It’s great to see serious business forums, such as the Harvard Business Review blog, picking up on topics like customer experience. I’m following Adam Richardson’s series on customer journey mapping (CJM) with enthusiasm. I recently pointed to one of his artciles that introduced CJMs. Yesterday (Dec 2) Richardson added another installment, this time focusing on touchpoints.

In “Touchpoints Bring the Customer Exerience to Life,” Richardson proposes four categories of touchpoints that appear quite useful. He describes them in the article:

  • Products: Using the term “product” loosely here, this includes the hardware, software, and services themselves. In the case of Progressive, this includes its vans and website. (I’m classifying the website as a product as it’s central to every aspect of Progressive’s business, from acquiring to servicing customers. Frei examines how the website’s feature of quoting competitive prices, for example, also has positive business benefits for Progressive. But for company’s where the website is a straightforward marketing tool, it may be better to classify it in Messages, which we’ll see below.)
  • Interactions: Two-way interactions that can be in-person (such as in a store), on the phone, or virtual (web sites, blogs, social network and user forum presences, and so on). Progressive minimizes in-person interactions to reduce costs and tries to have customers self-serve on the website, but when an accident does occur, the interaction with the agent in the white van is crucial. An interesting contrast is online shoe retailer Zappos, which wants customers to call, as the company sees that as a loyalty-builder for the brand, even if it’s relatively expensive. CEO Tony Hsieh says, “We believe that forming personal, emotional connections with our customers is the best way to provide great service.”
  • Messages: One-way communications that include brand, collateral, manuals, advertising, packaging, and the like. Progressive advertises heavily, with its minor-celebrity spokesperson Flo who works in the Progressive “store” in the TV commercials. In the previous article I mentioned the importance of the out-of-box-experience stage of the customer journey, and that typically falls into the Messages category as it focuses on establishing the brand voice and explaining a complex product to first-time users.
  • Settings: Anywhere that the product is seen or used: a retail store, a friend’s house, TV product placement, events, or shows. Especially in Big Box retail, we have seen that manufacturers and vendors have less and less influence over how their products are presented, making this a tricky touchpoint to manage.

Richardson does not introduce these as presciptive elements of a CJM, and he encourages readers to try out others, as needed. For sure, it’s more about the way of breaking down the customer journey and the touchpoints in a visual representation that’s the important thing.

The example diagram in the article, for instance, uses a “swimlane” arrangement to visually align these categories with other facets of information on the CJM. In the end, it’s about exposing the potential value creation–both for customers and for the business–through alignment of interests and activities that’s the ultimate goal. (See my presentation on Alignment Diagrams from the Euro IA Conference  2010 for more on that).

In this sense CJMs are a diagnostic tool: they expose relationships within the customer’s experience and within an organizations activities that were perhaps previously unknown. Not surprisingly, I quite liked Richardson’s diagnostic questions for each touchpoint shown in a CJM. He suggests you investigate touchpoints around these areas:

  • What specific things are we doing at each touchpoint?
  • Are the touchpoints addressing customers’ motivations, and answering their questions or allaying concerns? Are they working for your target customers, and for novices and experts alike?
  • Are the touchpoints addressing your customers’ unmet/underlying/latent needs? Are there needs going unstated that neither you nor competitors are solving?
  • Are all the touchpoints speaking with the same tone, the same message, even the same words? Is your brand being communicated effectively and clearly?
  • Are there hiccups in the flow from one stage to the next that may cause potential customers to drop off, or cause dissatisfaction for current customers (and perhaps costly product returns or help-line calls)?
  • Are the touchpoints differentiating you from competitors and helping retain the customer?

Certainly, there are more such questions. But this is a good basis.

I imagine using these types of questions in workshops and brainstorming sessions. For instance, you could have breakout groups first review the details on the CJM and then respond to a given set of questions, similar to the ones above. If you get people from different areas of an organization, that would make for great conversations–conversations that may not happen otherwise.

What I usually do, BTW, is a simple SWOT analysis of the company’s total offering at each stage of a CJM. This is usually insightful, and to “Opportunities” lead directly to solution ideas. But Richardson’s questions are a little more specific and focused. I think I’ll try them in the future.

Richardson summarizes the value of CJM and touchpoint analysis nicely in this sentence:

Taking the time and effort to look at your touchpoints not just as isolated mini-experiences, but as a collective whole, will help you shape them for a better customer experience, and perhaps even point to opportunities to invent new types of touchpoints…

“Customer experience” is a slippery term to define and grasp. For one, only the customer can have an experience: it’s not something you sell or even control directly. You can design for a positive customer experience, but you really can’t design the experience itself. Second, an experience is hollistic. It’s all of the actions, thoughts and feelings a customer has about a product, service, or brand over time. It’s no wonder many companies struggle understanding customer experience.

CJMs and touchpoint analysis shine a spotlight on what’s otherwise invisible to many people in organizations. They make fuzzy concepts like CX more tangible. In doing so, you stand a much better chance at actually improving your customers’ actual experiences.

It’s great to see discussions of things like customer journey maps (CJMs) on business-related sites. Frog Design’s Adam Richardson introduces customer journey maps in recent Harvard Business Review blog post: Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience. He writes:

A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination. The more touchpoints you have, the more complicated — but necessary — such a map becomes. Sometimes customer journey maps are “cradle to grave,” looking at the entire arc of engagement.

And later, after showing an example, he concludes:

There is no single right way to create a customer journey, and your own organization will need to find what works best for your particular situation. But the frameworks provided here should give you a good head-start at better understanding the journey that your customers travel through as they engage with your company, brand, products, partners, and people.

For sure, if you survey examples and literature on customer journey mapping (which I did in a previous post), you’ll find various approaches. But the principles are the same: in a single diagram, visualize and align customer actions and business processes to expose touchpoints. This helps diagnose the customer’s experience and hopefully then improve it.

The example diagram in the article is quite high level, in my opinion–perhaps a little too much so. I generally shoot for more granularity–both in terms of the custom phases I use as well as the information included in the CJM.

But the types of information included in Richardson’s example are very good. In particular, I like use of “barriers.” I generally use something similar, like “customer problem” or “pain point.” But “barriers” is a little different.

It immediately reminded of advice found in The Innovator’s Guide to Growth by Scott Anthony et al. (See my review of that book here). The authors advise us to identify constraints to nonconsumption–or barriers in the use of a service. They write:

Nonconsumers with the highest growth potential are those who face a legitimate barrier that leaves them frustrated by their inability to meet an important need.

They trick is, they recommend, to identify and overcome these barriers. But be careful:

Market research reports tend not to pinpoint the amount of nonconsumption in a given market space. Indentifying conconsumers therefore requires some good structured thinking coupled with a bit of art. [emphasis mine]

This, in turn, reminded me of another quote from Scott Anthony on his blog at Harvard Business:

Qualitative techniques become even more important when a company is hoping to grow an existing market or create a new one. Quantitative research into non-existent markets is fraught with difficulties. How can you describe performance dimensions the customer can’t imagine? How can customers project usage of something they have never experienced? As the old saying goes, “Markets that don’t exist can’t be measured and analyzed.”

Companies too frequently default to quantitative research because they think there is safety in numbers. It’s a lot easier to justify a strategy by saying, “The data suggests” than by saying, “My intuition suggests.” But sometimes numbers provide false confidence and obscure real opportunity.

(See In Market Research, Use Numbers With Caution).

In the end, Richardson’s HBR post on CJMs is a nice kick off to discussions around diagnosing and improving customer experiences from a different perspective. It’s part of a series he started on customer experience. I hope to see more this line of thinking in the future, especially from business folks.

 

  • Last updated: 17 September 2011
  • Originally published: 10 May 2010

Service design can be traced back to the writings of G. Lynn Shostack in the early 80s. [1, 2] Though not new, there is a lot of talk these days about service design. In the past 5 or so years we’ve seen a service design renaissance, so to speak.

Literature on service design is thin(ish), relatively speaking (i.e., compared to other disciplines like psychology), but does extend back for decades. The Köln International School of Design (KISD), for one, established service design as a field of study in 1991. The Service Design Network has held two annual service design conferences on the subject so far, reflecting the recent burgeoning interest in the field.

Service design is by nature interdisciplinary, drawing attention from people in sales, marketing, product management, product design, interaction design, and user experience. Take the Information Architecture Konferenz in Germany in 2010, for instance: the theme is “Service. Design. Thinking,” with talks focused on service design.

A cornerstone deliverable in service design, in general, is a map of the service process. Shostack refers to “service blueprints” in her articles 30 years ago. Service blueprints are still a widely-used approach to visualizing the steps and phases in the service.

More recently, “customer journey maps” (CJMs) have emerged, which are very similar to service blueprints. In fact, you could contend that blueprint and CJMs are  the same. Arguably, however, CJMs tend to take a more customer-centric view of the service. For instance, CJMs show things like customer pain points, moments of truth, and other emotional aspects, including brand perception. Service blueprints do not necessarily include this type of information. Instead, then tend to illustrate backstage processes in a more provider-centric view of the service.

Typical elements of CJMs include:

  • Customer actions, usually broken into chronological phases of some kind
  • Goals and needs at each step in the process
  • Moments of truth, or areas of particular importance in the overall customer experience
  • Pain points, gaps and disconnects in service
  • Brand impact, satisfaction, and emotional responses
  • Business touchpoints and process, including roles, systems and departments of the provider
  • Existing services and opportunities for improvement

Other descriptive and contextual elements may also appear, such as quotes and photos.

Writing for Forrester reports, Bruce Tempkin stresses the relevance and importance of CJMs. He writes in a blog post:

…companies need to use tools and processes that reinforce an understanding of actual customer needs. One of the key tools in this area is something called a customer journey map… Used appropriately, these maps can shift a company’s perspective from inside-out to outside-in.

Yet, there are few resources on CJMs and how to create them, particularly on the web. (There isn’t even a Wikipedia entry on CJMs.) I’ve just completed a CJM project with my company, and in preparing for it have gathered a list of resources on the subject.

Below is a list of English resources on the web for CJMs. The focus of the list is on CJM as a document and deliverable, and how to create them. It doesn’t include general resources about serivce design and, with one exception, doesn’t include resources about service blueprints. The resources that begin with an asterisks are recommended starting points with particularly good practical information.


Customer Journey Map Resources On The Web:

Bob Apollo. “Understanding Your Prospect’s Buying Journey,” Inflexion Point [website] (last visited May 2010).

The consultants at Inflexion Point examine the B2B buying process in particular. They offer a generic buying journey that includes moments of truth, as well as tips on how to create a journey map. This is not a how-to resource, but discusses aspects of CJMs in detail with good examples.

* Mary Jo Bitner, Amy L. Ostrom & Felicia N. Morgan. “Service Blueprinting: A Practical Technique for Service Innovation,Working Paper, Center for Leadership Services, Arizona State University [pdf] (2007).

This is the only expection to this list of resources on CJM that is primarily about service blueprints. This 24-page paper is very detailed and includes practical information. “Service blueprints allow all members of the organization to visualize an entire service and its underlying support processes, providing common ground from which critical points of customer contact, physical evidence, and other key functional and emotional experience clues can be orchestrated.”

Cabinet Office. “Customer Journey Mapping Guidance,” Website (last visited May 2010).

This site provides log-in details to a SharePoint with excellent presentations and documents on customer journey mapping. A lot of the materials mirror the reports commissioned by the Cabinet Office by Oxford Strategic Marketing (see below). Most of the documents are PowerPoints. Log-in details:

To access the detailed guidance and the online training modules please go to sharepoint.oxfordsm.co.uk/gjm. You will need to enter the following:

Username: occ\Gjm
Password: Govjmtes12*

Tracy Caldwell. “A Route To Insights,Kable (Feb 2010).

This is a long-ish article summarizing CJMs, in general, and focuses in particular on recent advances in the public sector in the UK. The author points to the Cabinet Office’s resources and discusses the Stoke-on-Trent case study.

Dale Cobb. “Creating Your Own Customer Journey Map,” Servant Selling [blog] (Jan 2008).

This is a very short post, but it includes a CJM template with explanations of the different elements of a CJM.

Customer Faithful. “Customer Journey Mapping and the Experience Pulse,Presentation [pdf] (January 2010).

A brief overview of CJMs with a few examples.

Department of Health (UK). “Improving the service from start to finish: customer journey mapping,DH Care Networks [website] (Nov 2009).

This is a short article outlining the benefits of CJMs and the steps to create one. There are two documents at the end that point to the Oxford Strategic Marketing approach to CJMs.

Mel Edwards, “Customer Experience Mapping,” blog post on Desonance (June 2010).

This post includes a unique example of what the author calls a “customer experience map.” This is similar to a CJM, and seems to have many additional facets of information about the experience, such as triggers and delight opportunities. He gives some practical tips on creating them, as well as argument for when and why to use an experience map. There is a related post on service blueprints.

Engine Group. “Customer Journey Mapping,” Engine Service Design, Methods [website] (last visited May 2010).

Brief overview of CJMs in the form of a sale pitche for Engine’s services. There are links to case studies and images of CJM deliverables.

Experience Solutions. “Customer Journey Mapping,Website (last visited May 2010).

This is a brief marketing pitch for Experience Solutions’ services, but it includes an example of a customer journey map as PDF. It doesn’t include much how-to information.

* Joel Flom. “The Value of Customer Journey Maps: A UX Designer’s Personal Journey,UX Matters (Sept 2011).

This is a good case story around the use of CJMs at Boeing. There’s also a good illustration of a CJM with an interesting layout and form. Look at this article if you need some arguments for convincing others to use CJMs. The author was first skeptical of their use, but concludes: “By producing journey maps that illustrate an optimal customer experience, we enable stakeholders and executives to identify, prioritize, and maintain focus on the changes that matter.”

Jon Harvey. “Customer Journey Mapping: New Workshop,Jon Harvey Associates [blog] (April 2010).

Jon Harvey follows the Stoke-on-Trent implementation of CJM on his blog. This post links to other posts on the subject he’s written. Not much practical information.

Hawdale Associates. “Customer Journey Mapping,YouTube Video [2:31] (March 2010).

This short video does a good job at explaining CJMs and related deliverables. It’s mostly a marketing pitche for Hawdale Associates and doesn’t include how-to information.

Jeff Howard. “Using Diary Studies for Customer Journey Mapping,Design for Service [blog] (Dec 2009).

This is a nice, short blog post focusing on a specific way to get at data needed to create a CJM: diary studies. There is little about CJMs themselves, but it’s worth getting some ideas around diary studies.

Hetal Joshi. “Customer Journey Mapping: The Road To Success,” Cognizant CRM Insights [pdf] (2009).

This is a short 4-page article on the benefits and process of CJMs. “Customer journey mapping is a systematic exploration of a customer’s interactions with yourorganization across all channels and throughout their lifecycle.”

Valeria Maltoni. “3 Steps to Mapping the Customer Journey,” Conversation Agent [blog] (June 29).

Short article about CJMs: “Mapping the customer journey means visualizing how customers interact with you and your business across multiple channels and touch points at each stage of their involvement with your service.”

The Marketing Spot. “Build Your Marketing Plan Part 4: Customer Experience Map,SlideShare Presentation (2008).

A presentation with audio on CJM. Some interesting examples are included.

Peter Martin. “Customer Journey Mapping,SlideShare Presentation (April 2010).

A presentation with enough bullet points to follow most of it. There are good examples of CJMs included.

* Mulberry Consulting. “Mulberry Consulting CJM Presentation,” White Paper [pdf] (2009).

The authors write: “Customer Journey Mapping provides a clear picture of your customers’ interactions with you at every stage of the lifecycle.” This presentation provides a broad overview of CJM but includes some how-to tips. There are lots of good examples of CJMs.

* Arne van Oosterom. “Mapping out customer experience excellence: 10 steps to customer journey mapping,MyCustomer.com (March 2010).

This article is a great resource for both a general discussion of why CJMs are important as well as practical information to complete them. Mr van Oosterom is a leader in the field and breaks the process down to 10 steps, as the title suggestions. He writes: “A customer journey map is built up layer by layer. We start ‘above water’, with the customer and slowly dive deeper and deeper into the organisational structures and context. The tool can be used with customers or management, employees and other stakeholder or, even better, in a mix.” See also the Customer Journey LAB from DesignThinkers, Arne’s company in Amsterdam.

* Oxford Strategic Marketing. “Customer Journey Mapping: An Introduction” and “Customer Journey Mapping: A Practicioner’s Guide,” Cabinet Office website (Sept 2009, last visited May 2010)

This is a series of documents written by the Oxford Strategic Marketing commissioned by the UK’s Cabinet Office and is perhaps one of the most complete resources on the web on CJM. Section 4 of the 6-part practicioner’s guide is devoted to the process of creating CJMs with step-by-step instructions. They define customer journey mapping as: “..the process of tracking and describing all the experiences that customers have as they encounter a service or set of services, taking into account not only what happens to them, but also their responses to their experiences. Used well, it can reveal opportunities for improvement and innovation in that experience, acting as a strategic tool to ensure every interaction with the customer is as positive as it can be.” An article in the Guardian Public discusses this report from the Cabinet Office.

Quality Improvement Agency. “Customer Journey Mapping,” White Paper [pdf] (2007).

This resource provides a brief overview with some of the benefits of CJMs, and it includes an example and template of a CJM.

* Adam Richardson. “Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience,” Harvard Business Blog (Nov 2010) and “Touchpoints Bring the Customer Experience to Life,” Harvard Business Blog (Dec 2010).

This pair of articles from Frog Design expert Adam Richardson covers some basics of CJMs. The second one dives deeper into touchpoint analysis and provides some good tips and examples of what to potentially look for and map. The important thing about these articles is that they appear in a leading business venue. Pointing to these can help get the attention of stakeholders at different levels.

Stacy Surla. “Service Design and the Customer’s Journey,Fit and Finish [blog] (April 2010).

Brief blog post that summarizes some presentations at the IA Summit 2010 related to service design. There are a couple of examples of service blueprints from Adaptive Path included in the post.

Roberta Tassi. “Tools: Customer Journey Map,” Service Design Tools [website] (last visited May 2010).

“The customer journey map is an oriented graph that describes the journey of a user by representing the different touchpoints that characterize his interaction with the service.” There are good examples of CJM diagrams tied into case studies on this site. Though lacking detailed how-to information, this is a good place to start learning about CJMs.

Bruce Tempkin. “It’s All About Your Customer’s Journey,” Customer Experience Matters [blog] (March 2010).

Brief overview of CJMs, but includes and interesting example from Lego as well as an overview to the steps necessary for creating a CJM.

* Bruce Tempkin. “Mapping the Customer Journey,” Forrester Report (Feb 2010).

Detailed 18-page report about CJMs from Forrester. The findings are based on interviews with 11 firms, including Razorfish, Mullberry Consulting, and Sapient. They define CJMs as “documents that visually illustrate customers’ processes, needs, and perceptions throughout their relationships with a company.” Forrester reports are not cheap, for sure, but if you can get your hands on this report it provides some of the best details and guidance on CJMs. This is probably one of the more detailed resources on CJMs with practical how-to information. It also includes a discussion of the Kano model for distinguishing user needs.

Touchpoint Dashboard Blog.

This is the blog for Touchpoint Dashboard, a software solution for customer journey mapping. I’ve not used the software and can’t vouch for it, but the blog has many good posts on CJMs, including a pretty good basic explanation (See: “What is a Customer Touchpoint or Journey Map“). As of Fall 2011, the blog has regular updates at a rate of 2-4 per month (dating back to July 2011).

Westminster IC. “Customer Journey Mapping,YouTube Video [3:14] (Nov 2009).

Members of the Westminster Council talk about there experiences testing customer journeys. Very interesting short video that makes some good points.

Web Searches for “Customer Journey Map.”

One of the best ways to get an overview of approaches to customer journey mapping is looking at the final deliverables others have made available on the web. Try some of the searches below for examples:

James Womack and Daniel Jones. “Lean Consumption,” Harvard Business Review (Feb 2005).

The authors call for: “streamlining the systems for providing goods and services, and making it easier for customers to buy and use them, a growing number of companies are actually lowering costs while saving everyone’s time.” This streamlining is what they called “lean consumption.” They write: “Mapping the steps in a production and consumption process is the best way to see opportunities for improvement. A map can reveal how broken processes waste providers’ and consumers’ time and money.” The recommend creating explicit diagrams showing activities on both the customer side and the supplier side. Exact timings in minutes are given in the examples in this diagram, so the proposed approach is not as broad as a full CJM, but it’s very similar.

References

[1] Shostack, L. G. (1982). “How to Design a Service.” European Journal of Marketing 16(1): 49-63.

[2] Shostack, L. G. (1984). “Design Services that Deliver.” Harvard Business Review(84115): 133-139

 The title of this blog post from Bruce Tempkin pretty much says it all: It’s All About Your Customers’ Journey. He laments:

Stanley Marcus, who was president and chairman of the board of Neiman Marcus, was once quoted as saying:

“Consumers are statistics. Customers are people.”

Unfortunately, the normal day-to-day activities inside of companies make it very easy for all employees to forget this critical fact. So, over time, the decisions that companies make end up straying farther and farther away from addressing the actual needs of customers. I often describe this phenomenon by saying that companies are from Venus and customers are from Mars.

Part of the cure is making an explicit map of a customer journey. He makes a call the create customer journey maps (CJMs):

That’s why companies need to use tools and processes that reinforce an understanding of actual customer needs. One of the key tools in this area is something called a customer journey map (also known as a touchpoint map). Used appropriately, these maps can shift a company’s perspective from inside-out to outside-in.

There’s lots of talk these days about shifting a company’s perspective. It’s really a paradigm shift from traditional command-and-control management styles to more customer-oriented perspectives. Bruce isn’t the first to encourage us to think outside in. Tim O’Reilly made this observation 5 years ago.

Of course, Bruce references his own Forrester report on CJMs. Email me directly if you want more information about the report.

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