Holly Hughes_resized2
Holly Hughes Mar 22, 2019

Customer journey mapping: The long and winning road

It’s no secret that happier customers are our most loyal, dependable customers. And in today’s disruptive environment, where customers can choose to bank with anyone instead of the neighborhood branch, it’s more important than ever to learn just what keeps customers happy and loyal.

That’s where customer journey mapping comes in. While the tool is not widely used in the banking industry, customer journey mapping is a proven, successful way to identify how customers make buying decisions—and where they get frustrated and back off, never to be seen again. In fact, customer journey mapping represents one of 2019’s biggest opportunities for banks and credit unions to find out more about customers and expand relationships.

The goal is to learn how customers interact with a company, the good and the bad. The map documents the path potential customers can take. It generally involves three steps: how they realize they have a need, research possible services and make a buying decision. The map also includes how customers might navigate through a company’s website or mobile app, or what might happen when they visit a branch or reach out to the call center. It can also show how banks respond to customer requests, the documentation they’d need to supply and the approval process to open new accounts, loans or investment accounts.

But that’s not all. A good customer journey map also considers what happens after the purchase and points the way to customer follow-ups, marketing efforts and opportunities to solicit more business down the road.

Customer journey maps are important for banks’ success. And clearly, there’s room to grow. The latest BAI Banking Outlook data shows that two thirds of financial services organizations “sometimes” or “infrequently” use customer data in a way that allows them to better serve customer needs. And nearly half—46 percent—reported that they could make better use of data about customers to improve product and service recommendations.

And for the huge amount of customer data banks hold, it’s clear most institutions aren’t fully leveraging it. When asked if it was easier to build and retain customer relationships in a digital era, 42 percent disagreed and 33 percent couldn’t say one way or the other, according to BAI Banking Outlook findings.

Still there is good news for 2019. If banks have the data, customer journey mapping gives them a clear way to put it to good use. It has exciting potential because a bank that invests in journey mapping can create a stronger, richer, more rewarding experience. That’s especially important in today’s omnichannel world in which a customer reasonably expects that using an app or website should be as easy and personal as walking into a branch.

Here are four things banks should consider when creating their customer journey map:

Think about how to get on a new customer’s radar screen

Unfortunately, new clients won’t conveniently stand in front of a bank branch when they realize they need a new loan, savings account or investment advice. A journey map should start with the customer identifying his or her need, and then doing some research to find an attractive solution. That includes word of mouth, information from social media and online reviews. Make sure your organization is visible during that process with targeted marketing efforts, including a dynamic SEO and SEM strategy.

Identify the pain points and remove the friction

Amazon is wildly popular because it does a great job of removing friction from the buying process. Its website suggests possible items for you based on your browsing history and previous queries, and now it’s opening revolutionary Amazon Go stores in which customer with can just sign on to an app, walk in, pick products off the shelf and leave without interacting with a cashier. That’s about as frictionless as it gets.

Customers today expect seamless, personalized experiences across industries. A customer journey map can help a bank discover where  pain points occur on a customer’s path: whether with a clumsy web portal that doesn’t allow account openings, excessive call center wait times or an unacceptable lag from loan application to approval. Customers forced to jump through lots of hoops to do something that should be simple rarely remain happy or loyal.

Use life events to your advantage

Banks possess a treasure trove of information about customers. They know how much money a customer makes and spends, how much they save, how they invest and where they live. And often, banks also know what kind of cars their customers drive and whether they buy or rent their homes.

Banks can create and use smart marketing techniques to touch their customers at those important life events such as when they get a bonus or inheritance, start a new job or make a major purchase. That way, they can recommend products and services selectively at a time when a person most needs them. A customer journey map can help identify how a bank can harness its data most to trigger a conversation—bringing the customer something they need at the right place and time.

Talk to your customers

It’s hard to know what your customers want unless you ask. BAI Banking Outlook findings show that 38 percent want to customize their own solutions, and in an “anytime-anywhere” digital world they expect more useful, real-time messaging and content to meet their day-to-day banking needs. What might seem purely transactional today is in fact largely relational, based on banks knowing what customers need and how to give it to them at the speed of life.

“One of the tremendous opportunities associated with brick-and-mortar banks is to have real-world interactions with potential and established customers,” says Mark Hamrick, Washington bureau chief and senior economic analyst at Bankrate.

Hamrick stresses that “a great deal of information can be gleaned from individuals who are willing to share whether they’re interested in or in need of any number of financial products, such as for savings, borrowing or investing. Many customers are likely to add a new product or service with an enterprise or institution where they’re already a customer.” Also important:  “The cost of acquisition is lower for the incumbent business, which makes it a true win-win.”

Banks that invest in customer journey mapping will position themselves to attract new customers and retain their existing business. It’s a powerful tool to help our industry deepen its relationship with our customers by providing great content and services at exactly the right time in our customers’ lives. The better we map their journeys, the more we can help them navigate the road to financial success and happiness.


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Holly Hughes is the chief marketing officer for BAI.

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