Traditional maps of customer journeys – the corporate world's equivalent of the Old Masters, carefully composed, multilayered, and static – capture a moment of history. They tell us interesting things about the past but nothing about what might happen in the future.
The customer journey maps that companies are now plotting of are ones that help them anticipate need. Ideally, they will predict demand before the customers themselves have realized these needs. These journeys are not built on piles of outdated customer statistics, but on what's happening and what people are saying about your brand in the here (and there) and now. Winners in this brave new world will be the companies that can change their messaging, offerings, pricing, and channels at the speed that their customers' expectations change. In a world of unprecedented access to information, far-reaching and influential social networks, and rapidly evolving technology, those expectations will change at increasing speed.
Dynamic, agile customer journey maps are built on a real-time understanding of what is delighting customers. Companies must be able to understand the change taking place around them, and its impact on their customers. Armed with that knowledge, they must complete two big steps to map agile journeys.
Firstly, they must build the infrastructure they need – including people, processes, platforms, and data that are responsive to insights.
Secondly, they must enable the infrastructure to monitor changes in behavior in real time and convert insights directly to action at the speed of change. With this infrastructure in place, the journey becomes responsive.
While technology plays a vital role as an enabler, it is only part of the answer. Culture also has an important part to play.
Ritz Carlton Hotels have systems, considered world-class, that allow them to capture customers' preferences and deliver personalized service that delights. But before they had systems, they had a culture: The systems are just a way of coding that culture and ensuring its ongoing existence from generation to generation, place to place. Since the culture is about customer intimacy and relevance, the systems are designed to embed intimacy and relevance. Ultimately, companies can have all the data in the world, but unless they have culture that values intimacy and are able to align their operations to support that culture, their efforts to delight customers will fall short.
Most problems that businesses grapple with – such as customer attrition, falling market share, and profit slumps – can be reversed if companies are willing to map these agile journeys and turn insight into action in real time.
Read more about creating agile customer journeys and meeting changing customer experiences in my article,‘How to Keep Your Customer Journey from Passing its Sell-By Date’ in the latest volume of our consulting journal, Perspectives.