Only 20 years ago, customer journeys were unknown to most people (or associated with travel). Today, the customer journey is on everyone’s agenda, in any business sector, and in private and governmental services. Why has this concept gained so much momentum in recent years when we had e.g., user experience within the (Human-Computer Interaction) HCI field for many decades?
The term customer journey is generally used as a metaphor for examining a service from the perspective of a customer or an end-user. Traditionally, the end-user has had the role of the customer since the interest in customer journeys emerged from the field of service marketing. As the journey concept has diffused into new non-commercial service contexts, practitioners and academics have expanded the role of the end-user to consumer, citizen, and patient, to mention a few.
The journey concept puts humans at the center of a process regardless of their role. It is therefore tempting to introduce a wildcard for the role: <role> journey or simply (*) journey. A (*) journey can include everything from changing internet provider, to applying for university admission. During the corona pandemic, we have all been invited to take part on a journey for vaccination – an example of a citizen journey. This journey has consisted of many steps or touchpoints; from the moment we received the invitation, and until we received the last vaccine shot in the arm around one year later. Also, note that the citizen journey for vaccination includes both digital and physical touchpoints.
More generally, the (*) journey includes all the steps a person must go through to achieve a goal. It encompasses both objective facts about what exactly has happened, as well as the subjective dimension of the end-user’s experience.
From my perspective, the reason the (*) journey has gained so much traction is that we previously lacked a comprehensive word to describe the end-user’s perspective over time. The terms available from HCI, such as user experience, lacked the dynamic element. With the journey concept, we directly capture the human dimension of a process that unfolds over time!
Traditional approaches for assessing service quality and customer satisfaction have focused on single momentary interactions. More recently, there has been an increased awareness that this may mask the underlying issues experienced by customers or users over time. Accordingly, there is a need to consider the end-to-end process instead of single interactions. A (*) journey automatically reminds us that each moment must be seen in a wider context of what happened previously, and what is next in the pipeline.
At SINTEF, we have years of experience with service systems, (*) journeys, and service processes from both a practical and theoretical point of view. We work together with public and private service providers. Innovation projects have given us hands-on experience in many service sectors, ranging from health to transport. Research projects provide an opportunity to go deeper and generalize our practical experience so that we can help bring the (*) journey concept to a more advanced and analytic level. Against this background, we have gradually developed a modelling language for customer journeys called Customer Journey Modelling Language (CJML). CJML offers terminology, syntax, diagrams, methods, and tools for modelling of (*) journeys. CJML distinguishes explicitly the theory (planned customer journey) and practice (actual customer journey). Previous research says “mind the gap” - the discrepancy may be large. CJML also makes a clear distinction between objective and subjective elements in a journey. In other words, it distinguished between what can be logged and observed (objective), and what the end-user experiences (subjective).
To sum up:
- Journeys take the perspective of a human user
- There are many members of the journey family, which we call the (*) journey, depending on the role of the end-user (e.g., customer, citizen, user, etc.).
- Journeys are processes – they have a time dimension
- The steps of a journey are called touchpoints
- A journey may reflect “theory” or “reality”
- A journey has objective and subjective properties