07 Oct The customer journey map
Customer journey mapping (CJM) is an increasingly popular strategic management tool praised by both academics and practitioners for its usefulness in understanding an organization’s customer experience. Although academic and managerial literature is replete with CJM articles and many service organizations employ the process, confusion still exists as to how best create a customer journey map. Indeed, the Marketing Science Institute (2014) identifies research that addresses the best ways to model the customer decision journey process as a major research priority for practitioners and academics alike.
The fundamental idea behind CJM is relatively simple; it is a visual depiction of the sequence of events through which customers may interact with a service organization during an entire purchase process. CJM lists all possible organizational touchpoints customers may encounter during the service exchange process. By clearly understanding customer touchpoints, senior management can work with cross-functional team members to employ tactics that foster service innovation. The goal of these tactics is to enhance customer service provider interactions by improving the customer experience associated with each touchpoint.
Touchpoints are typically depicted horizontally on customer journey maps in accordance with a process timeline. The timeline is then separated into three periods: pre-service, service, and post-service. The pre-service period refers to the customer experience before an actual service begins. In the CJM process for a mall, pre-service customer experience may include touchpoints such as seeing mall advertisements, listening to a radio advertisement, or receiving an e-mail solicitation. The service period refers to touchpoints that customers experience during an actual service: entering the mall’s parking lot, engaging with employees, visiting stores, and interacting with mall kiosks. The post-service period refers to the customer experience that takes place after the actual service. Touchpoints in this period may include a customer posting a picture of a purchased item on Facebook, returning merchandise, or receiving an incentive to return to the mall.
After identifying all the customer touchpoints in the three periods, managers should develop strategic categories along the vertical axis that depict relevant strategic initiatives associated with each touchpoint. While the horizontal axis in CJM is relatively easy to comprehend, developing the vertical axis can be significantly more complex. The effectiveness of a customer journey map as an innovation tool depends on the vertical axis.
Some CJM pundits dismiss the importance of the vertical axis altogether and focus on CJM solely as a graphical representation of a customer’s touch- points with an organization. Although this visualization technique may aid managerial understanding of customer experience, it leaves management with a deficient tool that is essentially useless in helping to promote innovation within a service system. Other CJM pundits encourage managers to develop the vertical axis as an emotional journey of customer thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and emotions that can- not be observed directly (Lingqvist, Plotkin, & Stan- ley, 2015). This emotional emphasis transforms CJM into a very specific management tool–—namely, an empathy mapping exercise (Tschimmel, 2012). Although an empathy map represents a useful service design tool, its ability to help managers under- stand the complexity and interdependence inherent within service systems is extremely limiting. Finally, other CJM advocates view the vertical axis as a managerial hodgepodge–—essentially a space in which managers can plan a myriad of activities, including design opportunities, customer objectives, employee tasks, branding opportunities, and omni- channel retailing opportunities (Court, Elzinga, Mulder, & Vetvik, 2009; Dasu & Chase, 2010; Skinner, 2010).
- Lingqvist, O., Plotkin, C., & Stanley, J. (2015). Do you really understand how your business customers buy? McKinsey Quar- terly, 2015(1), 74—85.
- Tschimmel, K. (2012). Design thinking as an effective toolkit for innovation. In Proceedings from the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for innovation: Innovating from experience. Manchester, UK: ISPIM.
- Court, D., Elzinga, D., Mulder, S., & Vetvik, O. J. (2009). The consumer decision journey. McKinsey Quarterly, 2009(3), 96— 107.
- Dasu, S., & Chase, R. B. (2010). Designing the soft side of customer service. MIT Sloan Management Review, 52(1), 33—39.
- Skinner, C. (2010). The complete customer journey: Avoiding technology and business barriers to measure the total value of media. Business Strategy Series, 11(4), 223—226.