Why a customer journey map can only take you so far

customer journey maps
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Customer journey maps are on many marketers’ to-do lists and a lucky few manage to find the time and the budget to get them done. I think they are well worth the investment, particularly when you add in the dose of reality known as the customer experience map. They’re not the same thing and here is why.

Your journey map focuses on the ideal path from initial awareness until your customer tells you to get lost. It looks at each touch point with your brand, including advertising, website, sales rep, service and so on.employee experience, candler chase, elizabeth williams

They are, by necessity, pretty idealized, though you need to ground them in actual user research, and you may find you have different journeys for different buyer personas.

For example, one B2B mapping exercise I did showed that enterprise buyers waited far longer in the buying cycle to contact the client’s sales department. Small business owners, on the other hand, often went straight to a sales conversation after just one website visit.

Understanding this dynamic, including how long decisions take, the reference networks customers check with as they make decisions, and the number of alternatives they consider is incredibly helpful in designing an efficient process to separate buyers and their money.

Once on board as a customer, there are multiple other touchpoints around payment, shipping, installation, support, billing and so on. The more we understand how our customers prefer to do this stuff, the better we can design an awesome experience for them.

But there’s the other half of this, which is the real experience. As much as we may imagine a flawless, frictionless love affair between our brand and our customers, the truth is rarely as pretty. Websites are slow, invoicing is clunky, products are not quite as advertised and so on. So we need to take our journey map and spend some time comparing it to reality. This allows us to fix poor processes and get the imagined experience as close to the real one as we possibly can.

But wait, there’s more

Sounds great, doesn’t it? You should totally invest in journey and experience maps for your customers. But if you really want the lived experience to map closely to the process chart on the whiteboard, you need to consider the journeys and experiences of your employees.

The best customer value propositions go quickly down the drain when the people charged with delivering on them don’t know or don’t care what’s expected.

We see it pretty much daily. Low trust, low morale employers deliver low risk, low effort services. Go visit the food court in your local mall if you’re looking for evidence.

Customer experience runs in parallel to employee experience. Top employers have 21% more productivity, 41% fewer quality defects and 86% lower first year employee turnover. These, among a great many other things, bode well for the customer’s experience. Yet very few organizations bother doing the work of mapping what the experience should be and then comparing it to what it is.

It’s far easier to make cat puke values posters and inflict net promoter surveys on employees than it is to invest in a low-friction workplace. Given that employee engagement has been basically flat for a generation, I think we can agree that it’s time to try the latter.

If you’re looking at your “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast” mug and thinking smug thoughts about your organization, think again. Even a terrific culture in one or more parts of the business can’t outshine irritating issues, such as poor tools, a lack of training or terrible processes.

A friend of mine has run multiple “engagement” initiatives in her company’s large call centres. They plant trees, play soccer, have pizza, do mentoring and bring in emotional support kittens. It’s lovely. The place looks like a daycare centre. Problem is, the staff still have to open three or four ancient applications to assist most clients, their antique call handling software cuts people off, overtime is calculated manually (and usually incorrectly) and the key metric by which the agents are judged is average handle time for each call.

Despite the outward appearance of a fun youth centre, this place has more in common with a Dickensian workhouse without all the lovely singing about porridge.

So go ahead and get that budget in place to map your customer journey and analyze the experience, but do yourself a favour and call up HR to see if they can kick in a few bucks to manage the parallel work of ensuring your employee experience is up to the task of meeting customer expectations.

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Elizabeth Williams
Elizabeth Williams is the President of Candler Chase Inc., a consulting firm specializing in employee communications and branding. She is a survivor of more than 20 years in the telecom, financial services and technology sectors, and can often be found blogging about brands and speaking at conferences. She keeps meaning to write a book.