Include Expectations in Customer Journey Mapping

A while back, in my blog post You don’t buy customer loyalty… You earn it I mentioned that Expectations are a crucial in customer experience. There is some science behind this…

Expectations are so critical because they are fundamental to how the brain works. The dopamine neurons in our brain that are responsible for regulating our emotions work by generating patterns based on experience: they trigger emotions based on predictions. When everything goes according to our predictions these dopamine neurons fire up and we experience pleasurable positive emotions. However, if our expectations turn out to be wrong, the neurons stop firing and we feel upset.”

Matt Watkinson, The Ten Principles of Great Customer Experiences

Customer Experience gurus and research says that, at a brand level, companies normally use one of two ways to set customer expectations: by intent or by accuracy.

John Lewis (well-known UK retail giant) uses the first (i.e. intent), setting an expectation in their strapline: “Never Knowingly Undersold”. Others prefer to use the latter (i.e. accuracy): “Next day delivery”.

Regardless of the tactic, companies need to make sure expectations are met (if not exceeded). And that it happens at all levels and in all interactions.

“Expectations cascade from the top down. What we expect from the brand applies to the product or service, then to every little interactions. To provide a great experience, we need to see the customer experience as one long journey, and a continuous process of setting and meeting expectations.”

Matt Watkinson, The Ten Principles of Great Customer Experiences

It’s not enough to create a strapline or brand promise. To ensure the delivery of a great customer experience, it’s necessary to map customer expectations at all stages and steps of the customer journey.

Below is an incomplete example that I created for a B2B (Business-to-Business) company, which sells services.

(Note: In this case I was using a spreadsheet to document the customer journey mapping exercise. Contact me or comment post if you want me to share the template. However, there are other tools available, including CJM software)

The leftmost column has the stages and steps of the customer journey. The expectations are in the central yellow columns. In this example I only covered the beginning of the journey (from Awareness to Purchase), and only completed expectations at the Purchase stage.

Example Customer Journey Map, documented in a spreadsheet (open image in new tab/window to augment)

It is important to map not only the Customer Expectation but also the Reality (I suggest this is researched or confirmed, with customers or front-line staff). It would also help mapping the expectation that you (as a company) want to set at each stage.

Meeting customer expectations will make sure your customers experience the “pleasurable positive emotions” that leave memorable moments – which is exactly what drives customer loyalty and repeated business.

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