Understanding the journey a customer takes when engaging with your product or service, whether they be euphoric experiences or potential pain points, is more important today than ever. Business competition across multiple industries is fierce. Customers are constantly faced with alternatives that do not include your product or service. With this in mind, it’s vital to listen and evaluate the journey your customers take to get to you and identify gaps and pain points. It’s also necessary to course correct, when needed, to remain competitive.
What is the Customer Journey?
To truly grasp the importance of the customer journey is to understand exactly what it is. The customer journey is the entirety of interactions a customer experiences with a company, product, or service during the duration of their relationship. Such a journey could last for weeks or years, depending on the service or product offered and the overall nature of the engagement. In addition, attribution plays an important role in understanding a customer journey.
Difference between the buyer journey and customer journey
Some may think of the customer journey as being identical to the buyer journey. The two can overlap, but the buyer’s journey is different from a customer’s journey. Specifically, the buyer journey represents the steps and interactions a buyer takes that lead to a product or service purchase. Once the sales process ends, the buyer journey ends. Alternatively, the customer journey may include that buyer journey, but it continues post-purchase and lasts for the duration of the relationship.
Some companies focus only on the buyer journey. While it’s never a bad thing to understand how prospects decide to buy from you, retaining that customer requires focus and ongoing work. It’s true that, in most industries, it’s less expensive to retain a customer than to secure a new one. With this in mind, more value should be placed on understanding the customer journey’s importance while not ignoring the buyer journey.
Customer Journey Mapping and Why it’s Important
Knowing how to get from point A to point B often requires a map. While a sales funnel can also be described as guiding prospects from point A to point B, the customer journey is more comprehensive. The same care organizations take to guide prospects through that sales process also applies to understanding how to retain customers after the sale. To do so properly, a customer journey map is essential to properly understand what your customers experience as they engage with you.
Customer journey mapping is the process of creating a visual story related to your customer’s interactions with your brand. This map can be in the form of a diagram or any other visual that explicitly outlines your customers’ multiple engagements with your brand. Mapping the customer journey may sound a bit daunting at first, but it’s truly not. While not rocket science, it does require an understanding of what goes into the customer’s experience.
The importance of mapping the customer journey
There are many benefits to mapping the customer journey. Doing so allows companies to do the following:
- Better understand your customers. Knowing what your customers want and how they want it is a crucial step in understanding their journey. When you can anticipate their wants and needs and proactively address them to their satisfaction, you’ll create tremendous goodwill.
- Increase customer retention rates. As mentioned earlier, it’s significantly less expensive to keep a customer than to attract a new one. Mapping the customer journey allows you to meet their needs proactively and, therefore, entice more customers to stay after the purchase decision than to look for alternatives.
- Create a customer-focused environment. Customers enjoy being valued. When your staff works to delight customers, and that desire comes from the top down, it resonates with customers, making them feel special and creates a desire to stick around.
- Implement proactive customer service. Do you know what your customers want? If not, you should. Anticipating your customers’ wants leads to a proactive approach to customer service where you often address their needs before they even know they have any.
How to Create a Customer Journey Map
Now, for the piece de resistance, actually creating a customer journey map. Keep in mind that there is no one right way to map the customer journey. Still, there are general areas that you should include to properly follow what they experience and how they come to the conclusions they do regarding your brand or an alternative.
1. Set clear objectives for the map
What do you want to discover regarding the development of a customer journey map? This question is paramount, as it helps you define those elements of a customer’s journey that you can influence and include in your list of marketing and communications objectives.
2. Determine the type of customer journey map
There are generally four types of customer journey maps you can develop.
- Current-state customer journey map – outlines everything your customer currently does and experiences when interacting with your company.
- Day-in-the-life customer journey map – identifies those things a customer does and experiences within a specific focus area.
- Future-state customer journey map – rather than identifying what your customers do when they interact with your company, a future-state map shows what your customers will do.
- Service blueprint customer journey map – this type of map can typically work in conjunction with the other three maps, as it helps your brand anticipate where customers will be and how they can be served with excellent customer service.
3. List out all the touchpoints
A critical component of a customer journey map is identifying those areas where you interact with your customers. Relevant touchpoints should be identified on your map and should include areas such as:
- Your website and partner sites
- Social media channels
- Paid advertisement
- Trade shows
- Email marketing
- Review sites
- In-person visits
4. Profile your personas and define their goals
Outlining different customer personas, in conjunction with their specific desires, helps develop your customer journey map. If your company can narrow down your most desirable customers into a handful of specific traits that align with what you do well, marketing strategies can be developed that speak directly to those types of individuals. These then become your most valuable customers.
5. Determine your current resources and the ones you’ll need
Like any other endeavor, determining the budget to execute is just as important as the execution itself. Ensuring your budget can sustain marketing strategies informed by your customer journey map will help ensure you get the most out of it.
6. Take the customer journey yourself
Is your customer journey accurate? To be sure, you can either take it yourself or research valued customers to determine if what you’ve laid out is what goes on in the real world when customers engage your brand.
7. Make necessary changes
If you need to refine and course correct, do it. The first iteration of a customer journey map doesn’t have to be written in stone. In fact, even if your map is in place for a long while, competition and environments change. When this occurs, so should your map.
Customer Journey Example
Some organizations are adept at crafting customer journey maps and deriving key information to understand their customers better. For organizations that require a bit of assistance in this area, there are solutions available. LeadsRx offers multi-touch attribution software designed to help brands and their marketers make informed decisions about the optimal mix of marketing programs best suited to keeping their customers engaged and loyal. At the end of the day, when you understand your customer’s journey, you understand your customers