Clients are intensely focused on taking a more customer-centric approach to marketing.

It’s impossible to be a marketer today without hearing about the customer experience and customer journeys. Every day a new “think piece” is released to discuss its importance, and our own clients are intensely focused on taking a more customer-centric approach to marketing.

So, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to lead a workshop in February alongside Imprint, our content lab, and hosted by The Gramercy Institute, a leading financial marketing association. The workshop walked through how to map the customer journey with an eye toward defining a better customer experience.

Through the course of the workshop, led by senior leadership from Sullivan and Imprint as well as Gramercy Institute CEO Bill Wreaks, six key takeaways emerged:

1. It takes a village. The room was filled with a range of financial services marketers—from banks, insurance agencies, wealth managers, fund managers, and more—and included representatives from platforms, agencies, and media. Teams were comprised of individuals representing a wide variety of roles including those responsible for division and product marketing, branded content, customer experience, and digital engagement.

In working towards the common goal of mapping the journey of an archetypical customer teams shared diverse ideas, beliefs, and knowledge. In this way, our workshop mirrored the journey mapping process within a complex organization: input from across multiple perspectives, roles, and business converged to help create a richer view of the customer’s path – from the customer’s perspective.

2. Marketing is one piece of the journey. Beyond multiple marketing points of view, one major realization in mapping the customer journey was the critical role of sales, customer service, and operations to the customer experience.

For example, one team that mapped the journey of a millennial applying for a new credit card identified integrated chat functionality and mobile-optimized forms as key aspects of the experience. To achieve these would involve technical teams, new platforms, and rep training.

3. B2B, B2C, or B2B2C? It doesn’t matter. As diverse as the workshop participants were, so were their target audiences: there were fund managers who wanted to better understand high-net-worth investors, bankers who needed to reach a millennial audience, and wealth managers who sought to better connect with their advisors.

Regardless of audience or business model, one thing was consistent: the principles, process, and value of customer journey mapping. When companies view all of their interactions with a person from that person’s perspective—whether those individuals are consumers, intermediaries, or even employees—they’ll find new opportunities to create a better customer experience.

4. Seeing from the customer’s eyes is crucial. For a room full of marketers conditioned to think on behalf of their business, seeing an entire experience through the lens of the customer wasn’t always easy. Many participants initially fell back into thinking about how to reach the customer from a marketer, communications-planning point-of-view. But once that “switch” flipped and participants were able to embrace journey mapping as though they were the customers, the process took on a life of its own.

This mindset was at the heart of each map’s most creative breakthroughs. One group realized that engaging a new wealth manager wasn’t as simple as filling out new paperwork—it also meant that a customer was leaving his or her current firm behind, a process that made the switch more complex.

5. Every moment of a great customer experience needs to be orchestrated. A significant amount of effort and resources are required to make interactions feel seamless and positive to the customer along their journey. Each customer journey is an expanding path: every decision has multiple considerations and implications, any number of which could have a negative impact on the customer’s experience .

In our workshop, even seemingly simple tasks like replacing a lost debit card were explored in detail. Each moment in the persona’s card replacement journey—from the initial outreach, to accessing a temporary card, to providing fraud-prevention suggestions, to receiving the new card —is critical, and every moment is a chance to reinforce loyalty or lose a customer altogether.

6. Personas are a powerful tool in journey mapping. We began the mapping process with hypothetical persona development. Each team carefully considered who their “customer” would be—beyond basic demographic information to key psychographic indicators: what are their emotional drivers? Rational drivers? Behaviors? Communications preferences?

Answers to these questions greatly informed how the journey took shape, and how the customer persona responded to a “trigger scenario” that sent them on their journey. In one scenario, the customer was a financial advisor for a large wealth manager. Unusual market volatility meant she needed to answer key questions from her demanding high-net-worth clientele. Because the group had explored the advisor persona’s behaviors, thoughts and goals, they were able to identify a series of marketing opportunities at each step that felt unique and actionable.

While many of the participants had been familiar with personas from a media and/or digital marketing targeting perspective, some hadn’t used them for the purposes of sales training or holistic customer experience planning. It was a new way of applying a familiar resource.

Overall, the workshop was a tremendous success. We thank all of those who participated, and hope they walked away with a shared passion for customer journey mapping and a better understanding of the customer experience. We can’t wait for the workshop’s next iteration, and hope to see you there.