Taking the Blinders Off: The Importance of Customer Journey Mapping
BY Erin Thibault and Brady Halligan
December 21, 2021
December 21, 2021

“Knowing when the supplies I purchased will arrive is crucial for my business, but our distribution partner doesn’t offer a self-service option.” “How can I place an order without having to contact multiple departments – can’t the distributor streamline the process for ordering the items I need?” “The online support portal was difficult to navigate, especially when I had a question about production status.”

These are the conversations that are happening about every organization, every day—about the B2B brands people rely on to fulfill orders. To transport and distribute products. To communicate with patients, suppliers, vendors, and customers. To complete the tasks that keep their businesses afloat, their supply chains running smoothly, their deliveries arriving on time. 

So, what are customers saying about your business? When your organization’s name crosses their mind or comes up in conversation, what do they say, how do they feel? What business challenges do they face, and more importantly, how effective are you at resolving them?

Finding the answers—and leveraging them to improve the customer experience (CX)—doesn’t require clairvoyance or a crystal ball. All you need is a carefully crafted customer journey map. Whether you’re a life sciences pioneer or an established educational institution, a successful map will:

  • Eliminate siloed thinking and align your organization around a common purpose: your customer
  • Create a universal language for understanding and talking about CX
  • Evaluate customer pain points and identify areas for improvement
  • Encourage cross-functional collaboration and serve as the foundation for future CX success

This essential tool plays a key role in setting direction and identifying the right actions to elevate, and even transform, your CX. And if CX isn’t a priority for your organization, you might want to rethink your strategy: Companies that implement and use customer journey maps are twice as likely to outpace competitors than those that don’t, proving the importance (and profitability) of these initiatives.

Tunnel Vision Can Blind You to Your Customers’ Needs

Most companies are the centers of their own universes. Now, we’re not implying you’re vain (we would never!), because it’s not vanity driving this mindset, it’s practicality. When you’re steeped in your organization’s product or service 24/7, you become an expert in your field and a fierce advocate of your brand. Being focused on your business and improving it isn’t a bad thing, but it can lead to tunnel vision, blinding you to your customers’ needs.

The good news? A customer journey map can help you take the blinders off, refocus on your audience, and reframe your business challenge within the context of what your customers actually care about. While it’s unlikely that the independent pharmacy purchasing your vaccine or the student enrolling in your university’s courses care much about the internal machinations of your company, they most certainly do care about being able to place and track orders from one centralized location or register for classes with their mobile device. A journey map will lay the groundwork for a better CX by allowing you to understand and anticipate your customers’ needs, deliver targeted solutions, and exceed expectations. 

You Have More Customers Than You Think

Before you get your compass out, it’s helpful to define who your customers are, because you probably have more of them than you think. At Navigate, we define “customer” differently than most. There’s your traditional external customer—the buyer of your product or service—but who are the other stakeholders that interact with your brand?

Step one: Establish each persona on the customer continuum, targeting the people who are critical to driving success in your business, including prospects, partners and suppliers, internal stakeholders, and direct and indirect customers. Once you’re able to distinguish each unique customer type, you can begin to chart a CX journey map that’s tailored to their needs. These insights will inform your entire CX transformation—from start to finish, strategy through implementation—and how it aligns with your broader business objectives. 

Experience Is In the Eye of the Beholder

As author and customer experience strategist Jim Kalbach put it, “Experience maps look at a broader context of human behavior. They show how the organization fits into a person’s life.” This sentiment sums up what journey mapping is all about, but fully grasping the nuances of your customer’s experience from their point of view isn’t as simple as it sounds.

We’ve witnessed it ourselves on countless occasions: When asked to give details about their customer’s path to purchase, business leaders and their teams almost immediately pivot to internal pain points and organizational operations and procedures. It’s understandable why you might be inclined to dive into these details—they are the processes you spend your days refining, the fundamentals of your job—but they place your organization, rather than your customer, at the center of the narrative. A well-charted map reflects the ups and downs, highs and lows, as experienced by the customer. It’s not an internal process map, nor is it meant to define the roles and functions of your teams.

One way we’re able to gain access to customers’ thoughts, feelings, and preferences is through empathy-based interviews and ethnographic research. These tactics uncover new insights about your customer in a way that reveals how well your organization solves their problems and how you fit into their life. Once you view your product or service through this lens, you can ensure your teams focus their energies in the right places. 

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

After all the interviewing, researching, plotting, and mapping is said and done, it’s time to extract valuable insights from your journey map and use them to fill the gaps in your existing CX. This may seem like the obvious next step, but all too often we encounter organizations that have invested time and resources into the process only to let their maps sit on a (virtual) shelf collecting dust. 

We’re here for what comes next, and can help you put insights into action, leading you down the path to a better CX for all of your internal and external stakeholders. With your map in hand, each moving part of your business will be guided by your North Star: doing what’s right for your customer.