In today's fast-paced business landscape, managing the customer journey has become more critical than ever. Customers now expect personalised and seamless experiences across all touchpoints, and companies must adapt to stay competitive. Customer Journey Map Operations is the compass that guides businesses towards delivering exceptional customer experiences by aligning internal teams and provides a structure to use journey maps.
Today I want to share some of the tools I find useful for managing the customer journey and some of the challenges that exist within organisations doing this work at scale.
The Customer Journey Unveiled
Before delving into the tools, it's essential to understand what the customer journey entails. It's not just the path a customer takes from discovering your brand to making a purchase; it's an ongoing relationship. It's about understanding the customer's motivations, needs, and emotions at every touchpoint. Customer Journey Mapping involves mapping out all the touchpoints across various channels, analysing customer behaviour, and tailoring experiences to meet their evolving expectations.
Journey Map Operations allows businesses to gain a holistic view of this voyage. It provides a hierarchy for your business, and a way to help identify where projects cross over and are related.
Problems with Customer Journey Mapping
After a decade or more of seeing many businesses embark on projects to improve the customer experience, we are at a crossroad. Despite incredibly well intentioned projects, mapping out journeys, with the customer at the heart, we have reached a point, whereby it has become difficult for businesses to manage them. This is mainly true for large complex organisations with multiple initiatives at the same time, and where journey maps need to be a living breathing entity.
The problem seems to not just be in the specific tools used, but also a variety of other factors including:
- Executive buy in: Is there high-level executive support for working in this way? Is there a true desire to be more customer led, or still very engineer or product led? Are we asking teams to take part in ‘Innovation theatre’?
- Organisational design: Is the business working in a way, where customer journeys are established across multidisciplinary teams or working (and funded) in product silos? Are departments sharing learnings or commissioning work that duplicates effort and budgets?
- Lack of shared language: Departments referring to different types of maps, having conflicting definitions and using labels interchangeably.
- Communication: Awareness of which teams are working across specific journeys.
- Missing governance: Does a defined set of rules exist to help decide resolutions when exceptions occur?
- Static vs Dynamic: Have the maps been created with collaboration in mind or is it a one way presentation of the information to aid storytelling?
- Access to tools: Has a process been defined for access to edit the content? Who is able to make changes to the journey? Who needs to be kept informed?
- Different tools: Is one department using Miro, another using Figma another using Google Sheets etc? Sounds familiar? As we know, these tools are not fully interoperable and require a lot of re-work to move across.
- Ways of working: Is there any visual standardisation across internal departments or external agencies over the presentation of the artefacts (think of a design system but for Journey Maps). Can we save time and cost by reusing elements? Do we have defined libraries for photos/illustrations and brand assets?
Like many projects we work on, the answer lies in both clear objectives and knowing what each organisation is trying to do, getting alignment on ways of working, solid principles, frameworks and governance around this. In fact there are some striking parallels between setting up the right framework for Journey Map Operations, with adjacent industries like Research Operations (ResOps). We have seen some Research Operations (ResOps) projects fail, when there has been a rush to ‘install the tool’, but not enough consideration given to how it will be used, how decision making is made within the organisation and the processes and communication required.
Customer Journey Management at Scale
Most Leadership teams have been involved in projects involving customer journey mapping in some shape or form. This all sounds really easy right, but how do you do this at scale in a large organisation with multiple journeys, products and businesses? The honest answer is it's hard and it's not just about the tool you put in place, but also around the governance framework that supports this.
How does a CEO or Customer Experience leader of an organisation see the impact of the work undertaken by their teams on the Customer Journey, when there are many activities underway? What is the appropriate ‘Zoom level’ for them to work at? Should they be able to access the details of a problem area if they need to, or just stay at the top level of the hierarchy? I sometimes think of the analogy of 3D models you can see of the human body with all the vital organs and which systems they play a role in. Wouldn’t it be helpful if the leadership team could have a shared view, but also delve deeper into a problem area?
Benefits of Customer Journey Management
- Customer-Centric Approach: It places the customer at the centre of business strategies, leading to better outcomes.
- Data-Driven Decision Making: Journey management relies on data, enabling businesses to make informed decisions. Assuming that a clear decision making framework within the organisation exists.
- Competitive Advantage: Companies that effectively manage the customer journey gain a competitive edge.
- Data Silos and Alignment: Aligning multidisciplinary teams is a big win for customer journey management, but even more so is data alignment e.g. pooling a shared view of data, which often resides in disparate tools at the departmental level.
- Reduced Tech/Design/Research Debt: By sharing more widely and openly research and customer journey mapping work already conducted, there is a reduced risk of large organisations wasting budget on similar activities, whether internal or external spend.
- Resource-Intensive: Implementing journey management can be resource-intensive, particularly for smaller businesses.
- Complexity: Managing the customer journey is a complex task, requiring cross-functional collaboration. We don’t recommend a ‘Siloed pilot’ when approaching this, but working in a way that is widely visible within the organisation.
- Constant Adaptation: Customer expectations evolve, requiring continuous adjustment of journey management strategies.
- Software vs Pen : In the same way putting pen to paper can enhance cognitive processing and memory retention compared to typing on a computer, there can be benefits in working offline first and face to face with postits that allow wider exploration.
Tools for Customer Journey Management
In the quest to master the art of journey management, an array of tools and services is at your disposal. Installing software on its own won’t solve the issues highlighted above, but these tools serve as your cartographer's compass, guiding you through the intricate landscape of the customer journey. They facilitate the creation of visual representations, empowering teams to spot pain points and seize opportunities for refinement. The list below is not meant to be exhaustive, in fact there is a much more complete list here Best Customer Journey Mapping Tools for Intuitive Visualizations (2023). Among the standout options we see more frequently:
- Miro: A collaborative online whiteboard platform that fosters creative teamwork in mapping out customer journeys.
- Figma: An interface design tool known for its versatility, aiding in the creation of interactive journey visualisations.
- Google Sheets: A classic, spreadsheet-based solution for those who prefer a more straightforward approach to journey mapping.
- Office 365: Microsoft's suite of productivity tools, including Excel and Visio, which can be employed for journey mapping endeavors.
- Theydo: A dedicated journey mapping tool designed to streamline the process and elevate team collaboration.
- Smaply: A comprehensive journey mapping platform equipped with essential features for meticulous journey visualisation.
What is really interesting about the last two tools in the list ‘Theydo’ and’ Smaply’, is that they are tools that are specifically trying to tackle the interconnected aspects of the various journeys and the ‘Zoom level’ approach, with traffic light features such as ‘Journey Performance Indicators’ that consist of multiple inputs (such as research data) and a balanced scorecard per journey. Now of course they will both lock you into a specific ecosystem with their individual pricing, so that also needs to be taken into consideration, but this does feel like a really good attempt to tackle this challenge.
There are some limitations to maps that focus on information only with limited visual presentation. We have seen and used rich visual maps created in tools like Miro, which help inspire and engage teams and are used as a tool to support change. Tools like ‘Theydo’ support integration with Miro, so you can still access boards and content updated in Miro, which then updates in Theydo.
It is important to remember, it was never about ‘the map’, this was not the deliverable - it was (and will always be) about shared understanding, alignment of teams and delivering great services.
Customer journey management is no longer a luxury but a necessity in today's customer-centric business landscape. With the right tools and strategies, companies can not only meet but exceed customer expectations. The benefits, including enhanced customer satisfaction and competitive advantage, outweigh the cons, such as complexity and resource intensity.
My main takeaway is to not be too constrained by the tools available on the market. The tools are only part of the equation. The overarching system must be tailored to your organisation's unique needs, focusing on how different journeys intersect at various levels and establishing robust frameworks. Tools like Smaply and Theydo are a big step in the right direction. They centralise customer journey maps and ensure they live on in the organisation and are updated e.g. dynamic content, rather than static and as a tool to aid strategic decision-making. Having the leader of the organisation access the tool and work down from a higher zoom level into detailed journeys helps elevate Service Design as a practice and enables business strategy to align service design with the big picture.
Recent Insights in Customer Journey Management
Recent articles and thought leadership pieces shed light on the evolving landscape of customer journey management really worth reading and following these people on LinkedIn:
- "Three Common Challenges in Journey Management's Early Stages" by Esa Nettamo: Nettamo's article explores the hurdles faced by businesses when initiating journey management. It emphasises the need for a well-defined strategy to overcome these challenges.
- "Journey Management Provides a View of Customer Experience from a Different Angle" by Simon Conway: Conway's article discusses how journey management offers a unique perspective on customer experience, helping businesses understand and address pain points effectively.
- Simon Conway's Substack: Simon Conway's Substack newsletter is a valuable resource for staying updated on customer journey management trends. It provides insights and practical tips for implementing effective journey management strategies.
- CEO and Co-founder - Theydo - Jochem van der Veer
- Journey Map Ops Beyond Sticky Notes Marc Stickdorn and Kelly Ann McKercher SDN Global Conference 2023 Keynote
Ben is on hand to answer your questions.