The art of mapping customer journeys, once akin to the lengthy and elaborate practice of painting a masterpiece to be framed for posterity and hung on the wall, has been transformed into an activity that has more in common with the quick brush strokes of a street artists sketch. Speed and fluency are the order of the day, and the shelf life of the finished 'artwork' is shrinking rapidly. What looked good today will be washed away overnight and redrawn tomorrow.
The objective of drawing or mapping a customer journey should be to create an enriching experience that encourages customers to buy more products or services, to be loyal, and to return. As digital technology has permeated our lives, the lifecycle of those customer journeys has become much shorter. What once lasted months or years may now remain relevant for weeks and days.
Traditionally, companies tended to map a single set of customer journeys. They had limited access to customer preferences and experience, and so they relied on instinct and received wisdom rather than reliable data. What they produced were static or rigid customer journeys that, like the oil painting of yesteryear, were crafted to endure. In a digital era in which customers have access to unprecedented amounts of data and are influenced by far-reaching social networks, their purchasing decisions become much more dynamic. Customer journeys, like pictures sent via Snapchat, expire quickly.
Advances in digital technology and the arrival of Big Data are making it easier for organizations to understand and map customer journeys in greater detail and for each segment. These technologies and data are also forcing companies to think differently about the customer journey. They allow enterprises to build much more intimate relationships with their customers and, if they get their mapping right, to predict and anticipate their needs. Journeys are becoming less generic and more personalized.
Some industries are now accustomed to the speed of change. Wireless providers can change their service bundles almost instantaneously to respond to changing customer requirements in different regions. But its not just 'tech' companies that are feeling the pressure to rethink their approach. Utility companies are realizing that their customers are less captive than they were previously: They can no longer get away with a take-it-or-leave-it approach. Car dealerships are waking up to the fact that they can create new revenue streams if they share data with the automobile manufacturers from whom they historically jealously guarded customer information. Airlines, retailers, entertainment companies and media businesses, and companies in a host of other sectors are all finding that their reliance on internal anecdotes and 'gut feel' arent good enough.
To respond to the needs of connected customers, companies cant afford to rely on a survey thats out of date by the time it reaches the CMOs desk. Instead, real-time social media listening is providing the data that will shape their customer journeys. To make the most of that data, and the insights they can draw from it, companies are altering the process of designing customer journeys and building in the capacity for rapid change.
Much of this has been anticipated and talked about for a decade. Finally the technology is catching up and making dynamic customer journeys a reality. For many companies excited by its potential, it marks their entry into a new world.
more about creating agile customer journeys and meeting changing customer experiences in my article , ‘How to Keep Your Customer Journey from Passing its Sell-byDate’, in the latest volume of our Consulting journal, Perspectives,