Know your customer. This has become such a loud rallying cry that it drowns out voices pointing out that different ways of doing so exist, depending on your objectives. Is your objective to do what everyone else is doing and drive incremental improvement? Or, do you want to adapt the lessons from explosive growth companies to drive extraordinarily rapid growth? In short, a significant amount of time and monies are spent to know one’s customer from the perspective of the specific products and services offered to them, rather than how or why a customer uses them. Both perspectives fall into the category of customer centricity. But their similarity ends there.

Let’s see how and why this matters.

Enter customer segmentation and customer journey maps. Journey maps are a visual description of where, when and how customers tend to interact with you through the products and services you currently provide. Better maps focus as much on behavioral characteristics of your customers as on their easily measurable transactional attributes.

Because many organizations are wrestling with the blurring among products, services and experiences, there’s a need for a different way to gain insight into how to engage customers — from their perspective. This doesn’t mean their perspective on how they interact with you or any particular product or service you provide. Instead, it requires a shift of focus onto the ecosystem in which they engage and what they care about.

And here it gets interesting.

Customer experience is typically reduced to the ease of interaction with one’s products and services. This has led to customer-journey mapping to identify the “pain points” in using your products or services from a customer’s perspective. Two of the three generations of customer-journey mapping fall into this camp.

Gen (generation) 1 involves the mapping one’s product regarding where, when and how a customer engages with it to identify points of friction that could be eliminated. Its objective is to make the process simpler (and faster).

Gen 2 is similar, but adds an emotional element to it. It also consists of mapping a product process of where, when and how a customer engages within that journey. It adds, however, another “layer” to the mapping that focuses on points of emotional tension or “sources of happiness.” Its objective: Understand the pivot points of emotional engagement across a process to make it simpler and ease the dilemma or stress of the customer engaging with your products or services.

Both of these are fine approaches. However, they remain tied to engaging with a set of products and/or services that you already have. They start with the premise that you have a problem to fix with respect to how customers engage with your existing set of products and services. Both are sufficient for supporting incremental growth or productivity enhancement, which is why they’re so prevalent.

However, taking lessons from today’s growth leaders, we find that customer experience is based on the orchestration of capabilities and services to help customers get done what they want or need to get done — irrespective of the bundle of products and services needed to do so, and from whom they come. Enter the new third generation of customer journey insight.

Gen 3 starts with an outside-in perspective, independent of the products and services (and underlying processes) you provide. The questions underlying Gen 3 become: What is it that customers want to do, and what are the ecosystems in which they spend their time, monies and efforts to do it? How do you engage in those? What are the points of friction your customers have around what they want to do — and how do you orchestrate products and services, wherever they come from to eliminate those frictions and help customers do what they want to do.

RHB Bank, one of the leading Singaporean banks, is building a program of customer engagement whereby it orchestrates not only financial products, but also a set of other services from non-financial institutions to help their clients grow beyond Singapore. Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides customer-relevant tools and access to a large array of potential partners to help their customers engage in whatever it is they need to get gone. For both, the distinctive game is the orchestration of different products and services from a variety of different players — depending on what their customer needs.

Let’s re-emphasize: Value lies as much in the orchestration as it does in any of the specific products and services of any one organization.

Such orchestration around products and services from a variety of different organizations reflects one of the key lessons of the explosive growth companies today based on new business models — or how businesses organize their capabilities (skill sets and technology assets) to deliver value.

So, now what do you do?

  1. Figure out which customer generation is relevant for what it is you want to do: grow incrementally or explosively.
  1. Get predictive insight through a rigorous and repeatable methodology and analytic platform that clarifies what are the ecosystems in which your customers engage — and consequently, which ones, where and how you engage to deliver new types of value.
  1. Get clarity around the new 20 percent of capabilities (skill sets and technology assets) critical to capturing 70 percent of new value.

Customer journeys are uninteresting by themselves. They’re only of value if they help you clarify where to focus and how to execute to identify and capture new sources of value in new ways. Also, they’re only useful if their insights can be executed on with speed and scale.

Here’s a final question for you to ponder: Customer journeys are in service of what? Answer the what and you’ll be able to figure out the when, the where and most critically, the how.

So, with that, what’s in your customer journey?