The Customer Journey, Unblocked

Reading time: 3 minutes

A recent article* by eConsultancy’s Jeff Rajeck noted that although customer experience is a top priority only 11% of Marketers said they had a well-developed customer experience improvement strategy in place.

The article claims the main reason why marketers are finding it difficult to improve CX is because only 17% felt they had an ‘advanced’ understanding of the customer journey, the remaining 83% felt that they were missing a lot of parts**. This lack of understanding of the customer journey is the biggest blocker to improving customer experience and building true customer engagement.

So far, so good, these claims resonate with our own research and findings working with brands to help them understand their customer journeys and improve customer engagement.

Definition of the Customer Journey

“A journey: the interactions your customer makes with your brand at touchpoints to address their needs, based on choices they make which cannot be managed. However, they can be understood.” ***

The Journey Opportunity

Many businesses have focused on the performance of specific touchpoints to try and improve customer experience. As journeys happen over time and over multiple touchpoints, McKinsey and Co. **** have shown that focusing on the journey – interactions over time and multiple touchpoints – has greater impact on business performance.

  • Journey performance has a 30%-40% greater impact on customer satisfaction than touchpoint performance.
  • Journey performance has a 20%-30% greater impact on value and business outcomes than touchpoint performance.

How to Overcome Barriers to Understanding the Customer Journey

eConsultancy’s recent survey** found Marketers perceived the following barriers to understanding the customer journey, and hence customer engagement.

We’ve outlined the way brands can clear these barriers.

The Perceived Problem

54% of Marketers saw only-marketing being in charge of the customer journey was a barrier.
The point being, marketing alone in a silo can’t drive an essentially cross-functional challenge. When only Marketing own the customer journey this in itself will be a barrier to improving cx.

The Solution

Marketing need to take the lead to bring together the other departments into being unified around the customer. The real point is that the customer is in charge of their journey, and as marketing often develop the closest relationships with customers they should be champion to unify the business around providing customer value throughout the journey.

44% of Marketers saw complexity and number of touchpoints as a barrier. 
eConsultancy’s article claims “Several time and resource intensive steps must be carried out when mapping the customer journey. For more touchpoints, more work is required. Many organizations which start with good intentions of understanding the customer journey through touchpoints may end up discouraged when faced with the enormity of the task at hand. Overtime adding new channels, systems and tools can result in confusing array of tech which makes understanding touchpoints difficult, if not impossible.”

It’s nothing new to say that the world has got more complex for brands, with more channels, more choice and more empowered and demanding customers. Marketers need to adapt and in a fast moving environment keep exploring new ways to understand their customer needs whenever and wherever they interact. It’s not impossible or difficult with the right approach and supporting technology.
Journey mapping, while commendable, can get mired in inside-out thinking, placing the operational needs of the business first. It’s often a static and limited view of customer behaviour. Finally, it can be laborious and time-consuming and is often done once and fails to be actionable.
Technology is now available that will show marketers the real-time omni-channel customer journey. It’s not hard to implement and it’s not hard to get going – start small and identify the most important journeys you want to understand and build from there.

34% of Marketers saw a barrier being the difficulty unifying different sources of data

Marketers need to introduce a unifying layer which brings all the different sources together. The technology exists today that will provide an omni-channel, data-centric view of customers.

34% of Marketers saw their silo-based organisation structure as a barrier

Senior leaders and marketing need to take the lead to bring together the other departments into being unified around the customer – there’s no excuses, it just needs to be done. Customers don’t care about organisational structures or process, they want what they want when they want it. If you can’t provide it they’ll go somewhere else. Use the customer-centric standpoint to bring the departments together.

28% of Marketers saw a lack of sharing between departments, including customer information, was a barrier

Turn insight into action. Marketers need to surface customer journey and behavioural insights and make them available to everyone in every department, empowering staff with the same knowledge and level of customer insight. This will make sure every interaction is tailored, giving the customer the best possible outcome at every point in their journey.

26% of Marketers saw IT bottlenecks as a barrier

Senior leaders and marketers need to look to choose technology that’s light touch, simple to use and easy to deploy. It needs to be used by the business and be simple to integrate with other systems, make it agile and easy to implement and the IT bottleneck goes away…

Customer Managed Journeys Enlighten Marketers

Simply mapping the customer journey, while commendable in its ambition, is limited. The fact is, we’ve gone beyond the map, we’ve gone beyond the guesswork and the inside-out thinking. We are now in an age of real-time, actionable, effortless customer journey insight.

The truth is, you don’t manage the journey, your customers do. For the enlightened 17% of brands** who felt they had an advanced understanding of the customer journey, we’d bet the role of the brands in those cases is to enable each customer to move from interaction to interaction, seamlessly, while delivering value at each stage of his or her personal journey. This is the essence of the customer-managed journey. These brands are not getting lost down resource-intensive blind alleys of massively complicated static journey maps which are out of date before they’ve even been drawn up. We’d bet those enlightened brands have moved from the idea that the customer journey is a controllable process to one that acknowledges that the customer is ultimately in charge. By understanding actual customer behaviour, businesses will gain what’s really important, customer journey insight, which will help them take action to create conversations that address customer needs in context and in real time.

Once you let go of the idea of seeing a journey as a process, then customer journey mapping gains greater usefulness in the improvement of customer experience. Specifically, at Thunderhead we believe that the customer journey map should simply be a model against which one can understand the actual customer journey. By comparing the map to actual behaviour, you can create the most important element – customer journey insight – that helps you take action to improve customer experience.

Unblock understanding the customer journey for your brand now. Adopt customer managed journeys as your approach, form a cross-functional team who are responsible for customer engagement and use technology to understand your customers and put them where they belong – at the centre of your brand.



Ecolsuntalcy: Why can’t marketers understand the customer journey?

Econsultancy: Understanding the Customer Journey in Asia Pacific

Thunderhead: Customer Managed Journeys Whitepaper

Harvard Business Review: The Truth About Customer Experience