Customer experience is one of the hottest topics in business right now. Almost every journal you read or website you visit seems to be full of variants stating, “why the customer experience should be important to you” and “how your business will be at risk” if you ignore it.
But doing what? Customer experience management seems to mean different things to all people. There are just as many arguments about what it means as there are ways of improving customer experiences.
Because customers have a wider choice in just about every field, the experiences those customers have drive your ability to generate revenue. It’s no wonder that marketing and sales professionals are jumping on the customer experience bandwagon.
Customer journey mapping (CJM) — a technique we offer at my company — captures and models how customers interact with your organization. CJM analyzes the steps customers take, interactions they have and the emotions associated with those actions.
It seems like a buyer’s journey, hence why many in sales and marketing use it. However, the buyer's journey is only one of the journeys your customers go through. Others might include getting a repair, leaving a company or purchasing additional products. From the customer's point of view, the steps they go through may be different in each case.
CJM is a technique for capturing and questioning journeys. Great customer experiences don’t happen magically. They're engineered to be effective and deliver consistently great service. Such engineering only happens when you can connect those customer journeys to the underlying processes that deliver them. However, those CJMs are often still created by the same engineers and thinking that you've always used.
This thinking tends to start with examining “what is” and then building based on what you have. The initial work focuses on the “now,” or “what has been.” However, as Edward de Bono once said, “You can analyze the past, but you need to design the future.” This suggests that rather than thinking first about why things are as they are, we should focus on designing the future. I believe we need “imagineers,” not engineers.
Whilst an engineer takes something like a taxi booking system and makes it easier to pay for a taxi, an imagineer comes up with the idea of ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft. These imagineers don't start by mapping journeys that start and end within your organizational boundaries. They start by imagining new journeys we never thought possible and setting about delivering them.
Imagine you're a cruise company. Your journey might start with someone perusing your website and viewing cruises (trigger) and end with a customer booking a cruise (outcome). Along the way you capture the “steps” the customer goes through: browsing, evaluating, checking availability, checking price, selecting extras, booking the cruise and paying.
In this example, an “engineer” would start by capturing all the touch points and optimizing systems and interactions to maximize the number of people going from browsing to booking. They might merge systems and rethink user interfaces to provide a better journey.
An “imagineer” would consider that the journey starts with considering a cruise (trigger) but ends when the customer returns home from the cruise (successful customer outcome). Thus, instead of rethinking the booking system, they reimagine the whole experience, adding the additional steps the customer goes through: traveling to the airport, taking a flight, staying in the hotel before the cruise and taking a taxi to port, all the way through to taking the cruise and then taxi, flight and taxi home again.
Thus, the imagineer thinks about how they can be a one-stop solution, perhaps using partners to deliver parts of the experience. They also engineer the whole thing to be seamless and understand that they, the cruise company, need to take ownership. This simple approach illustrates that while an engineer focuses on optimizing existing ideas about a journey, imagineers think more broadly and take time to understand the full journey. It may be that a single customer journey is actually the sum of many smaller journeys; however, the customer is likely to think of it as one.
I believe imagineers are the true disruptors. They are perhaps the biggest threat not just to businesses, but to entire industries.
If you want to look to the future, start mapping possible customer journeys in your market. Remember to map those journeys by working backwards from the ultimate success in the customer's perspective. For example, when taking a flight, your journey doesn’t end at the airport. It ends when you arrive back at your house. When installing cable, the journey doesn’t end when it's installed. It ends when you can browse the internet or watch a TV program.
To switch your thinking, don’t just engineer what you have. Imagine what part you might play in a bigger journey. In the case of a mortgage, don’t think about the journey of getting a mortgage — look outward and see that you're part of the house-buying journey. Looking outward opens up new opportunities and identifies potential threats.
Don’t consider customer experience as a silo. Many organizations make the mistake of running customer experience as a function or looking at it as a sales and marketing function. Customer journeys can define your success, so these two groups need to work with your operational excellence or transformation teams. Ideally, overall responsibility would lie with your COO. You have to link journey and process, as I believe that you'll have the biggest impact on your business by changing processes to align with customers. This alignment could also increase revenue while driving down costs and driving up customer satisfaction.
By understanding both the true trigger-point and true endpoint, you can place yourself in the customer's journey to identify threats to your business and opportunities for growth and expansion. Perhaps it's an opportunity to expand your product or deliver it differently. One thing you can be sure of in today’s technologically enabled world is that chances are, somebody out there is conceiving of customer journeys that may involve what you currently do. The only question is: will you imagine a new world and act first, or will you find yourself forced to respond to changes brought about by someone else?
Currently serving as SVP of Strategy at Signavio, Mark McGregor was formerly a Research Director at leading IT industry analysis firm Gartner. Mark has been around the BPM market for many years and is widely respected for his knowledge and views on business change. He is the creator of “Next Practice.”