Right-Channeling: The Real Reason to Do Customer Journey Mapping

A recent CMS Wire article, titled Time to Burn the Customer Journey Map: Channels Don’t Matter Anymore, argued the following:

The consumer journey map has become the standard for user interfaces for cross channel campaign management. But the consumer is now outpacing our ability as marketers. Customers hop channels during the purchase cycle faster than we can react.

We need to realize that channels no longer matter. I mean that in the sense that they can no longer predict customer behavior. A channel can only be a vehicle for the consumer to interact with a brand. There is no channel preference because the users determine it, based on their convenience.

My take: Channels matter. That said, you still might want to burn that journey map.

The author of the article (Alterian’s Jeff Hassemer, an old buddy of mine from my database marketing days) is right that consumers do hop around channels, and that consumers choose channels based on their convenience — at least on many occasions.

But to conclude that channels no longer matter is wrong because it ignores two truths:

  1. Different channels have different economics. In banking, you can’t possibly believe that the cost of transactions and interactions are the same across channels. Just because consumers may choose a higher-priced channel doesn’t mean banks shouldn’t try to steer transactions to lower-cost channels.
  2. Some channels are “better” than others. In this case, “better” refers to what’s better from both the consumer’s and bank’s perspective.

Filling out an application is “better” online than in the branch. Why? From a consumer’s perspective, the form can be pre-filled based on data the bank already has, typos and errors can be caught immediately, and help and guidance can be provided within the context of each data point. From the bank’s perspective, data entry, error checking, and support costs can be reduced. So, in this case, a digital channel is “better” regardless of what the customer may consider to be “convenient.”

What You Should Be Doing Is Right-Channeling

Right-channeling is a term I coined about 15 years that I defined as: Getting consumers to use the right channel for the right interaction/transaction, where “right” is best for both the consumer and bank.

Forcing consumers to use a channel because it’s right for the bank, and not the customer, is a bad idea. See all my previous rants about how terrible it is to use the IVR systems so many banks have.

But teaching and/or incentivizing consumers to use digital channels because the experience is better and because the delivery cost is lower is a good idea — regardless of what they do today, or say they prefer.

The problem with too many journey mapping exercises (and I suspect this is what Hassemer is railing against) is that too much time is spent trying to figure out what channels and touchpoints consumers use when making a product or service decision.

As Hassemer implies, with consumers hopping around channels, trying to define customer segments based on channel behavior could take forever, and could produce an infinite number of segments.

The key to success with journey mapping exercises isn’t mapping current behavior, or pre-defining future paths.

There are two keys. The first is identifying critical pain points — pain from a customer experience or provide cost perspective — and then determining how alternative channels (whether they be digital or offline) can alleviate or reduce that pain.

The second key to success is figuring out how to get consumers to use the new capabilities, tools, or processes you’ve developed to alleviate the pain.

In other words: right-channeling.

Re-orienting Journey Mapping Objectives

CEOs at banks and credit unions who are doing journey mapping should invite the mapping team to update them on the team’s “progress.” CEOs should ask “What are the three most critical problems a customer or prospect has with the process?”

If the team rattles off 10 (or more) answers, they have a focus problem.

After asking what proposed solutions (or fixes) the team has come up with, CEOs should ask “How do we know our customers or prospects will use the new solution?”

If the team doesn’t have a good answer, they haven’t finished their job.

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