The Customer Journey is the (only) Process that Matters
- August 20, 2018
- 2 Comments
I’ll begin with the ending: The customer journey is the (only) process that really matters.
It’s a provocative statement, but let’s turn it around and examine it. How can I say it, given 11 years at BP3 and many more before that implementing the software to drive all kinds of processes, from sales processes to returns processes to claims processes and everything inbetween? Surely not all of these are customer journeys! And yet they were all important enough to invest in.
We can argue that the customer journey is the process that matters, because it is the one that dictates every experience and interaction a customer has with a business. The only things that customers care about are the interactions and experiences they are exposed to. Customers don’t care what you do behind the scenes if their experience – and journey – are effective and pleasant. Customers don’t care about your accounting processes unless they produce undesirable results. Customers don’t care about your HR processes or your hiring processes (usually). Customers care about the customer journey – that one process.
It is the process that matters to your business as well – because a great customer journey (process) will keep customers coming back, will win new customers, and will keep you in business – and pay for all those other processes that quite frankly customers don’t care about (at least, not explicitly).
There’s been so much writing on the subject of customer journeys, and customer journey mapping (but first scroll past at least 5 ads that Google puts in your way). So little of that writing points out that customer journey mapping is process mapping. But that’s exactly what it is. A journey is a process, and mapping it is process mapping. Yet many of the people drawing pretty pictures of customer journeys do not, in fact, understand process nor the technology landscape at all. The context of process and technology are critical to understanding not only what we want a customer journey to be, but what is possible to deliver at different levels of investment.
In recent years we’ve been looking at customer experience influences on our work, and our clients’ success. In the context of digital transformation, the digital experience is where it’s at – a digital version of that customer experience. While Customer Experience, and Digital Experience describe how we want a customer to feel while buying or interacting with us, the customer journey is the process that makes producing that experience repeatable at scale.
Keeping it simple: when a restaurant makes a mistake producing your meal, the customer journey has veered off course – but a free dessert could leave you feeling better about the imperfect process that led you there. Michelin star restaurants rarely make these kinds of mistakes – because they have great customer journeys and processes.
Now that we’re at the end of the blog post, I think we can all admit that of course, there are other processes that are needed – but perhaps the customer journey is just the most important process an organization can tackle.
1. As you know, I’ve always looked to areas of expertise outside of process-centric circles for inspiration and cross-pollination. In particular, startup methods like lean startup have affected how we think about delivering value through process, as has product-thinking and design-thinking. BP3 has adopted elements of these disciplines into our practices and our culture, and we are very much focused on continuous improvement to get better at the application of these ideas in practice. Ironically, this is an area where the more expertise you have, the more you have to learn to set your preconceived notions aside and be humble enough to listen to everything you’re hearing and not just the things that align with your biases or vision.
2. I find the concept of “customer journey map” similar to Roger Burlton‘s concept of “core processes”: “Core processes deliver goods and services to the customers, clients, or consumers of the value chain or organization.” – in other words, processes that server your clients or consumers. (in fairness, Roger goes on to say, they aren’t any more important than other processes)
3. It turns out that BP3’s team is quite good at process mapping – and customer journey mapping. I’d love to turn our team loose on more customer journeys for our clients! We learn so much about a business and how we can have a positive impact when we do these.
4. There’s a reason sales teams try to understand the buyer’s buying process, not just their own process for selling.