Mom and pop have an advantage. When it comes to delivering a great customer experience, the small family-run business has the natural DNA to organize around the customer: a tight-knit team, a shared set of values, and an intimate knowledge of their customers and what’s important to them.

Tom and Connie Kearns know this. They run a family business in Napa, California. If you visit TripAdvisor and search for hotels in Napa, their Best Western Elm House Inn will pop up as the most highly rated place to stay. You know why from the minute you walk in the door. They understand who each customer is and they work together to deliver a special experience throughout the entire customer journey -- from booking a room to departing the hotel.

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Now imagine that small, successful family business goes from 10 employees to 10,000. What changes? The company has more resources, a broader pool of talent, and can create products, services and experiences beyond the reach of a small business. And teams get organized. They specialize and become more efficient. Departments appear by necessity.

The problem is, all this organizing can wreak havoc on the customer experience, unless the company has a practical way to keep employees focused on what matters from the customer’s perspective.

Journey Mapping from the Customer’s Perspective

Enter journey mapping. Customer journey mapping is a straightforward but powerful tool to help companies organize around the customer. The core idea is to describe what the customer experiences when doing business with your company, from the customer’s point of view.

This is not as simple as you might think. Most employees live and speak the language of departments and processes: “The customer places an order, the order gets routed to the fulfillment department, then the package is shipped to the customer and a bill is sent from the billing system.”

But how would a customer describe this? The customer may understand that their order winds through a labyrinth of processes before arriving at the doorstep, but the customer’s objective is simple: “I want that product in hand.”

Know Your Purpose First

Journey maps come in many flavors. Detailed journey maps can be used as part of the customer experience design process. For example, “How can we tailor a unique experience for a couple who have just had their first child and are buying life insurance for the first time?”

By contrast, a high-level journey map spells out key customer objectives across the entire customer lifecycle. What does the customer want to accomplish, and how do these objectives come to life across channels and teams? For example, the customer may want to “make a purchase” or “get help.”

For most companies, it’s best to tackle this simple, high-level journey first, for three reasons:

Learning Opportunities

  1. It shows the ultimate customer objectives in simple terms that help guide priorities in large or complex organizations.
  2. It clarifies how different departmental “silos” must collaborate to meet the customer’s objectives with each interaction.
  3. It helps you organize customer feedback, so you can understand how you are doing and improve the customer experience.

Journey Mapping with Cross-Functional Teams

When you involve all departments in the development of a high-level journey map, large organizations can start to recapture the customer-focus and teamwork of the small mom and pop operation. Silos come down, and employees learn the importance of making strong connections across teams.

One executive I worked with stressed the importance of pushing beyond the usual internal process discussions. For example, if Julie works in the fulfillment department, she can probably describe in great detail the processes that ensure the customer’s order leaves the dock on time. But she may not consider whether the third-party delivery service gets the package there when the customer expects it.

Another executive who had used cross-functional journey mapping workshops many times told me that key employees in critical functions sometimes met for the first time at these workshops, where they discussed their common goals for the customer. It was a pivotal learning opportunity, and fostered engagement across the organization while building momentum for the customer experience strategy.

Are You Organized Around the Customer?

Internal silos and processes may not matter to the customer, but they are pivotal when it comes to how you operate. And this is often the biggest challenge uncovered by an effective, customer-focused journey map.

Once you understand the key objectives from a customer’s point of view, list the processes and teams that support each step in the journey, such as “make a purchase” or “get help.” How many departments are involved? How do they need to cooperate to create a seamless experience for the customer? Who can take action if the customer’s feedback is less than stellar?

You may find that your business is wired for efficiency, but not for the customer. The good news? Your journey map can serve as a guide to create a customer-focused approach. It may sound like a tall order, but why not accept the challenge? Mom and pop already have it figured out.

Image courtesy of FrancescoCorticchia (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Interested in reading more from this month's customer journey focus? See Angie Zener's Three Steps to Defining and Mapping the Customer Journey