Opinion | 21 October 2020

At the end of the road turn right

Billy Williams 800

Billy Williams

Head of Digital

Tags: Digital Transformation | UX/CX

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Maps have been around for centuries, helping us make sense of the world and getting us from A to B. Our Head of Digital, Billy Williams, looks at the role of Journey Managers and why mapping is key to a holistic customer experience and digital transformation.

The usefulness of maps within our lives often goes unnoticed. From a passenger poring over a battered road atlas in the days before TomTom, to the use of maps within video games to help lead users through imagined worlds, we turn to maps as a visual aid to help us navigate the world around us. It’s completely mind blowing that every smart phone user has a map of the entire world at their fingertips to answer their every location-based need.

As someone who has a degree in Geography, a subject that has a whole discipline dedicated to the study of maps, it’s somewhat by chance that I landed in a career dominated by mapping. Because when you peel back the layers of research, design and development, digital transformations revolve around maps. Be it customer journey maps, sitemaps, logic maps, or empathy maps – one of our most used cognitive tools is the map. It’s not overly surprising when you think about it. Designing digital based products requires a lot of imagination and mental gymnastics to create a sense of order. There is no tactile thing which we can see, we can only imagine what it is we're going to build and use, and therefore we turn to maps to help us make sense of this digital world. This is very much true of any digital product team, internal or agency based. The brief for a site comes in, the team construct the parameters for how and why this site is important and what its benchmark for success will look like and we go to work.

Complex worlds need maps

But the world of digital customer experience has changed. It has both expanded and diversified. Not only do you have to vie for the attention of your customers amongst an ever-crowded field of similar digital products or services, but the types of services you can, should, or must provide have diversified massively. The digital customer experience long moved beyond a single device website. Journeys are complex, customer needs and emotions are more important than ever before and the ways in which they consume and view your brand is far more complex than it ever has been.

With each additional platform lies a threat to a cohesive customer experience. The more services or platforms you’re on, the chance of your customer experience diluting or falling short of your high standards increases. A great example of this expansion and diversification is Ikea. It has grown from what was a predominantly brick and mortar-based retail business, to a company which has to marry its customer experience across social media, ecommerce and apps (as well as its obvious culinary delights). Creating a cohesive customer experience which consistently meets the expectations of its customers is incredibly challenging across these different products and services, both offline and online. It goes without saying that a company the size of Ikea will have tens or hundreds of its own teams or pods of people working incredibly hard to create an amazing customer experience for the single product that they work on. These pods are fantastic for scaling out your products, but they intrinsically segment versions of customer experience. In an interview with Martech Today, Kerry Bodine sums this up perfectly:

Silos enable us to do things at scale that would essentially be impossible otherwise, but it’s terrible for our customers who are trying to accomplish things.

Kerry Bodine

This then begs the question, who is looking at, and who truly cares about the overall picture? How do we know that we’re creating a unified customer experience for as many of our customers as is possible? I believe the answer is in the employment and use of journey managers.

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Where would we be without maps?

Journey managers – your customer experience sat nav

A journey manager’s role in the modern customer experience is both simple in its single mindedness, but also incredibly complex. In my opinion, having a journey manager (or team of them) which looks over and across your product teams is the single best way to create a cohesive customer experience.

Journey managers can help address the chasms which appear between product teams. They can constantly address the breakdowns in cohesion from product to product, whilst offering practical solutions as to how you fix these issues. From sitting above, they can view the entire customer journey as a holistic process and critique and probe at areas which do not meet or elevate the customer experience. What’s more they can also make sure that high level business objectives are being prioritised across all platforms. Most teams will have their own success criteria which, through a process of minification, often lose sight of the bigger picture. Journey managers can refocus and ensure that the products don’t get lost in their own world of success metrics. There are similarities between the argument for inside-out vs outside-in digital transformation and the case for implementing specialist journey managers or not within a product team. Those individuals who sit above or outside the product’s status quo way of working are far more likely to put the customer experience truly at the front and centre of your approach.

I think it’s clear that a high performing team of journey managers can also help plan and strategise the order in which campaigns or customer experiences are delivered. They can help advise and manage effective pivots or changes in the customer experience, ensuring that they’re done in the most logical order. Rather than drawing together a team of product managers who must agree in which order they deliver items, the journey manager can guide the process based on the most important aspect: the customer experience. This allows businesses to make pivots or changes in their offering with more confidence. Journey managers can become the business sat nav, offering you multiple routes – analysing and recommending the best course based on current conditions.

Mark Smith from Target Marketing uses the verb orchestrate numerous times in his analysis of CX journey managers, and I think this is an apt descriptor. Like conductors in an orchestra, we need someone responsible in our teams who can manoeuvre and pivot teams and individuals in a way that creates a journey that flows smoothly from one section to another without skipping a beat.

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Customer journey mapping

The challengers and mediators

As well as working as pseudo mediators across a diverse range of platforms and services, journey managers also have the autonomy and power to recognise and challenge an emerging status quo in the product team. As we move forward into even more diverse technologies, challenging the default position will be even more important than ever.

When we look to the future, it’s likely we need to ask more difficult questions of the services we deliver. For example, over the last five years, the use of website social media feeds to display social content has become rapidly redundant. The next five years will pose much harder questions as to how social media should and can be used. As social media enriches its options, it’s fair to look at a lot of websites and wonder whether a monolithic website is the best digital approach. Whether it’s ecommerce or customer services, the monolithic portal is highly unlikely to be the option customers are clamouring for.

Teams that work on these products will be unlikely to be as critical of the end to end customer experience, as their focus is on keeping themselves and their products as relevant as possible.

Billy Williams

Instead, entrusting these decisions into the hands of a team of journey managers, who only have the customer in mind, is much more likely to result in a customer experience which is at the forefront of delivering novel and exciting solutions for customers as they demand more from their digital services. And delivering a customer experience that surprises and delights means your customers will come back for more, time and time again.

Talk to us today about enhancing your customer experience, we’d love to hear from you.