You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. That’s the principle behind mapping out your customer journey. It’s a way to get an insight into how it feels for your customers to deal with you at each step along the path.
And since understanding your customer is vital to making them feel good about buying and using your product, customer journey mapping is a valuable tool to support this Big Idea.
Why Do we Need to Understand the Customer Journey?
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Understanding your customer, their needs, perceptions, and experiences, is vital if you are to sell to them and serve them well. And the customer journey is the metaphor we use to represent how the customer progresses through stages of:
- Recognising they have a need
- Becoming aware of your product or service
- Taking an interest in your offering and starting to consider it
- Evaluating your product or service
- Perhaps testing it with a trial
- Making their purchase
- Experiencing your product or service as a paying customer
- Enjoying it and becoming a loyal customer
- In the ideal world, being prepared to advocate for your product or service
This is sometimes also known as the Buyer’s Journey.
What is the Customer Journey?
So, a customer journey is a metaphor for the set of experiences your customers have with you. We often represent it as a Customer Journey Map, which represents the stages visually. This will help you understand their experience with your brand from their first engagement with it to the mature phase of a loyal, long-term relationship.
The Value of Customer Journey Mapping
Customer journey mapping helps you see your business from your customer’s point of view. This is valuable in:
- Determining how to market and sell your products or services
- Understanding where some customers bail out of active consideration or a decision to purchase
- Spotting pain points where customers find it hard, uncomfortable, frustrating, or downright awful to deal with you or your agents
- Gaining insight into how customers make buying decisions and what stops them saying yes
- Sharing their experiences with your products – particularly as they start to use them
- Identifying what interactions strengthen or damage their relationship with your brand
Marketers often focus on the early stages of the Customer Journey and so refer to it as the Buyer’s Journey. It’s as if your job is done once a customer makes their purchase.
My advice is to avoid this trap of seeing as the journey being over once they have bought. This is overly transactional. Loyal customers are not only ‘repeat customers’; they are also potential marketers and sales agents for your brand.
How to Map the Customer Journey
Before you can map your customer journey, you need to know who your customers are. And for that, you’ll need to define your buyer personas. Once you understand them, you can map out the experience each one will have. There will certainly be a lot of overlap, but the differences will be key to understanding how to serve the needs and preferences of each distinct persona.
Next, you will need to identify the generic stages of their journey with you. The list above will be helpful, but you want to group them into fewer stages – or expand some into more detail. Once you have those, review every touchpoint where your customer interacts with your business, brand, or partners, at each stage.
At each touchpoint, ask yourself (or better, research) :
- what do they do?
- how will they feel?
- what are their intentions?
Types of Customer Journey
There are many different types of customer journey map that you can prepare, based on your precise objectives. Hubspot usefully classifies them into four main types:
- Current State
This visualises how your customers currently experience your business
- Future State
And this visualises how you intend them to experience your business – ideal for building a new customer journey either as a refresh or as part of a new product development
Ideal for focusing on how your customers experience the daily use of a product or service that they spend a lot of time with
- Service Blueprint
This focuses on your side of the interactions, so you can optimise your internal processes
A very helpful article on MyCustomer.com illustrates nine example customer journey maps. These show the diverse ways you can represent the knowledge and ideas you collate.
Fixing the Customer Journey
The final step is to take what your customer journey map has taught you and start to address the pain points and problems you have exposed.
The place to start is with the end of their journey. Get your customer care right first, to ensure as many customers as possible will become loyal customers. The alternative is that they easily become angry brand enemies.
Then fix the adoption processes that make it easy for new customers to enjoy your products quickly. After that, address the processes that allow them to try your product and make the right purchase decision for them. And so work your way back through evaluation, interest and finally product and brand awareness.
Why not start at the top of the funnel?
Because if you bring more people in and too many slip through or buy and then become disappointed, your early work is wasted.
What is Your experience of the Customer Journey?
We’d love to hear your experiences, ideas, and questions. Please leave them in the comments below.
To learn more…
There are a number of useful links throughout this article. And there are also some related topics it wasn’t possible to link to in a seamless way. For further information, check out all of these Big Ideas:
- Voice of the Customer
- New Product Development
- Buyer Personas
- Marketing Automation
- Customer Relationship Management
- Customer Care