Customer experience is a top priority for execs these days. 95 per cent say delivering great customer experience is critical to success. But, the reality is many organizations are still struggling to figure out how to put CX theory into practice.
Over the course of my career, I’ve accompanied many businesses in becoming more customer centric. What stands out is how difficult it is for businesses to understand customers’ realities. In fact, User Testing’s report reveals only 13.85 per cent of marketers have a deep understanding of their customers’ journeys across all touchpoints, online and offline.
I’ve realized large companies struggle to improve CX because they’re missing out on a crucial element: the ability to put themselves in customers’ shoes.
But, how can organizations gain this knowledge?
The power of customer journey mapping
One of my favourite tools to start the CX process is customer journey mapping. You may have heard about this technique. 88 per cent of CX pros surveyed by Forrester report incorporating it into their practice.
I experienced it’s value firsthand, seven years ago when embarking on a website redesign for a high-end tile company. When we started the project, the company’s website was an online catalogue of their inventory. We wanted to bring the website to the next level, but we weren’t experts in the tile industry, so we needed to find out more about client needs and pain points. We chose to conduct customer-facing research and to map their journey.
Once our customer journey map was complete, we could finally see the big picture. One common customer complaint was they couldn’t picture how tiles would look installed in their space. Customers experienced this frustration at several points in their journey: first when looking at tile samples in the store, and later when examining the samples they’d brought home.
When we started designing the website, we used these insights to develop unique features to help customers visualize tiles in their space. We understood the website had to serve customers at multiple points in their journey: when first coming in to the store to see products, and later on when weighing their options at home. To meet these needs, the website we created allowed staff, equipped with tablets, to accompany customers browsing in the store and to show them images of how tiles would look in completed rooms. On top of that, staff were able to track customers’ favourite tiles and to send an automatically generated email with product information and inspirational photos. The website we designed was more than a virtual storefront: it was a dynamic tool, which could accompany the customer from the beginning to the end of their journey.
Although customer journey mapping wasn’t a trend at the time, both myself and my client were immediately able to see its’ great potential. The client was impressed by the profound understanding of their business my team developed in a short period, and by the value we created by using this knowledge in our website design. They even told us our website led to a significant decrease in costs of producing sales and marketing collateral.
In fact, by engaging in customer journey mapping we were able to provide more than a website. We were able to build a strategic roadmap, identifying digital initiatives that could be developed to improve the overall customer experience. For example, we discovered the client’s professional customers (architects and designers) needed an online portal through which to manage their project orders and communications.
Customer journey mapping in action
Since my first adventure with customer journey mapping, demand for this service has exploded. Today, we work with a wide range of clients, from retailers to financial institutions, to help them use it to understand their customers and to deliver a delightful experience across channels.
I've realized that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a customer journey map. Each project my team has tackled has presented new challenges and revealed new insights. One thing I can say for sure, is that mapping the customer journey is a journey in itself.
For large organizations, launching a customer journey mapping project can be a big challenge. Whether it’s about identifying which journey to map, breaking down silos to collaborate across departments, or figuring out how to capture the right insights, each organization faces unique challenges.
Anastasia Simitsis is a VP, Strategy and Experience Design at Valtech Canada. She has been creating digital strategies and experiences that both fulfill user needs and business goals. Anastasia speaks at numerous digital marketing events, gives training at Campus Infopresse, and has co-founded Tout le monde UX. She also runs UXPA-QC, Quebec's local chapter of the User Experience Association. Follow her on Twitter at @UXfocus.