• March 27, 2017
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

The Solution Is the Problem Is the Solution

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I’ve been working on assessing consumer journey mapping tools recently. It’s not something I’ve gone into with any great depth before now, so of course I’ve mentioned it to friends and colleagues. Mitch Lieberman (@mjayliebs), a person who fills both categories, provided the following bon mot: “Journey mapping tools are what’s wrong with journey mapping.” It seemed like a mere quip at first—not that I have anything against quips—but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how true it might be.

The reason for this penetrating insight is that I’m also looking into voice-of-the-customer/voice-of-the-employee tools, and it occurred to me that these and journey mapping tools are two things that belong together but aren’t. Hey, analysis!

There’s a little bit of overlap between the two types of applications, but for the most part they come from different places and are used differently. Journey mapping tools capture the customer experience as it happens, typically in terms of website interactions. Journey mapping tools are passive as far as customers are concerned, and the value doesn’t come from any single data set but from collecting a mass of data over time and observing the trends. You can think of it like a CCTV that shows where all a store’s customers go.

Voice-of-the-customer tools, on the other hand, involve active participation from customers, in the form of surveys, interviews, feedback, and other voluntary communication. While collecting a lot of VOC data is good, it’s not uncommon that a few insightful comments from a handful of customers are all that’s needed to improve engagement. It’s the classic focus-group approach, without having to provide sandwiches. VOC tools are able to collect far more data than any number of focus groups, though, so the savings in bread (from both the bakery and the treasury) can be quite substantial.

Using journey mapping to refine the customer experience is a tricky thing. Take a guess at what constitutes a good site flow, observe the results as customers poke around, and refine over time. The problem is, the journey map is more likely to reveal problems than to identify successful elements. It’s like the uniformed bank security monitor in that TV commercial—he’s kinda like a security guard, but he only alerts you to robberies. While it’s good to minimize the weak parts of your customer experience, you end up with something functional but unexceptional. Without the sort of feedback companies get from VOC initiatives, there’s no way to accentuate the positive.

On the other hand, it can be difficult to get useful information through VOC tools, even though that’s precisely what they’re for. Surveys are only as good as the questions they ask, but also the answers they permit. Customers are more likely to fill out a short, multiple-choice survey than a long one, or than to provide essay-style answers. To get meaningful feedback, you have to be specific, but specificity can influence the answers too much. There’s also the problem of getting customers to participate and the circumstances under which they do. Few people want to fill out a five-minute survey after a two-minute transaction, and asking for feedback from somebody having a spectacularly bad day can end up getting your nearest store firebombed.

So there is some overlap but not much interaction. One system captures action but doesn’t do much to identify improvements; the other can tell you what needs to be better, but only if you ask right. What’s needed is the ability to capture what another double-threat friend/colleague, Denis Pombriant (@beagleresearch), calls moments of truth: Those specific points where you either really click with a customer or make a lasting bad impression are where the attention needs to be. 

Marshall Lager is a senior analyst at Ovum, covering customer engagement. It’s a broad topic, with many nuances to drive one mad. Contact Marshall at marshall.lager@ovum.com, or www.twitter.com/Lager.

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