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Why You Need a Customer Experience Map
The best way to get inside your customers' heads—and keep them happy—is to chart their journey.
Posted Jul 24, 2015
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Retail organizations are constantly seeking ways to improve the customer experience. To do so requires integrated data across all channels, consistent communications across all channels, and shared knowledge across all internal departments. A tall order for sure, particularly in the traditionally siloed retail arena, where online programs, loyalty programs, and brick-and-mortar merchandising divisions often don't share data.

Why does customer experience matter?

Customers interact with your brand across multiple channels. They expect a holistic, integrated experience across all of them.

Although retailers recognize the need to adopt an omnichannel strategy, many are still struggling to successfully connect consistently with consumers across all available outlets. Most organizations are structured to focus on individual channels, touch points, technologies, or features rather than the overall brand. A customer experience map brings it all together.

Years ago, a bad customer experience took a lot longer to permeate the public sphere than it does today. But with social media and ratings and review Web sites, word gets around a lot quicker. When your customers aren't happy, they vote with their feet and their wallets. See this infographic: The Importance of a Positive Customer Experience.

Fortunately, there's a relatively simple yet powerful way to combat this scenario: customer experience mapping, also referred to as customer journey mapping. I recommend that before you invest in any significant customer experience improvement effort, invest in a journey map first. Why? Because it will show you what your customers are thinking, feeling, and doing throughout every stage of the life cycle, at each touch point, from consideration through purchase through advocacy. It will describe the highs and lows that customers experience when interacting with you as well as illustrate the range of emotions that customers feel across channels, touch points, and time. It is a strategic tool to present your customer's point of view.

Four parts to a map

Your map will include these components:

  1. Guiding principles. These emerge as you begin to understand the journey and apply them to all stages of the customer life cycle. Use them as a litmus test for the success of your current and future initiatives.
  2. The customer journey. This represents what  customers are actually doing.
  3. What customers are thinking and feeling at each stage of the customer journey. We use qualitative online and offline research to have conversations with customers that provide insight into their thoughts and feelings.
  4. Opportunities. These are gaps in the customer experience that can be closed by improving marketing and customer service.

Now what?

Armed with your customer experience map, you will be able to readily identify gaps in your customers' experiences at critical points of the life cycle, improve your communications and customer service initiatives, and increase customer retention and loyalty.

When do customer experience maps work best?

Customer experience maps work best when there is organizational buy-in for the project and its outputs. Key business stakeholders must be involved in the process to gain customer empathy. In my experience and opinion, when top-level sponsors buy in and support necessary internal changes, customer experience improvement projects are successful.

What happens to retailers who don't invest in them?

Often, they waste money on CX improvement initiatives that don’t pay out … because the retailer didn't truly understand the customer's issues in the first place.

More important, they may overlook significant competitive opportunities to differentiate themselves through better service, better communications and/or better loyalty, and onboarding programs.

Want to learn more?

Attend my session at CRM Evolution on Monday, Aug. 17, from 3:15 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. We’ll cover the following:

  • How to create a customer experience map
  • How to create guiding principles and a road map to improve the overall customer experience
  • How to use a customer experience map to pinpoint gaps in your customers’ experiences
  • How to apply your findings to gain a competitive advantage

In conclusion:

The retail industry is in a constant stage of change as technology and physical locations collide. The organizations that not only survive but thrive will be those that embrace the possibilities and create an engaging, seamless experience for their customers across every channel and every touch point. You can no longer view your channels as separate. To your customer, they are one and the same. You must become an omnichannel expert. And the best way to do that is to start with a customer experience map. It will show you a clear and concise picture of what customers are looking for as they interact with you.

See you at CRM Evolution 2015!

Jill Hewitt, a customer experience designer at Catalyst, has been designing, researching and evaluating user interfaces across a variety of platforms, including Web, mobile, public kiosks, and hardware devices, for more than 15 years. She has improved customer experiences for major Fortune 1000 brands, including UPS, NPR, Turner Broadcasting, Dell, and Paychex. 

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