Customer journey maps provide invaluable insights into a company’s processes but all too often, they’re created in a vacuum with minimal input from customers or customer-facing employees. While CX leaders and marketers will usually gather contributions from other departments, there’s no substitute for the data from actual customer experiences that helps to build the ideal customer journey map.
“What’s important to remember is that customer journeys aren’t created; they’re discovered. When we try to create journeys, we fall into one of these two traps: we either hallucinate customer needs or throw away the customer experience playbook altogether and focus on the needs we know intimately: our own,” says Jake Sorforman of Gartner.
The Vital Role of Agents in Customer Journey Mapping
Customer journey analytics tools are powerful assets when it comes to interpreting big data and it’s all too easy to dismiss verbal or text-based information as “anecdotal evidence.” These days, many companies naturally place greater emphasis on structured data that can be sliced and diced in endless ways. However, unstructured or relational data in the form of individual insights – straight from the horse’s mouth – are often the best way to identify specific issues that may be damaging the customer experience.
That’s where the contact center agent comes in. When you’re at the sharp end of customer service delivery, you see the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Giving agents the opportunity to contribute directly to customer journey mapping is a win-win. AI analytics are still some way short of full maturity. It’s unstructured data from voice, text and images that contains the insights CX leaders need to design the ideal customer journey map. Human agents – with their unique knowledge of customer issues, emotions and reactions – are the ideal people to fill those gaps. And as contact centers battle with the ever-growing problem of attrition, involving agents in strategic CX activities allows them to broaden their skillsets and advance their careers within the company.
How Agents Can Provide the Most Valuable Insights
Identifying self-service fails
As the march toward full self-service continues, it’s worth remembering that many companies rely on the hybrid chatbot approach: humans and algorithms working in tandem to handle customer queries on live chat, often with varying degrees of success. Then there are the cases when a customer is directed to a self-service option but fails to resolve their issue and ends up being routed back to a live agent. In both instances, the agent can bring unique perspectives on why the bot stumbled, where the company might have got it wrong in its channel strategy and – above all – how the customer reacted.
Managing online interactions
Text/NLP analysis has come a long way over the past few years, enabling companies to monitor, analyze and learn from huge volumes of customer opinions. However, these systems often fail to take account of the ever-evolving nuances of online language. That’s why many companies are now entrusting common social media interactions and forum engagements to the stars of their contact centers. When customer service staff respond to comments or queries, either publicly or via private message, they can also gather a wealth of customer anecdotes and experiences that represent a vital resource for customer journey mapping. When a customer feels their point is important enough to post online, it’s clearly something that CX leaders need to know about.
While satisfaction and customer effort surveys are often automated, many companies prefer the old-fashioned, verbal approach. A successfully resolved customer episode generates a genuine feelgood factor and a high NPS or CES score, but for customer journey mapping, negative feedback can have more value.
When agents themselves ask the key question, they understand the context of the answer and can ask relevant follow-up questions that shed new light on the customer journey. And when a customer doesn’t complete the survey but provides unstructured verbal feedback, it’s the agent who needs to record, interpret and log that precious information.
Gathering visual data
Many leading companies are also discovering the value of Visual Assistance technology as a source of customer data. When agents use a live video stream and Augmented Reality tools to help customers, the images they save and tag enable other company departments to gain a far deeper understanding of product and experience issues and to focus on areas of the customer journey that need work. The agent who helped the customer achieve a resolution can also provide additional context, describing the ups and downs of the interaction to paint the bigger picture that’s essential to the mapping process.
Summary: What is customer journey mapping really for?
The short answer is that the ideal customer journey map should not be simply a diagram of internal processes. It should be a dynamic, realistic representation of what customers go through at every stage of their relationships with a company.
CX leaders therefore need to focus on gathering immediate, unmediated customer data, especially during the post-sales phases of installation and troubleshooting, when emotions can run high. Contact center agents are not only frontline troops on the customer experience battlefield. They’re also vital sources of human intelligence and can make valuable contributions to mapping customer journeys.