Journey maps are good but teaching a way to think might be better.

Related imageWe hear a lot about customer journey mapping these days, and, at risk of irritating many of my friends in the customer experience industry, I have to admit I’ve grown tired of it taking over so much of the customer experience discussion. If you listen to much of the dialogue, you might think journey mapping is the answer to all of the ills customers must endure instead of a diagnostic/design tool that largely addresses process but tends to miss the need for developing and maintaining an employee mindset that allows management of the unique, changing, immediate needs of individual customers.

Don’t get me wrong, I do see value in mapping the path a customer must tread in their trek to success. It is an invaluable tool to help organizations see where there are snags or holes in their customers’ journey such as communication breakdowns or time-consuming, difficult chores that must be tolerated. Mapping journeys has its place, definitely, however, once the process is examined and fixes applied, what’s an employee supposed to do when things don’t stick to the map? To give it another spin, imagine traveling on vacation, you’ve mapped out the best route to avoid tolls and construction but there are always things you can’t plan for. There’s the road construction that, for whatever reason, didn’t show up on your travel app. There’s the accident that gets traffic bottled up. There’s the attraction that, while it didn’t look worthy of your time when you were planning, looks worthy of your time as you pass by it. Managing all of these spur-of-the-moment events requires spur-of-the-moment decision making that isn’t part of the big-picture plan. This is the realm employees live in daily, they are part of the points along the way and they need to know how to not only act in the planned (a.k.a. mapped) moments but how to react to the non-planned moments as well.

Earlier this year I attended a conference where one of the keynote addresses was delivered by the customer experience expert, Bruce Temkin. In his presentation, he talked about something called Customer Journey Thinking to augment journey mapping. He submitted that since today’s customers so highly value individual interactions, employees would be well served by an ability to continuously focus on their place in impacting the individual experience of the journey rather than so much focus on the tasks involved in the larger process. To embed this individual-centric, in-the-moment thinking in the mindsets of employees, Temkin suggests organizations teach their employees to continually ask themselves five questions.

  1. Who is my customer and what are their specific needs?
  2. What is the customer’s real goal; what are they trying to accomplish?
  3. What did they do right before coming to me; what have they had to endure so far?
  4. What will they have to do right after our interaction; what do they have to do next?
  5. What will make them happy right now?

I fell in love with this idea pretty quickly. You can see in the last three critical questions how Temkin carefully puts the employee’s particular vantage point in the context of a larger journey that includes past, present and future.

  1. PAST: Where has this customer been before getting to me and what have they had to do?
  2. FUTURE: What will they have to do next after working with me?
  3. PRESENT: How can I be most helpful in getting them from where they’ve been to where they’ll go?

Teaching employees to ask themselves these things can take your journey mapping efforts to a new level where process improvement goes hand-in-hand with a mindset change where employees adapt to the individual needs of customers that can’t be anticipated in even the best mapping effort. The words “most helpful” say it all. This is where we want employees to be and what customers most want.

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One thought on “Journey maps are good but teaching a way to think might be better.

  1. Good stuff as usual Neal.

    Thinking about the customer’s point of view is very important.

    Our check boxes do not thrill them.

    Paying attention to them and what they actually need is key.

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