Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Have You Digitized Your Journey Map?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Do you know why it's important to digitize your journey maps?

In the past, I've written about some of the myths of journey mapping. One of those myths was:

Without a digital mapping platform, I can't even begin to map.

You probably know by now that I'm an advocate of digitizing your maps, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it checks the box for the basic tenets of mapping, including maps must be:
  • created collaboratively, with customers and with other stakeholders
  • shared with the employees who impact the journey that was mapped
  • updated to always reflect the current state of the experience
  • communicated by using them as onboarding and training tools for your organization
  • brought to life with data and artifacts
  • validated by customers, if you started with assumptive maps
  • actionable, meaning they must include enough detail and data to not only truly understand what's going well and what's not but to also be able to identify the moments of truth

Let me go back to the myth for a moment: Without a digital mapping platform, I can't even begin to map.

You absolutely can map without a digital platform; as a matter of fact, I often like to start my journey mapping sessions with butcher paper and sticky notes because it gets people: out of their seats and involved; up and thinking; and collaborating, questioning, and learning. It's more of a design-thinking, creative approach.

But you can't stop there. I think this is often why maps fail. Digitizing your maps makes all of those basic tenets possible. Some digital platforms offer features that allow you to assign ownership and to develop actions plans to ensure accountability for making improvements and driving change. No more maps rolled up under your desk or stored in a closet! Of course, you must take that step to transfer from analog to digital, but that's fairly straightforward.

I'm often asked about journey mapping platforms: which one to use, capabilities to consider, etc. Think about what you want your platform to be able to do. Here are just some of the questions your should be asking:
  • Is it flexible, allowing you to adjust the columns and the swim lanes?
  • Can you map actual customer steps, not just stages and touchpoints? 
  • Does it allow you to capture not only what the customer is doing but also what the customer is thinking and feeling?
  • Can you display the persona for which you are mapping right there with the map?
  • Are you able to bring data into the map? Is it connected to or integrated with a VoC platform or a CRM system?
  • Are you able to analyze the maps and prioritize moments of truth within the platform? 
  • Does it help you take the map from tool to process?
  • Can you assign tasks and owners?
  • Does it allow you to create action plans?
  • Is it collaborative? Can others view/edit the maps?
  • Does it have validation capabilities, often in the form of an integrated online community platform or survey platform?
  • Can customers add comments, video, or pictures to help bring the journey to life?
Regarding which one to use, here are a couple of informative sources to help you get started.
An important thing to note is this: Just because you've mapped doesn't mean your done. The map is really just the beginning. It should be detailed enough to help you understand the current state experience and to identify what's working and what's not. From there, you must do the work. You have to conduct root cause analysis, prioritize moments of truth, design the future state experience, test the new experience, and fail fast. Do it again.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. Get mapping!

Man is always inclined to be intolerant toward the thing, or person, he hasn't taken the time adequately to understand. -Robert R. Brown

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Customer Personas - The What, The Why, and the How

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Stacy Sherman. This post originally appeared on the DoingCXRight blog on July 10, 2018.

Whether you're new to CX or looking to expand your current knowledge, it is important to learn about what, when, and how to develop personas so that you can serve your customers better. Knowing what personas are not is equally important to create desired outcomes versus hinder them. Let’s begin by defining:

What is a Customer Persona?
In basic terms, it is simply a semi-fictional model that includes characteristics and mental models of target buyers. When developing customer personas, you need to thoroughly research and document all insights about them so you can create experiences that enable them to accomplish their goals and choose your products over competitive offers.

Customer Personas are Not...
A Replacement For Market Segmentation. Think of market segmentation as a BROAD view. It is a way to divide customers into groups that can be targeted by demographics (i.e. age, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, income), psychographics (i.e. social class, personality characteristics), behavioral patterns (i.e. spending, usage) and geography (i.e. customer locations). Personas are formed by leveraging segmentation information, and are not based on a “one size fits all” mindset.

Buyer Journeys. Personas define WHO you are designing products, services, market messaging for. It is not about mapping out desired customer experiences across all  channels and touchpoints.

Based on a single observation. Understanding a particular customer experience (what went wrong or well) can be useful to inform business decisions, however, it cannot be generalized for an entire group of buyers.

Documented one time. Customer needs and interactions with brands are changing as well as their expectations as technology advances. Persona development is an evolution that needs to be reviewed, updated (small tweaks, not necessarily a complete redo) and communicated throughout organizations periodically.

Based on assumptions. Research is an important part of making personas “real.” Interviewing and surveying customers are effective methods of learning what drives your target audience and appeals to them. There are more ways to gain customer insights, which I will share in upcoming articles.

Constructed for every customer. You can’t please everyone, so prioritize and focus on the top buyers who provide the highest revenue potential.

Based on one “right way.” There is no single correct method to developing personas. Yet, it does need to include certain components to help teams understand essential information about customers and target prospects. As a general rule, you want to keep your document to one page. If it’s too long, you likely did not focus on the most important points, and stakeholders may not read it. Key elements include:
  • Who are typical customers? What do they do? Typical day?
  • What are their frustrations, pain points and challenges?
  • What are happy / satisfying moments? What does success looks like?
  • What are their goals. What do they want to accomplish?
  • What are they saying? (quotes/verbatims)
  • Photographs to “humanize” customers

When to Create Personas?
Persona development typically occurs at very early stages of new product development and marketing launches. It needs to happen before journey mapping activities begin, as maps are created from persona documents. Personas need to be referenced throughout the project lifecycle so that decisions consistently address customer needs.   

Why Develop Customer Personas?
Personas...
  • Help identify what problems to solve for when developing new products, services, and capabilities.
  • Enable marketers to tailor content and messaging. A business executive, for example, relies on different sources of information for learning about brands and has different buying criteria than a technical IT Manager.
  • Drive internal employee alignment. Including cross teams in the persona development process is an effective way to create a more customer-centric organization.  
How to Build Your CX Skills?
  • Take a course at a prestigious institution, such as Rutgers University, who offers an affordable online and offline certification course. (Read about my experience here.)
  • Observe and learn from companies who are DoingCXRight. Hubspot shares a great article about “7 Companies That Totally ‘Get’ Their Buyer Personas.”
  • Watch informative videos. I especially like this one by Gregg Bernstein, as he visually shows what persona development is all about in a simple, creative way. 


Stacy Sherman is Head of Customer Experience and Employee Engagement for Schindler Elevator. Learn more about Stacy here


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Using Journey Maps to Tell the Customer’s Story

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Story of Business. It appeared on their blog on August 3, 2018.

Stories are a wonderful communication tool and a powerful teaching tool. They allow you to deliver a message in a way that engages the audience, helps them understand the characters in play, and, hopefully, inspires them. People tend to connect to stories and, therefore, remember them and the message they convey.

Customer experience professionals use storytelling to gain buy-in and commitment from their audiences (typically executives, as well as employees) and to deliver impactful emotional and rational perspectives and messages, thereby capturing both the hearts and minds of the intended audience. When they tell the customer’s story, they paint a picture of who the customer is, what problems she’s trying to solve, and the experience the company puts her through in order to solve her problem. They end up taking the audience on a journey, the customer's journey, and it humanizes the customer experience for the audience.

One of the best tools available to develop and to tell that customer story is journey mapping.

What’s journey mapping?

It’s a creative process in which you illustrate not only the steps customers’ take as they interact with your brand to achieve some task but also their needs along the journey and the emotions elicited by each step of the journey. Said another way, journey maps depict a timeline of what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling throughout each interaction with a brand. They tell the story of the customer’s journey as she interacts with the brand, helping to build empathy for her and struggles she endures as she journeys to her desired outcome. And the maps also help you co-create better experiences with your customers.

Journey mapping is a learning exercise. Journey maps tell the story from the customer perspective, not the company’s, so it forces the company to focus on the customer. As a result, companies learn about: their customers, the experience they put them through to interact with the business, and how well (or not) they perform along the journey.

Done right, maps help companies in many ways, including to…
  • Understand experiences. You can’t transform something you don’t understand, is what I like to say. Maps bring understanding. They highlight and diagnose existing issues and opportunities; at the same time, they capture what’s going well, too.
  • Design experiences. Once you understand the current experience and moments of truth, maps help you prioritize and rethink existing processes and/or create new ones.
  • Implement and activate new experiences. The maps become blueprints or statements of direction for the work to be done to improve and to redesign the experience.
  • Communicate and share experiences. Maps are great communication and teaching tools. They can be used during onboarding, training, and other ongoing education opportunities to unite the organization around the customer, to teach employees about the current and the future experience, and to further ingrain the customer-focused culture of the business.
  • Align the organization. Use the maps to get executive commitment for the CX strategy, get organizational adoption of the customer-centric focus, provide a line of sight to the customer for employees, and help employees understand how they impact the experience.
How should you start to tell this story?

With the characters, of course. Who are they? Whose story are you going to tell? Identify the characters of your story; in other words, start by identifying the persona for which you’ll map a journey. A persona on its own tells a story – by definition, it is a story about the customer, who she is, what her needs are, what problems she is trying to solve, how she prefers to interact with the company, and more. You will create journey maps for each persona: different stories – different experiences – for different customers.

Next, choose which story – or the scope of the story – you’ll tell; in other words, determine which interaction or which journey you will map. Choose some Point A to Point B, a clear start point and a clear end point, for the story. You will typically select known issues or pain points – for the customer and for the business – that are low-hanging fruit to start with; next, you might select journeys based on areas of importance to your customers during which your company’s performance is known to be less than optimal (based on customer feedback).

And last, but not least, identify the objectives and the desired outcomes. Why are you mapping? What business problems are you trying to solve? What value will the map bring to the organization? What are the intended outcomes? What changes will you make as a result of its findings? And, is the organization prepared to make those changes? Is the organization ready to hear this story?

Initial journey mapping considerations in a nutshell: Whose story is it? What story are you going to tell? Why this story? Why is it important? And what will you do with what you learn from this story?

The maps themselves, when developed correctly, bring the story to life, in a couple different ways:
  • You walk in your customer’s shoes. The map captures the steps – in detail – that the customer takes for a specific interaction with the company.
  • You understand, relate, and instantly build empathy for the customer. How the customer feels about each step is highlighted on the map, ensuring that the audience knows where the high points and the pain points occur and building empathy along the way.
  • You see the data that supports what the customer is telling you. Customer feedback is also incorporated into the map, adding broader, quantitative data and perspectives to the story.
  • Artifacts add visualizations that support what the customer/journey map is telling us. Artifacts include video, audio, pictures, documents, and any other item that might help the audience understand exactly what happened at each step.

I’m simplifying the process quite a bit, but once we know the current story of the customer’s experience, we can then move into writing their future story, i.e., designing the experience of tomorrow. During future state mapping, customers tell us the story of the ideal experience they’d like to have going forward. We incorporate their ideas into the map and take those back to the group who will need to consider the feasibility of transforming those ideas into the new experience.

The journey map – the story of the customer’s experience – is shared with the organization to:
  • help employees understand the customer and her interactions with your company
  • show employees how they impact the customer and the experience
  • convey the importance of being a customer-focused and customer-centric organization
  • align around a common cause and a common purpose
  • break down silos by highlighting how various departments are involved in any one interaction a customer has with the organization
  • build empathy and understanding for the customer
  • achieve a single view of the customer, and
  • improve the customer experience

When the story is created, told, and shared, the business has the information it needs to be more proactive in developing products, processes, and services that better meet their customers’ needs.

There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place. -J.K. Rowling