The customer journey is the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when engaging with your company and brand. Rather than looking at a part of a transaction or experience, the customer journey documents the full experience of being a customer. Think of it as a roadmap detailing how a customer becomes aware of and interacts with your brand.
A customer’s journey can look simple at first glance, but it’s really quite complex. Your customers interact with your brand from a variety of starting points, from search to social media and referrals to advertising campaigns. If a customer has had a frustrating experience with your company, they will walk away with a negative association to your brand. If the customer wants to purchase your product again, they may consider purchasing from a competitor. They might say negative things about your brand, using word of mouth to encourage others to shop elsewhere. Therefore, understanding how customers experience your brand every step of the way is an important element of customer retention and business growth.
Begin your journey
Customer journey mapping is a powerful way to visualize the customer experience and help brands gain valuable insights into common customer pain points. Brands can learn how to improve the customer experience and define what consumers need to complete a purchase and to become a loyal customer. Providing this context can highlight gaps or shortcomings where the need and expectations of customers aren’t being met.
No two journey maps are exactly the same. However, every customer journey should start with your customer personas. Personas are a fictional-but-data-driven profile of your ideal or actual customers. These personas can help you recognize your customers’ needs and wants, and help you understand how they make their purchasing decisions. These personas have a crucial role to play in your customer journey map because they represent the customers whose journey you are mapping. They allow you to take a customer-centric approach by helping you define the tasks your customers want to complete, where they complete them and their needs and pain points along the way.
Your map should list the stages or times these customers might come into contact with your brand and include:
Awareness: This is where initial research is conducted to help inform and guide the potential customer of their options.
Consideration: Customers add or subtract brands as they evaluate what they want.
Decision: The customer selects a brand at the moment of purchase.
Delight: After purchasing a product or service, the customer builds expectations based on experience to inform the next decision journey.
Your map should also name the channels, the methods of communication or service delivery, customers use to interact with your brand. Some of these channels are:
- Offline Media Channels (Newspaper, Radio, Television, etc.)
- Digital Media Channels (Social Media, Websites, Google, etc.)
- Rating and Reviews
- Word of Mouth
- Store or Office
- Staff or Sales Team (Both Internal and External)
- Point of Sale
- Online Help Centre
- Follow-up Customer Feedback Surveys
When analyzing the stages and timeline your customers go through along a customer journey map, note what customers are doing, how they might be feeling, and what type of obstacles they might confront during each of these stages. The goal is to align the touchpoints and channels with user goals and actions. These elements deserve a special emphasis because they are often where brand inconsistencies and disconnected experiences are uncovered. Your goal is to understand where this breakdown is occurring so you can start to fix the issues.
Typically, your customer journey map will take the form of an infographic with a timeline of your customers’ experience. But since there’s no right or wrong way to produce a customer journey map, it could be a storyboard or even a video. Try to make it visual but not too complicated. People should be able to quickly and easily identify the critical touchpoints, and it should tell a simple story to focus peoples’ attention on your customers’ needs.
Effectively implementing your customer journey map
Christine Crandell, author of The Sellers Compass, outlines three best practices to successfully operationalize journey maps. Because people consume information differently, she recommends you create audience-specific versions of your journey map to make the information more accessible to each audience type. Develop a hierarchy of journey maps containing varying levels of detail appropriate for each audience group based on the contextual relevance to their roles.
Crandell suggests you kick off the operationalization of journey maps with an all-hands company meeting, led by the CEO, to introduce the initiatives. After these sessions, interactive versions of the journey should be developed so people can learn about them at their own pace and from their own perspective. Host sessions, like lunch-and-learns, to gain employee buy-in and help team members understand how they can impact customer delight. Invite customers to join to talk through their experience with your company to create alignment between your team and evolving customer expectations.
Finally, Crandell advises to develop a phased, cross-organizational change plan by prioritizing key interaction points and moments of truth that drive customer dissatisfaction. Look for journey steps with low customer satisfaction, points that trigger complaints, high customer stress or frustration, and/or negative word of mouth.
Conduct a prioritization workshop with your key stakeholders to identify which customer pain points to invest in. Create a high-level plan with milestones and target metrics and get the executive leadership to sign off on it. Review progress, issues, and the latest customer feedback on a regular basis. Engage the entire company by sharing progress updates at monthly/quarterly meetings and celebrate your successes and measurable improvements in customer engagement, no matter how small.
Your customer journey map will be ineffective if it ends up in a drawer somewhere, unused and forgotten. It’s not enough to generate a journey map and share it with your key stakeholders. You need to establish processes that will enable collaborative decision-making across organizational silos, support the creation of action plans and strategic roadmaps, drive the implementation of those action plans, and measure the impact of improvement projects.
Customer journey maps help brands shift from being reactive to being more proactive about making decisions that impact the customer experience. They aren’t a silver bullet that solve all your customer experience problems, but it is a useful tool to help retain customers and drive growth.
Need help mapping your customer journey? Contact us to find out how we can help.