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Client journey mapping - how to use in professional services firms

Marketing and business development teams in professional services firms are grappling with the client journey map. Many are wondering how to apply it to professional services companies; clients are varied and “clients within a client” make this a challenge.


How can professional services get the most from this tool, without getting lost down rabbit holes?


What is a client journey map?

The client journey map is a tool that helps businesses put themselves in the shoes of the customer. It considers all of the touch points a client has with a business; from research, through sale and post-sale. It thinks about what the client is trying to achieve at each point and how they feel.  It aims to generate maximum impact across each of the touch points – working on the premise that the customer journey is only as good as it’s worse experience.


It is a relatively simple concept, which can become incredibly detailed and, if you are not careful, a tangled web of confusion.


Who is the client in professional services firms?

At the heart of a journey map is the client. This is the first stumbling block.


The best and most effective personas are those which have been created with insights from real clients.  This can be a daunting prospect where you have a long list of personas that are potentially relevant and important to your business.


Creating a persona – an imaginary client with a name, job title and emotions – seems at first blush to be relatively straightforward.  For certain professional services firms it can be. ABC LLP, a private client law firm, could conjure up “Mr Jones”, a 40-year-old teacher with 2 children, a house and a dog, who is just about to ask for a divorce from Mrs Jones, a sales manager. He is anxious about retaining contact with his children and wants to know how his assets will be split.  Quite quickly a picture forms. 


But…..


ABC LLP might also act for Mr and Mrs Smith who are just about to buy their first house together, and Mr O’Donnell who is thinking about setting up a power of attorney and, and, and…...

Whilst it is personally possible to create several personas, firms who have multiple services lines, who work for multiple sectors and who have multiple buyers within a client organisation soon find themselves with a plethora of personas and losing sight of their goal.


This problem isn’t just confined to customer journey mapping, but it is perhaps amplified in this process which creates a multiplier effect as you start to build out journeys, emotions and pain points.


How to make client journey maps manageable

A useful starting point is to ask ‘why’?  Thinking about what you are trying to achieve can help you see whether you need to have a number of maps running in parallel, or whether you can step back and be less granular.


Continuing with the legal theme, let’s take another imaginary full-service law firm as an example.  


The firm are looking to achieve three things:


1. They are looking to increase client loyalty in their employment team because analysis has shown that they have lower retention rates than fellow groups.


2. They want to improve the way clients are on-boarded because they believe it is the best opportunity to capture data from them.


3. They want to write more engaging content for their private client newsletters as readership has been dwindling.


Whilst other tools are available to tackle the three scenarios, the firm wants to use journey mapping to help them.  


In the first scenario, a detailed journey map might be useful to shine a light on why clients aren’t staying.   It might highlight where expectations are falling short.  The persona in this scenario is easy to define, and indeed a handful of personas might emerge: the HR Director of a large corporate; the in-house lawyer who has been tasked with employment law; the overseas development director looking at entering the UK.  Taking the journey with these clients might help uncover where pain points aren’t being addressed, or where service levels are below par, and as a result provide action points for the future.  Being granular, speaking to clients and reaching out to those who were clients and then left would be key here.


In the second scenario, it is easy to see how large numbers of personas might come into play.  Each team within the firm will have different “ideal clients” and different people that they deal with.  In order not to get lost in a complex web of personas, there is merit in stepping back and having a limited number.  A degree of generalisation will not detract from what the firm is trying to achieve here.


The specific objective is to find out how client on-boarding can be used to gather data from clients.  By using the client journey map this objective can be brought to life. 


What data do we already have based on what the client has already experienced?  Data in this context might be finding out how the client likes to be communicated with, or how they want to be invoiced.  How is this data used throughout the journey?  What are we asking for at other points in the future? What do clients expect at on-boarding? How do they feel and what are they looking to achieve? 


A map should help show what data is important and how collecting that data can improve the client journey – or detract from it.


In the third scenario, personas could be developed based on those who already read the newsletter, or those we would like to read it.  Are we looking just at existing clients who have used our services? Or are these intended to reach people who don’t know us.  If we use a journey map to understand where our readers are on their journey, we can introduce content that is more appealing. 


If we know what our objective is, then we can make sure that our map is focused on asking the questions that will help us. 


Clarity leads to maximum ROI

Being clear as to what you are trying to achieve is key to achieving maximum benefit from a client journey mapping exercise.  If you retain sight of the end goal, you can refer back to it when the exercise appears overwhelming.


Is the persona identified going to help you achieve your goal?  Are the touch points you are looking at relevant to the goal?  What might the question you are asking provide you in achieving your goal?  


By aligning your client journey map to a specific goal, you can avoid some of the traps that can send you down a rabbit hole.


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