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Five Common Failures of Customer Journey Maps

by | Jul 1, 2019

One of the foundations of Customer Success (CS) is a customer journey map. A journey map comes in different formats and usually describes the “desired state” of how you interact with your customers. It helps you optimize your interactions and ensure that your customers maximize your product’s value. Journey maps can also be used to organize activities and actions to ensure you are proactive and efficient. Unfortunately, customer journey maps often fail in the same five areas.
1. Not reflecting the “whole” customer journey
The first failure is not reflecting the entire customer journey. The journey map must include both pre-sales and post-sales phases. Some companies create the pre-sales / sales processes and others use CS teams to architect a journey beginning with the contract signing through the end of life with a customer.

You need both as a part of your customer journey. It’s not healthy to have these two parts become disconnected. When they are disconnected, you create disjointed customer “handoffs” where a new team gets involved. No one likes to be passed around. With a disconnected journey, you might miss expectations that were set up during the sales cycles when engaging for post-sale activities causing friction for the customer experience.

This kind of friction can be avoided. Make sure that your customer journey includes your prospect journey and is comprehensive. Start at the beginning of when prospects become aware of your company and product and make it a single journey through them becoming a customer. That way you ensure that you carry over expectations and provide a smooth customer experience with limited “hand-offs”.

2. Keeping your journey map up to date
The second failure area is not keeping your journey map up to date. It is really important to build a customer journey as a living, changing entity that regularly gets updated. Creating your journey map often happens when a company or CS function is formed, or when a new leader joins your organization. It’s a part of the strategy and plan that gets built at the beginning.

You might find over time that your customer engagement becomes strained or incomplete when a journey map is not reviewed and updated on a regular basis. Things change, and this negatively impacts your relationship with your prospects and customers. It might seem that everything is working well, and then suddenly it isn’t. Without regular updates, your journey map will resemble an outdated roadmap or a GPS algorithm that doesn’t know about the new neighborhood and streets. Something changes in the market or with your product and activities easily get out of sync.

You need to adapt your journey map regularly to adjust to new market conditions including competition, product changes, internal company focus, and customers as they evolve. One easy method is to integrate an update cadence with existing business cycles such as updating your journey map quarterly when you do a forecast or at the time of annual budgeting. How frequently you update your journey map will depend on your business complexity. Think about your product updates and other market conditions that change. Make your updates, adjust and adapt everything that is impacted. This will help your customers have a smooth journey.

3. Point of view
Another area where journey maps fail is in their point of view. These models are often developed from the company point of view, or “inside-out”. It is easy to create a map by talking to SE’s, sales, service or support staff and document their perspective. After all, these teams do interact directly with customers, they know them, but their view may be biased. It is much harder to find a good cross-section of actual customers to engage with and collect information from them. You might also find that when you do engage, a customer might tell you what they think you want to hear, not how they are really feeling/using your product.

Understanding the customer’s point of view is both critical and challenging. You need a blend of internal, customer and product telemetry to get a holistic point of view. This is an opportunity to build customer feedback loops into your customer journey. Asking for feedback from your customers and then not properly reacting yields poor results. Instead, ask for feedback regularly and incorporate what you learn into your customer journey. Do include internal feedback and product telemetry input, and make sure that there is actual customer feedback in the process. You will be improving your customer engagement and the customers who provide you feedback will know that you are listening. This is one easy way to focus your journey “outside-in”

4. Journey Map Timing
The next area of failure is trying to control the timing of when things happen in your customer journey. Customers don’t move through your journey; they are on their own trip and have their own timeframes.. Think of your customer journey as a map. It stands alone, and your customers are the ones who are going to navigate from point A to point B. They decide on their path: when to purchase; when to deploy; and whether or not to renew; or expand. There are many different paths to get from here to there. The timing of how and when customers engage with you as a company is out of your control. You might be able to highlight what you think is the best way, but they decide.

Customer journeys reflect OUR desired timeline for customers. In practice, we have little or no control over how much time and what priority our customers will give to implementing and using our products. Often, we are a lower priority than we’d like to be. I know that as a customer, I don’t always make time for my vendors, especially when things seem to be “working as expected”.

Develop your journey with this in mind, make sure that things are fluid enough to meet your customer’s timing expectations. No doubt, when you create your customer journey, you are trying to make it easy for them, guide them to value realization in the shortest amount of time and be helpful. You understand your product and want to organize activities, and touch points in advance to avoid potential friction points that might occur. Pay attention to the timing that your customers typically use to get things done. Your journey should mirror that.

5. Using the Journey Map Incorrectly
The final point of failure is how teams use the journey maps once they are created. Many companies apply a prescriptive set of actions to the journey map; like a GPS. They derive step by step instructions for how to get from here to there and use this to decide how and when to interact with customers. CS automation tools facilitate this kind of usage for a journey map and include algorithms similar to those that a GPS system would use. Some customer journeys can be rigidly designed and when that happens, the journey itself creates more friction than it solves. Guiding the CSM in what to do next can work well, especially with a relatively simple product and single use case. It can also create problems and overlook opportunities.

The risk is that customers might not want to match your algorithm for getting from point A to point B. As a CSM, use the GPS instructions but also learn to read the map, and don’t be afraid of detours! If you relying solely on the algorithm that is used to create the path between A and B you might be losing out on some key opportunities. For example, what if your customer needs to take a side trip? Can you easily skip over certain playbooks and come back to them later? Will future activities be ok or will you create a gap? Perhaps one of the skipped steps was a prerequisite? Make sure your customer journey is flexible enough to “recalculate the route”. Sometimes CS teams, get caught in the trap of executing the day to day and forget to look at the map and understand where the customer is.

If we only use the GPS, we might be missing out on some very interesting side trips or detours that might help us build stronger customer relationships. We might also miss out on some paths that our customers take that would help us to tap into new market segments, or enhance our products. We need to learn to read the map, understand the alternative paths and adjust the overall journey when needed.

A Better Approach:
Customers never stop amazing me in what they do. There is so much to learn from them. If you are going to take the time to build a customer journey map, make sure that it:

  1. Describes the entire journey from start to finish
  2. Gets updated regularly
  3. Is built from the customer perspective
  4. Allows customers to take their own path
  5. Allows teams to recalculate and take detours

Just like any journey in life, outcomes will vary. Have you ever been on the same trip with someone else and had a completely different experience? I know I have. It is the same with your customers. Each of them will have a different trip through the customer journey. Treat your customer journey like a roadmap, and build the GPS automation that you need, but make sure it is able to recalculate easily to serve your customers. Don’t forget to use both the GPS and the map to take a customer needed detour now and then. If you do this, you will greatly improve your customer experience, your interaction with customers, and likely your results!