Mapping your banking customer’s journey

Research shows that companies with formal journey-mapping have significantly higher year-over-year growth than companies without such programs.

Following the global pandemic that quickly reshaped the industry, many banks are wondering: How do we stay ahead of rapidly changing customer behaviors? A customer journey map is the most direct and effective way to get the answer to this question.

The journey map—a visual representation of how customers interact with your products, services, people, tools, websites and content—exposes gaps between customer expectations and what a company is delivering. Mapping the journey provides a foundation for understanding and managing the customer’s end-to-end experience, and the results enable you to prioritize improvements and intentionally design better experiences.

Research shows that companies with formal journey-mapping programs have significantly higher year-over-year growth than companies without such programs. However, fewer than four in 10 companies engage in formal journey mapping. In banking, where companies fear running afoul of the regulators, the number could be even lower.

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To help increase that number, we have created a six-step process for building and scaling a successful, sustainable program to map the customer journey:

Commit: Convincing senior executives to commit to the program with time, resources and continual learning and action is a critical first step. Leaders must allocate time for key employees to participate throughout the process, from giving interviews to launching new initiatives spurred by the findings.

Create: Build a hypothesis map, which is a draft version of your customer journey map. To start, collect all relevant customer data, operational data and previous customer studies. At the same time, interview key employees to understand their view of customers’ priorities and experiences with the company. Use this rich input to build the hypothesis map, charting how customers experience each journey phase.

Validate: Recruit 10 to 15 customers to participate in your journey map research. Start by asking about the highest and lowest points of their experience with your company. You can then go through the experience phase by phase, asking customers what they want to accomplish, how they experience their interactions with your company, the main challenges, and how they feel about all this. Use your hypothesis map to probe more deeply.

Synthesize: Your journey map should represent a specific persona, include critical touch points, and show the high and low points of the customer experience. Since the journey map is often a one-page visual, we recommend including a report with rich insights and a detailed synthesis of the data gathered, including direct customer sentiment and quotes, voice-of-the-customer data, operational data, and employee input. Highlight incorrect hypotheses, as those are often the most surprising findings.

Act: Now that you have your map and accompanying insights, schedule debriefs with your executive team and business leaders. Work with these stakeholders to align on which parts of the journey are the thorniest. Once you have identified the top customer pain points, prioritize them. Your customer journey map and research are also valuable tools for communicating and building culture. Employees adopt customer-centric attitudes and behaviors when they feel empathy for the customer. Sharing customer journey maps widely throughout the organization, along with introducing empathy exercises and immersion activities, gets everyone energized to do what it takes to improve the customer experience.

Repeat: Now that you have your highest-level journey completed for your most crucial persona, it’s time to dig into your next journey. What are the thorniest and most complex experiences that your customers go through? Which persona experiences more pain relative to other customers? That’s where you should go next.

Over time, you’ll map all significant customer journeys. A good rule of thumb is to put each significant customer experience through an annual mapping exercise to ensure you’re continually making improvements by analyzing the data year over year. Other triggers for updating a journey map include major economic and political events, significant modifications to a banking experience, changes to how customers perceive the market, and merger and acquisition events.

Once this mapping becomes ingrained in your organization, it will be easier to ensure that all new experiences are intentionally designed for maximum customer happiness and success.

Matt Lombardi is global head of customer experience and Anne Bakstad is director of customer experience design at ServiceNow.

Find valuable insights for banks and credit unions as they adapt their customer-service strategy across ever-evolving channels in the BAI Executive Report, “Changing priorities in bank customer service”