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Building Customer Loyalty through Experience Journey Mapping

Many people, myself included, believe the core to success in Customer Loyalty Management is Customer Experience Journey Mapping. This is therefore a topic in which there is much interest. However it also seems to be topic that can cause confusion and/or misunderstanding. I therefore thought it would be a good idea to write a short paper explaining what I believe are the key elements of a Customer Experience Journey Map and how to go about creating one that should trigger worthwhile outcomes.

Those of you that are familiar with the concept of 'Systems Thinking' or 'Lean' will know what 'Value Stream Maps' are and how they are created. Put simply, they are an 'Inside -Out' view of all the systems and processes in an organisation. A good value stream map will show how they connect and work together to create the overall system. In the same way, a Customer Experience Journey Map will show these same systems and processes. It will however show them from an Outside-In' perspective. In doing so it should clearly indicate the customers' view them.

Let's begin by saying that there is no 'one right way' to do this. Some draw horizontal ones, some circular ones, some do it with pictures, and I've even seen vertical ones. Whatever works best for you will be right for you. However, to be effective and to make it worthwhile there are certain things that must result from the exercise. Again these may vary slightly from organisation to organisation, and even from exercise to exercise, but the following key outcomes are I think, essential for success

  1. 1. The maps must enable people to clearly see, through the customers' eyes and from their perspective, what your organisation makes them do (their experience journey or journeys) in order to do business with you.

  2. 2. They should help you to understand how customers feel at each part of the journey(s) and what they like and/or dislike about it.

  3. 3. They should make it easy to identify where and how loyalty can be built through improving or changing certain experiences within the journey(s).

This last one is really important. In fact I think it is the key to success. The purpose of any Customer Experience Journey Mapping exercise is to enable customer loyalty to be improved through changing, adding or removing specific experiences within the overall customer journey.

At this point it's probably worthwhile mentioning a bit of the science and psychology. Loyalty results from building trusting and value adding relationships with customers. Such relationships are created (or destroyed) over time, through the various interactions we have with customers. Within those interactions are experiences; some of which have a strong influence on how customers behave now and will behave in the future. So if we remove those experiences that are likely to create the behaviour we don't want, and add or improve experiences that will create the behaviour we do want, we are then successfully using Customer Experience Management to build Lasting Customer Loyalty. So put simply, there is a direct connection between experiences and loyalty

So having explained what I think should be the outcome, it's time to consider where to start.

Getting Started - The First Stage to Success

If you already have created Value Stream Maps you will have identified what they have shown to be the 'touch points' with customers. Those touch points could then become the basis of your Customer Experience Journey Maps. If you haven't done so then you will need to create a map or plan of all the touch points you have with customer. Below are examples of maps from different types of organisations.


Utility Provider

Packaged Holiday Provider

Transport Company

Having drawn your map, what you will then have is your view of the customer journey or journeys. You need to start this way, with a map of the journey as you see it. But this is not what you need because my experience has shown that no matter how carefully you prepare a map like this, it is never the same as the customers' view of it. So this is the time when, for accuracy, you should try to get customers involved.

There are various ways you can do this but I have found the simplest and most effective way is to prepare the journey map as you see it using adhesive notes on a wall chart, and then to get customers to move them around and add and/or subtract ones as necessary until they have modified the map to show the journey from their perspective. You may well have to do this more than once because different customers may have different perspectives on this.

Having done this, with as many different customers as is necessary to build a representative picture for your whole customer base, you will then know what customers' view as the journeys they undergo and the various touch points along the way. But you still will not know the key information that will enable you make the worthwhile differences. That is how customers view their experiences at these touch points and how influential they are or could be to their loyalty. This next step is therefore critical for success.

The Middle Stage - Gathering the Vital Information

What you now need to know is two keys bits of information for each touch point.

  1. 1. What is our performance like at each point compared to the customers needs and/or expectations and how they think it compares to our competitors performance?

  2. 2. How important is this to customers in terms of how loyal they will be as a result?

These two key bits of knowledge will show where and how you may work on experiences to improve loyalty. I call this Importance - Performance Analysis. In order to quickly and easily see the potential impact of this you could create a chart as shown below.

As you'll see there are four main quadrants on this chart

  1. 1. Vital Importance - Exceptional Performance

    This is where you are doing the right things right. You are maintaining or building loyalty here. The key will be to consider ways you can further enhance the experiences here, or add new ones that will make you even better. Ideally there will be many things here that you have or do that your competitors don't.

  2. 2. Vital Importance - Abysmal Performance

    This is where you are not doing the right things and/or are doing the wrong things. You are therefore reducing or killing loyalty here or perhaps missing opportunities to create it. This needs urgent attention to turn as many of these experiences as possible into ones that will enhance loyalty. Again, if you can find things that your competitors don’t, won’t or cant do, every one will add to your competitive advantage.

  3. 3. Trivial Importance - Abysmal Performance

    In the short term it doesn't matter that you aren't very good at things customers aren't bothered about. But keep an eye on the things in this category. They may become important in the future or you may be able to increase both their importance and your performance to create additional competitive advantage.

  4. 4. Trivial Importance - Exceptional Performance

    This is always an interesting quadrant, and I have ceased to be surprised at how many organisations have items in this box. It means you're really good at things your customers don’t care about. This usually results from a focus on things that the organisation thought would matter to customers, but hadn't done the necessary research to validate first, or that is being done for internal reasons, that customers aren't at all bothered about, or it’s sometimes there because a certain manager 'has a thing' about it and wants it whether or not customers do.

The point is that resources are being used here that are having no impact on customer loyalty. You therefore should either to find a way to make these things important enough to customers to make a worthwhile difference or to stop wasting resources here and invest them where you know they will make a worthwhile difference.

So by considering the implications of this chart it should be easy to decide where to allocate (or reallocate) resources so as to create or change experiences that will improve customer loyalty

The Last Stage - Continuous Improvement - With Pace

Having done the above, don't then fall into the trap of assuming that this alone will be enough. One thing for sure is that as fast as you remove experiences that customers don't like, others will appear. Also that as you create experiences they do like, they will quickly be seen as 'business as usual' and cease to have the impact they did originally. So you will need to continually repeat this exercise to keep yourself aware of and up to date with your customers’ ever changing perspective and so learn what next needs to be done.
Also remember that customers don't know what they don't know. By that I mean they will not be able to tell you about experience they would like but haven't before experienced. The really worthwhile strides forward often come from new ideas that no one has had before. You therefore need to develop ways to continually innovate and experiment with new experience ideas.

This can be done in various ways. For example;

  • Organise brainstorming sessions with colleagues from all departments to encourage them to generate ideas to WOW customers at various stages of the customer journey(s).

  • Encourage your colleagues to study what is done by organisations in non-competitive markets and so discover what could be adopted for your market.

  • Create an ideas recognition and reward scheme to continually encourage and reward ideas from all colleagues.

  • Find ways to encourage customers to be involved in the generation and testing of new ideas.

These are just a few ideas. I'm sure you could think of more. The key is to have a variety of things in place to create a continual stream of new ideas to WOW customers with great experiences and so build loyalty.


So there you have it; a few general thoughts on the subject of Customer Experience Journey Mapping and some pointers and techniques that should help. I hope this is useful and will encourage you have a crack at it and create some success. If you have any queries about this please feel free to contact me (details below) and I'll be happy to help with any specific issues or questions you may have.