Customer journey maps are a waste of time — here’s why.

Explore customer value journeys and why they're a better approach with expert Donna Weber.

Donna Weber

Customer journey maps are a popular tool for understanding how customers interact with your company. However, these maps are often too focused on the internal perspective and fail to consider customer needs and wants. Since they miss the mark in ensuring customers obtain benefit from working with you, they waste your time. A better approach is to create a value journey. A value journey identifies the key touchpoints in the customer's experience and how you add value at each touchpoint.

The problem with customer journey maps

A customer journey map is a visual representation of the customer's experience with your company. The purpose is to understand your customer’s need and pain points, and then identify opportunities to improve their experience. Unfortunately, mapping the customer journey often becomes an academic exercise, which is more about you and your teams than your customers. Even compelling visuals don’t make a difference when you don’t actually change the customer's experience. Below is a simplified image of a customer journey, with customer sentiment in the bullet points.

Create a value journey

If you want to ensure your customers stick around and buy more, create a value journey. Value is the importance, worth, or usefulness of something. A value journey is a customer-centric map that starts with simple quick wins as soon as the deal closes and then delivers meaningful and appreciated value to new and existing customers throughout their lifetime with you. Value journeys are especially critical when you have a “land and expand” or consumption growth strategy.

I recently talked to a company cramming their entire platform down their customers' throats during onboarding, and it's just too much. Customers cannot digest it. Unfortunately, this is the norm rather than the exception. Rather than overloading new customers, slow down. Create a journey that delivers the right benefit to the right users at the right time with the right enablement resources.

As you see in my Customer Success Bowtie, shown below, expansion happens when you deliver meaningful value. When you onboard customers effectively they adopt your product, buy more, and tell their friends and colleagues about your fantastic solution. The expansion on the right side of the bowtie illustrates your growth through compounding recurring revenue.

Value must be meaningful and appreciated by your customers.

Every time your customers receive relatable value, they get an endorphin hit. Endorphins are feel-good hormones that engage people and help them feel delighted to work with you and your product. Delivering value as quickly as possible keeps customers participating and accountable throughout onboarding and beyond.

How do you know whether your customers appreciate the value you deliver? You ask them. Now is a great time to reach out to new and existing customers to find out what is meaningful to them. Ask why they keep using and paying for your solution. You might find different value trends for each customer segment or product, so take those into account as you build customer value maps.

From monolithic to phased deployments

While products are released in two to six-week sprints, customer onboarding remains monolithic. Customers sign with you and then spend three to nine months, if not longer, sitting in the dark, waiting and hoping to receive a return on their investment. What if you move to a phased onboarding and deployment approach where you break things down into achievable and digestible nuggets for customers to commemorate along the journey.

Start with quick wins

You must deliver initial value as quickly as possible. Consider a value “amuse-bouche” that gets customers excited to be working with you, even before your product goes live. An amuse-bouche is a small savory item of food served before a meal. It delivers immediate benefit, whets the appetite, and keeps diners excited for what’s next.

Here’s an example quick win: When I started working with a company that provides a marketing platform for real estate agents, new customers got fed up waiting for the platform to go live, so they paused and cancelled their payments, costing this company almost a half million dollars a year. When customers did stick around, the Onboarding Teams struggled to win back their love. That is no way to start a new relationship.

Here's the quick win we deployed: Rather than waiting until implementation was complete, we engaged the CSM in week one to deliver strategic coaching, provide immediate access to their exclusive community, and deliver valuable content from company founders - thought leaders in the real estate industry. The result: Value started in week one when customers gained the concepts and contexts needed to thrive the moment they logged into their tailored platform. Customers were immediately involved and eager; plus customer retention increased.

Deliver ongoing value

Don't forget about your customers the minute onboarding stops. You want to drive them deeper and broader into your platform, so they keep learning, improving their use cases, and transforming their business because they use your product. A phased approach means you keep producing meaningful results. A special meal that starts with an amuse-bouche continues through a journey of courses: drinks, soup, salad, entrée, dessert, and coffee. Each item should be delicious and attractive and leave the diner craving more. In a similar way, start with one use case, project, or data set that supplies benefit and then keep going.

Value morsels include user enablement, insights, dashboards, ongoing use cases, projects, or data sets. Deliver a phased value journey like the example below, by driving user behavior and ensuring usefulness happens. Make sure every touchpoint along the journey benefits customers. Don’t meet with them just because the playbook says to schedule a meeting. You will waste their time and train them to stop meeting with you.

The secret to success is in the little things

You must shift your mindset, from going live with your product to adding appreciated value your customers relate to. Nobody cares about the customer journey if no one gets results. You and your customers can achieve great things by taking small steps. Literally. I learned this from James Lawrence, the Iron Cowboy, who is famous for completing the most consecutive Ironman triathlons. One step after another led to James’ world records. Ongoing nuggets of value are the secret to your success and your customers’ success. Rather than wasting time, deliver morsels of value every single time you meet with customers. Start with quick wins and phased deployments to create a value journey that builds strong customer relationships and grows your business.

Donna Weber is the world’s leading expert in customer onboarding, and we’re so grateful she is sharing her wisdom! For more than two decades, she’s helped high-growth startups and established enterprises create customers for life. Her award-winning book is Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers Into Loyal Champions. The original version of this article can be found on her blog.

Donna Weber
Customer Onboarding Expert
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