• June 30, 2015
  • By Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal, Beagle Research Group

Every Journey Starts with a Map

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Journey mapping may be the biggest change in CRM since we settled on a name for this industry in 2000 ("customer information system," or CIS, didn’t make the cut). We've struggled at times to live up to the relationship part of CRM amid the claims of accelerating customer transactions. Journey mapping takes us on a very different trajectory, aiming at processes in which transactions are often the terminal element and relationships are a product.

A journey map is a model for what a process should be, and this is the first time modeling has been used in so rigorous a way in the front office. Think of all the ways we use models in modern life and what their use provides. You can't build a house or a microchip without a blueprint—not only because those things are complex but also because catching mistakes at the model level is trivial, but catching them later will bust your budget and maybe your company. Modeling is everywhere in modern life—heck, it's what makes modern life possible, and it has finally come to the CRM industry.

As with other forms of modeling, journey maps enable us to imagine the completed solution, in our case an end-to-end process. This means avoiding those painful moments when software quits ungracefully and unceremoniously, stranding a customer and probably causing needless friction in a relationship.

A while ago, when I was researching a book, I looked hard at what people were saying on sentiment analysis sites about their vendors. To my surprise and enlightenment, most of the complaints were focused on processes that went bad, leaving customers with little recourse other than to complain. Imagine what could be done with better-managed processes. Might they be the source of higher transaction rates?

There are details we need to understand, though. In my construction, a journey map needs to reflect something the customer can buy in to, not simply something the vendor needs to accomplish. For example, every business should have journey maps for the customer on-boarding process for each relevant product. It's not enough to have a milestone for training or a pilot project, for instance. Those things must have metrics attached pertaining to duration and some proof of success, or they're just speed bumps we can glide over and ignore. Duration will tell you who is struggling, and proof of success will tell you how well a user understands. That's how modeling can provide value.

A journey map must also have branches that don't get used often, to recycle customers through a process or escalate an issue to a customer success manager when needed. That's the difference between a customer-facing process that's modeled and one that's merely a best practice.

Perhaps the best example of how journey mapping can help a business is with the sales process. We all know about sales processes. They tend to be five- or seven-step cascades that resemble the Olympic high hurdles. Too often the objective is to complete the process as fast as possible so that we can ask for the order. Unfortunately, clearing a hurdle is not always the same as succeeding and owning the outcome, because sometimes salespeople promote deals that aren't ready.

But imagine if sales departments journey-mapped their processes so that the quality of the outcome at each step was more important than simple progression. Better still, what if the model made the forecast? I can hear the objections from sales reps right now about the importance of sales reps being able to read people and make forecast recommendations based on their skill set.


But if that's true, then why are only about 60 percent of salespeople making or exceeding quota, according to CSO Insights? Most human activities sooner or later transition from art to science, and journey mapping is one of the tools that enables that change in the front office. If you're looking for a name to encompass modeling and other analytical tools, call it what I do: Customer Science.

Denis Pombriant is the founder and managing principal of Beagle Research Group and the Bullpen Group. He is a widely published CRM analyst in the U.S. and Europe, and his latest research spans all areas of social CRM, cloud, and mobile computing. His latest book, The Subscription Economy, is available on Amazon.com.

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