Journey Managers needed, urgently: But who are they?

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Future of Jobs Report is a document that should be of interest to every single individual on this planet, if you ask me. We all, of a necessity, should be interested in what jobs would emerge in the next decade. For students, parents, teachers, educators, policy makers, etc., this report should be of great importance. For employers, it should be utmost importance since it could be mean the organisation becoming the next Ghana Post or the next Facebook. (By the way, Postal Service Clerks are one of the jobs that would become increasingly extinct by 2022, according to the WEF 2018 Future of Jobs Report).

According to the Report, the jobs that we should be looking forward to by 2020 are those that are very heavy on technology such as data analysts and data scientists, artificial intelligence experts, big data specialists, software and app developers and analysts as well as new technology experts. As a matter of fact, there might be jobs in the next ten years that we have no idea of today. This new jobs revolution is sure to hit every industry, leaving no one untouched.

I find it interesting that in the list of Top 10 Emerging roles, sales and marketing professionals are still present. In other words, no matter how advanced the world becomes, there would always be the need for those who can create a great experience for customers. There is always going to be a job for the individual who knows how to make people feel good about interacting with a brand.  It seems there will always be a place in the world of business for the human-to-human touch.

With all the new job titles that are going to come into play over the next few years, I was not too surprised when I recently came across a job title that I was not too familiar with—Journey Manager (JM). At first glance, it comes across as a job for someone in the transport, shipping or aviation industry. I thought it was a fanciful name for a transport manager but it was far from that. The Journey Manager is a whole new trend in customer experience management that is catching up real fast.

To understand the job of the JM, one needs to first appreciate the concept of the customer touchpoints, service blueprint and customer journey. Touchpoints are the various points of contact between a company, brand, product or service and the customer. The following all qualify as customer touchpoints: website and social media pages, complimentary cards of employees, receipts, flyers and brochures of the organisation, catalogue, company-branded vehicles, storefront, branded Polo shirts, customer reception area or lobby, point of sale, transactional and marketing emails, online support centres, etc.

A mapping of all the organisation’s various touchpoints together with the various interactions between them as well as the physical evidence, staff actions, and support systems/ infrastructure needed make up what we refer to as the Service Blueprint. It is a diagram that shows how all the different service components—people, props (physical or digital evidence), and processes—relate to each other. Service blueprints offer an organisation a number of benefits including exposing any potential weaknesses that might exist in the organisation’s operations. A well-drawn service blueprint also shows the areas that the organisation can take advantage of. A blueprint also gives a bird’s eye view of whatever happens in the country at every point in time.

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A customer’s journey is the step by step process the customer goes through from the time the customer encounters the first touchpoint to the end of the experience, and even beyond. It is a sum of all experiences that customers have when interacting with the various touchpoints of the organisation.

A typical customer journey with various touchpoints (TP!) will look like this: A customer turns on the TV and sees an ad (TP!) about a new widget (TP!). The ad comes with the contact details (TP!) of the organisation selling the gadget. The customers calls the phone number (TP!) while visiting the company’s website (TP!) for further information about the product. The customer’s interests is piqued so she decides to make a purchase the next day. She realises that the company’s phone is WhatsApp-enabled (TP!) so she sends a message asking for directions to the office location and shop.

On the morrow after, she drives to town to make the purchase. She is directed to a car park (TP!) by a security man (TP!). After that, she walks to the front of the shop (TP!). She is directed by another security man (TP!) to walk up to a sales girl (TP!) behind a counter (TP!). She picks up the product (TP!) and examines it up close. She is satisfied with what she sees and decides to go ahead with the purchase. She reaches into her purse, brings out her money and pays. She is given a receipt (TP!) and she walks out of the shop.

The above scenario is just one of many, many forms customer journeys take. Day in and day out, customers take journeys in their experience with brands, without exception. If customers have a journey and customers are that important, then it makes sense that every organisation should have that one person whose job it is to make the journey as pleasantly memorable as possible.

In the world of customer experience therefore, a journey manager is that individual whose job it is to ensure that the journey between touchpoints is as smooth as possible. This is the one individual who is tasked with making sure that the customer’s journey is not bumpy and devoid of all “potholes”. A good JM must walk in the customer’s shoes. He or she must see things from the customer’s point of view.

Customer Experience expert Bertrand Duperrin asserts that there are three elements that make up the journey and these are individualization, continuity and coherence. The JM therefore must ensure that each customer journey feels as personal or customised as practicable. There must also be continuity in the journey. A customer’s transition from communications on the website through telephone interactions through to the face-to-face meetings must be seamless. All this is within the purview of the JM.

In some organisations, the job title is Customer Experience Journey Manager and in a job ad I came across for this position, one of the responsibilities stated was: “Champion the customer through all our customer journeys, identifying their needs and expectations.” This is the core of the Journey Manager’s job.

The Journey Manager is the one to ensure that at every point in the customer’s journey the organisation knows exactly what to do. For instance, the JM must work with the advertising and marketing people to ensure that the company arouses the interests of customers to ensure that customers become aware of the brand. The JM is to ensure that the company is findable, easy to locate, when a customer moves to the interest stage of the journey. It is also part of the JM’s job to make sure that there is as much information about the company as possible to aid customers when they are seeking to know more about the organisation. Nothing frustrates customers more than researching a company and not finding enough information about the company.

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One of the JM’s main jobs is to ensure that the actual purchase experience is as pleasurable and seamless as possible. The JM must have a good idea of what works on the shop floor. If necessary, he or she must walk about the “shop floor” and interact with customers to get first-hand information of what customers think of the experience. The JM must also ensure that even beyond the purchase, the company still keeps in touch with the customer.

The trend of hiring Customer Experience Journey Manager is something that would continue unabated for some time to come. A random study of more than 400 LinkedIn members by California-based management consulting firm, Kerry Bodine and Co concluded that although 77% of those surveyed were in Europe, there are journey managers employed on each of the six continents.

This trend is really here to stay and organisations without journey managers must seriously consider it. Even if an organisation refuses to follow the trend, pressure from their customers alone can force them to join the bandwagon. When customers start demanding for journey managers, it would be a no-brainer for an organisation to look in that direction.

However, it should not get to the point where customers have to “force” companies to hire journey managers. The calibre of companies hiring journey managers should be enough to convince even the most sceptical business owners and managers. Currently, some of the world’s best-performing companies have this position filled up. Companies such as Aviva, Barclays, BBVA, British Gas, Fiat Chrysler, Greenpeace, HSBC, John Lewis, Latam Airlines, Nestle, Qantas, Royal Bank of Scotland, Virgin Media, and Vodafone all have journey managers. It is informative to see that this list includes organisations from diverse industries such as airline, automotive, banking and finance, media, food and beverages, oil and gas as well as non-for-profit organisations.

As today’s customers continue to evolve, so must businesses. The sheer number of options, and volume of information about options, available to today’s customers means the game is constantly changing. Today’s customers must be understood, appreciated and pursued in the most innovative ways.  Companies must think ahead of the game just to stay in the game. Thankfully, Journey Managers are here to ensure that someone within the organisati0on is thinking of what each and every customer is going through. Hopefully, in the next few months, when we turn to the pages of this newspaper we would see this bold headline JOURNEY MANAGERS NEEDED, URGENTLY!

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