The ultimate guide to customer journey mapping with experts opinion

Every day your customers and potential customers interact with your business, across many touchpoints and channels. Their journeys from first interacting with your brand to finally becoming a customer are often convoluted, non-linear, cross-device, and even sometimes a mix of offline and online. Each journey tells a story; when your customer journeys are aggregated and analysed together, you can start to better understand your customers’ pain points, behaviour themes, and their various needs and expectations at each touchpoint.

Salesforce has found that 80% of customers now feel that their experience with a company is just as important as its products. But how should you go about plotting out and analysing this data? What is the best way to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and understand your business from their perspective? Customer journey mapping is your answer.

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map brings your customers’ journeys to life visually, making it much easier to see how their experiences flow across your brands’ touchpoints. It’s a strategic approach to optimising your customer experiences, which is much more effective than trying to understand and improve individual touchpoints at a tactical level.

Your customers do not see your touchpoints as separate entities - for them, their experience with you is (or, should be) seamless. The only way you’ll truly understand your business from the perspective of your customers is to take a step back and review their journey from end to end.

Rob Pellow, Innovation Director at Armadillo

“Key is to understand what to do when you have the information, especially around personalisation. This might mean there is an interesting sidebar about making sure the journey is holistically joined up. It’s good to know that your customer is moving from email X to website Y and then seeing social post Z, but the real key is making those journeys as consistent as possible”

“In our CRM-focussed world, this is always the most important thing to us – someone who has identified themselves by hard data gathering or observed behaviour will always have that reflected back to them. This regularly presents tech challenges as very few brands have the oft-sought after single customer view powering every bit of their tech stack. So, while you are creating these user journey maps, you should also have an eye on optimising your data flows so that at worst, customers aren’t seeing conflicting messages and, at best, you use every touch point to leverage relevance and engagement.”

“Quite often, that means we build connectors – ways for us to gather the data and then distribute that to wherever it’s needed in order to deliver the best possible ROI on all campaigns, short and long term.”

When and why is a customer journey map used?

Customer journey maps can be used to meet many objectives. It’s a good idea to have a clear set of goals for your mapping project before you begin, to make sure that you maintain focus and mine the most relevant data. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular examples of when and why a customer journey map might be used.

To help your business better understand your customers

Creating a customer journey map can be the perfect way to help your departments and colleagues better understand how customers engage with the business. By facilitating this understanding, colleagues across the company - especially those who might not see the value in digital marketing or your website - can see how each touchpoint contributes to the bigger picture.

This can make cross-functional collaboration easier, help you to build business cases for strategies or change, and turn your colleagues into your customers’ biggest advocates by feeling more included and knowledgeable about the journeys they take.

To identify gaps in the customer experience

It’s easy to become entrenched in your business, as you live and breathe its goals, challenges and successes. This can make it very difficult to step back and put yourself in your customers’ shoes, with the fresh eyes and objective mindset needed to fully understand their needs, frustrations or expectations. Enter the customer journey map!

Dedicating time to a customer journey mapping project, and visualising the journeys your customers take from brand awareness through to brand loyalty, helps you to objectively review and understand your customers and their experiences. If there are pain points or experience gaps that you weren’t aware of before or didn’t have the headspace to see, customer journey mapping will help you to cut through the noise and bring any issues to light.

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To improve your products and processes

No business is perfect. The only way to truly improve is to harness the insights and experiences of your greatest asset - your customers. Customer journey mapping plots out the various touchpoints in a customer’s journey with your company, and in doing this can highlight problematic or inefficient processes that might lead to drop-offs, frustrations, complaints or even cancellations. Aim for the most simple, user-friendly processes possible to move your customers along in their journey.

Customer journey mapping can also help you to refine and optimise your products and services, making them as enjoyable and easy as possible for customers to use. Delivering a good product or service will improve customer retention and brand loyalty.

To deliver relevant, meaningful and impactful communications

Creating a customer journey map will help you to recognise your customers’ various wants, needs, questions and expectations at each touchpoint across their journeys.

Armed with this insight, you can then create a marketing and communications plan that is insight-led and data-driven. Delivering targeted and relevant messages to your customers at key stages throughout the journey can help them to feel understood and appreciated as consumers, which in turn creates a sense of trust and brand preference. Showing attuned customer-centricity can be the strategy that wins your potential customers’ business and creates loyal brand advocates.

Georgie Patel, Marketing Director, at data marketing consultancy Celerity:

“We’re seeing a few key trends change CX communications:

“Hyper-personalisation. Going beyond simple personalisation and looking to really maximise the data brands have available to them.

“Focusing on the human experience. Similar to hyper-personalisation in that it looks at how brands create experiences that feel more human and connect with consumers more easily.

“Channel-less, which is moving beyond thinking about channels and focusing on ensuring a consistent experience with your brand.

“Chatbots are becoming increasingly popular in both B2C and B2B. Great for servicing customer queries, qualifying new leads and increasing website conversion rates. Also they’re on 24/7 so very useful for brands operating in multiple time zones.

“Finally, CX comms is also seeing reduced investment in mobile apps and more use of existing messaging apps. Brands are realising it’s hard to gain attention in the crowded smartphone space, so are looking at ways to use the apps that many people already have such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.”

To prevent churn

Every business has a churn rate - the rate at which customers stop doing business with your company. If you notice a spike or concerning trend in your churn rate, it can be easy to feel panicked, overwhelmed or completely in the dark with where to start in addressing it.

Customer journey mapping and the insight it provides into where and why your customers might be encountering problems or frustrations will help. By plotting out your customers’ experiences step-by-step, you will be able to identify the areas of concern and plan to improve them. It’s also helpful to have existing customer journey maps to review and interrogate, so that you can see where the experience might have changed over time. For example, did a change in the website (i.e. providing more up-front clarity on shipping costs) positively or negatively affect the abandon cart rate?

Georgie Patel, Marketing Director, at data marketing consultancy Celerity:

“It’s important to be proactive rather than reactive to churn. Don’t just send a half price offer to reactivate a customer once they cancel their membership. We work with lots of our clients to score “likelihood to lapse” using propensity modelling. This enables brands to proactively engage customers demonstrating behaviours associated to churning.

“Always make sure you’re asking people why and offering customers different options. The best brands reduce churn by offering customers the ability to pause subscriptions for a certain amount of time or to reduce the emails they receive via a preference centre. Any cancellation flow should always try to offer options and collect feedback so you can gain insights into why churn is happening and make changes.

“Overall make sure you are constantly looking at and optimising the whole customer journey. Retention strategies are still such an important part of the customer journey and shouldn’t be overlooked.”

To close the deal

Are you finding that potential customers make it all the way from brand awareness through to the point of becoming a customer, but then drop off in what feels like big numbers? Mapping out the customer journey will provide a clear indication of the touchpoints and experiences that lead up to the point of conversion, which in turn will highlight the areas of potential concern.

By matching up your prospects’ needs to how they are fulfilled in the moments before becoming a customer, it becomes much easier to exceed their expectations and deliver simple, helpful experiences that translate to sales.

How to create a customer journey map

Now you know what a customer journey map is, why it’s important and how it can help your business, it’s time to create your own. Follow our step-by-step guide below and get ready to unlock some invaluable customer experience insights.

1.     List the touchpoints

Touchpoints are all the places online (and sometimes offline) that your customers can interact with you. This includes your website, social media, emails, paid media and advertising, PR, affiliates, search engines, app, partners, retailers, events, review websites and more. Wherever a customer might find your business, that’s a touchpoint.

Start by creating a list of every touchpoint for your business. Once you have your list of touchpoints, consider where each falls in the customer journey or funnel - from awareness through to becoming an engaged customer - and organise them accordingly. Think about how your audience might feel at each touchpoint. Are they curious, in need of persuading, looking for specific content, feeling frustrated? Inviting colleagues from different departments in the business to help out here can be really useful, as they might be able to provide anecdotal or data-led insights about your customers that you aren’t aware of.

You should also consider each touchpoint in terms of potential obstacles or blockers. Which devices are people using at each touchpoint and does the experience you deliver stack up? Do some of your touchpoints fall completely flat when compared to your competitors, or does the experience they provide let the rest of the journey down? How does each touchpoint support how your brand is perceived and is the messaging tailored to align each touchpoint with where it sits in the funnel?

2.     Identify your customer personas

You might already have customer personas - semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on data and insight - created and ready to analyse. If you don’t, use a combination of your business intelligence data, market research and your target audience characteristics to segment your customers into important groups. Once you have your segments defined, create personas using demographic information, their motivations and frustrations, real quotes from existing customers, and the touchpoints they might use to engage with your company.

Once you have your customer personas in hand, it’s time to decide which persona will be the focus persona for your customer journey map. Each persona will have a very different journey from learning about your brand to becoming a customer, and trying to tackle too many personas with one map can make the process ineffective and diffuse. Choose your most common persona - i.e. the persona that represents the majority of your customers - and start from there.

Georgie Patel, Marketing Director, at data marketing consultancy Celerity:

“Customer personas can be defined several ways. Most brands start with demographic or geographic information and look for commonalities and trends in their customer base. Mixing behavioural data such as purchase history, engagement metrics, journey stage etc. can add further insights and depth to personas. More advanced personas look to use propensity modelling which scores people on their likelihood to do something.

“Currently, we’re seeing more brands utilise swathes of data when looking at customer segmentation, profiling and targeting, incorporating lifestyle data, interests, attitudes and values, even information like political persuasion. All these data points are increasingly available because of social media and online presence.

“The benefits of well-defined customer personas are better targeting, the ability to create stronger propositions and the delivery of more personalised and engaging customer experiences – which ultimately result in more sales.”

3.     Gather research

When creating your customer journey map it is important to make the most of all of the insights, feedback and data you have at your disposal. By doing so, you’ll make sure that your maps are representative of the real-life journeys your customers take, including the influences or real-world issues that occur along the way. The more data-driven your customer journey map is, the more useful and effective it will be in meeting your journey mapping goals. Use the following data sources to gather as much research as you can.

●      Customer satisfaction surveys

Mine the responses you’ve got to any existing customer satisfaction surveys or create new ones to get targeted insights about your customers’ experiences. Look for touchpoints that are mentioned time and time again, or themes that prevail across multiple touchpoints.

●      Customer reviews

            Customers usually leave reviews if they are feeling very happy or very frustrated. Analyse your                        reviews to see where their moments of joy or unhappiness lie.

●      NPS or other customer experience metrics

           You might use NPS, Voice of the Customer, the Customer Effort Score or a different method of                       collecting customer feedback. Analyse your data and look for semantic themes or popular topics.

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●      Surveys

            Reaching out to your existing customers to learn more about their experiences with your business                is  good practice at any time, but can be especially useful for gathering research for your journey                mapping project. Likewise, on-page surveys can collect useful data to better understand your                      website experience.

●      Website analytics

Whether you use Google Analytics or a different analytics platform, the data it provides is invaluable. Analyse how touchpoints are contributing to your website traffic, which touchpoints drive sales, where the most drop-offs occur, and which pages are potentially causing friction - high bounce rates are a good indicator of this.

●      Website searches

If your website has search functionality, review the results to see which topics or questions your customers are looking for. This data can be used to improve the customer experience across multiple touchpoints.

●      Competitor research

            It’s a safe bet that your customers won’t just interact with your brand before they purchase. They’ll              be engaging with your competitors, creating an overlap between their customer journey with you                and with other brands. Research your competitors and their touchpoints, looking for areas where                  they outperform you and could potentially win business.

●      Conducted interviews

            Sometimes nothing beats sitting down with a panel of your customers or targeaudience to find out              what their expectations of your brand are, or how they found thjourney before they become a                      customer. Although time-intensive, getting their feedback on individual touchpoints or the journey              as a whole can be invaluable, and takes the guesswork out of understanding how people                              experience your business.

●      Site navigation maps

Analyse your website navigation map, looking at the structure of the website and how people move from page to page to complete their goals. Does it flow well? Does it provide a logical and simple experience that turns website visitors into customers?

●      Website chatbots, customer service queries and FAQ sections

            Use the queries that your chatbots and customer service teams receive to better understand the                customer journey. Are there obvious narrative trends and areas of concern at particular stages in                the journey? You can also use your analytics platform to see which FAQ pages get the most hits                   and engagement, to better understand where your customers are struggling in their experience                   with you.

●      Insights from the sales team

            If you have sales colleagues in the business, conduct research with them to find out the most                        common questions, frustrations, expectations and needs of your prospects and customers are. Are              there commonalities with the prospects that don’t become a customer?

      4. Identify which elements to include in your customer          journey map

Your customer journey map can represent various states or processes in the customer journey. It’s best to start by analysing the current state of your customer journeys, because this will highlight how your prospects and customers are interacting with your business in real-time. We’ve identified the key journey mapping elements available:

●      Current state

Current state journey maps are rooted in data, insight and research. Not only will you gain insights into how things are currently working, but they will flag up any issues or areas for improvement that are happening in the here and now. This is especially true if you’re worried about your churn rate or have noticed a drop in sales.

Starting with the current state also means that you’ll be creating a benchmark map to improve on, so that going forward it’ll be easier to track any wins gained from the improvements and optimisations you make. Plus it’s a great look-back tool to track your businesses’ progression over time.

●      Day in the life

            Day in the life customer journey mapping plots the typical day of your focus persona, from when                  they wake up to when they go to bed. This type of map illustrates at which times during the day                  your customers interact with your brand, when throughout the day they might engage with your                  products and services, and which problems they might face as the day progresses.

Day in the life maps are especially useful for spotting opportunities to solve problems throughout the day, and creating great experiences at times when your customers may not be actively seeking out your brand.

●      Future state

Once you know the current states of your customer journeys, it is so much easier to plan for the future and identify how to deliver new value for your customers - be that via optimised customer experiences, new touchpoints you’d like to utilise, or new products or services. After all, you can’t transform something that you don’t understand.

Future state journey maps are all about creativity, ideal scenarios and ideation. They are driven by your customer experience vision, not by your customer experience present or past.

●      Service map

Customer journey maps focus on the end-to-end, front-stage experience. Service maps or blueprints focus on what happens behind the scenes in terms of delivery and operations and link that through to your customers’ experiences. It’s like holding a mirror up to the internal workings of your business, from teams and processes through to systems and infrastructure. They combine the scenarios faced by the customer with the scenarios affecting the organisation, and are most useful and accurate when worked on by members of different areas of the business.

Cross-functional collaboration means that every voice within the company gets to share their idiosyncratic experiences and insights.

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