Particularly in today’s constantly connected, always-on world, it can be challenging to gain great insights into the real-life experience of customers interacting with your brand. That’s exactly why you should be devoting as much energy as possible to optimizing the customer journey. An understood customer is a happy customer, and happy customers equal happy businesses. And that, we think you’ll agree, is something everyone can get on board with.
Whatever the scale of your business – and particularly if you’re a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) – a customer journey map can provide valuable insights and help you to optimize every aspect of your service or product range. But how exactly do you go about creating a customer journey map? And what is it exactly? We’ve broken it down into several stages to help both you and your customers get the most out of the experience.
What is a customer journey map and why is it important?
First things first: what is the customer journey and why does it matter? Essentially, it’s how a customer interacts with your product or service, not to mention the stages involved in the decision that turns them from a potential into an actual customer. The journey is based almost entirely on needs and pain points: the customer requires the solution to a problem, and your product or service can provide it for them. Pain points are particularly important, so keep them in mind – we’ll be returning to them in more detail a bit later on.
Where once the customer journey was a fairly simple, linear affair, nowadays it involves numerous touchpoints and a more circuitous route to your business. Customers interact with brands in multiple ways: on websites, through social media channels, via email marketing, or third-party mentions on independent review sites.
Because of this, the customer journey is a good deal longer than it used to be, and you’re in danger of losing valuable users at any of its stages. That, in a nutshell, is why it’s important: if you can understand their journey to and with your business, you’ll relate to your customer better and can optimize your processes to meet their needs.
The customer journey map itself is pretty much what it says on the tin: a visualization of the customer journey. No two journeys are the same, and so one map might become several, each dedicated to a different representative of your main customer demographics. Typically, the map will take on graphic form and will follow a structured template, but it could also be a simple spreadsheet or a collection of colored sticky notes. The important thing is that the journey is logical and clear and that you can share your map around your organization.
So, now we’ve looked at what it is, let’s discuss why exactly you should be mapping out your customer experience.
What are the benefits of customer journey mapping?
Providing an outstanding customer experience is essential if you want to gain and retain customer loyalty. A satisfied customer not only means enhanced customer retention, but also numerous other rewards for your business, such as word-of-mouth recommendation and the financial benefit you’ll gain. It’s far more cost-effective to keep the same customer base rather than constantly having to attract new ones (which is up to 25 times more expensive!), but consumers are quick to jump ship these days if they have a bad experience. In other words, you need to be doing everything you can to boost consumer trust and brand loyalty.
If that doesn’t sound like enough to convince you, here are a few more quick-fire reasons why you need a customer journey map:
- Efficient use of resources – by targeting a specific demographic rather than the general public, you can be far more cost-effective with your advertising campaigns.
- Swap outbound for inbound marketing – knowing exactly what your customers are already looking for means you can provide this information readily. Essentially, you’ll meet them halfway to your product or service, rather than having to attract their attention.
- Enhanced customer service – anticipating customer needs and pain points allows you to work proactively, and to foster a sense of great customer service throughout your entire organization.
- Look to the future – the world is changing fast, but a customer journey map can help you stay ahead of the curve. Investing in new touchpoints or solving future customer needs will make you stand out from the competition.
There are many more benefits journey mapping can bring – they’re as unique and varied as your organization itself. But now let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of visualizing that customer journey.
How do you go about creating a customer journey map?
It’s easy to create a quick template for a basic customer journey map – there are plenty of resources available online, or you can even outsource the process. Typically, it starts with research to establish your different customer profiles. Depending on the product or service you offer, you may have one customer persona or several. Don’t be afraid to create as many maps as you feel necessary – they’ll all contribute to the bigger picture in the end.
Research is best conducted by reaching out to existing or potential customers through questionnaires on your website, third-party sites, or via email. Some examples of important questions to ask include:
- Where did you hear about our products/services?
- What needs or problems would you like our company to solve?
- What is the deciding factor when making a purchase?
- Do you find it easy to navigate our website?
- Have you used our customer support and how was the experience?
Once you’ve gathered as much research as possible, divide the questionnaire answers into different demographics and create a representative persona for each group. These could be general categories like millennials, boomers, and retirees, or more specific examples like homeowners and renters (for a company selling home décor solutions, for example).
Now it’s time to get specific. For each customer persona, you want to create a journey map highlighting each time they interact with your brand – from initial internet search to completion of purchase. At each point you want to consider their motivations for reaching out to your business: these drivers are usually emotional and will stem from those needs and pain points we mentioned earlier.
Understanding when and why your customers interact with your business can help you to hook them at an earlier stage of the process or optimize later stages to be sure you won’t lose them. A classic example is to follow a Google search with targeted social media adverts, but you may also want to consider making your website easier to navigate or offering rewards for completing a purchase or newsletter sign-up (a discount on their next shop, or special members benefits). Knowing what makes your customers tick will help you to keep them satisfied.
But as well as mapping your customers’ motivations, you need to find examples of negative experiences. This is the less pleasant part of customer journey mapping, but it is what will help you in the long run. Poor telephone customer service, or a difficult-to-navigate website? Pain point experiences like this can cause your customer to decide to leave your product or service altogether. Understanding where the journey ends and why will help you make the necessary changes to ensure it results in a purchase (nearly) every time.
Once your customer journey map has been created, be sure to follow the journey yourself. You’ll see it’s an interesting, back-and-forth process, typically involving numerous channels. Consumer desire to interact directly with their preferred brands on as many platforms as possible is what is known as omnichannel marketing, and by investing meaningfully in this approach you can refine and improve your customer experience.
Journey’s End: Takeaways and Conclusions
Your customer journey map doesn’t end with a beautiful graphic – though of course you can congratulate yourself on hard work well done. Now it’s time to evaluate and analyze every element of the decision-making process, work out what changes are needed, and get your organization to implement them. Share your newly created map with all members of your organization, as often a visual representation can help people focus on the task at hand. This applies to everyone, not just those working directly in marketing or customer service.
Even after you’ve made some changes, be sure to keep analyzing and tweaking your map. Perhaps new products or services attract a different type of customer, or maybe you’ve invested in an alternative marketing channel (new touchpoint alert!). To further enhance the benefits of customer journey mapping, you can also imagine future customers or missed opportunities, and aim to do better with this group next time. Keep your customer journey map template handy and refresh it regularly to stay on top of your insights.
Creating a customer journey map is a process of many stages, but one that’s downright essential for gaining a deeper understanding of the user experience. Provide a good experience and your organization will reap the benefits – and that is a journey well worth taking.