A practical guide to operationalise customer journeys

Customer-centric organisations are much better positioned for market leadership. But many are faced with two core problems: 1) they’re too focused on incremental improvements to existing services and products in silos, or 2) they’re simply not customer-centric enough, having only a partial view of their customer needs.

Today, organisations should make an effort to operationalise customer journeys, and, in the process, unlock the potential for innovation across silos, focusing on unmet customer needs. They should align their employees around customer journeys, with dedicated teams set up to map, develop and measure Customer Experience (CX) per segment.

In this blog entry, we’ll explore a practical way through which organisations can build customer journeys, establish proper governance, set up self-managing teams, develop product roadmaps, transition to business as usual, and, finally, some CX Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that every organisation should track. So, let’s get started!

How do we build customer journeys?

Conduct interviews to understand your customers 

In collaboration with different functions in your organisation, create an interview protocol per segment covering topics such as positive and negative experiences, products or services substitution, and step-by-step journey. 

Once interviews are complete, the meeting minutes should first be anonymised (hello GDPR, our old friend), and then imported into a research database. Minutes should then be further labelled so that any future search on customer problems or opportunities can be easily supported by the voice of the customer.

Whom should you target? Ideally, you’ll interview your current customers, your potential customers and your past customers. 

How many interviews should you have? Between 10 to 15 interviews per customer segment, or five to 10 interviews per sub segment. Make sure to include a variety of customers (big and small accounts), from different geographies and cultural backgrounds. 

Create personas

Once you’ve interviewed your customers, it’s time to create personas. Personas are a functional representation of a group of customers, suppliers or employees. They’re an essential part in helping organisations to instil deeper empathy towards all stakeholders involved. 

Pro Tip: Personas are great change management artefacts as they can, in a simple way, illustrate customer needs to various stakeholders — inside and outside of the organisation. Try including personas in your proposals and project briefs so that you can always have in the mind whom you’re solving for.

Simple personas could include:

  • Jobs-to-be-done
  • Needs
  • Wants
  • Motivations
  • Background
  • Key characteristics

Bring them to life by providing some background information, such as typical education, age group, or any hobbies. 

Identify key steps

When you begin analysing customer interviews, start doing so by identifying steps that they need to take in their customer journey. Not all customer personas will have identical steps, and therefore it makes sense to have personalised  journeys, in case they vastly differ.

Pro Tip: make sure to include in your interview protocol a question that allows your customer to walk you, step by step, through their journey, from the moment they felt a need to the moment they decided on the product/service, and all the steps that followed.

Here are some steps  such a journey could have:

  1. Awareness
  2. Prospecting
  3. Sales
  4. Onboarding
  5. Operations
  6. Cross-selling
  7. Offboarding

Identify pain and gain points

Customer interviews can often feel like a complaint session, with people voicing their concerns and disappointment with a particular product or service. 

However, precisely because of this emotional nature of interviews, you will be able to extract customer pain points, which you can then link to a specific step of the customer journey (for instance, the AML/KYC process during the onboarding). A pain point is a negative sentiment—most often frustration and disappointment—customers can experience when interacting with your brand.

On the other hand, a gain point is the positive sentiment—usually excitement and satisfaction— customers experience when their expectations are matching the quality, speed, and friendliness of the product or service.

Prop Tip: Identifying pain and gain points across different personas and journeys allows you to pinpoint systemic issues. Subsequently, prioritising and solving the biggest pain points will help you to improve overall customer experience.

Gain points enable you to understand the key drivers of positive customer experiences, such as convenience and ease of use. Moreover, they help you to identify your competitive advantage and discover products or services for which you could charge price premiums. 

Write storyline and map channels of communication

You’ve got your steps of the journey, personas as well as their gain and pain points. Next, you might want to add a storyline and the preferred channel of communication to each persona. Now a journey comes to life — one where you can see your customers, employees, and partners interacting with each other as they produce and consume your product or service. 

Pro Tip: Include a ‘moments of truth’ to illustrate key moments at which personas form a—positive or negative—impression of your product or service. Aim to identify moments of truth for all steps of customer journeys.

Customer journeys are powerful tools exactly because they give a 360-degree view of all customer interactions with your brand. We chose to call customer journeys ‘tools’ and not ‘artefacts’ because they should be used on a day-to-day basis to guide product and service development. 

Maybe your organisation has already produced one, and now you are left wondering, “What’s next?” The key to establishing and maintaining great customer experiences starts with operationalising customer journeys. It’s the first tangible step towards a more customer-centric organisation.

Operationalising customer journeys

In one of our previous blog entries, we talked about some of the prerequisites for a customer-centric transformation. Assuming you’ve got executive buy-in to operationalise your customer journey, here is what you can do next.

Choose a segment to begin with

You could have one or more journeys per segment. However, we recommend you start your efforts by operationalising one journey for one segment only. Ideally, you should choose a segment where you can launch an old product in a new market. This would allow you to make minor changes to, for example, go-to-market and some key product features with potentially big impact.

Pro Tip: Many customer journey initiatives fail simply because they take on the biggest challenges head on. It’s important to start small, with room for improvement and experimentation along the way.

Establish proper governance

Before embarking on the transformation of a particular segment, take a moment to reflect on your governance. We highly recommend to appoint a segment or customer journey owner, depending on the size of your organisation. This person should ideally be someone with a strong background in business, and with some knowledge of experience and technology aspects that influence it.

To the steering committee of this journey, we recommend adding the CCO (Chief Commercial Officer) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) roles. Journey owners should act as the voice of the customer, while the CCO should represent commercial interests, and the COO should help align the delivery against those two. 

Pro Tip: Governance will largely depend on the size and complexity of your organisation. Finding the right model will likely take some trial and error. Hence, start small with hopes of it opening up to something bigger down the road.

Create a product roadmap

With proper governance in place, it’s time for the journey owner—with the help of UX designers and business analysts—to create a product roadmap. 

Product roadmaps should be aligned with customer journeys. In practice, customer roadmaps should aim to deliver ‘solutions’ that are answers to one or more of the customer’s pain and gain points. Journey owners should be in charge of prioritising solutions for development, with a focus on solving the issues with the biggest client impact.

Pro Tip: Colour code your product roadmap, introducing stark colours for biggest pain or gain points, and more neutral ones for everything in between. Make sure to include the labels for the priority and current status of backlog initiatives.

Assemble a multidisciplinary team

A crucial step in operationalising customer journeys is to appoint the right profiles to the multidisciplinary team that will be in charge of the journey. We recommend involving at least one person from sales, operations, IT and UX.

Ideally, a multidisciplinary team would be self-managing, with a mandate to help transform customer experience across one segment. Even though they’re part of the journey team, they should remain close to their own respective departments and act as the voice of the customer.

Pro tip: Journey teams should run in agile mode, taking two to three weeks to build a shippable increment of a product or service.

Transfer to BAU

Once a shippable increment of the product has been completed, it’s time to transfer it to “Business As Usual” (BAU). Here, you could organise workshops composed of the journey team and selected employees from other departments affected by the change. 

Pro Tip: Make sure to properly document shippable increments, not only the final output, but also the process and reasoning behind it.

Monitor relevant KPIs

Once your solution has been implemented in BAU, your next move should be to track the magnitude of improvement in the customer experience. Traditionally, this has been a big pain point (ironic, we know) for CX pros who resorted to qualitative metrics to justify investment in CX improvement. However, the advent of new and sophisticated Journey Management tools allows for a real-time omnichannel view of customer interactions and proactive feedback on those. 

The figure below represents some of the key metrics you could choose to track.

CONCLUSION

Mapping customer journeys is a great first step towards a more customer-centric organisation. But it shouldn’t stop there. Operationalising a customer journey requires proper governance, allocation of resources, emphasis on cross-functional collaboration, and introduction of new ways of working. Before being overwhelmed by the prospect of yet another gigantic transformation, organisations should seek to start small, perhaps choosing to explore a new segment with an existing product or service. This would give room for experimentation and organisational learning to take place, in a relatively short time and safe environment.

What we think
Armin Prljaca, Strategy Design Manager at PwC Luxembourg
Armin Prljaca, Strategy Design Manager at PwC Luxembourg

Many organisations have attempted to operationalise customer journeys with mixed success. It really all comes down to mastering the basics, establishing proper governance, assembling and empowering journey teams, and defining and monitoring KPIs. Start on a small segment, iterate and then scale the approach to the rest of the business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to Top