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You want your customers to buy your product or service and be happy about it right?
Then you're going to need to make your business a customer journey map (or possibly several).
Why? So you and your team can understand how your customers navigate the process of going from stranger to potential customer to loyal customer.
The more you understand your customers' buyer journey, the more you can tailor your marketing and sales schemes to make it easier for your customers and attract other customers in the future.
Basically, before you dive into any marketing scheme for your business, you're going to want to create a customer journey map (along with your buyer persona).
Don't know what this is or how to get started? Don't sweat! In this article, I'll go over what a customer journey map is, why your business should have one, and how to actually create one.
By the end, you'll have all the information you need to create a detailed customer journey map so you can put your best foot forward with your business.
What is a Customer Journey?
A customer journey (also known as a customer journey map or customer experience map) is basically a big visual story about your customer and their interaction with your business. It's also the foundation for creating the best customer experience possible.
There are lots of different formats these maps can take depending on what you set your focus on, but the main idea is you're understanding your ideal customer more. You can chart their actions, get information on what they're thinking, and just generally see things from the customer's perspective.
Remember when you learned about the hero's journey back in school? Yeah, it's kind of like that, but in a short, understandable, and visual format. Like Harry Potter, but in post-it notes: Harry Potter is your customer, magic is your product, and Voldemort is the problem you're solving for your customer.
Thankfully, your customer journey probably won't (or shouldn't) turn into a seven-book series.
With a customer journey map, you'll go through the stages your customer goes through with solving their problem and all the touchpoints they have with your company.
Why It Matters For Your Business
You might be thinking "this seems like a lot, why do I have to do this if I already know about my customer?" Well, dear reader, if you've done any marketing, communication, or customer experience for your business, you've probably already created an abstract version of a customer journey whether you know it or not.
When you actually get your customer journey map down in front of you though, you create a concrete understanding of where your customer's mind is at when you're talking to them.
Essentially walking in your customer's shoes.
This way you can start thinking about your customer interactions strategically and give your customer what they really want.
Don't believe me? Here are four concrete ways (with statistics!) that a customer journey map will help your business.
1. Give Your Business a Focus
With many small business marketing strategies, it's common to start off just throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks (no judgment). But what if you didn't have to do that?
What if you could know you're saying the right things to the right people at the right time? The key to that is to redirect your strategy to your customer. That's one way a customer journey map can help your business.
With the journey fully established, you and the rest of your team always have a reference for what the customer is thinking, what they want to know, what they already know, and what their pain points currently are.
Note: This works best when you share your finished customer journey map with your entire team. Everyone should be able to have a printout or PDF reference of the customer journey map so you're all focused on the same purchase journey and customer stages.
2. Improve Customer Satisfaction
Perhaps not surprisingly, when you consider your customer's needs at every stage of their buying process and dedicate resources to solve their pain points, you're going to get better customer satisfaction.
A 2018 survey on customer journey mapping reported that of all the surveyed companies that used a customer journey mapping methodology, 71% showed improved customer satisfaction.
That's four out of five companies that saw an improvement in customer satisfaction.
3. Find and Correct Problems
Do you ever look at customer retention or conversion rates and wonder what am I doing wrong?
Well, you shouldn't need to once you're through with your mapping process!
With a combination of some simple website analytics and your customer journey maps, you can find where the pain points are in the process and better understand what your customer wants in that stage.
If you know there's a specific stage in the customer's experience that you want to improve, you can create a narrow or focused customer journey map to research all the details of that one area. This way, you can find the best way to fix that specific step.
How can this help your business? Well, in that same 2018 survey from above, it showed that 48% of companies that went through the journey mapping process saw a drop in customer complaints (meaning they were probably able to identify and fix problems that customers were complaining about).
4. Improve Net Promoter Score
You want your existing customers to love your service or product so much they need to tell all their friends about you. (Hint hint: a referral program can help.) However, even with a killer referral program, you won't get a single new customer from it if you don't have a good net promoter score.
The net promoter score is a way to measure how likely your customers are to tell their friends, family, or colleagues about your product or service. The way to improve this score? Successfully provide what your customer needs. And the way you can know you're meeting that need? You guessed it – mapping the customer journey.
According to an Adobe article report, companies that do journey maps right saw 3.5 time greater revenue from customer referrals.
So, have I convinced you that you really should go beyond your buyer persona and invest in creating a customer journey map? Then let's dive in! The first thing you'll want to do is understand what your customer journey map will actually look like.
The Stages of the Customer Journey
When you're starting out with your customer journey map, the first thing you'll want to identify exactly what you want to find out from this customer journey map.
Do you want to know how a customer comes to subscribe to your email list? Do you want to better understand your customer's day-to-day life? Do you want to track how new customers find your product or service and become loyal customers?
You can map all of these different journeys and they will all provide different insights to your target audience, but the most common customer journey map has to do with tracking that customer lifecycle with the buyer's journey (that last option I'd mentioned).
To keep things simple, we're going to stick to a wide-focus customer journey map where you look at how customers interact with your business from the moment they realize they have a problem to well after they've purchased and experienced your product or service.
The stages of this journey will generally stay the same, but you'll find that the steps and touchpoint will likely be more unique to your business and your customer's needs. Those broad stages include:
In the awareness stage, your customer realizes they have an issue or challenge that needs fixing and they're deciding whether or not to make it a priority.
For example, in the customer journey for someone buying a pair of hiking boots, the awareness stage might be when the customer goes for a walk and realizes their shoes just aren't doing the trick. Or they're surfing social media and see a beautiful outdoorsy photo and think "damn, I want to do that."
Within this stage, the steps that the customer might take can vary but here's one set of possible steps with our hiking boot example:
- Recognizes a problem ("Damn, my feet are wet, cold, and covered in blisters from this hike.")
- Decides to deal with the problem ("But I really want to spend more time hiking, so this is important to me.")
- Reads Instagram ad about hiking shoes ("Oh man, hiking shoes, I need some of those in my life.")
Note: When you get into mapping this out, you'll also start to dig up the touchpoints your company has with the customer at this point or how you could potentially alter your marketing strategy to reach the customer at this stage. But we'll get into that later.
So your customer has now decided on their goals and is on a mission to find a solution. They're researching. They're reading. They're watching. They're using whatever your customers use to dig up information on their problem.
So how are they doing this exactly? That's where a combination of your buyer persona and customer journey mapping will help you out.
In our hiking shoe example, here's what the possible steps could be for this part of the journey:
- Reads reviews ("I really trust Backpacker Magazine to know about hiking shoes, what do they recommend?")
- Searches online for different hiking shoes for sale ("Google shopping, here we go."). Uses Google maps to find nearest stores (good news for Google maps marketers).
- Learns about hiking shoe features ("Wait, should I be getting a hiking boot?")
In the decision stage, you're getting to the home stretch with making the sale. The customers feel confident that this is the option they need and they're gearing up for the purchase.
There are still a few steps in here they'll take before putting down the money like maybe deciding on a specific brand or price point or trying it on, but they're getting to the end of the sales funnel.
This is where, at least in the eCommerce world, your website is gold. It can easily make or break your customer's experience.
Take our hiking shoe example and the steps that customer might take:
- Compares different shoe styles, prices, brands, etc. ("You're telling me these kicks seriously cost 250 bucks??")
- Goes to a store and tries different shoes on ("Do these shoes make my butt look big?)
- Buys the hiking shoes ("Shut up and take my money!")
- Waits for shoes to arrive ("Are they here yet?")
- Gets shoes and tries them on ("Seems solid, let's go for a hike!")
- Tests them out ("Hold up, they aren't waterproof?!")
In a perfect world, every customer would love what they bought, there would be no issues, and this stage wouldn't exist. However, that is not the case, and you need to be ready to deal with that and still (hopefully) make it a good experience for your customer.
How do you do this?
Some kick-ass customer service and plenty of touchpoints for them to get help from. While it would be nice to just always have happy customers right off the bat, the truth is you might not.
Don't freak out though – with the right customer interaction, this can actually become the moment that transforms casual customers into loyal customers.
Take our (now unhappy) hiking shoe customer:
- Navigates the return policy ("I want my money back for these stinkin' shoes.")
- Calls customer service ("Hello? Yeah, your shoes suck.")
- Returns or exchanges the shoes ("Hope this different pair is better.")
- Receives different pair of shoes ("Now these shoes RULE.")
Note: Keep in mind that while it's most common for this to be after the purchase, you can also weave service into other stages as well and it will depend on your specific brand or product.
5: Customer Loyalty
The stage you've all been waiting for. The long-awaited "loyalty" stage.
I don't think I need to tell you that having loyal customers is like having the golden ticket to your business. (In case I do: Attaining a new customer is 5-25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.)
If you've gotten to this point in the customer journey, you're well on your way to having a solid base of loyal customers who refer you to their friends and trust your brand above others.
HOWEVER. You're not quite there yet.
At this point, it's a good idea to check back in with the customer through something like an automated email to ensure they are satisfied and make sure they had their goals met.
The steps the customer might go through with our hiking shoe company could look something like this:
- Receives email asking to review product and service ("Oh, hey this company again.")
- Gives rating ("10 out of 10 would buy from again.")
- Posts about shoes on Instagram ("LOVING my hiking shoes!")
- Buys new pair once the shoes have worn down ("I'll take five please.")
How to Map Out a Customer Journey Step-by-Step
So at this point, you know what a customer journey map is, why to do one, and a general idea of what it'll look like by the end. Now, how do you actually do the journey mapping process? I'll go through every step within three stages to get you fully ready to create a badass customer journey map.
The good news is that you don't have to spend a crazy amount of time on it to get a relatively good customer journey map.
Prepping Your Customer Journey Mapping
Before you can dive in with the post-its and the physical map, you're first going to need some direction and information.
Step 1: Define Your Goal
The first thing in the entire process of journey mapping is to establish what your goals are for the map. By the end of this, you're definitely going to understand the customer more, but what else are you trying to get out of this?
Improve customer retention? Improve customer experience before they make a purchase? Understand the customer's pain points better? You will likely get a combination of these, but it'll help if you really focus on one or two and write that focus down.
Step 2: Collect Customer Data
This is the real meaty bit of the process. Honestly, it's probably the biggest lift of the entire thing, but don't be intimidated! If you've already made your buyer personas, you're probably more than halfway there already with plenty of solid user research that you can use here too.
There are lots of different ways you can collect data about your customer's journey, but here are a few to get you started:
- Website analytics
- Website behavior analytics like heatmaps or recordings
- Customer reviews
- Customer surveys
- Customer service interactions
- Customer engagement on social media
- Customer persona data
- Marketing team insight
- Customer interviews
- Customer feedback
Step 3: Gather Materials
Once you've gotten all your detailed customer journey analytics, now we get into the fun part.
Get your butt to a stationary store (or Amazon) and go HAM.
I'm talking, large sheets of butcher paper, different colored post-it notes, pens, masking tape, and sheets of scratch paper. (Optional supplies that are also good for moral support: whiteboard, glitter, and scented markers.)
On top of the stationary, you'll want to print out all the data you collected from the previous step for as many people as you're working with for mapping the customer journey. There's just something about hard copies on paper that make the entire customer journey process easier and more fun. Sifting through papers, marking things up, not having a screen to block person-to-person interactions.
Mapping Out the Customer Journey
Okay, this is the step you've probably been expecting. The actual concrete process of journey mapping. Let's get into it.
Step 1: Create Your Map Canvas
First off, grab that butcher paper and tape it onto a big whiteboard or the wall. Draw in a table with the steps of your customer's journey experience (hopefully you've figured those out from your research phase) along the top, and the categories about your customer that you want to delve into along the side.
Depending on your customer journey mapping goal, the categories will likely be different, but here are a few common suggestions:
- Pain points
- Tech limits
- Current touchpoints
Or, you can get a head start by using our (free) customer journey template.
Note: You probably don't want to do ALL of these categories. Choose a few that you think will be most helpful to your company so it's a bit more manageable.
Step 2: Fill In Your Journey Map
Pull out your multicolored post-it notes and start scribbling down some ideas with your customer experience in mind.
If you're doing this in a group, try brainstorming separately or in smaller groups, then come together and share the ideas you've come up with.
One idea is to start with something called an empathy map canvas to start getting into the mindset of your target persona and writing down their different thoughts, emotions, pain points, successes, etc.
Once you have those different post-its, slap them onto your map canvas in the right place and you've got yourself a killer customer journey map.
I know you've finished the customer journey map, but don't go riding off into the successful company sunset just yet. You still have some work to do.
Now that you have your customer journey map, you have to use it.
Step 1: Digest and Digitize
Take some time to process what your map looks like, the different steps, and the different feelings and actions. Is there anything there you didn't expect? Did it bring up anything about your customer experience that you hadn't thought about before?
You'll also want to find a way to transfer your customer journey map from the wall to your computer. Whether you do it with fancy software, a Google spreadsheet, or even just taking a picture of it, that's your choice.
What not to do: Leave the butcher paper map up on the wall, do nothing with it, and just expect change to start happening.
Step 2: Share With Your Team
If you have more people on your team, make sure everyone gets access to that digitized version of the customer journey map. This way all your people will have a mutual understanding about your customer journeys and you can work as a brand to improve every part of the customer experience.
Step 3: Incorporate the Customer Journey Map Into Your Strategy
In every one of your customer touchpoints, it's now time to start examining whether or not those touchpoints actually meet the customer expectation based on your new journey map.
Using your customer journey map to improve your marketing strategy and customer experience might be the most challenging part of benefitting from a customer journey map because you will likely have to alter if not completely overhaul the way you're currently managing customer experiences.
At the same time, it's also the most important and what will bring you that return on investment. Once you know which customer touchpoints bring value to your customer's experience, you can double down on the ones that improve customer experience and scrap those that don't.
And there you have it! You now have a customer-centric company. I hope this was useful for you. If so, I'd love to hear your comments below!