negative, but are actually defining the existing steps.
You can do a number of things on the basis of that journey: determine customer satisfaction, so that you know exactly which knobs to turn in that process, organize a workshop to arrive at a new process; realize channel steering and contact reduction on the basis of that process. The workshops in which you formulate this customer experience journey, are all interventions within the organization in order to create awareness of what customers actually experience. Two things often happen in these workshops: people have to introduce themselves to each other because they have never cooperated in the end-to-end customer journey, and discussions arise on the nature of the customer-centric process, as once again there is no shared picture. These workshops are therefore equally as interesting from the change perspective, as for the achievement of hard targets in channel steering, contact reduction and customer satisfaction.
It is not important which journey is right or wrong, but rather what is your objective and what journey suits it best. There is no standard customer journey, but my experience has shown that the correct use of a customer journey process is one of the most successful tools on the road to a (more) customer-centric organization. Very practical, simple to apply and with great impact.