It’s the journey, not The Journey

I love to read. I’m voracious. From the sides of the box of morning cereal, to magazines, to books, to blogs, to tweets, and back again. If I have more than 30 seconds between tasks, you’ll find me head-down reading on my iPhone. No shock, then, that I consume quite a few business books and two of my favorites are Raving Fans and The Effortless Experience.The former uses an engaging story and voice to communicate simple methods to address complex and often costly business decisions. The latter highlights in fine relief the costs of ignoring the customer, and key strategies to deploy to mitigate unnecessary friction between businesses and customers. At the heart of Raving Fans lies a clear message: the journey of a thousand steps always ends badly if you don’t know where you’re going, don’t know how to get there, and don’t know why you’re traveling in the first place. Sometimes, it’s so obvious that it has to be pointed out to you. One of the clear messages from The Effortless Experience is don’t try to do more than is feasible or realistic when striving to resolve a customer problem.

Rereading these recently, I found myself revisiting some recent customer conversations. Many of the clients I work with are becoming aware of the need to use customer journey maps to facilitate buy in from other departments or stakeholders in their customer experience programs. My concern for them is that in every meeting, customer journeys are referred to as “The Customer Journey”. You can hear the air quotes and serious tone every time the phrase is spoken, and to me this is indicative of an analogue to analysis paralysis. I think we’re becoming journey-jammed, as it were.

As I discuss customer journeys, focusing on not using capital letters and air quotes, I ask for the team to begin by describing a typical phone call a customer service agent might facilitate. By narrowing the conversation to a single engagement cycle, we quickly find the key aspects of the interaction that have the greatest correlation to customer feedback scores. Now we can get to the heart of things, identify the gaps between expectations, reality and the goal. While the concern is that now that we’ve started to identify one journey, we’ll identify many, many more that are related-but-different-and-it-will-never-end-and-I-don’t-know-where-to-begin… The good news is as we have started to explore the one journey, the client and I also begin to refocus attention on the broader organizational goals. This focus on the goal, and not The Journey, helps to keep the panic in check. This helps us to recognize the processes, services, training and “soft-skills” that can be measured, managed and improved. This also helps us identify the customer segments we may no longer be in a position to support to their satisfaction or ours. Identifying these aspects of the current journey in the context of the idealized customer experience help to find the next steps to be taken by the business, and they can be steps in product development, service delivery process change, and often as not, in corporate culture.

As you embark on your own journeys, I recommend both Raving Fans and The Effortless Experience, and for a soundtrack to you reading, “Don’t Stop Believing”, by the other Journey!