Journey mapping is an interesting exercise. It’s typically done when you have an existing service, already delivering to customers and you want to better understand what they are experiencing as their request travels through your organisational system.

Build first, ask later… what could possibly go wrong?!

Enter the need to understand that customer journey, map it, and then hopefully act on what you find out.

Therein lies the rub; your system is not perfect, and to move forward you have to accept and own that one, simple fact. All the planning and forecasting, all the reports and metrics, in general cannot tell you about the actual experience.

Can’t stop messin

There’s no way to know if the thing you’ve set out to do is going to be right for your customers ahead of time. Despite all of the command-and-control ‘experts’ out there who would like to tell you otherwise, they actually are not looking at the experience from a customer’s perspective. The uniqueness of every customer, as well as how they are going to consume ‘the thing’ is something you cannot know.

Many organisations try and replicate the experience, and it’s nearly always at low volumes. Some might try and get a service through their controlled environment, while others might actually use their corporate purchasing card in order to sign up ‘as a customer’ and travel through the front lines. Often though, the issue here is that their expectations – as employees – are different than what a customer may want. They are also likely prepared to sit and wait for things to progress through ‘the organisational machine’… and most customers would not.

I don’t want to miss a thing

Journey mapping can often have its wings clipped before it even gets off the ground. It can occur when little pockets of the organisation we’re trying to understand won’t let you into their little fiefdom. They would rather be treated like a black box – something goes in, something comes out. Never you mind what happens in between.

The problem with that is always going to be that they don’t understand their place in the universe – all parts must come together in order to deliver an intact ‘thing’. Pretending that something always comes out perfect is not reality, and also (quite bluntly) ignores the possibility of improvement in that space.

Girl keeps coming apart

Including everyone in the chain is the only way to make the customer journey map truly complete. And it often can be as simple as getting a representative (that does ‘the work’ to make ‘the things’) from each part of the business, and asking them to start drawing – on a nice long piece of butcher’s paper – how the work is supposed to flow through the system.

Very quickly people will come to see that things are not ever-perfect as everyone’s pretended they are for so long. Those joins between business units will talk to each other about what they expect versus what they receive, loops will start to be drawn when it’s discovered that things need to be sent back two steps to fix a mistake that was made.

Jig is up

The Net Promotor Score (NPS) advocates will tell you that they know what the customer experience is like, and they’d be wrong. The biggest problem with NPS is the fact that it doesn’t ask ‘why’ something was the way it was. Working in various organisations, I have seen customers rating a particular experience 10-out-of-10 and still saying they wouldn’t recommend it. Conversely, customers can still rate an experience 0-out-of-10 and still say they would recommend it. Maybe they don’t have a choice in service? Maybe they got a really nice service experience but didn’t end up getting what they really wanted? No one has asked ‘why’.

Often, these gaps can be filled (but not always) with verbatim feedback… however, customer’s feedback is difficult to sort, difficult to categorise, impossible to go back through and read later – generally due to the sheer volume. And if you’re going back to read it after the fact, that customer has already long gone, possibly with a poor experience. And it’s too late.

NPS in itself likely warrants an entire story in itself… I might revisit this in a future entry 🙂

Livin’ on the edge

There’s a far better way to dealing with customer issues, both good and bad, than trying to use a number to see if you’re ‘trending’ upward.

Ask. The. Customer.

In. The. Moment.

…and if the customer says that they aren’t quite satisfied, then fix it. In the moment. With the customer. And make a note of what had to change, and get it changed, because there is a chance that the issue could reoccur. And this should be built into everything you do! If your organisation was reactively-proactive all the time, fixing all of those little issues that arise for customers as they arise, then you’d eventually reach a point where one of two things occur; issues no longer arise, or a completely new set of challenges come up.

Again though, the need for acceptance that your system is not perfect, and might never be, is key in this understanding. Getting trapped in the cycle of “if we plan for as much stuff as we can, nothing will ever go wrong” is not going to help anyone – it’s not realistic.

Be humble, and acknowledge that understanding the journey is the journey. And that journey shouldn’t end, if you’re really dedicated to your customer.

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