Journey Mapping Is Not Just for Service Teams

The idea of a customer journey is a useful metaphor for the way that companies and customers interact. You can map them, diagram them, optimize them, and manage them. The journey expresses a great deal about what kind of relationship businesses have with their customers, and vice versa. If a journey is filled with moments of uncertainty or changes in direction, it can indicate a frustrated customer who might be on the verge of leaving. Maybe the majority of customers follow a few simple journeys, or perhaps they take many paths to different outcomes.

The idea of a journey stands for many of the discrete steps in identifying customers' needs or wants, and then gradually interacting with those customers to fulfill the needs. It also encompasses the steps that go beyond purchase, into support or recommendation, even advocacy on behalf of a company or brand. That's why many companies are looking at journey mapping as a way of gathering insights into where they can have the most effect on customer behavior.

Many vendors of customer interaction analytics have incorporated journey mapping into their insight tools to help service organizations understand how their processes really work. Because today's customers are more self-directed when it comes to gathering information and seeking help, understanding all the touchpoints (and where they break down) is the first line of defense when confronting less-than-optimal customer experience delivery.

A lot of service professionals don't realize, though, that they are not the only stakeholders who seek to understand the contours of the customer journey. Their peers in marketing and their c-level executives are using similar tools to understand the journey from the opposite point of view. Where contact centers tend to look at journeys as a way of aggregating what has already happened, marketers view journeys as something they are responsible for designing and controlling. It's the difference between looking backwards and forwards; service tends to look for bumps in the road that cause the interaction to break down or be inefficient. Marketers, by contrast, are looking for ways to lever customers into specific journeys that (they believe) will result in specific revenue-centric outcomes.

Service professionals need to take an active role in understanding what their marketing counterparts are up to, if for no other reason than the reality that marketers are spending resources on tools that overlap with contact center systems. Journey mapping is a key example. In a recent 451 Research survey, when asked which marketing technology tools would see the greatest investment in the next year, 25 percent of marketers cited customer journey mapping. Among c-level respondents, that figure rose to 30 percent, indicating significant buy-in for the ability to see into and control the nuances of customer behavior.

Marketers care about journeys because they are increasingly using digital communications tools, like SMS, email, or chat, to target customers with personalized content based on a highly detailed understanding of their history, behavior, and intent. Analyzing the journey is an essential part of making those personalized recommendations or offers because it offers insight into what a customer is likely to do at each juncture, based on true histories, not just conjecture.

And, as you would expect, journeys are viewed differently depending on where an observer sits within the business. Service teams were first to start to aggregate the view of the customer based on the discrete steps he would take in choosing contact channels and following call pathways into a contact center. As we move toward an omnichannel environment in which voice is augmented with multiple digital channels, service departments are often forced to handle interactions in forms that went untracked and disconnected. For example, it can be difficult to see the entire picture of a customer's experience if she begins by looking at a mobile app and then calls for help. Without tying together the two threads of the interaction, businesses see those two components—app use, followed by voice call—as separate events. Separately they are interactions; collectively they represent a journey.

When cost control is the main driver of technology use, understanding the journey is a way of making sense of an expanding menu of connection options. Service centers began studying journeys as a way of aggregating post-connection information about past activity and using what was learned to identify breakpoints or moments of friction that degrade the customer experience.

Marketers' role, though, is to create and nurture potential customers, so it is to their advantage to conceive of their mix of messages and campaigns as a way of orchestrating optimal journeys. Marketers can be said to view journeys as an inside-out process, looking ahead to what customers might and should do, where service teams view them from the outside-in: an after-the-fact accounting of what has already happened.

Journey mapping (or journey management, or whatever term of art is current at any moment in time) is a step toward unifying the picture we have of what happens when a customer connects. But if contact center practitioners and other service teams are smart, they'll work with their marketing peers to unify the two views into customer behavior. There is a revolution in data analytics at the intersection of marketing, commerce, and service, and understanding the journey is just one sliver.

When we look ahead to how operations will evolve in the next few years, we're going to see the application of analysis and machine learning to a lot of traditional contact center tasks, and it's going to be increasingly under the watchful eye of marketers who are looking at service relationships and journeys as components of a broader, well-controlled lifecycle. Journey mapping will evolve from a specialty activity performed on an ad hoc basis to a much more disciplined, inter-departmental effort that involves customer identity management, messaging, targeting, and personalization, as well as service optimization.

We might not call it journey mapping by the time we get to the start of the next decade, but it is clear that service teams of the 2020s will have a much more detailed view into how customers make decisions and take action than they do today. And they will be responsible for helping their peers use service interactions to make sales, augment brands, and drive revenue.

Keith Dawson is principal analyst for customer experience and commerce at 451 Research. He can be reached at, or follow him on Twitter @keithdawson.