Who Really Owns the Customer Journey?

The beauty of a customer journey map is that it’s holistic and is relevant to so many departments and groups. Marketing – by and large – will impact the beginning of the journey as leads are nurtured through the sales cycle. Next, Sales will engage with the customer as the team works toward closing the opportunity. Then, the customer will often make use of the product or service where teams like Support, Success, Product and Design will have more interest. As the customer becomes more familiar with the product or service purchased, marketing and sales will become involved more to sell the customer other products and advocate for the business.

With this in mind, it’s often believed that the aggregated journey – the happy path that the organization builds as a model for customer success – should be constructed or authored by a particular team. How do we raise awareness to our audience? How can we communicate effectively? What elements of our product are creating positive experiences? How is Finance calculating a “lifetime value” from this path that our best customers take?

With so many stakeholders of the journey who should be the primary owner of the complete customer experience?

The fundamental mistake that organizations make is authoring the journey to begin with. In 2012, Kerry Bodine and Harley Manning published a breakthrough book on successful customer experience titled “Outside In”. Their approach outlined in the book revolutionized how businesses viewed customers. Within their framework, the authors outline six key steps to the process of building winning customer experiences: Strategy, Customer Understanding, Design, Measurement, Governance, and Culture. Customer understanding requires an outside-in mindset which flip our instincts on its head. It requires teams to get inside the heads of the customers and share their experience.

Creating an experience that customers love is dependent on true “outside-in” understanding (yes, it’s also called “empathy”). Only after gaining this knowledge can the journey be worked on by the various business functions.

With this in mind, let’s get back to the original question: Who really owns the journey? The answer is simple: the customer. Instead of jotting down an ideal journey, your company would be better off basing the journey on reality. Talk to your customers (what was your first impression of the product?). Read the data points (when did we engage with our customer following the onboarding session?). Then, piece together the entire journey and work toward improving it.

Documenting a customer journey takes a lot of work and connecting the dots between touchpoints and users is scientific. Customer journey map automation can serve as an important instrument in making this work and building out sets of customer journeys that reflect reality.

The customer journey tells a story. Too often, that story is constructed by marketers and management who want to rebuild a new funnel with dates and emotions. Sure, the authored customer journey is valuable as an ideal, but it will differ greatly from what your customers are actually doing. Tell the story of your customers, but have that story be a work of non-fiction. The customer owns the journey. You and your team own the act of perfecting it.

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