What Is Customer Journey Mapping and Why Is it Important?
“The customer is always right” – If you work in customer service you likely hate this phrase. Difficult customers like to use it to explain away their poor behavior.
They think it means “the customer can’t do anything wrong.” But what if I told you that that’s not what it’s actually about? The actual meaning is “what your customers want, and how they want it, is what you should cater for”. The customer has a problem, and your business wants to provide the solution.
For example: If you run a fast food joint, the problem is “I’m hungry, but I don’t want to wait, or pay too much.” Or if you manage a clothing store, the problem is “I don’t have a certain item of clothing to match my style.” There’s obviously more to it than that. After all, McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Sonic, Jack in the Box, etc. all exist and have locations that overlap.
Each of these brands will have its own positives and negatives in the eyes of their target market share. Customers will choose where they want to eat based on more than just proximity. One location may have a bad hygiene rating. Another may have an ice cream machine that’s always broken. A third may have issues with awareness, or customer service, etc.
This is true for any industry. Customers will have opinions about each company they interact with. If you want to maximize your sales performance within your market sector, you need to cater to your customers’ expectations.
But how can you do this without knowing what those expectations are? All the knowledge you have of your customers’ experience is from the interactions you have with them. Everything else is just guesswork. It’s like trying to read an email where half the words are missing. This is where customer journey maps come in.
What Is a Customer Journey Map?
A Customer Journey Map is a visual representation of the ”touch points” in your customer’s choreographed journey with your company or brand. This covers the whole process, from first learning about your brand, to making the purchase and beyond.
This includes all the positives – where your company met or exceeded the customer’s expectations. And the negatives too, where your company failed to live up to expectations.
A customer journey map will be broken up into 5 columns, representing the different stages in the process:
- Discovery/Awareness – The customer wants a solution to a problem they have. They go looking for one and find your company.
- Consideration – They do research to decide if they should buy your product or that of a competitor.
- Purchase – The customer decides they want to buy, and goes through the steps of making the purchase.
- Onboarding – The customer uses the product, and may need further advice from your customer support. They may also receive a follow-up contact from your company.
- Advocacy – The customer tells people about the product and your company, either good or bad, depending on their experiences.
And these columns will each contain 5 rows.
- Customer Journey –The actions taken by the customer in this phase.
- Touchpoints – The points of contact between the customer and your brand.
- Experience – How was their experience of your brand/the product?
- Pain points – How your brand’s customer experience was poor.
- Possible solutions – How your brand could improve customer experience, either by solving pain points, or by providing other services.
What Is Customer Journey Mapping?
Customer journey mapping is a process of visualizing the steps and experiences that a customer goes through while interacting with a product, service, or organization. It is a useful tool to see your brand from an outside perspective. With this view, you can then identify pain points, and improve your overall customer experience.
A customer journey map will include different stages of the customer’s journey. These are usually variations of “awareness”, “consideration”, “purchase”, and “post-purchase”. Each stage represents a different set of touchpoints or interactions with your brand the customer has, such as website visits, social media engagement, customer service dealings, and more.
Mapping out the customer’s journey with your brand needs all leadership stakeholders, in every department, to work together. Each should list all their possible customer touchpoints that policies, procedures or physical attributes of a given venue affect, either directly or indirectly. E.g. the website, social channels or phone calls with sales reps, as well as in-person chats with your customer-facing staff.
Next you will pick out your buyer personas. These are examples of your target demographics, like millennials, baby boomers, parents, teenagers, etc. and employ brand agents to represent each one.
These brand agents will follow the steps included in a customer journey, and record their actions and experiences at each touchpoint. These will then be added to the customer journey map for their customer persona.
Businesses can then seek out both the good and bad experiences throughout their brand eco-system. Each one will be depicted from the perspective of their frontline employees and customers, and will provide insight into how they can be improved. By doing this proactively, companies can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty, boost sales and – most importantly – grow their business.
Why Is Customer Journey Mapping Important?
No organization wants to create a bad experience for the people they serve. The problem is that, all too often, the experience they want to give is not the experience they actually provide.
Teams or departments often don’t work in sync, so the solutions they come up with don’t factor in the common goal of providing excellent customer experience. Their focus instead is on efficiencies, technology, compliance, etc. Over time, this inadvertently creates a strategy that is short-sighted.
Aligning for Conversion means making sure the experience you give is aligned with why customers interact with your business.
All businesses invest in promoting their brand’s value proposition. To ensure a return on this advertising investment it is vital that all stakeholders (employees in every department) work together to reach the same goal.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know what your customers want. But looking from the inside out is like looking at the world from inside a car. You can see what’s right in front of you, but you could miss, or struggle to accurately predict, important details in your blind spots. So you have to view your value proposition from the outside in.
Likewise, if you only review problems when you get a complaint, you could be blind to a lot of customer pain points. According to 1st Financial Services, only 4% of unhappy customers actually complain. At the same time, 91% will leave, and 7/10 will never do business with you again. If you don’t see your customers’ experience from their perspective, you are NOT going to maximize conversion.
On the surface, the interactions you have with customers on the frontline can seem positive, but there may be things you don’t see that make your customers unhappy. Brands must have a clear understanding of the experiences they create.
This can’t be limited to the frontline customer-facing staff, either. Everyone must empathize with the people they serve. Empathy in this case is not only about feeling the same emotions as a customer. Instead, it refers to being able to grasp what others are experiencing, to put yourself in their shoes. Empathy comes from recognizing their perspective is valid, even if it’s different to yours. Only by empathizing (getting a clear view of these pain points) can you optimize your customer experience, and greatly improve your conversion.
Aligning for Conversion means making sure the experience you give is aligned with why customers interact with your business.
Departments can be “organizational silos” that work toward their own goals. This prevents alignment. This is about the processes that go on behind the scenes, that have as much to do with the overall customer experience as the visible customer-facing points of interaction.
“Value alignment” means you need to first look at the value your brand must create for the individuals you serve. Then you should figure out what strategy and technology you need to deliver that value. That is what ultimately drives conversion. If your brand value doesn’t align with customer expectations, both in the fine detail and across the customer journey, how would you know?
A Customer Journey Map is a visualization of shared accountability.
The challenge of alignment lies in how hard it is to see interdependencies that exist across the organization. Visualizations are a wonderful tool that allows us to breakdown silos of independent thinking. They allow anyone to grasp interlocking relationships across the business ecosystem, like accounting, warehousing, legal, marketing etc. In this way visualizations inform strategy.
This is why experience mapping is not just a “nice to have” design tool; it’s a must for strategic alignment. Backstage departments are empowered teams that need to be on the same page as the frontline customer facing staff. This is one of the greatest benefits of customer journey mapping. A compelling customer journey map moves everyone in the same direction, with reasons rooted in a shared purpose.
For example, if you run a restaurant (or a chain of restaurants), you likely have a particular way that your restaurant should be perceived. If your vision is for it to be a high-end, sophisticated place, with white table cloths, uniformed staff and immaculately plated dishes, you would hope that’s the experience your customers would receive. You wouldn’t want to hear that actually your staff were quite blunt, your sommelier got confused between a Pinot Gris and a Pinot Noir, and the food appeared to have been slopped on the plate. But unless customers regularly complain about these things, it may be hard for you to know that this is happening.
How to Create a Customer Journey Map
To give you a better understanding of creating a customer journey map template, here is a broad example of a customer journey. This one has all the touchpoints, experience, pain points and possible solutions for each section logged.
Step 1: Awareness
At first, the customer may not even know they have a problem. They also won't know that your business has the solution for it.
Once a customer identifies a problem and realizes they can’t deal with it themselves, they will look for a solution. They could ask friends, co-workers, people who sell similar products, or search online.
In the end, the customer searches and your product or service comes up. However, it wasn't easy to find, as it was under several other pages that didn’t actually provide a solution.
Step 2: Consideration
The customer has identified the problem and knows your solution exists, but they aren’t ready to buy just yet. There may be other products on the market that compete with yours, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.
The customer does some research. They visit your website to learn more about your product, as well as a comparison site, and finally, a brick and mortar store to speak to a sales rep.
Step 3: Purchase
The customer decides that they want to buy your product. They add it to their basket and go to checkout. However, as they click “Pay” the site flags up an error, and they are forced to refresh the page. When they do this, they find their basket is empty.
Frustrated, they have to revisit the page where they found your product and add it to the basket again. This time all goes smoothly, and they are taken to the order confirmation page.
The next day, an email arrives in their inbox. This contains the shipping details and predicts it should arrive in under a week.
Ten days later, and the order finally arrives. But the packaging is badly damaged and there is a superficial scratch on the item. They contact your complaints department, who recommend they call the shipping company. The shipping company, in turn, sends them back to the complaints department, saying there’s nothing they can do.
When they call the complaints department for the second time, there’s no record of their original complaint. Eventually the problem is solved and a replacement item arrives a few days later.
Step 4: Onboarding
The customer starts using the product and finds it does solve their problem. However, there are a few features they don't need but which they can’t seem to turn off. They contact customer support. The customer support rep is very understanding, and does everything they can to help, but as far as they know, these features can’t be deactivated.
Step 5: Advocacy
The customer receives an email a few days after the replacement is delivered. The email asks them to review their experience with the company. They fill it in, flagging issues with the website and delivery, as well as the annoying extra features, but praise customer care.
A week later, they get a call on behalf of the complaints department, who want to see how they’re doing with the product. The customer points out that they have already sent off a review, so they shouldn’t have to do it twice. The complaints department hasn’t seen this review though, as it’s dealt with by aftersales.
Finally, they are asked about the product by a friend who has the same problem. The customer brings up the problems with the site, delivery, features and the aftersales, but admits the product does solve their problem. The friend decides to try a different company, though. They don't want to go through the experience your customer had.
Trying to manage and improve CX without measuring your customers’ experience is like trying to drive to a destination without a roadmap. You might succeed, either because you get lucky, or you know the route well enough, but the odds are slim. Employee Engagement and Customer Experience are leading indicators of future business results. So why wouldn’t you start by using a system that – by design – helps an ecosystem to improve the human dimension of your business; a dimension that is dependent upon good experiences?
CEO & Managing Director of Service Evaluation Concepts. Dedicated to driving brand experience forward with the tools that ensure the reality in the the customer corridor is aligned with the promoted brand value proposition.