Digging in the Dirt: Digging Into the Field for Your Customer Journey Map - SoDA - The Digital Society

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Digging in the Dirt: Digging Into the Field for Your Customer Journey Map

by Dan Bentz, Universal Mind / October 19, 2012

Note: This blog entry is available in English only.

“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance — it is the illusion of knowledge.”
— Daniel Boorstin, Librarian of US Congress, 1975-87

I always picture Indiana Jones when I visualize journey maps… talking about research as a professor at the university, then hopping on a plane and dot-lining it across the world to find whatever. Gets his hands dirty…knows what’s real and what isn’t.

Its great to see journey maps gaining so much traction somewhat recently. We’ve been swamped with requests for journey maps, tying them in to strategic experience organizations and even training clients by having them journey with us as we visit their customers to observe. If you search for “customer journey” on Forrester.com, 512 reports will pop up. Change the term to “customer journey maps” and you get 290 results. As we talk to the companies that are interested in doing maps, I think they are gaining so much attention recently because corporations are realizing one big thing:

They work.

And they work very well.

However, a journey map has to be done right—not just done—and companies are struggling with that from what we’ve seen. Corporations are already targeting end users, and have been doing it for decades through advertising and slogans. Many companies have internal meetings with the organizational experts to discuss and analyze what the customers want; they then decide budget, and move forward… maybe even measuring through continuous improvement efforts to see the results. Some more advanced companies do focus groups, send out surveys, do video conferences, and maybe even dive into heavy-duty research analysis. It’s been working for decades; why change now?

It’s not enough.

Digital—and maybe in particular, mobile—has changed the customer, and many corporations are having trouble knowing what to do next. Furthermore, they are doing customer journey maps in name only when the opportunity exists to really walk the road with their customer.

It’s not enough to just send out a survey, sit back in a meeting or call on the phone, talking to a customer and asking the “list of questions” prepped through marketing or sales or IT. Sure, you’ll get some value… maybe some good discussions and probably find out something you didn’t know before. Problem is, your customers also prepared for that meeting. They thought about their answers, reviewed their processes, maybe even coordinated who would talk about what. You aren’t getting what Ellen Isaacs at PARC calls “the hidden obvious”; instead you’re getting the planned, thought out, “this is how our process is” answers.

I’ve seen this first hand. In more than 20 years of observing experiences and doing process deconstruction & reengineering, I’ve watched customers just fire away at the answers and the interviewers just write it all down. I’ve seen companies and executives be satisfied with data because it matched up to their expected answers or was “only 10% different” (a real answer I got one time!). I’ve watched companies take a small amount of information, lock themselves in a room with their in-company experts, and run down incredibly long paths with it, creating a solution that was nowhere near what the customer wanted. Subjective biases rule when objective observation is missing.

So what do you do?

You walk on the gravel with your customers and get your hands dirty digging into their experiences.

The purpose of a customer journey map is to get into the field with the customer and observe what they do, see, hear, and feel as they walk down the journey you are mapping, making a record of the experiences you find. It is a document of record where a person can feel the experiences, know if something is irritating, pleasant or just plain boring. You have to get out in the real world and identify those activities your customer is doing, whether they are aware of them or not. This is done to its fullest when you are literally in your customer’s work space, observing them in their work life.

Yes, it costs more money and takes more time, but it is irreplaceable and lives across multiple areas of the organization. The journey maps aren’t a one-time thing that is then put on the shelf; it is the basis of a customer experience organization and should be considered a living document.

So, take the time to do your customer journey maps right; visit your customers, do their work with them, stand in their spaces, observe and ask. Bring your gloves and a shovel and get digging! They’ll love that you’re giving them your full attention in an attempt to make their lives better. What’s more, work like this can easily lead to increased loyalty and even generate new business for you.

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