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Customer Journey Planning: Solving the Staffing and Skills Challenge

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by: Ellen Valentine (@EllenValentine)
14 July 2016

Marketing departments have evolved tremendously within this decade alone. Just a few years ago, I was writing about the rise of marketing operations and mar-tech roles, as well as a shift from email-only marketers to people being hired to own the entire demand gen function. And since then, we’ve seen an explosion of hiring into these important positions.

Now we’re seeing yet another shift, with even newer roles emerging in the marketing department. This time, the job duties and responsibilities are focused on the customer journey.

The Benefits of Journey Mapping

In “The Incredible Journey: The Transformative Power of a Holistic Customer Journey Strategy,” an upcoming commissioned study by Forrester Consulting on behalf of IBM, 200 customer journey professionals were surveyed. While there is in-depth analysis around technology limitations and lack of data integration capabilities in the study, for me the highlight was all the findings around the urgent need for customer journey development and customer journey-focused analytic skills.

The benefits of customer journey mapping are substantial: increased revenue, better retention rates and improved customer loyalty. Detailed insight into customer journeys can improve customer service, transform silo-based internal operations and drive higher levels of customer retention. These results can be so profound for companies that prioritizing headcount investments in this area is nearly a no-brainer – or at least it should be. (Read more about journey mapping.)

Investing in the Customer Journey

Almost 60 percent of respondents in the Forrester Consulting study said that marketing leads journey mapping and analysis in their organization. In my experience, though, many companies still need to invest more in developing analytic skills in the marketing department. Consider the following data points from the study:

  • Only 20 percent of the surveyed customer journey professionals have the tools they need to do integrated journey mapping and analysis
  • 47 percent reported using manual processes such as spreadsheets, documents and visual flowcharts to accomplish these important tasks.

The point? If you’re going to invest in customer journey planning, why not get team members the tools they need to do their jobs?

What It Takes to Succeed

Along with a clear need for tools and skills, the people tasked with customer journey planning must be empowered to reach out across divisions, departments and groups (and dig into their associated technology and data) to create holistic views of the customer journey. Individual siloed efforts will fall short of achieving the results needed.  

Generally, the most effective customer journey professionals will have high-level executive sponsorship, good institutional knowledge of how things get done within the company (or a detective-grade skill at asking great questions to figure out the intricacies of the customer journey processes), an open mind to what’s possible, and a firm customer-centric focus.

Once journey maps are developed, skilled resources are needed to assimilate the findings. In fact, the Forrester Consulting study found that the top organizational challenge a firm has in pursuing robust, integrated customer journey capabilities is a lack of analytics resources and skills to understand the data coming in, with 38 percent of respondents identifying this issue.

In addition, marketing must be prepared to act on its findings, with 38 percent of respondents also indicating that it takes too long to act on insights from reports and dashboards.

Transformation Through Training

I’ve often found that the marketing department is the one place where employees are forced to just get OJT – On the Job Training. It wasn’t a surprise to me, then, to see that 76 percent of the survey respondents cited the need for training programs that bring together teams across functions to assure a common context and expertise base.

If you don’t currently invest in formal classroom-style education, consider hiring seasoned customer journey and persona development consultants who can not only do their valuable consulting projects, but can also mentor and coach your employees.

Marketing continues to be at the forefront of massive, rapid change as many businesses shift to a greater focus on the customer journey. By taking steps to solve the staffing and skills challenges that have emerged with these changes, you’ll help ensure your company delivers the types of positive customer experiences that help it stay ahead of the pack.

Learn More About Customer Journeys:

1) White Paper: “Customer Journey Maps and Buyer Personas: The Modern Tool Kit for Marketing

2) Infographic: “4 Key Differences Between Customer Journeys and Campaigns

3) Tip Sheet: “10 Common Barriers to Understanding the Customer Journey and How to Overcome Them


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