Call centers looking to gain an edge over their competitors often consider the importance of customer experience (CX). Microsoft’s 2019 State of Global Customer Service shows that 58 percent of customers consider customer service to be a very important factor that affects their purchase decisions. Poor customer service has a particularly strong effect on shopping behavior, as indicated by 61 percent of consumers who stopped buying from a business after a bad experience. In addition, 59 percent of the respondents in the Microsoft report said they have higher expectations for customer support than they did a year ago. It’s possible to obtain information on CX in a variety of ways, ranging from simple surveys to full-scale conversation analytics. These tools provide the basis of strategies to improve business performance and are collectively known as customer journey mapping. Software can support journey mapping efforts by identifying how customers interact with a business and what they interact about. Call centers can use customer journey maps to guide them in responding to their customers’ evolving needs and expectations. This capability allows call centers to improve CX by identifying the techniques that work and those that don’t, resulting in a process of continuous improvement.

How Customer Journey Mapping Works

A customer journey map is essentially a visual representation of a customer’s experience with a business. A customer’s journey towards a purchase begins with the discovery phase, which often includes multiple interactions across various touch points. Businesses can map out this journey by describing each interaction in detail, along with the customer’s concerns and other relevant information at each phase. This process provides valuable insight into the customer’s perception of the business.

How to Create a Customer Journey Map

The lack of standardization for an organization or even an entire industry is one of the most common causes for frustration in developing a customer journey map. The following steps provide a standardized process for creating a map that you can use with any scope or timeline:

  • Build a team
  • Determine the scope
  • Define your ideal customer
  • Chart each touch point
  • Perform external research
  • Visualize the map
  • Create an audit recommendation report

Build a Team

Stakeholders must be part of any journey-mapping effort, as the purpose of this process is to identify opportunities and efficiencies within the user’s experience. Leveraging these discoveries will be beyond the authority of the user experience (UX) professional who will typically lead a mapping project. It’s therefore vital to obtain engagement and eventually by-and from decision makers, who should be part of a cross-disciplinary team. Stakeholders who already believe in the soundness of the mapping project will be more apt to resolve problems and exploit opportunities when they’re discovered.

Creating a team that already supports journey mapping is easier when it’s composed of stakeholders from many departments, since they’ll have the broad knowledge needed for a detailed map. It’s essential to ensure they understand the value and purpose of journey mapping before beginning this process. Departments that should be represented on a journey mapping team include business analytics, marketing and R&D. The time needed to acquire allies can vary greatly depending on the size of the project. It could require only a 30-minute conversation with a small group of coworkers who already know each other, but it can also be a much longer process with stakeholders from many departments when mapping out the customer journey for an entire enterprise.

Determine the Scope

A journey map’s point of view, also known as its scope, must be established before it can be created. The scope provides a map with focus and clarity by answering questions such as “Whose experience will we map?” and what experience will I depict? ” It’s also important for the core team members to share a common understanding about the answers to these questions before starting the mapping process. Within the context of questions about a map’s scope, “who” usually refers to a particular persona, while “what” refers to a journey that impacts customer relationships or return on investment (ROI) for a particular project.

Define Your Ideal Customer

The next step in mapping out a customer journey involves describing the customer, typically by developing a buyer persona. Within the context of journey mapping, a persona is an ideal representation of a particular customer segment. It’s semi-fictional, but it still allows you to examine the motivations and emotions that determine a consumer’s interaction with a call center. The buyer persona should include a template that addresses all the key aspects for this customer, including the following:

  • Concerns
  • Demographics
  • Profession
  • Preferred information sources
  • Preferred purchasing process

Once you have the above information, it’s possible to obtain additional insights on the persona through interviews with stakeholders. Data on the persona from internal sources like market surveys should guide these interviews. Internal research should be spread across the organization’s information sources, including channels and products. Assume for this example that a survey indicates consumers have a lack of trust for the company. Journey map developers could ask the sales team for insight into the cause of this distrust. They should also create interview guides for each role to bring clarity to the internal findings. These roles should typically include the following:

  • Management
  • Marketing
  • R&D
  • Sales
  • Technical support

Focus groups consisting of three to four people in similar roles can be an effective alternative to individual interviews when time is limited.

Chart Each Touch Point

The next step in mapping a customer journey is to chart the touch points at which the ideal customer represented by the buyer persona interacts with the business. This process consists of analyzing the CX at each touch point to determine the details of the interaction, including the channel used and the specific actions that the customer performed. The identification of any obstacles that prevented the customer from completing the interaction satisfactorily is also a critical requirement for this step.

It’s important to consider the customer’s intent and motivation when charting touch points, since journey maps are most useful for helping to ask “why” questions. These primarily include questions about the customer’s communication such as why they opted for a particular channel and why they didn’t use the chatbot. Learning why a customer sent an email instead of looking for an answer in a FAQ is also helpful for identifying solutions to a buyer’s problems.

Each interaction between a customer and call center should be evaluated in this way to ensure the journey map is as accurate as possible. The practice of treating touch points as separate locations on a journey map allows you to visualize the customers’ journey from their perspective. However, this way of looking at touch points may prevent them from fitting neatly into a standard sales funnel, since customers often interact with a business outside the purchase journey. For example, customers often need help resolving issues after they’ve purchased a product.

Document and assess CX at each touch point in the customer journey. This practice is crucial for discovering bottlenecks in the customer journey, which can benefit greatly from comprehensive analytics. This type of software can provide deep insights into the customer journey map based on data sources such as cart abandonment statistics, user surveys and customer service ratings. Additional Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can also help provide a detailed picture of the customers’ interaction with the call center.

Perform External Research

The next step after obtaining insights into the customers’ journey based on an internal investigation is to validate those insights with external research. The draft of the customer journey map will shape this research, and typically reveal gaps, resulting from a lack of data from internal sources. Customer research is essential for exploring these areas and ensuring no knowledge gaps remain after completing this process.

Qualitative research is most useful for testing the hypotheses presented in the draft of the journey map. These methods should provide a direct line of observation to the customers, typically by using a multi-pronged approach that combines multiple methods to reveal insights on the same interaction from different angles. Specific methods for performing external research on the journey map depends on the project’s context, but typically include the following:

  • Contextual inquiries
  • Customer interviews
  • Direct observation
  • Diary studies

A group of no more than eight participants is enough to begin external research if the time or budget allocated for this process is limited. However, it’s still important to keep the key stakeholders involved, even when the research group is small. This practice ensures that stakeholders remain informed on the findings, so they aren’t surprised later by gaps in the draft journey map.

Visualize the Map

A customer journey map is only a tool for helping you share research findings with other stakeholders. It doesn’t provide a visual representation of the customer journey by itself that shows critical moments, high points and pain points. CX analysis generally requires visualization, which can take various forms such as a flowchart, table or storyboard. The specific method is particularly important, provided that it visually describes the customer journey in a clear manner.

A separate workshop with the core team members is usually an effective method of developing the visual representation of the customer journey map. This process should be comparatively easy since this team has already built the context for the visualization during the initial research. The team should further refine the draft journey map at this stage to determine the best approach to visualization. For example, a small team that’s fully engaged with the project can probably move forward with a rough visualization based on a virtual whiteboard or even sticky notes. However, a team that works directly with clients is likely to require a more formal, polished method of sharing insights.

Create an Audit Recommendation Report

The preparation of an audit recommendation report is the final step in developing a customer journey map. This report should identify the portions of the customer journey that provide overwhelmingly positive CX as well as established pain points. It should also include a list of instances in which stakeholders such as customers, employees and managers have different perspectives on the quality of CX for a particular touch point. In addition, an audit recommendation report can contain suggested fixes for small problems and suggested strategies for approaching problems that will take longer to fix.

Bear in mind that this audit is an analysis of the current state of the CX for your customer journey. While the report should contain suggested changes to the customer journey, it doesn’t need to provide solutions for every identified problem. The goal of the audit report is to serve as a key resource in the future for team members who design, develop and implement solutions for these problems.

What can the findings tell you?

Businesses have historically competed on the basis of price or quality, but competition in today’s marketplace is increasingly likely to be based on CX. Experiences from the first contact to the final interaction all contribute to the overall impression a customer has about an organization. This perception is crucial for determining if that company is meeting its customers’ expectations, which a business must do to remain competitive. Competing on the basis of CX requires some means of analyzing it for strengths and weaknesses, which is the purpose of the CX audit.

CX audits are essential for call centers due to the particular importance that CX has in this industry. Recent research shows that CX is becoming the most important brand differentiator for call centers, often more so than pricing and product quality. CX audits also provide more direct benefits for call centers, including the following:

  • Greater focus on CX
  • Identification of pain points
  • Identification of areas of improvement
  • Identification of mid and long-term strategies

Help to Refocus Your View of CX

A CX audit forces you to view your call center as interconnected, rather than a collection of isolated channels, teams and technologies. While this audit does allow you to study individual touch points, its primary purpose is to describe the way in which customers move between them. This requirement means that the developers of a customer journey map must join the dots to create a more complete picture of the organization’s structure. This process should identify the parts of the organization that are still siloed instead of being integrated into an omnichannel system.

Identify Pain Points

Mapping the customer journey helps you see where it’s going right and where it’s going wrong. This capability helps you implement the changes needed to correct these deficiencies at multiple points in the customer’s journey.

For example, the customer’s initial engagement with a call center often has considerable room for improvement. One of the most important questions to answer about this touch point is whether the customer is engaging with their preferred channel or the channel that the call center prefers. The means by which customers move between touch points and their reasons for doing so are also key questions to answer.

These transitions are part of the customer’s natural journey or if the call center is forcing them up on the customer. Customers. Unexpected or undesirable transitions are a common pain point in this journey, as are obstacles that prevent the customer from engaging in the way they want to. Many specific factors can slow a customer’s journey.

The end of the customer’s journey is also a touch point that bears careful scrutiny, especially whether that journey ended satisfactorily for the customer. It’s also important to examine the process for re-engaging customers after interacting with a company for the first time. Remember that the primary purpose of a CX audit is to assess the existing journey, rather than trying to develop solutions to problems.

Identify Immediate Areas of Improvement

A CX audit usually identifies multiple touch points that can be easily improved. These issues may have solutions as simple as changing the wording on a website to make instructions more clear or making a minor change to the IVR menu. These fixes can noticeably improve CX without a significant expenditure of resources.

Create Mid and Long-term CX Strategies

Fixes that take a longer time to solve are beyond the scope of customer journey mapping, although they may still provide the basis for solution strategies. These issues may require long-term planning, along with an investment in new products or technologies. The CX audit can identify these areas and prioritize changes needed to improve CX.

Channel preferences are one of the most common causes of long-term problems, as they can vary greatly by customer demographics. A 2017 study by Forbes shows that millennials are more likely to use text-based communications, whereas older customers often prefer voice-based channels. A customer’s access to technology also affects their channel preference.

Furthermore, customers’ expectations for their CX can also be strongly affected by the channel, a fact that’s often the source of pain points in a customer’s journey. For example, a customer communicating by phone is likely to have a different expectation than one who uses a chatbot. A CX audit should provide detailed information on customer expectations for each channel, allowing the call center to customize the journey map for each channel.

Recognize areas of positive CX

It’s also important for a CX audit to recognize those areas in which stakeholders agree that the CX is positive. Such a finding tells a call center when it’s doing something right, indicating that it shouldn’t make any changes to this part of the customer’s journey. It can also provide an opportunity to apply lessons learned to other areas.

How can an accurate customer journey map improve CX?

Customer journey mapping can be an effective means of identifying deficiencies in a call center’s daily operations. Mapping the customer journey and studying it carefully allows you to identify issues that negatively impact CX. The following items are some of the most significant ways that journey mapping can improve CX in the call center.

Consistency across Touch Points

CX should be positive and consistent whether the customer is contacting customer service, shopping online or making a purchase in person. This experience should also be familiar and authentic to a brand. Mapping the customer journey allows you to identify discrepancies in the CX between what that brand is trying to provide and the CX that customers actually receive.

Reducing Customer Effort

An interaction that requires a great deal of effort or a customer journey with too many steps are both surefire ways of losing customers. A comprehensive journey map is essential for determining if this is the case with your call center. Assessing this map can help you identify parts of the journey that can be changed to improve CX or eliminated entirely.

How can you be sure your customer journey mapping is accurate?

Involve front line employees for a different perspective.

Tunnel vision is one of the biggest challenges a business must face when making operational changes. It’s particularly easy for leaders in a hierarchical organization like a call center to make decisions based on information that frontline employees like agents know to be false. That doesn’t mean these executives are unqualified to make those decisions because they have usually earned their position. However, it’s not an uncommon occurrence for them to lack a complete understanding of the effects their decisions will have without engaging frontline employees.

It should therefore be standard practice to include employees in the CX audit. You can easily achieve this goal with a simple questionnaire and dedicated team meetings, although work groups may also be beneficial in some cases. The main goal with these steps is to keep employees engaged in the audit.

Interview real customers for an account of their experiences.

Customer interviews are the next step in verifying a customer journey map’s accuracy. This step primarily consists of market research, which should include both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data deals with measurable phenomena, especially statistics. Survey questions like asking customers to rate their satisfaction on scale of 1 to 5 is a common example of quantitative data. Qualitative data is less concerned with metrics and deals more with the factors that cause a customer to behave or feel a certain way.

The method you use to deliver your questions to customers has a great deal to do with how they’ll respond to it. The environment is also a critical factor in how customers will answer questions. For example, members of the focus group typically provide more detailed responses than an IVR survey after a customer service call. It’s also important to include both potential customers in your target market and existing customers to ensure responses reflect a variety of viewpoints. This practice also helps maintain a larger sample size, which is essential for statistical accuracy.

Compare the perspectives to see where they deviate. 

At this point, the customer journey map includes the perspectives of call center executives, agents and customers. The next step is to combine these perspectives into a consolidated, holistic view of the call center’s CX and the ways it’s affected by the company’s organizational structure.

Pay particular attention to areas in which these sources all say the same thing, whether it’s positive or negative feedback. It’s also important to look at areas where there is major disagreement between the perspectives. If managers believe that one thing is happening while agents are reporting something else, you need to find out why the reports from these two sources aren’t matching up.

You also need to make relevant connections in the data and develop theories for them. A comprehensive customer journey map contains a lot of information that will typically require extensive discussion with other team members. Some of these theories may not go anywhere, but this process will ensure that you’re familiar with the data in the customer journey map.

Contact Aceyus

CX is rapidly becoming the most important basis of competition for many call centers. A customer journey map is essential for improving CX, especially for customers with rapidly evolving needs. Aceyus offers customer journey analytics to optimize the contact center experience by discovering pain points and gaps in the customer journey. It also allows you to use contextual data from customer interactions to connect with them on their preferred channels.

Download our whitepaper entitled ‘Great Employee Experience Is the Foundation of Great Customer Experience’ to learn more about the benefits of customer journey mapping. You can also contact us today to find out how we can help your call center develop a customer journey map. Additionally, you can schedule a demo or free consultation with one of our experts about your solution options.

Michelle Hernandez

Michelle Hernandez

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