The customer journey: Why you need journey maps

By Denis Pombriant, Beagle Research Group

A journey map is the most effective way to ensure that your customer-facing processes are optimized. As customers take more responsibility for interacting with vendors, a journey map is often the best way to plan and track a customer’s passage.

Most people would say that analytics is useful because it develops knowledge that enables better decision-making (and that’s true). But the implication is that the knowledge and decision making is consumed right away – a customer does something and analytics ranks the next best offer – that is, content to be delivered, or action to be taken and that’s that. However, we can set our expectations higher.

For instance, what are the downstream implications of a particular action? Understanding the future and accurately modeling it can provide marketers and others with greater ability to predict and affect desirable outcomes.

A customer onboarding process is as unique to a business as a fingerprint.

The customer journey and moments of truth

If you take a moments-of-truth approach to your customer relationships, you know that identifying customer moments of truth happens well before you engage a customer. In fact, knowing those moments of truth can help you prepare to be in the moment with the customer, which leads to benefits like bonding and, ultimately, customer advocacy. If you apply this idea, you should expect better qualified leads and quicker sales cycles.

Knowing your moments of truth is good but also knowing that they occur in waves of cause and effect is even better. Understanding this rhythm gives you the chance to forecast more than just the next move and seeing further down the path helps with provisioning resources where they’ll do the most good. That’s where journey mapping is useful. A journey map enables users to chart the cascading moments of truth to produce a model that tells a beginning-to-end story.

Mapping the customer journey

Journey mapping is the first step in modeling how customers behave within a succession of moments of truth, and it is essential to improving the vendor-customer relationship in an efficient and cost effective way.

The modeling involved in journey maps can be full of the if-then-else logic of a conventional approach but in easily understood diagrams and flowcharts that show users where a customer is in a marketing process. Most importantly, it can identify, and help avoid, times when customers get stuck or abandon a process without warning.

In conventional marketing programs, it is often difficult to educate a prospect using process that provides increasingly complex information because it was hard to gauge the level of understanding a customer possesses. For example, a customer might have received introductory content on multiple occasions but still not understood it, which might have prompted a call to sales seeking additional clarification. Today, with so many customers doing their own research and information gathering, the risk is greater that when a customer becomes frustrated in an information search, he or she will simply go elsewhere.

Analytics and customer interactions

Journey maps also help us model additional uses for analytics. For example, we live by metrics and key performance indicators in modern business and that’s good as long as what we’re measuring relates to things that are important to customers and our businesses. Organizations that employ journey mapping can identify crucial positions within journeys that need monitoring – customer onboarding, for example.

Every business has some form of onboarding, a period when a new customer gets established and begins to make productive use of a product or service. Studies show that there is a window of time in any onboarding when most customers grasp the essentials and begin to use the product. But those windows are finite and they are different depending on products, populations, training and many other factors. For this reason, a customer onboarding process is as unique to a business as a fingerprint.

But onboarding is never just one thing, it’s numerous moments of truth and can include such basic things as registering for warranty service, signing up for training, conducting a first project and bringing additional people onboard. In other words, it’s a cascade of events. Given this, it’s important not just to monitor the macro process but to see into the multiple steps that comprise the process. When you discover slowdowns in an area, you can dispatch resources to remove a blockage. In marketing that might mean making a call or promoting a particularly eager prospect.

For many years we’ve seen a succession of tools come to market designed to interact with customers in various ways. With journey maps, we’ve come full circle and are now able to capture precise feedback, which will make further outreach more successful.

Denis Pombriant

Denis Pombriant researches and writes about the trials and tribulations of vendors and customers — two types of human separated by a common cause. He lives in the Boston area with his beautiful wife, two demanding cats, and one hyperactive puppy.

Read more in this series

  • The final article in this series offers a way to zero in on the buy signal  that lets you know the customer is ready to make a purchase.

Read the article

What to read next

  • Read Denis' latest book, Solve for the Customer available on Amazon.

Get More Insights

Want more Insights from SAS? Subscribe to our Insights newsletter. Or check back often to get more insights on the topics you care about, including analytics, big data, data management, marketing, and risk & fraud.