Customer journeys are a simple way of understanding how happy your customers are. We use them to see how customers interact with your business and how they feel about those interactions. Most businesses associate customer journeys with modelling end consumer behaviour but any business, department or service that has customers can benefit from customer journey mapping.
We have found that it can be beneficial to think of users of services as customers too:
- We think of IT Service Desks as having customers.
- We’ve worked with a manufacturer to map both the customer journey their end consumers have with their product and the journey their distribution network go on with them.
- It can also be helpful to think of students as customers of universities too.
Thinking like this can help you and your people to understand how to approach and handle the students or users making use of your services.
How to build a customer journey
At its simplest, a customer journey maps the status quo. It tells you what an end-to-end engagement with your business feels like. We add points to the journey for every 'touch point' your customers have with your business during their entire engagement with you. Detail is important here but the journey should be classified as a living document – we will not find all the touch points immediately and as new ones are unearthed during research the journey should be amended accordingly.
Once you understand all the touchpoints, you can then begin to look at how your systems and processes underpin and service your customers at each one. At each point we can look at what information and actions your customers want access to and how your business provides access to them. We map these underneath the touchpoint.
Alongside this detailed technical mapping we can map the jobs, pains and gains of our customers at each step showing how their emotional state changes as their engagement with your business progresses. It is important that we create this emotional map through interviews and conversations with actual customers.
The benefits of customer journey mapping
By looking at the customer journey as a whole we can now see where your business is doing things very well - where customers are happy, and where there are opportunities for improvement - where customers are less happy. The opportunities presented by a customer journey mapping exercise usually fall into the following categories:
Sometimes the simple act of providing more information in a proactive way can alleviate some of your customers' pains. Proactively updating customers on the status of an order or giving them more accurate information about time scales can often manage their expectations so effectively that no more action is required here.
Removal of unnecessary processes and steps
If you have touch points that nobody can explain, then simplify. Removing unnecessary steps will save you money and both you and your customers time. Combining touch points can also relieve your customers of irritating complications - if a customer has to call two different departments in order to place an order or if someone has to call them back in order to provide them with a status update then look to see whether you can fulfil their requirements 'in one'.
Self-service information and actions
Providing self-service access to relevant information or actions can provide you with considerable business benefits and savings as well as improving your relationships with your customers. If there is information that every customer wants – order statuses or lead-time information for example – and your customers are currently phoning you to find out what is going on you might want to provide direct access to this information through your website or through a client portal.
You can extend this with self-service functionality too – at the simplest level, we have seen self-service password resetting have quite an impact on the student experience in universities. On a much more complex scale we know of a container port that are working towards self-service container movements allowing distributors to request that containers are moved into and out of long term storage without having to talk to an operator. In the longer term the port hopes to provide an API to allow customers to integrate warehousing directly with their own internal systems.
As you map your processes you may find that in order to provide a customer with a single view of the information that they need you are double or even triple-entering data into several systems. This can often introduce time delays into your processes as well as increasing your risk of errors in the data significantly. On the other side of this coin sometimes customers will want information that cannot currently be delivered to them because it is stored in many different systems. By looking at your customers’ requirements alongside the systems and processes that help you to service those requirements you may be able to see where there are obvious gains to be had by starting to integrate those systems. This may help your business to start forming a business plan for implementation of an integration platform.
Customer Records Management
In some instances we find that sticking points on the journey could be alleviated either through the implementation of CRM or through the better use of an existing CRM solution. A customer journey can be used as the basis for an ongoing CRM strategy that covers everything from marketing, through sales, production and onto aftercare.
The final big-ticket item that is often surfaced through this exercise is a better understanding of what should be measured in order to gather better insight into the customer experience and in order to improve it. If your customers are unhappy because your products require too many warranty repairs then this is something you should be measuring or if you think you might increase your student retention by supporting struggling students earlier then your student journey will help you to determine where you should be looking to step in.
The Waterstons Approach to Customer Journeys
Waterstons take a service design led approach to customer journey creation pulling in elements of human centred design to bring the customer into focus. We firmly believe that real customer research is key and our journeys are written in the customer’s voice, from the customer’s point of view to highlight the sticking points and issues that they have during their engagement. We tend to use a lot of Post-it notes and Sharpies during the process but everything is transcribed and recorded and the resulting customer journey map captures everything that is important now or that we feel may be important in the future.
While some institutions and organisations have similar high-level maps, this especially being the case with universities and airports, each detailed map is unique to the business in question. This means that we can shortcut to a certain point but the customer research and process mapping is essential to understanding the details that are important to your customers.