The pros and cons of internal versus external customer journey mapping

Today, everybody seems convinced of the necessity to know how your customer’s journey really is, to understand what their touchpoints are, the interactions they have with your company, what makes them happy, what makes them sad and hence, leave your company.

There is a common agreement that mapping the customer journey is a very good tool to really know your customer and start making the experience personal. We see the interest in this approach growing every day, we see that customers are more and more convinced of the benefits of knowing their customer’s every move, wish, desire and hate.

But, there is still some doubt and hesitation when it comes to who needs to perform this exercise, who is the best placed person or organization to make this effort work. Should this be someone from your own team or would it be better to have this done by an external party?

I will try to give my view – knowing that I am an external player – as objectively as possible, and – giving away the conclusion upfront – try to convince you why it is best to have someone external doing this for you.

Let’s start with the most important reason why you should not do this internally: time and resources.

Time is a scarce commodity in every company and unless you have someone inside your organization that can work on this in a really dedicated manner and will not be disturbed by anyone to do anything else, what we see is that this exercise almost always is something that is on top of all the rest and is done when there is nothing else to do, which, in most cases, is never.

So, the intention to start mapping the customer journey is always very good, the start may be very fast, and then all comes to a stop and is only continued when there is time and in really a lot of cases, is never finished. Which consequently leads to frustration, delays and – if conclusions are based on an incomplete exercise – wrong actions.

If you hire someone external to do this, you can agree on a clear timeline, deadlines, deliverables and have someone dedicated working on this. This off course does not mean that you do not need to contribute internal resources and time to this exercise, this still needs to be done, but this can be limited to clearly planned workshops and input sessions, and leaves all the preparation, analysis and consolidation to the external party.

Reason number two and maybe as important as reason number one: filters, due to politics, silos and habits.

A very important reason why customer journey maps are never finished when done internally is that the people doing it are placed inside a certain silo and do not have the necessary accesses into other silos.

They may be stopped by virtual barriers, political walls, and may be hindered by political sensitivity which may prevent them from asking the right and needed questions.

They are hindered by filters, something which occurs naturally after having worked somewhere for a certain period of time and which is something everybody is ‘victim’ of. The question ‘Why’ is not posed often enough anymore. ‘Why do you do it this way?’ should be asked for everything, but is often ignored because they think they know why it is done this way.

You need a very senior and critical person to be able to go cross border, cross silo, a-political into the why every day again and again if you want to do this internally.

An external party on the other hand is not aware of any political barriers, they can play ‘dumb’ and ask any question needed that may pinpoint very critical and painful areas but do this in such a manner that it does not leave any political minefield because they have no interest in changing the politics or being part of them.

They do not have the ‘having worked there for ten years and that is why we do this’-filters and look at everything for the first time, challenging the why continuously. They have not fallen into habits yet that prevent them from having the outside in view that is so very much needed to be able to do this in the best possible way.

There are still some more reasons why it is better to outsource customer journey mapping, but the third most important one is the budget.

Of course, an external party will not come and do this exercise for free, there is a cost associated with this, but the main advantage is that you know upfront what the cost will be, what the timing is, what the deliverables are and what you can do with this output by when.

When you do this internally, there is also a cost, although in most cases, this will be hidden and, true, easier to put into the budget than an external invoice, but still the cost is very much there.

But if you have someone dedicated working on this, this person is fully accountable to this project and if you have someone doing it “whenever there is time” then the cost is also there, but it remains hidden.

The most important downside of this last option is that the cost may be very high, since it will probably take very long for this person to come up with a clear deliverable, which leads to suboptimal customer experience for all this time, you won’t be able to improve your customer interactions or your customer support as long as this exercise is not done

This may indeed be much more expensive than having an external party come in, make a clear, end to end customer journey map, complete and not hindered by any internal politics, filters or sensitivity, giving you very fast the so needed input to make your customer experience good and personal, making sure you as a company, needing the love of your customers so badly, can attract, nurture and grow your customer relationships.

And yes, as an external party it may seem I’m not completely objective on this subject, but having worked for a long time as an internal employee at several companies, I have tried to map the customer journeys making use of internal resources and I know first-hand where it all went wrong and why it never was finished. So if I were to do it all again as an internal stakeholder, I would definitely hire an external party to do this for me and I know the customer experience of my customers would have been a lot better a lot sooner.

So if I may give you this piece of advice: either put someone senior, that can move cross departments and cross silo and that can work on this in a really dedicated and filter-free manner, or hire someone external.

And please don’t think that it is enough to map the journey for your department only, because, unless you are a very small company, your customer is most likely to interact with lots of different departments in your company and they all need to be mapped into one big picture. Only if you do that, you can make your customer journey work. Approaching this from one silo will not work and may even make it worse.

Want to learn more? Then register here for the Customer Journey Round Table at Wagenoord Mechelen on 31/01/2019.

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