What is a customer journey map? A new playbook CIOs must master

by Clint Boulton
Republished from CIO, October 16, 2018

The digital era has, perhaps irrevocably, altered C-suite dynamics. Once unlikely collaborators, IT and marketing are partnering closely on new customer-facing technologies, an acknowledgment that both parties must work together to help their companies — and careers — thrive.

CIOs are also increasingly huddling with their CMOs on a critical initiative called a “customer journey map,” typically led by marketing or whichever group commands responsibility for the customer experience. Here’s what CIOs should know about customer journey maps and how to ensure you’re making effective use of them.

The customer journey map is a chart that helps employees visualize the process by which companies attract, satisfy and add value to retain customers. The map requires a collaborative process that relies on qualitative and quantitative data to determine and understand customer journeys, including their goals, needs and expectations, says Jane-Anne Mennella, a Gartner analyst who advises CMOs. The map will also help executives identify gaps between customers’ expectations and their experience during their journey.

Accordingly, Mennella says it’s imperative that key business lines, including sales, marketing, IT, operations and human resources, help inform, influence and shape the map, the better to provide the 360-degree view that addresses a customers’ wants and needs. “Customer experience is a cross-functional mandate,” Mennella tells CIO.com “It’s an organizational initiative, so everyone has a role in supporting customer experience.”

But make no mistake: In today’s increasingly tech-dependent world, IT plays a crucial role in fashioning and supporting the map, so it behooves the company for the CIO to be along for the journey from the start. “You can’t do it without the IT organization,” Mennella says. “Technology is a crucial part of delivering those customer experiences,” and helps pave the way for greater growth.

What a customer journey map looks like

The unique nature of business means the actual visualization will look different for most companies. No matter; the visualization component isn’t as important as ensuring that the steps are conceived of and completed correctly, Mennella says.

The ideal journey starts before customers have formally engaged a business. It starts with forming a cross-functional team to help align goals, Mennella says. This team should head off any competing goals, which is critical for ensuring business lines don’t move in different directions. Ideally, the CEO will govern this group, but Mennella says the CMO or CIO could lead it as well. Whoever it is must be “empowered to break any ties,” Mennella says.

Next, the team begins building a “persona,” or an image of the ideal customer. Using this outside-in view of molding digital experiences around the customer, the team should be able to build maps that detail touchpoints, interests and feelings for each persona.

There are vast oceans of data, so use it

It’s critical to infuse data into every step along the journey, Mennella says. Conducting research is also essential, so “listen” to social media to see what people are saying about your brand and tailor services around what you glean. Peruse your company’s digital channels, as well as indirect sources, such as forums and online communities. Operational and, of course, transactional data are also key. “We’re seeing this increased focus on customer insights and user research,” Mennella says. The CIO is crucial here, providing customer analytics to help keep the business on a straight path to the customer.

In the absence of such data, “assumptive” or hypothetical journey maps are acceptable. Here, an organization outlines the steps, thoughts, feelings and actions they think their customers would take, for example, with a new mobile ordering app.

But the more assumptive or inside-out the map, the greater the need for validation. Do results from the validation match the proposed journey map? If so, you’re good to go. If not, make the necessary adjustments. Should the CMO need another tech tool to complete this journey map, she or he can tap the CIO to build or buy one.

The journey map then follows a continuum of customer acquisition, satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, in which customers vouch for and market their beloved product. This will help the organization attract more customers and more prospects, resulting in a flywheel the delivers growth.

IT leaders already in the customer journey game

Mennella says she’s heartened by an increase of inquiries from IT leaders and lieutenants looking to learn more about how to work through a customer journey map, which suggests that collaboration between IT and marketing is getting stronger. “It’s exciting to see the convergence of this partnership,” Mennella says.

For example, Sysco CTO Wayne Shurts says the global food distributor has modeled its entire customer journey, including the “various systems and processes they use to interface with us.” Following that map, Shurts launched MySysco Order, a mobile app that allows customers to log orders via smartphone, and MySysco Delivery, a logistics app that allows customers to track their deliveries and the trucks they’re on via a map.

“In addition, we have a number of technologies on the trucks themselves and IoT devices throughout our supply chain that coupled with our customer data provides rich analytics on customer trends, movements and our supply chain,” Shurts tells CIO.com.

As the CIO of Kronos, John McGregor used to run IT the traditional way. But when the maker of workforce management software pivoted from licensed software to a SaaS (software-as-a-service) model three years ago, he had to rethink the way he delivered technology. That entailed running IT-as-a-service (XaaS) to align with a new customer journey map the company established to better serve customers in an increasingly on-demand world.

To help align with the company’s customer-first vision, McGregor turned to Salesforce.com for fostering leads, managing customer relationships, quoting, billing and other functions, such as customer self-service. “In SaaS, it’s always high touch,” McGregor explains. “We know what our customers’ demands are. We try to never let go of the customer.”

Today, more than 90 percent of net new customers choose Kronos’ SaaS solutions over its licensed software. Having all of the customer data in Salesforce.com, he says, helps Kronos better align its customer journeys.

And at Yamaha Motor USA, CIO Glenn Coles is listening to social media to ascertain what prospective and loyal customers are saying about the maker of motor boats, snowmobiles and other recreational machines. Coles says Yamaha must strengthen its digital connections, either through its website or mobile channels to engage with customers, many of whom interact with the brand through dealers.

If users opt in to receive information from digital channels, Yamaha can email or message them offers, service-warranty information for purchases and other information. Coles says building out a digital direct-to-consumer strategy is part of the “customer journey map” Yamaha is emphasizing to strengthen brand ties. “We talk a lot about digital convergence,” Coles says. “It’s a journey that we’ve been taking and trying to grow for a number of years.”

Builder beware: Mistakes to avoid

Building a customer journey map is one thing; leveraging it to bolster the customer experience is another. While 77 percent of 244 marketing leaders Gartner surveyed said they have a journey map, 30 percent struggle to use them effectively in support of their customer experience efforts, Mennella says. Here are some common pitfalls CIOs and their colleagues should avoid:

You have to start somewhere. Journey maps often fall down because organizations don’t know where to start, typically because they don’t know the customers they are targeting. Mennella says enterprises sometimes rely too much on third-party data, which puts distance between them and their customers. Here, Mennella says analytics and usage metrics can help hone your personas and goals.

Beware the product management pitfall. Sometimes enterprises are too focused on their own goals rather than what their customers need, Mennella says. Start with the outside-in approach, rather than simply building a product you think people want and trying to sell it to them.

Some customers are more valuable than others. Sometimes organizations focus on the easy, low-hanging fruit personas. Go for the big whales that are going to be loyal advocates who bring fellow customers on board to keep the flywheel spinning.


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