• April 1, 2016
  • By Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal, Beagle Research Group

Journey Maps: The Secret to Our Customer Success

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Who doesn't want their customers to be successful? This sentiment has remained about as constant as support for motherhood, apple pie, and baseball, but now, amid the ongoing digital disruption, the notion of customer success is being significantly re-evaluated, industry-wide, economy-wide—heck, planet-wide.

Before the disruption, we could all say nice words about customer success and mean them, but our ability to actually support customers was severely limited by two factors: a lack of relevant data and the inability to act in the moment. Thanks to the disruption, those are no longer issues.

Vendors used to have to act on behalf of customers, and executives had to make best guesses and order up programs and processes, but they weren't always right. It was the "HiPPO" era, for highest-paid person’s opinion, and the HiPPO ruled. HiPPOs were easy to spot. They were typically the ones with the gray hair or the least hair. Often their decisions all boiled down to trying to delight customers.

But there's a huge disparity between vendor intention to delight and customer perception of it. A Harvard Business Review article ("Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers") points out that rather than trying to delight, we might more profitably explore delivering adequacy. The reason is pretty simple: Very often customers don't want to be delighted. Much of the time, they have small requests, such as finding information, and it's hard to delight when the bar is so low.

Customers just want what they want, and the less drama the better because they (we) all have other things to do, and the sooner an engagement with a vendor is over, the faster they can get on to the next thing.

So if you can't reliably delight customers, and if, in fact, they don't even care about delight, what's left? This brings us to a less-is-more situation. Not having to delight customers takes a lot of pressure off vendors. In place of delight, I suggest aiming for authenticity, but this needs some unpacking.

In this case, authenticity means dealing with the customer on the customer's terms in the context of what the customer deems is important. I think of this as “a moment of truth,” the vendor being in the moment with the customer. If a customer needs a bit of information, your process should be built around delivering it, with the least muss and fuss possible. I know many people will say that this is often a perfect opportunity for an upsell or a cross-sell attempt. You'll have to be the judge of that. Sometimes a request for information is just that, not a cry for help.

Being authentic means not assuming anything, but also not taking anything for granted. The best way I know to tread the fine line between being authentic and being over the top is to develop scripts for your major interactions, especially the automated ones, and the tool for that is journey mapping. Journey mapping is still new, and there are many questions about it. It comes to us from marketing automation, but it is much more broadly applicable.

My best guess is that journey maps are the last piece and the keystone of digital disruption. Without them, the whole digital disruption is nothing more than the front office on steroids. But with them, we can achieve a degree of sophistication not seen before in CRM, especially in our automated dealings with customers. This sophistication can drive business processes that deliver all the things we've wanted in the front office for a long time: better engagement, personalization, and higher returns on the CRM investment.

Building and maintaining journey maps, and using them to generate application code, is the best approach to satisfying customers through authentic processes, but it is also the thing that enables us to define a second or third layer of an interaction, just in case we discover that a particular customer really is a candidate for an upsell. Journey maps have the unique power to assure customer success and support vendor success.


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 United States and Europe, and his latest research spans all areas of social CRM, cloud, and mobile computing. His latest book, Solve for the Customer, is available at Amazon.com.

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