How to get the most out of customer journey mapping
What is a customer journey map? Customer journey stages Customer journey mapping process What to include in a customer journey map How to use customer journey maps to improve your customer experience Benefits of understanding the customer journey Examples of customer journey mapping A summary of the customer journey
Customer journey mapping helps you better understand where your customers are coming from, both in terms of their motivations for interacting with your brand and in terms of where those interactions physically start, and where they need to end up to meet their goals. Understanding their paths will help you get them where they need to go, increasing brand sentiment and customer retention along the way.
What is a customer journey map?
A customer journey map is a visual diagram of (surprise surprise!) the customer journey, also called the user journey or buyer journey. It is a representation of each step a customer takes in interacting with your business, including anything from purchasing products to dealing with customer service to posting on social media. These maps are created using data-based research that offers a 360-degree view of customer engagement. It’s putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and walking your company’s path with them, from first touchpoints to last steps.
Customer journey stages
The customer journey is the path a person takes to become a consumer of a product or service. There are three core phases of the customer journey:
These phases show the company’s acquisition, conversion, and retention of clients. But these can be further broken down into five customer journey stages:
- Awareness (pre-sale)
- Consideration (pre-sale)
- Purchase (sale)
- Retention (post-sale)
- Advocacy (post-sale)
In this pre-sale stage, the customer is just someone out in the world with a problem that you can solve. But first, you have to attract their attention among the competition. The inbound marketing team should be using multiple channels to promote brand awareness such as search results, paid ads, email campaigns, social media posts, news articles, press releases, etc. Understanding your ideal client will help marketers put their resources in the most effective places.
In the second pre-sale stage, customers judge your products or services against those offered by your competitors. Smaller purchases typically have relatively short consideration stages but this stage can last for months with larger purchases. Having multiple ways for your customer to access key information about your product can greatly reduce the time spent in this stage.
The sale stage is what all your work in the pre-sale stages leads up to – so make sure you get this stage right! If your purchasing process is overly complicated or requires too many steps, it may send your customer back to the consideration stage and possibly into a competitor’s arms.
Streamline your purchase process and consider offering discount codes or free shipping in order to increase the value of your product. Also, be sure that the customer has easy access to customer service at this point to quickly handle any questions or technical problems.
This post-sale stage is not technically necessary but it is significantly more cost-friendly to retain customers than to constantly be searching for new ones. Effective ways of reselling to those already inside your buyer funnel include personalization, keeping in touch with current customers, and requesting feedback. You can estimate your customer lifetime values (CLV) for your company and decide where your investments will be best placed.
The holy grail of customer service is satisfying a client so well that they go out and do your advertising for you by telling their friends, family, and professional network about their positive experiences with your brand. They might do this face-to-face or by posting reviews. There are many ways to promote advocacy in clients, one of which is to incentivize referrals through discounts or gifts.
Customer journey mapping process
Now that you know what the customer journey and the customer journey map are, you need to actually do the work of getting from the former to the latter. There are a few steps you can follow to make the process easier:
- Define your objective for each map
- Define buyer personas and target customers
- List all touchpoints
- Identify pain points
- Develop solutions
Define your objective for each map
Before you begin, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish with this map. What information do you want and how will you use it? You can start by choosing the correct map type, (afterwards, you can use any graphic organizer option that you find the most logical like flow chart, grid chart, timeline, etc). There are four map types:
- The current state
This focuses on what your customers currently do, what they think, and how they feel during your interactions. This type works well to identify pain points and to implement incremental changes in your customer service.
- The future state
This focuses on what your customers will do, think, and feel in future encounters. This is great for conceptualizing new products, services, and experiences.
- The day in the life
This type is similar to the current state template because it focuses on current customer experiences but it is not limited to how they interact with your brand. It also analyzes how they interact with competitors and it can help identify holes in the market.
- The service blueprint
This type starts with a current or future state template and adds people networks, methods, procedures, and technologies that would be responsible for simplified customer journeys.
Define buyer personas and target customers
Most of the information you’ll need for your customer journey map will come from your buyer personas. You can include multiple personas in each map, the most prevalent persona, or each target customer. Accurate personas require you to gather data from both your customers and analytics. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. In order to gather this data, you could:
- Conduct customer surveys or questionnaires
- Conduct in-person customer interviews
- Conduct user testing
- Interview customer-facing employees
- Gather analytics from social media and your website
When you are gathering this data, you’ll need to be careful not to bias or influence answers as that will skew data and undermine your customer journey map. Some good questions include:
- What problem is your customer trying to solve?
- How did they find your company?
- What made your company stand out from competitors?
- How often do they interact with your brand?
- What did they like about the experience with your company?
- What could be improved about the experience with your company?
List all touchpoints
A touchpoint is each time your customer interacts with some aspect of your brand, whether it be your company website, an advertisement, an online review, purchasing and using your services, or contacting customer support. You’ll need to list out each touchpoint for the customers within each of the five stages. Try to think beyond the touchpoints you have intentionally established and find the actions customers take for each different one.
Identify pain points
With all the data you’ve gathered from customers and employees, you’ll have a clearer picture of any problems your customers may be having along their journeys. Where do customers get frustrated? Are transitions between stages difficult? When you find a pain point, identify what triggers it, how your customers react, and which of your teams are involved in that stage. Identifying and solving large pain points will have a huge impact on your customer journey.
Once you’ve identified all the pain points for your customers, you need to find solutions. You can brainstorm ways to alleviate customer frustration and find opportunities to improve your processes. After that, you can begin to implement necessary changes or conduct further research as needed.
What to include in a customer journey map
Customer journey maps let brands learn more about their ideal clients. Team members question and investigate how a product or service design meets or fails to meet customers’ needs over time. Therefore, these maps should be detail-rich timelines that show the most important sub-tasks and events. You then overlay insights into customers’ thoughts and feelings when proceeding along the timeline. The map could consist of any combination of the following:
- The five customer journey stages
When you create your customer journey map, you can section it based on the five customer journey stages – awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy. Using these segments can help you look more closely at each point in the journey and find more specific pain points and solutions.
- Map goals
Your customer journey map can include what you would like to accomplish with the overall map or within each customer journey stage. This will help guide your efforts as you collect and analyze data.
- Buyer personas
You can choose to create the map with multiple buyer personas in mind but it may be more useful to create a map for each persona, as they can vary greatly in their motivations and actions. This information can include demographics, purchasing history, interaction types, motivations, and goals.
- Ideal customer
These are the people whose problems you solve and may even be able to solve repeatedly. These are the customers that will be delighted by your service or product. Who are they? Do they fit in a buyer persona or do you want to make a map specifically for them?
- Customer actions and emotions
You can take information from surveys, questionnaires, or interviews about how your customers felt and reacted throughout their journey and use that to identify places that are working well and places that can be improved. If your customer completed their purchase but was overall unhappy with the experience, they won’t be coming back any time soon and you miss out on the last two stages of the customer journey. On the other hand, if the customer is happy throughout the majority of the process, you may retain them as a customer and perhaps even gain them as an advocate.
- All customer touchpoints
List out all touchpoints that you have created and others that you may not have, like word of mouth or shared posts. This way you have an idea of all entry points and communication with your brand. You may find surprising marketing opportunities or areas that require some improvement.
- Pain points
This information will likely come from your customer data, but it could also come from your teams and employees. You could go through the customer journey yourself and discover areas of friction on your own. These pain points may threaten your conversion or retention rates and improving them will improve your brand sentiment. Seeing them on the customer journey map will make them easier to relate to and make them more urgent to fix.
- Solutions and opportunities
Once you’ve identified the pain points, you can brainstorm various solutions. Having these solutions on the customer journey map will encourage your team to discuss those that seem to fit the best and work to implement them quickly.
How to use customer journey maps to improve your customer experience
Using a customer journey map helps you to understand what your customers experience every time they interact with your brand. They can also help you to:
- Analyze your available resources
If you are putting a large number of resources into one type of touchpoint that is not your main driver, you can consider reallocating those resources to a more productive touchpoint.
- Analyze the customer journey
You can take each step with the customer and identify both pleasure and pain points so that you can develop your best customer experience.
- Implement any necessary changes
After identifying pain points and developing solutions, you can implement those solutions seamlessly and then use the gathered data to continue analyzing the implemented solution.
Benefits of understanding the customer journey
Customers today are demanding and they expect their experience with a brand to be coherent and seamless. They expect companies to know who they are and what they’re looking for throughout their entire journey so that they can pick up where they left off, without having to repeat or clarify their needs.
Customer journey maps are important for brands and they come with a lot of benefits. Here are some of the benefits of customer journey mapping:
- Identifies customer pain points: At each stage of the customer journey, you can identify how customers feel, their needs, what kind of actions they took, and what kind of questions they want to ask. Knowing what kind of questions your customers have can help you understand the things you really need to address on your websites. This will help you improve customer experiences.
- Improves customer retention: A well-crafted customer journey map takes post-sales experiences into consideration. This information can help you understand why customers leave. And when you know this, you can enhance your strengths and improve your weaknesses.
- Improves your marketing efforts: When you understand how customers make decisions and which platforms they typically use the most, you can create campaigns that are tailored to address their needs on those platforms.
- You understand your customer better: When you know all your customers’ touchpoints, you get an understanding of how your buyer personas navigate through your sales funnel. This helps you personalize your marketing strategies.
- Enables better experiences for your customers along different touch points.
- Paves the way for your customers to achieve their goals better.
- Gives you much-needed context about who your customers are: It’s easy to think you know who your customers are and their issues and friction points, but customer journey maps shine a light on these issues.
- Creates a new customer target base: You can better identify the demographics of your clients so you can hone your marketing to those specific audiences.
- Helps you implement proactive customer service: Knowing your customers’ pain points ahead of time will allow you to plan customer service strategies and intervene at exactly the right time. Proactive customer service makes your brand appear more reliable and valuable to customers.
Examples of customer journey mapping
There are many different ways to set up your customer journey map. The type of graphic organizer that you choose will depend on your organizational preferences and the information that you need to include.
You could start with the grid chart, as shown below, that includes a space for each different type of information so that nothing is lost, overlooked, or forgotten.
You could also choose the timeline style customer journey map, that moves through each customer journey stage consecutively.
You can decide the level of information to include here. Perhaps you only need to include customer actions, emotions, and reactions, like the Starbucks timeline, or perhaps you would like to include more, like the emoji example.
You can also choose a web or flow chart that gives each stage its own core and branches out with client information and pain points to make sure that everything stays connected.
A summary of the customer journey
Customer journey mapping will help you give your customers the best experience possible with your brand. There are many types and styles so you can customize and optimize your maps to get the solutions you need.