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Aslan patov
Customer experience journey mapping: 8 ways how the industry is getting it all wrong.
Needless to say that every single company is trying to map their own journey: customer service, customer experience, purchase decision or user experience – they are all journeys but often confused and mixed.

Needless to say that every single company is trying to map their own journey: customer service, customer experience, purchase decision or user experience – they are all journeys but often confused and mixed.

A CX approach is used to fix processes, a purchase decision journey is used to map the customer experience out. And that's just half of the problem. Journeys that I have seen lacked consistency, sequence, and most of them didn't solve any problems.

Below you will learn a few tricks, find out which mistakes to avoid and how to avoid them when you are creating a customer experience journey.

Let's get into the exciting part.
point 1

You start the customer experience journey wrong

One Emirati friend of mine is writing manga comics. During one of our conversations he explained one important thing about his characters (which I believe is very common for any book authors and their characters). He told me: you don't tell the character what to do, you just come up with his nature and then put him in the context, and it's his nature that tell you what to write about him going forward. The character and the context is what defines the storyline. Makes sense, right?

Imagine a customer persona whose name is Anna. She is obsessed with coffee and are very likely to choose some decent places with really good coffee. For Anna, walking an extra 250 meters won't be an issue, despite of the fact that she is gonna see 5 Starbucks coffee shops on her way.

Now let's add that persona some character by putting her in a context.

Where does the context start? It starts with the trigger (or a need). Let's say that in Anna's case, the trigger is a "morning crave".

“Start your journey with the trigger. A trigger will give the it a context & add to the profile you have created a character." — Aslan Patov
If Anna has a meeting and she doesn't have enough time on her hands, the priority will be just getting coffee, and that coffee should be purchased in the most appropriate place, but now the distance will matter. Because the trigger is a crave, not indulgence. And the priority is work, not coffee.

Knowing Anna's profile is just half of the picture, knowing what triggered her to go after a purchase is significantly augmenting that picture. Now that we added a trigger, her choice suddenly starts making sense.

Always start with the trigger (I will try to write a piece about human triggers later). A trigger will give the journey a context & add to the profile you have created a character.
point 2
Customer experience journey is not linear

When capturing a journey, we have to keep in mind how diverse the customer choice set is. If you are trying to fix a journey or create "one ultimate customer experience" – you will get it wrong.
It's the customer who chooses how to act, you can't choose for him, even if you did a research that showed that 80% of customers follow it, the other 20% can become your defectors or even worse – they can sabotage your brand if you forgot about their very own touchpoints.
So, there is no "one right way to do the CX". You have to consider multiple possibilities and do the experience assessment right across all existing touchpoints. If you see that there is a touchpoint which could make the CX better, add it. If there is a touchpoint that makes it worse, remove it. But consider a possibility when humans go back and forth, up and down, left and across.

Quite often this mistake happens when people who worked on internal processes for internal users (Salesforce integration, per se) start applying their skills onto CX journey mapping. Or they request the journey to be linear. Sometimes, companies do it for the sake of simplicity, as clients refuse to comprehend the complexity of a multilayered non-linear journey (which is also hard to read).
point 3
You shouldn't be defining the journey stages
The steps and step clusters will do it for you. Often, we map the steps out on the canvas and then try to retrofit them into the chunks which we have identified before going into the steps.

Here is an example that can happen in the property buying category:

Trigger: "Martin (he is an investor, was on the newsletter list, because he had a specific buying record of 10 apartments and he normally does 1 purchase once every year in April) received a notification from the company in April with an offer for a new Villa"

Step: "Martin decided to check the offer on the company website and clicked the link"

You see, Martin didn't start from the Awareness stage, although, he was notified. He didn't have to go into Consideration stage either (yet, as it will come). He went directly into the Exploration. And you don't need to make up a ton of other steps which would be wrong for Martin.

So, make sure you lay the journey out first, and then tap into the chunk/phases/stages – whatever you decided to call them.
point 4
Steps have grammar, choose the right one for your journey
Have you ever gotten into an inconsistency trap when all of your steps just sound wrong and while some are actionable, others are not? There you go.

Assign a grammar to the step before starting the mapping exercise, be open about it with your client and make sure it's attainable and comprehensive.

Above, I have provided a step for Martin, let's break it down. Although it's completely made up, it does follow a logic I use in my work.
My steps grammar
  1. Martin (the person, don't have to include him every time)
  2. decided to check the offer (intent of the action)
  3. on the company website (the touchpoint where the action is happening)
  4. and clicked the link (the actual action, and the verb that tells us what Martin did)
You can play with combinations, and above it's only one of them, but never forget about being consistent. If you are not, then you are doing something wrong.
point 5
Please, stop putting stupid smileys on the map
The aim of the customer experience mapping exercise is to understand how people feel and change that. Make services better, communications crispier, operations faster. How a negative, neutral or positive smileys is gonna help you understand what the customer really feels?

Are these three "conditions" actionable? They will only state the fact that someone is unhappy, won't help you fix it.

Emotions or feelings have intensity levels, and at some people will advocate your brand, at some they will sabotage you, as mentioned earlier. Make one more step to understand how exactly the person feels (working with actual emotions is harder and trickier than feelings). Yes, in many cases you will only guess, but remember the character we have talked about above? Use it.

There are models out there that help you quantify emotions, make sense out of feelings and having understood them, you will get better at what you do: at understanding your customer and being able to act.

I will be writing another post about emotions and how we could possibly quantify them, we will review a few models as well along the way, but that is not a part of this story. Just make sure, that you draw a line between Sad and Moody, Bored and Exhausted, Happy or Elated.
point 6
Capture the dropout moments, they matter
Every journey has a few decisive moments. Moments of Truth. We know quite a lot about them. Dan Ariely, calls his "moments of truth" the friction points. The points where dropouts happen or are likely to happen. That's where you lose the customer, and they will have top priority in your plan.

But that's not all. It's not about the dropouts, it's about the chain reaction that leads to it that you got to fix.

Find out what leads to the dropouts and either change the route completely, or fix the issue.
point 7
Don't stop at highlighting the issues, always ask "so what?"
You have to provide a fix. With one of my recent clients I came up with a fix-enhance-transform prioritisation matrix. You can go with more conventional "ease-impact" model, it will all depend on what your customer is trying to achieve.

And don't be vague with your inputs. Asking the team "fixing the problems on the website's product page" isn't a way forward.

A way forward is highlighting which team has to be involved in the fix, giving the task a priority, assigning a KPI or a few of them, and giving a specific instruction, which can become a creative brief, like: "move from communicating products to communicating experiences".

You want to be more specific because you feel you know the industry inside-out? You can be more specific. Tell them what exactly has to be done and remember: a work will be done only when it's understood and an instruction is given.
“Sometimes the fix is small and unnoticeable, but powerful as hell. And it lies in the human's perception." — Aslan Patov
point 8
Don't forget that perception matters, not just reality
I am not saying that you shouldn't change the layout of the store or move the touchpoint to the place where it's more likely to be seen. But if you get fixated on the reality, you (or your client) will end up spending a lot or not fixing anything.

And sometimes the fix is small and unnoticeable, but powerful as hell. And it lies in the human's perception.

A customer that has called your customer service center does care a lot about the time he spent in the queue waiting for the representative to answer his call, but will it even matter if you were not able to process his emotions once the call was received?

Here is a situation. Nikita is willing to fix his stove. It's been broken for a while, he can't cook, his wife is agitated, and this isn't the first time the stove is going off. He calls your service up and few things happen.

  1. He waits in the queue for a long time. And the freshly installed AI doesn't help.
  2. Once he reaches to the customer care representative, he feels that the guy is trying to get rid of him as fast as possible, hence, doesn't really care about the pain.
  3. The process is a pain, and although, according to Nikita, the problem is clear, instead of sending the fixing team right away, the CC representative sends a team that is trying to find out the "real" problem.
Well done, you figured the challenges out. Now you want the client to fix them:

  • Infrastructural change to ensure the AI is better, the call through is quicker. (serious investments)
  • Staff increase, to ensure that people can spend more time on the call and/or take the call quicker. (serious investments)
  • Processual change, retraining the personnel to make sure that the understand the new processes. You give a guide on how to understand the issue on the call instead of sending the team. (serious investments)
Awesome. Was Nikita's problem fixed? Not yet, and although next time the call might be smoother for Nikita, he will still hate you and your customer care.

Because it's his feelings you have to work on first. Being empathetic is the first step. Acknowledging the problem, accepting that there is a whole emotional luggage behind it, apologizing and offering help will create trust and give Nikita a relief.

If you can afford changing everything else, do! But don't forget about feelings. It will take a workshop or two and a guide to get your customer care team there.
“Please, stop putting stupid smileys on the map." — Aslan Patov
What you should remember
Don't forget about the journey context. If you start it right with a trigger or a need, you will give your character (profile) a true decision making power that will inform you about his next steps.
Map journeys, not processes, as journeys are not linear.
Never define the journey stages before you have your steps mapped out.
Give your steps a consistent and comprehensive grammar.
Think about feelings instead of ranking human emotions between three most common options of "negative", "neutral" or "positive".
Understand where and why drop outs happen.
Provide a clear action plan of how you would like the experience to be fixed.
Focus on perceptions, not just the reality.
I hope this will make your life easier and the next client meeting more constructive.