Our Customers Deserve Better: Introducing a New Approach to Mapping the Customer Journey

This is a call to action.  This is a rallying cry for customer-facing folks to adopt a new approach to mapping the customer journey.

Some things in life you cannot un-see.  Aaron Boone’s home run in the 2003 playoffs.  Batman vs. Superman.  Trump’s haircut.  And the marketing/sales “funnel”.  The funnel – as perfectly illustrated in the cartoon above –conveniently fits the customer into our narrative of the business and not the other way around.  As a result, we don’t have an accurate assessment of the customer’s need, joy, anguish, confusion or love for our brands and products.  This is terribly problematic as our customer lens is pointed the wrong way.  This is the opposite of empathy.

For those of us serving customers, a customer journey map is highly useful.  It helps explain where the customer is in their process of interacting with our product, brand and teams.  When I was first entertaining a career in product management, my manager at the time summarized the role succinctly: “You wear the hat of the customer.”  Typically, this is in relation to the product.  However, as the role of product management can vary across organizations, PM’s are tasked with understanding the entire journey across different business functions.  A customer journey map – done correctly – can help tell a story of customer success, failure and indifference.

The problem with the funnel is that it captures one particular path, and doesn’t even do that very well.  Yes, we’d like for our customers to follow this path as it results in ideal business results but it fails to do two some major things.  Chief among them, how did customers fall out of the funnel?  And where did they go?  Also, assuming customers made it through the funnel, what happened after that?  More important, what touchpoints occurred throughout the funnel that led to success?

The customer journey map of the future is a holistic, linear customer journey map that is specific to each customer (along with prospective customers and former customers of course).  The map should plot out the path that each customer took and the touchpoints across marketing and sales engagement, product usage, support calls, etc.  Armed with a complete customer picture, we can finally begin to understand trends, sniff out customers in danger of attrition and delight our customers in ways never done before.

The best part about this plan is that each and every member of your organization can make use of the journey map.  Product Management now understands how customers use the product, Marketing can understand which engagements had the most impact, Customer Care can put themselves in the customer’s shoes and Sales has a great picture of key accounts.

The funnel may (hopefully) be dead, but there is still a need for a customer journey map.  In the analogy of a business as a soccer team, Product often plays the role of mid-fielder, basically all over the field.   The opportunity for Product to own this journey and foster adoption across an organization is alive and present.  Join me in taking the reins.

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