In our rapidly-evolving, interconnected world—customers, technology, and products are constantly changing. The hectic pace of this change has caused a schism in many organizations—between the value and experience that is believed to be provided and what customers ACTUALLY receive.
To remain competitive, businesses need to adopt new strategies in order to provide seamless, intuitive, and tailored experiences to customers. To achieve this, organizations must first have an accurate measure of the current experience, free of bias and preconceptions. Customer Journey Mapping is an effective tool to accurately capture and document your organization’s customer experience and consumer perceptions of your brand.
What is a Customer Journey Map?
A customer journey map is a visual representation of how customers perceive and engage with your brand. It is a comprehensive model of each and every interaction with your organization, from the customer’s perspective. These maps reveal customers’ motivations and emotions, the value generated, and when they are driven to act.
Customer journey maps are as much a thought exercise as they are a functional model of how to improve your brand, attract customers, and retain them through carefully curated customer experiences.
Why Should Your Organization Build a Customer Journey Map?
Modern customers are discerning. They are digitally-savvy, have greater demands on their time, and can jump between brands easier than ever before.
In today’s market, customers reward brands that provide convenient and effortless digital experiences. As such, customers are rapidly fleeing traditional organizations for more modern alternatives that offer streamlined, convenient, and tailored experiences.
To succeed in this modern market, traditional organizations need to start by benchmarking their current experience and outlining a Digital Customer Experience (CX) strategy.
A Customer Journey Map puts you on the path to accomplishing both.
Creating a Comprehensive Customer Journey Map
There is no “one size fits all” approach to journey mapping. Your map will be unique to your customers and business.
Here is 10 step comprehensive framework to help you build yours:
1. Put Yourself In Your Customer’s Shoes
An effective journey map is detailed from the customer’s perspective.
A map that details what your organization “believes” is being delivered will be filled with bias, reveal few insights, and is bound to create more political jockeying than tangible action.
You need to understand what your customers’ objectives and goals are as well as what they are feeling, thinking, and doing. This effort of walking in your customer’s shoes is not only insightful—it also requires that you understand all of the influences on your customers.
You will want to gather any customer insights and data your company has collected, including:
- What prompts customers to engage
- When and why customers choose to stop engaging
- What steps and how long it takes them to get through processes
- When and how they seek help
- How often they visit your website or interact with other channels
- When and where they are interacting with ads
Gather any and all details to help draw conclusions about how your customers interact with your business. The more data you have, the stronger and more accurate the conclusions you’ll be able to make.
2. Gather Outside Opinions
You can’t map a customer-centric journey in a vacuum.
It is incumbent upon you to understand your customers. This can only be achieved with perspectives that exist outside of your company.
While your sales team may be talented and “interact with your customer every day,” their feedback is inherently biased to their needs and objectives. You need to leave the confines of your organization to gain a complete picture.
We urge you to talk with customers (both happy and unhappy), read surveys and market trends, and gather whatever external feedback you can. Just get outside your own echo chamber.
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
– Bill Gates
3. Outline Your Customer Personas
Once you have gathered your data and customer perceptions—use that experience to build customer personas.
Not every customer wants the same things or has the same skills and habits. As such, the same experience will create unique impressions for different customers.
As an organization seeking to build a strong digital brand, you will need to recognize these variances and tailor experiences to individual needs.
It’s important to create a cross section of your customer base—but don’t try and capture every single one. These personas are simply meant to represent archetypes of your customer base, so only a handful are needed.
Great customer personas capture key demographic and personalities. Identify the following:
- Insight (Pertinent to your business: Have they worked with you before? Are they early adopters or laggards? Are they skeptical of your brand?)
- Personality (likes, dislikes, anxiety, trust)
- Background/Skills (Are they tech savvy? Do they know your industry? Do they have a family? Are they healthy?)
By capturing these details, you’ll be able to create personas that will help you understand why certain customers are engaging with your brand and others not.
4. Segment Your Journey Into Stages
You need to identify and encapsulate stages of your customer journey. At each stage, both the customers and the organization’s objectives, approach, communication, and expectations will change.
Stages should have clear boundaries with a beginning and end state. Customers move through stages when they reach specific, actionable, and quantifiable milestones.
At SequoiaCX, we generally use the LAER model. This supplier side model is typically used by organizations leveraging customer success strategies.
The LAER model divides the customer journey into four clearly defined stages: Land, Adopt, Expand, Renew.
Whatever stages you choose, it’s important to recognize what triggers and actions cause customers to move through the process—as well as how and why their objectives, behaviors, and impressions change.
5. Identify Customer Goals and Objectives
An effective map illustrates what your customers are trying to accomplish at each stage of their journey. Determine what each persona is trying to achieve, the value they want to extract, and how they want it to happen.
In early stages this is around making their lives simpler in some way for a cost they deem appropriate. In later stages their needs will revolve around maxing ROI, increasing usability, and access to information.
Understanding how customer needs evolve through the journey, is the difference between reacting to customers and anticipating their needs.
Organizations that can anticipate and tailor experiences to their customer’s specific objective deliver more value and create brand loyalty.
6. Identify Customer Touchpoint
Touchpoints occur whenever a customer interacts with your brand.
If a customer interacts with a representative (phone call, chat, or in person), a web page, advertisement, social media post, or even your trade show booth (remember those?)—it’s a touchpoint.
Touchpoints can even occur outside of your direct control.
For example, when customers seek opinions from consumer reports or online reviews–they are forming an impression of your brand.This is an example of why it’s critical to include perspectives and information from outside your organization when forming customer perspectives.
Essentially, touchpoints are the sequential events—or path—that your customers follow through your business’s customer journey.
A great map captures every touchpoint, no matter how small it may seem.
7. Call Attention to Critical Touchpoints or “Moments of Truth”
Not all touchpoints are created equal.
There are interactions in your journey where outsized impressions are made. These moments leave lasting memories and can motivate customers to make a purchase, expand their loyalty, or leave forever.
These disproportionately impactful interactions are known as “Moments of Truth.”
Despite their incredible importance, they aren’t always big overt moments. Sometimes they are the smallest of tailored and genuine gestures or innocent mistakes. Whatever form they take, they leave resounding impacts.
Identify and highlight these moments. When you decide to make improvements to your customer journey, start with these critical touchpoints as they have the highest return on investment.
8. Capture Customer Actions, Emotions, and Barriers
At each customer touchpoint, it’s important to capture the actions customers take and the reasons why. Outline the risks, barriers, emotions evoked, and the possible actions customers can take at each touchpoint.
Knowing how your customers move through your business will help you curate experiences that have higher positive outcomes.
9. Find the Customer Friction
Analyze your customer touchpoints to identify moments where customers become upset, processes and systems create confusion, interactions are difficult, messaging is “off brand”, and/or when customers stop engaging.
These are areas of your customer experience that need to be addressed.
Improvements to these touchpoints will generate more revenue, build greater loyalty, and keep customers coming back.
However, understanding when customers are upset and quantifying that impact is an ambiguous and subjective process. That isn’t to say that customer satisfaction can’t be measured or that it isn’t a valuable insight—just that the nature of people, emotions, and satisfaction quickly take you into the gray and are difficult to measure.
A more quantitative measurement that can provide concrete data and clear action is based on customer effort.
Finding touchpoints that take significant effort isn’t ambiguous and can be acutely measured.
These points of high, unnecessary effort stand out in a customer’s journey and are often what customers are most vocal about.
The hallmarks of high customer effort are when customers:
- Have to reach out multiple times to achieve their objective
- Have to spend more time with a rep than normal
- Can’t get information from representatives readily
- Have to repeat themselves or reshare information
- Can’t achieve their objectives or realize their value
- Are forced into a single channel to get information
- Can’t self serve or find information quickly
- Have to reach out to the business to overcome predictable and standard hurdles
- Are given conflicting or misinformation
- Are argued with
- Are given a different impression than what was actually delivered
- Don’t know what to expect or what comes next in the process
- When they have to pull information rather than have it pushed to them
Customer effort is how customer experience should be measured—as high effort processes and engagements are brand killers.
I think we have all spent ~45 minutes on the phone with a representative trying to change our cable bill/package. These are bad, high-effort customer touchpoints. Find them and eliminate them.
10. Visualize Your Journey
This is probably the most daunting and creative part of the process.
This is where all the information you have gathered is used to tell the story of the “complete” customer journey. Because every business is different, there is no single way to visualize your unique customer journey.
Incorporate all of the information you have gathered. Touchpoints, objectives, customer actions, stages, and customer personas become the framework of your map. Friction, moments of truth, customer exits, high emotions, and barriers need to be highlighted and become the focus of your future improvements.
It’s important to note that customer journey maps can be large and incredibly detailed. While presentation software like Powerpoint or Google Slides do a decent job at helping you present themes for specific stages of the journey—those programs don’t have the full feature sets to empower you to properly visualize the entire experience.
We suggest that you find and use a process-mapping or diagramming software such as Microsoft Visio, OmniGraffle, or LucidChart (and large whiteboards in the early phases) as you get started. Give yourself plenty of space and creativity freedom as you begin bringing your customer journey to life.
Building A Customer Journey Map That Supports Your Vision
Once you’ve mapped the journey—you’ll be able to see the totality of the experience your organization is delivering (likely for the first time). The realizations provided will offer deeper insights into how you can improve processes, remove friction, attract and retain customers, as well as streamline and improve your customer experience.
With the map of your current state and these new insights—you can now map out and plan your desired future state for the customer experience.
Build an idealized customer journey map that casts a wide net, operates over all of your channels, intimately understands your customer and anticipates their needs, and reduces effort as much as possible.
Relentlessly remove friction from your ideal/future state and you will create a vision for a best-in-class customer experience that attracts customers, provides value and convenience, and generates brand loyalty.
If this is your first time building a map—or you’re just looking for insights and inspiration—we’ve created a resource for you. Check out our download: A Guide to Mapping Your Customer Journey where we’ve provided prompts and templates for you to use as you walk step-by-step through creating your Customer Journey Map and bring your organization’s customer journey to life.