A few years ago, we took our daughters to Paris for the Christmas holidays. I cashed in my frequent flier miles and got three of five tickets on points. Using the miles wasn’t as simple as just flying to Paris. We flew through Toronto to London, took the train to Paris (and, since I wanted to get more miles for my flight, the “we” didn’t include “me”). My wife and two daughters headed off to Toronto, and my other daughter and I took the later (direct) flight to London—all with good intentions of meeting up in the morning and catching the train to Paris. Well, like many customer journeys, this one had a twist…

The Customer Experience (CX) Journey

Most customer journeys—or patient journeys—are complex interactions filled with challenges, opportunities, interactions, questions, answers, and the need for assistance. Think of an oncology, RA, MS patient (or any disease state). Their journey starts with symptoms—often self-diagnosed and treated until they become unbearable. Once driven to take action, patients face a journey often characterized by multiple:

  • Physician visits (they must answer the same questions from three to four different providers).
  • Diagnostic exams, lab tests, and possibly imaging scans (hard to schedule and may not provide immediate answers).
  • Specialist referrals (they may struggle to make an appointment).
  • Lengthy online searches (that lead to a myriad of confusing technical terms,
  • data and information).
  • Discussions with friends (everyone has a different experience/perspective).
  • Pharmacy visits (Rx medications are often too expensive and non-Rx options aren’t accessible or are just too confusing).
  • Hospital and/or infusion center visits (may be cold, confusing and time intensive).
  • Reimbursement struggles, more tests, bad news, disbelief, anger and ongoing therapy (which may be very unpleasant).

While we often have a good sense of the diagnostic/treatment “path” patients need to pursue, do we truly understand their needs, emotions and behaviors during each step of this journey?

A good Customer Experience (CX) Journey Map not only defines each step of the disease-specific patient journey—and the needs, emotions and behaviors during each stage—but also identifies the key influencers who affect each important decision along the way.

We think of physicians and other HCPs as the influencers in this process, but we must also factor in the influence of caregivers, family members, friends, payers, word-of-mouth (social media), and other non-medical personnel. Once all the potential influencers are identified, at each step of the journey, a good Patient Journey Map will define the “key moments of impact”—i.e., when patients are most receptive to messages/information and from whom.

So What Happened on the Paris Trip?

I failed to mention that the three “free” tickets were scheduled to arrive three hours before the two direct flights (with a six-hour layover in Toronto). So, upon arrival in London, the pressure was on to get the family together and take on all responsibility until my wife found herself in a nice warm bath in our Paris flat (and we could start our wonderful family vacation). Hmmm—long lines at Customs; rushing to grab bags; everyone tired and cranky; losing our daughter’s bag (with no time to wait for it due to our train reservation); barely catching the train to London (a long way from Heathrow); and finally, 30-plus hours later (for frequent fliers), reaching our destination—a tiny, but charming Paris apartment. Exhausted, we began unpacking and settling in, and…I had someone else’s bag.

Creating a Patient Engagement Map

By understanding the customer journey (specific to a brand or therapeutic category), and the different roles, interactions, and needs of each of the “characters” in the story (patients, physicians, reps, pharmacists, caregivers, payers, etc.), you can then develop a Patient Engagement Map (PEM) to:

  • Identify and remove the roadblocks when customers most want help.
  • Connect them with the person they want to talk to.
  • Determine what info/resources are most helpful at different touch points along the journey.
  • Engage them in the way they prefer to interact.

A PEM brings the Customer Experience (CX) Journey Map to life and becomes your guide to developing communications and messaging that anticipate customer problems/issues, address them in advance, set appropriate expectations and suggest next steps. It helps you interact with your customers’ emotional and functional needs; categorize their emotions at each stage of the journey; and customize content/responses to the different emotional segments. And it helps you understand which channels are best for which information/solutions and guide customers to the channels/content that might serve them best.

To enhance the Patient Engagement Map (PEM), solicit feedback from your customers, monitor online behavior to identify customers who are struggling, and initiate contact (e.g., online chat) if their actions are “incomplete” (unfinished data entry, section to section jumping, etc.). Focus every interaction on reducing their effort by identifying potential roadblocks upfront and designing your communications and interactions to help remove them. Adopt a “one-stop-shop” concierge approach to address FAQs, solve problems and make recommendations—simultaneously.

All’s Well That Ends…

So, back to Paris…here we are, on Christmas Eve, with someone else’s bag (an unfortunate woman with no clothes in the UK), without our daughter’s bag (an unfortunate girl with no clothes in Paris), and no one accessible at the airlines. While this situation in no way compares to being diagnosed with a devastating disease, our customer journey now became fraught with challenges, opportunities, interactions, questions, answers (very few), and a definite need for assistance. Ideally, the brand (our airline) would have been there to support us at each stage of this journey, help solve our problems and create a positive Customer Experience (CX) to secure our brand satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy. Unfortunately, like many patients facing the daunting task of managing their diseases, we were left to fend for ourselves.

So How Can You Help with the Journey?

There’s no better way to instill “journey thinking” than to create Customer Experience (CX) Journey Maps. Look at your customers and consider who influences them, their different needs, and how they’re trying to achieve their goals. CX Journey Maps support and facilitate the things that journey-centric brands do—they’re collaborative and shared—and essential tools that help breakdown organizational silos and change the traditional mindset from feature/benefit brand selling to Customer Experience (CX) Journeys.

  • Jay Bolling

    Jay Bolling is Executive Chairman at PulseCX. Jay is passionate about developing customer experiences (CX) that influence the decision-making process and leverage “key impact moments” (when customers are most receptive to specific communications) to measurably increase the impact of brand messaging.


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