Customer journey maps have become a key asset in every marketer’s arsenal, but I’m here to tell you that, from a customer experience perspective, most of these maps are directions down a blind alley.
With alarming frequency, I see examples of customer journey maps that codify buying stages, but say absolutely nothing about what the customer is trying to achieve. Against this model, marketers layer in programs and tactics to move prospects through a prescribed journey by the equivalent of brute force.
Why? Because many marketers conflate customer needs with their own, creating journey maps that are impressively articulate expressions of their own sales and marketing goals, but utterly tone-deaf when it comes to the customer.
A slightly better variant is when marketers at least make an effort to channel the customer need state, designing customer journey maps from the perspective of their best guess of customer needs. They may be shooting in the dark, but at least the intention is there. I guess that should count for something.
This isn’t meant to be a scathing indictment. I recognize that making sense of the customer journey can feel like solving the riddle of the sphinx. How do you design a customer journey when the data is incomplete, the signals are weak and the patterns are unclear? This stuff is hardly easy.
But too often, marketers give up before they’ve even started. They allow this absence of clarity to be overtaken by the presence of their own urgency. And, in doing so, they end up designing journeys, not from the outside-in to fulfill customers’ changing need state, but from the inside-out to fulfill their own commercial interests. Thus, the customer journey becomes the customer gauntlet.
What’s important to remember is that customer journeys aren’t created; they’re discovered. When we try to create journeys, we fall into one of these two traps: we either hallucinate customer needs or throw away the customer experience playbook altogether and focus on the needs we know intimately: our own.
Discovery comes from listening and learning, which requires an open mind, an open heart, a genuine respect for customers and a desire to serve. This requires a certain degree of humility and patience.
It also requires data. Discovering the customer journey begins with research and continues with an ongoing process of measurement and optimization. This is hardly a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor.
Your customers now have the luxury of abundant choice and they have little patience for your tone-deaf solicitations and overzealous interruptions that fail to respect their motivations, needs and goals.
So, as marketers, the onus is on you to faithfully serve customers by first understanding them—not as a snapshot in time, but as a fully developed continuum over time.
The onus is on you to discover the real customer journey.
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