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Journey Map

By Denis Pombriant CRM Buyer ECT News Network
Nov 12, 2014 4:50 PM PT

The journey map and the tools used to make one might be the sleeper part of CRM in the year or two in front of us. The reason is simple: Journey maps enable you to figure out your processes, and they are useful in much more than just marketing.

Journey Map

The emerging "science of the customer," which is probably not the term that ultimately will stick in anyone's head, is something I recently discussed in this column. The key element of the idea is that the random and highly reactive approach to front-office business rapidly is being eliminated, because big data and analytics are showing us where the opportunity clusters are and where we shouldn't spend our precious time.

There is a virtuous circle nature to this. We need better processes because our analytics tell us rather convincingly what our customers think is a waste of effort and which things we really ought to pay attention to. Knowing those things is not understanding process, though. A customer might want an end result, but it's the vendor's obligation to deliver all the things that lead up to the result, aka the processes.

No Dirt Roads

Take customer onboarding as an example. It's an idea familiar to a lot of us, but how many of us take responsibility for it? There's glamour in sales, less in marketing -- and once the customer crosses what we consider the finish line, too often that's it. However, customer onboarding is the most important part of the whole relationship, other than securing the John Hancock, because it builds the relationship.

Onboarding can include everything from getting the product out of the box and registered to correctly entering your metadata. The point is that every business has a set of rituals that must be observed, but too often there's no high priest. Maybe there should be, since onboarding is one of the key moments of truth that a vendor-customer relationship has.

Not to get too far down a single path, but onboarding is just one example of a customer journey that looks like a dotted-line dirt road on your map, and that's where journey mapping becomes important. There should be zero dirt roads, and vendors need journey mapping to plan out all of the possible ways a customer can take a wrong turn so that they can make the situation right well before frustration sets in and bad things follow.

So journey maps are really important in marketing because we want to establish an absolutely foolproof path from interest to closed deal, just as we want to get the product out of the box and a smile on the customer's face.

Sound Structures

When I introduced the idea of customer science, you might recall that I likened it to a form of sociology whose major point of interest is how societies erect structures for people to work within. In sociology, the opposite of structure is agency -- as in taking responsibility for going it alone. When customers carve their own paths, too often bad things like attrition are the result. That's why structure is so important.

So, you can look at the journey map and its supporting tools as the business' structure-making socio-customer-science effort to keep revenues flowing in one direction and customer happiness percolating in the other, and that would be a good thing.

Journey maps will be found all over your business in a few years, starting with marketing's effort to corral customers to sales' attempt to get them branded -- but there's more. We've looked at onboarding already, but I think the biggest impact journey maps will have will be in service and support. Too many businesses currently have just one or maybe a small handful of service and support processes, and few specialists. That's about all you can have with manual processes -- or dirt roads, in this parlance.

At worst, a business ought to be able to segment services and support into maybe eight or 10 service processes, each with its own specialists and SLA. A how-to request might come into the same place as a request for enhancement, but the two ought to take very different trajectories from there. That's too manual -- and mapping these separately might be the first step to speed up both and deliver greater satisfaction.

In doing that mapping, we're finally able to describe concretely the engagement we want in ways that don't sound like an ad for a new vitamin. Better still, and this is huge, we can ensure that the end result of the engagement is not an accidental hang-up or worse.

Receiving in Manual Mode

Some people might say, well, that doesn't happen any more -- but if you think that, you're just not getting involved enough in the vendor-customer give and take. I got thinking about all this recently when I called my local gas and electric utility to report a dead tree hanging off some power lines like a barfly on a barstool. I made the unwitting mistake of getting to the gas side of the house, rather than the sparks.

The very nice and efficient person on the line told me she couldn't help me and couldn't even transfer me. Worse, the website behaved as if it was designed by whoever built Fort Knox, and I repeatedly bounced off. All I could do was send a DM to what I thought was their hashtag, along with an editorial comment on the efficacy of their service solutions. This being Twitter, I had to compress it all into one word.

Had this energy company thought through its moments of truth and built its journey maps, rather than operating a very efficient customer service site circa 1995, things could have been different. The point is that we've trained customers to reach out to vendors in various ways, but we are still receiving in manual mode. Time to create journey maps that will take us to the next level.

Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant's research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and website. He is the author of Hello, Ladies! Dispatches from the Social CRM Frontier and can be reached at You can also connect with him on Google+.

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