5 of the Biggest Mistakes You’re Making with Your Customer Journey

By Kevin Green
Digital Transformation Officer

By now, most organizations should have some semblance of a documented customer journey to assist in understanding how customers engage and convert. For many businesses, it may be the first iteration of a journey but a powerful step in the right direction. Truly understanding the actions of your customers provides invaluable insights that will assist the organization in making decisions that have a measurable impact.

As customer experience has become the greatest opportunity for differentiation in today’s experience-driven marketplace, there is no shortage of opportunities to better understand customer behaviors. However, businesses are still struggling to evolve and embrace a broader customer mindset. The result is slow adoption and limited impact.

Becoming a truly customer-obsessed organization is not easy. Customer experience is not simply a culture change. Nor is it a new, innovative product. It requires a convergence of multiple people, technologies and processes. Frankly, it’s not as black and white as the current rhetoric claims. When done correctly, the amount of “gray area” revealed will be enlightening and potentially overwhelming.

The power is in revealing what you don’t know, not in validating what you do know or what you think you know.

Most are still in the early stages of this transition to a customer-driven mindset. Although most organizations have been “customer-first” for decades (remember “the customer is always right”), the move to customer-driven builds on decades of good business practice to ensure that businesses are “right for the customer.”

To help in your transition, below are some common mistakes that organizations working to develop and define the customer journey often make. The result is minimal impact that fails to penetrate the organization and quickly leads back to business as usual.

Relying Only on Technology

The past five years have seen amazing advancements in how organizations engage customers and empower employees. The next five years will be equally, if not more, impressive. There is overwhelming promise in technology that allows people to do their jobs better, get what they need faster and connect at scale. However, organizations still waste billions of dollars a year in technology investments that fail to gain traction.

Technology is only as powerful as the people behind it: the people who design it, develop it and implement it. It’s not a silver bullet and, all too often, it’s adopted and deployed without context. This was most prevalent in the rapid rise of marketing technology over the past few years and will extend into other functional areas in the coming years.

We’ve expanded the “Bright Shiny Object” syndrome of the social media years to include more powerful applications and software. An overwhelming pressure to keep up with the “Technical Joneses” has prompted rapid solution acquisition, with the hope that one out of 10 will cure what ails us.

Technology has evolved, but the way it’s implemented and acquired still has a long way to go. Organizations are looking at technology from an “inside out” point of view and how it advances the “stack” versus thinking about the implication on the experience.  Understanding the customer journey and the role technology plays from end-to-end allows you to start seeing your technology in context versus stacked.

Only Looking at Existing Touchpoints

One of the many features that all of this new technology provides is the ability to gain a deeper view into customer actions online (notice I didn’t say behaviors). Some of these solutions are incredibly powerful. From being able to isolate individual user actions as they navigate the digital touchpoints to delivering highly personalized information that increases conversion, we’ve gone from looking at customer actions online through a pinhole to an enormous panorama. 

However, most organizations plot the customer journey using existing touchpoints. The journey is already defined; they are simply putting them in an order that provides clarity.

For example, I can tell you that the only way to get to Austin is to take Interstate 35. The road exists and it does take you into downtown Austin. This is a fact. I can also tell you that MoPac is another route that brings you into the other side of Austin. Both are correct and indeed facts. Or, I can tell you that all roads lead to Austin. Or you could fly. Depending on your perspective, this can also be correct. The point is, the path or journey is not simply what exists. It’s not only what you can see.

Always ask, “What can I add or take away to make this journey more effective in addition to how can I improve what exists today?” Look to close the gaps or fill the gray areas as a way to differentiate from the competition.

Having Only One Journey

According to Forrester Research, organizations should “target creating 15-20 of the top customer journeys.” It’s likely that your organization could have dozens of journeys broken down by product, services and segments. To be successful, you need more than one beautiful journey map hanging on the wall.

That said, some businesses have hundreds of customer segments. Or, they’ve invested heavily in profile targeting in an effort to deliver one-to-one experiences. At some point, it becomes impossible to manage, support and invest in trying to be everything to everyone.

Before making large investments, including product enhancements or media buys, always make sure that the organization is aligned on exactly who you serve.

Depending on the organization, there is a point of diminishing returns. Too many journeys and you find yourself in a state of constant analysis with a fragmented brand and experience that erodes word-of-mouth benefits. Too few, and you are making decisions based on limited information.

Creating the Journey in One Functional Area

My first experience with customer journeys was about 12 years ago. I remember the client proudly rolling out the journey map on the table and revealing a beautifully designed artifact that would reimagine the way they did business. The client carried it with him everywhere. It was rolled up and bound with a rubber band. It was an impressive document – until you looked at the details.

The entire journey was executed by a media agency. It contained only third-party data, provided by media platforms, to detail how customers interacted with the client. Upon close inspection, the journey was actually more a hypothesis of how advertising could potentially drive the right audience directly to the client’s website. What happened from there was actually a mystery.

Since then, I’ve seen hundreds of journey maps hanging on walls in marketing departments around the world. Most are impressive, but all were incomplete. The most common issue was that they all stop at the conversion; you know, when a prospect actually becomes a customer.

Try to avoid stopping at a “Prospect Journey Map” and look to connect the dots through the process.

Broad, Narrow or Assumed Personas/Segments

One of my favorite questions to ask people is, “Who are your buyers/customers?” The answers are always fascinating and I try to ask this question to people across functional areas of a business. More often than not, the answers are different. However, when the answers are similar, they are usually some vague definition like “IT Decision Maker.”

These personas help sell ad space, but do little to help you create experiences that drive results. As a former media buyer, I know that media platforms want to sell you impressions based on a broad category like “IT Decision Maker” because they can provide or fill more inventory. If you ask them to reach “Electrical Engineers” at “Nuclear Power Plants,” that’s a small pool of people and really easy to track. Odds are, they’ll try to convince you to target “General Engineers” because the broader the category, the higher the likelihood of some measureable outcome.

Broad personas like “IT Decision Maker” result in deriving insights from a mass of people with vastly different skill sets, needs and buying habits. What are the four or five personas of “IT Decision Maker” that are relevant to your business?

Before making large investments, including product enhancements or media buys, always make sure that the organization is aligned on exactly who you serve. If you can align your employees around a defined customer set, you can minimize fractures in the experience, as there is an increased likelihood that they are making decisions rooted in the same information.

These five items are just a sampling of common mistakes that organizations make when developing a customer experience strategy. While businesses have more opportunities today to be exceptional, it comes with increased risk, investment and effort than decades past – both in creating the wrong experiences or not creating one at all.

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