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4 Steps To Easily Organize Around The Customer Journey

Five people sitting at a table, in a meeting, discussion the Customer JourneyPhoto by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

I think you’ll agree when I say that most brands exist because there are customers that want, or need, what a brand has to offer. Maybe you’d also agree if I say that customer-centricity is becoming a trendy commodity. Brands are drowning in unprecedented amounts of feedback and data gathered to tell them about their existing customers’ behaviors, thoughts, and actions. Some brands have even begun to master the art of combining qualitative and quantitative data to truly benefit from CX and customer-centricity.

The customer journey used to live a somewhat quiet and somewhat peaceful life tucked away on a wall in a design-, UX-, or CX department. Now, in this growing and demanding landscape of customer-centricity, it is finding its way into the product, marketing, sales, and management teams. Customer journey mapping will soon be a prerequisite in any important workshop worth mentioning. And searching for people with “customer journey” in their title on LinkedIn will give you nearly a million hits. The future of the CX community has never looked better!

A masterfully executed customer journey is where you visualize all the business-critical insights around your customers. The customers you have, the customers you want to have, the pains and gains, aspirations, and needs that will unlock moments of interest.

A masterfully executed customer journey will tell you where you shine, where you have gaps in your offer or communication, and how to prioritize work. E.g., Shall we focus on maintenance in a broken payment flow or launch a new feature for cats? It will tell you how to connect the dots and be the guideline to prioritize the MVP* to get ahead of the competition.

*MVP, or Minimal Viable Product: a version of a product with just enough features to be usable by early customers who can then provide feedback.

To summarize, all the amazing things about the customer journey I have just mentioned lead us to one common denominator; Business Benefits.

TIP!  Want to know more about how customer journey mapping creates Business Benefits? Learn more in the McKinsey report on creating value through transforming customer journeys.

Two ways of looking at the customer journey

The most common way to work with and look at the customer journey is horizontal, going from left to right. Let’s say that you start by mapping your customer’s actions. 

In the upper-left corner, you will find the customer realizing a problem, followed by the customer looking for possible solutions to this problem. Afterward, the customer compares the offers available existing on the market. Followed by the customer moving into consideration, then to the decision, and finally into the on-boarding.

Now, when the customer is entering your offer, you follow them, step-by-step, throughout the experience. The customer journey will probably end with the customer leaving and off-boarding. Having mapped your customer’s actions, you start populating the lanes underneath, going left to right. You do this using insights and content that will inform your prioritization to maximize your impact.

Why the vertical aspect of the customer journey is crucial

I could go on forever, listing the benefits of a masterfully executed, horizontally addressed customer journey, but I won’t (not in this post, anyway🙂).

Instead, I would like to talk about how the customer journey can play the role of an enabler for organizational change. They can align an organization, on all levels, around complex strategic and critical decisions. They can also act as a springboard (or a battering ram, depending on the task) for making the prioritizations, eliminating risks, and choosing the right decisions fast.

The key here is to address the customer journey vertically.

But why vertically?

Because when your customer experiences your product or service, this is how you support and serve them.

E.g., When a customer is on-boarding for the first time to your service. They are dependent on all the touch points and support systems handling this specific action vertically. Customers don’t care about how you organize or how your product is supposed to be perceived further down their journey. You have to be relevant at the right moment to build loyalty and avoid churn.

Below I will exemplify how the customer journey can be the role of an enabler. Both for aligning and facilitating organizational change on all levels, helping with complex strategies, and critical decision-making.

TIP!  Trying to start a customer journey map but keep getting stuck? Check out our advice on the 6 biggest Customer Journey Mapping mistakes and what to do instead.

How a tech start-up switched from working in silos to organizing around the customer journey map

Imagine that you are working at a solidly invested tech start-up. The product this tech start-up is building has the potential to solve a massive consumer challenge, and the date of the Beta* launch is approaching with frightful speed. 

*Beta: knowingly releasing an unfinished product with known bugs to users to identify its most critical bugs, like usability friction and poor performance, before releasing it in its finished version.

You have already started to invite and onboard paying customers into the Beta. At the last management meeting, the key investor sternly says that “failure is not an option”.

The offering is a hybrid of digital and physical consumer experiences, which requires high demand among partners, adding to the difficulties of this scenario. All teams are working around the clock to make this high-stakes Beta launch a big success. Product, tech, data, marketing, hardware, finance, communication, operations, and management are all running side by side. Stand-ups, big room plannings, all hands on deck- everything is centered around the coming launch, and the dependencies are extensive.

But even with the best intentions of working towards the same goal, teams ended up working mainly in silos, making their priorities and mapping their customer journeys when not fighting about resources. And working in silos, in my experience, is one of the worst enemies of establishing a business-critical customer experience.

TIP!  Curious to know why working in a team is so important to customer journey mapping? Click here to learn why you should share your journey maps with a cross-functional team.

With 12 weeks until the Beta launch, the teams, management, and the investors collectively realized that this way of working was not working. Something had to change.

And so it happened that someone at the tech start-up came up with a brilliant idea. They suggest using Custellence to map the customer journey as the foundation for propelling.

The following steps were to tear down the silos and move towards customer-centricity.

Step 1. Establishing the Beta customer journey

A blank template of customer personas represented by different colors with various crudely drawn people wearing the same colors as the template to represent the personas

This process started by co-creating a Beta customer journey. The co-creation process includes drawing every piece of information that could inform the mapping process from all key stakeholders. After a couple of rounds of iterations and refinements, the entire organization was ready to sign off on the Beta customer journey. This included the customer’s phases, activities, and emotional experience, on top of the *preferred customer experience

(*Preferred customer experience - What you want your customer to experience interacting with your offer in a specific situation.)

Having the Beta customer journey in place, the tech start-up was ready to move on to step 2.

Step 2. Creating vertical divides and dedicated coordinators

A customer journey map that has been segmented in three separate vertical tracks and each vertical track is assigned one dedicated coordinator

The customer journey was divided into six vertical pieces, with each piece representing the customer’s phases. In this specific example, the journey would have phases like AwarenessBecoming a customerUsing the product for the first timePayment, etc.

Every individual divided vertical piece was then appointed one dedicated coordinator. This Beta-Team of dedicated coordinators was responsible for identifying gaps, raising concerns, and ensuring conditions for a successful launch. One crucial success factor was that the Beta Team was cross-functional, representing different parts of the organization and securing buy-in and fast decision loops when needed. Always with the mindset to stay true to the customer experience the entire organization had approved and signed off on.

Step 3. Starting the work and having a hallelujah moment

A completed customer journey map, filled with customer insights, needs, pain points, and identifiable gaps for improved customer experience

The vertical coordinators started by mapping ready, or soon-to-be ready, features and solutions into the customer journey to purposefully identify gaps. After the first round of mapping, it was clear that there were several significant and critical gaps that hadn’t been recognized before. Having the identified gaps mapped and visualized for the entire organization to see and reflect upon led to a little bit of a hallelujah moment. This visualization clearly showed where to problem-solve and how to re-prioritize going forward. For the first time, the product and all its touch points were directly connected to the customer promise and the purpose it was supposed to serve.

Step 4. Moving on in the vertical direction

In the following weeks, the coordinators made regular updates with the teams and functions. Updating the customer journey and changing red flags to yellow flags and finally, to green flags.

The Beta-team worked closely together, always with the same mindset. That challenges occurring in one of the verticals could cause a massive error and, eventually, even churn in another. The constantly updated customer journey map was accessible for all teams, forming a base in daily stand-ups. The process, progress, and achievements were easy to follow, prioritize and celebrate regularly.

The visuality of the customer journey brought to the table created a sense of control and peace of mind among the management and investors. Despite the potential risks and red flags, the customer journey map was so fruitful that one of the conference rooms was temporarily transformed into a Beta-Room. The walls were primed with concepts, sketches, wireframes, pictures, and physical samples making the launch even more tangible for everyone involved. Creating a sense of belonging and pride throughout all teams and functions.

The effects and learnings of the new way of working

So, was this new way of organizing and working a success? Here are some of the immediate takeaways and effects that were the results of this customer journey mapping.

  • Within the first week of applying this new way of organizing and working, several concerning risks that needed immediate reprioritization was recognized. Risks that most likely would not have been recognized at this stage otherwise.
  • Imaginary walls were torn down, with the knowledge that any challenge occurring in one of the verticals could cause a massive error and even churn in another. Leading to a new way of thinking in the future, dismantling the unproductive silo structure, and cultivating a culture that is even more customer-centric, curious, and inclusive.
  • Gathering the entire organization around the customer journey brought the teams closer together. Being able to follow the progress visually in real-time nurtured the sense of working truly collaboratively towards a common goal.
  • For the first time, management and investors had access to a clear status overview. That brought a sense of control and peace of mind seeing all the things already in place, giving them clear indications on how to best support the team.

The story doesn’t tell if the Beta launch became a success, but I’m quite sure it was.

/Ulrika


Ulrika Ewerman is an Independent CX (Customer Experience) Advisor and expert in CX Management and CX Strategy Execution

Ulrika Ewerman is an Independent CX (Customer Experience) Advisor and expert in CX Management and CX Strategy Execution. Over the past 20 years, she’s been working globally, creating impact through CX Methodology, Management, Organization, and Execution. She holds an MFA in Design and has headed senior management roles at VerydayMcKinsey, and Volvo Car Mobility.

Today she supports organizations and brands to unlock the CX potential to become truly customer-centric, with a human-centered, possibility-driven, and iterative approach. Find more about Ulrika on her LinkedIn profile.



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