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Over the past year, I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to several leadership discussions about customer experience (CX) programs at some major banks, insurers, and service providers. Once a CX discussion starts, two subjects rise to the top: the customer journey map and projects. Too often, they don’t connect.

Banks and insurers have been making customer journey maps for years, but they haven’t always been successful in turning these maps into much that is actionable. At the same time, the project teams feel cut off, getting direction from "ivory tower" planning sessions that do not consider the constraints of the complex infrastructures that drive communications from leading enterprises.

The leaders, visionaries, and implementers need to find a common language, which is why the journey map can be a very helpful tool. The concept of the journey map is useful for tracking touchpoints, understanding their connections, and setting priorities. If the designers, developers, approvers, and compliance team members are involved in the conversation, the visionaries can harness the incredible knowledge and power that the communication creation teams bring to CX initiatives.

So, how do we get these conversations started? It’s simple. Begin with the questions that you are in a great position to ask again and again.

When starting with a blank map, it’s important to begin with a touchpoint that everyone can agree upon. This might be the most common communications, like marketing pieces, statements, or renewals. It might be the most valuable communications, like correspondence or checks. It might be the early communications, like quotes, proposals, or ID cards. Personally, I would start with the worst communications—the ones that “have always been done this way.”

Wherever you start, you will want to ask some questions about that specific communication. This will begin the process of adding touchpoints to the map. Here are some of the questions to ask:
  • What communication did we send before this communication was sent?
  • What interactions (not just communications) happened before this?
  • What communications will likely follow this communication?
  • Where are the mystery communications (i.e., the communications other departments are sending that we don’t know about)?
  • What’s going in the mail?
  • Who owns the email policy?
  • Are there automated communications?
  • Spend some time thinking about this one: Are there buried “mystery mainframe messages?” If so, they are the source of the best potential for improvement. They are also the scariest, because the original implementers may no longer be available.
We have uncovered a decent amount of touchpoints, and now, we need to upload samples into the journey map. The next step is to examine how they are executed. This is the fun part and where a lot of hidden improvements start to become obvious. Ask about the people and systems that are required to deliver the communications.
  • What channels deliver this communication?
  • Who owns the data?
  • Who owns the design?
  • Who is allowed to make changes?
  • When was this designed or last redesigned?
  • Why was it designed?
  • If something big changes (like regulations, competitive positioning, or market development), who will ask for a change?
  • Is the same message sent over other channels but in a different way?
Now we have some knowledge about the inner workings of our communications, and we know the teams involved. We need to look for some quick wins. With the information we have, we can start to make some hypotheses. Depending on your culture, you might pick cost optimization, experience improvement, or organizational efficiency as your primary goal for communication improvement. There are good cases for each approach.

For example, let’s choose experience improvement as our driver for change. We can look at the customer journey map and search for inconsistent messages. My favorite is what I call “Sign and Decline.” I like to compare pre-sale communications with post-sale communications. This is where many organizations transfer ownership, and a focus on the customer that exists before the sale shifts into an efficiency-motivated communication. This is natural because the budgets are different, the metrics are different, and the deployment teams are often different as well.

Let’s ask some more questions now that we can look at the communication samples side by side and in their likely order:
  • Did the pre-sale communication have a lot of images (not necessarily a customer communication; ads, commercials, and all channels count here)?
  • When did the communication stop featuring images?
  • Did all channels stop at the same time?
  • If so, why did the images drop off?
  • Was this a production capability issue?
  • Is this still a constraint?
  • Can we get a new vendor or technology to help?
  • Can you find a shift in tone between the pre-sale and post-sale communications?
  • Does the tone differ between channels?
  • Is this planned or an accident?
  • Do we sound friendly, and then slip into legalese?
  • Do our renewals sound like our billing statement?
  • Does each communication relate to the customer?
  • Why are we communicating this?
  • Do we need more communication?
  • Do we need less communication?
This is how a journey map becomes useful. It’s not the map alone that matters. The journey map, like a real map, is a tool. We use the tool to show us what types of problems we have and start creative discussions on how we can make improvements. I’ve been seeing this process make quick improvements in communications from major banks and insurers. Service providers are looking to use this tool as a way to improve the performance of their clients as well.

So the last question I have is, “When are you going to start?”

Scott Draeger is Vice President of Product Management at Quadient, a technology portfolio that enables organizations to create better experiences for their customers through timely, optimized, contextual, highly individualized, and accurate communications for all channels. For more information, visit or follow him on Twitter @scottdraeger.