Customer Journey Map: Everything You Need To Know

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Can you describe a customer’s experience with your brand or company? If you’ve never made a customer journey map, that description is probably lacking some valuable details. Creating a customer journey map will help you understand a customer’s experience before, during and after buying your product or service, so you can identify barriers and create the best possible experience for every customer. Here’s what you need to know to better understand your audience.

What Is a Customer Journey Map?

A customer journey map is a visual tool that helps you define your customers’ needs, problems and engagement with your brand. When used properly, a map can be a vital component of effective project management.

The map is laid out as a timeline that plots every interaction a customer has with your business from awareness to repeat business. It helps you see what the customer experiences at every touchpoint.

For example, a customer journey map might help you see that a customer has trouble evaluating your product through your mobile website, couldn’t find the information they needed online, appreciated your in-store customer service and decided to purchase again.

Benefits of a Customer Journey Map

A customer journey map helps you gain a better understanding of your customers so you can spot and avoid potential concerns, make better business decisions and improve customer retention.

The map helps you see which touchpoints your customers love, so you can emphasize those, and where there are common pain points you want to improve.

You can use the map to create standard operating procedures in your business, train your staff, help all team members better understand your customers, and improve your product or service for a better user experience.

Elements of a Customer Journey Map

Customer Persona

You can’t understand your customer’s experience until you know who your customer is. If you haven’t already created a customer persona to represent a group of your customers, start there.

Phases

A phase is the general stage of decision making and purchasing the customer is in. You can break down buying stages in several ways, but here’s a basic outline:

  • Awareness: The customer realizes they have a need, problem or opportunity.
  • Research: They research solutions to determine whether to make a purchase and evaluate options.
  • Consideration: They decide they’ll make a purchase to address their need, and they narrow down their options.
  • Purchase: They choose a solution and buy it.
  • Support: The customer uses the product or service, engages with the company and decides whether to purchase again.

Touchpoints

Touchpoints are every interaction the customer has with your brand throughout the buying journey. Phases may each include several touchpoints.

The touchpoints of your customer’s journey depend on your approach to marketing, sales, product and customer service. They might include things like:

  • Marketing collateral, like posters, stickers, billboards, flyers, commercials or display ads
  • Physical properties, including your storefront or office space
  • Digital properties, including your website and social media pages
  • Interactions with your staff, such as cashiers, customer service reps and sales reps
  • Purchase experience, including the price and checkout process
  • Any post-purchase follow-up from your company, like an email or phone call
  • Ongoing customer support
  • Renewal or cancellation of your service

Customer Thoughts, Actions and Emotions

This is where you plot the precise customer experience at each touchpoint. What are they thinking to themselves? Which steps do they take? How are they feeling?

Don’t guess at this information! Get real feedback from your customers through surveys and—even better—live interactions with your customer support staff. Basic CSAT (customer satisfaction), NPS (net promoter score) and CES (customer effort score) questions are a great place to start.

Opportunities

Once you’ve plotted your customer journey, you can include room to note opportunities based on what you see on the map.

Opportunities are anywhere you can remove pain points and improve the buying journey for your customer—where are your customers hitting roadblocks that keep them from buying (or coming back)?

Six Steps to Creating a Customer Journey Map

To create a customer journey map:

  1. Decide what to measure. Get clear on your goals, so you know what to look for as you plot your customer journey.
  2. Create your customer persona. Start with knowing which buyer you’re focused on and what their general needs and wants are.
  3. Define your customer buying phases. What are the stages your customer goes through between discovering their problem and deciding to purchase your product or service? Which stages happen after purchase?
  4. Plot your touchpoints. Within each phase, where does your customer interact with your brand?
  5. Add customer thoughts, actions and emotions. At each touchpoint, what is the customer prompted to think, do and feel?
  6. Note your opportunities. Based on your goals and what you discover through your customer journey map, which changes can you make at each touchpoint or within each phase to improve the customer experience?

There’s no correct way to design your customer journey map.

You could build it in a simple spreadsheet that includes swimlanes for phases, touchpoints, thoughts/actions/feelings and opportunities. Some journey maps are more intricately designed, with touchpoints and emotions illustrated and wrapped around a series of phases.

Validating Your Journey Map

If you create a map internally based on the phases and touchpoints your company identifies, you’re relying on assumptions that aren’t necessarily valid.

To validate your customer journey map, you have to bring the customer into the process.

Using surveys and customer interactions to determine customer thoughts, actions and emotions is a good start—you’re not assuming your customers’ reactions to your touchpoints.

But what if you’ve missed touchpoints in the customer journey? Or assumed they encounter them in one phase when they actually encounter them during another? Talking to your customers can help you identify any misguided assumptions and ensure your map accurately reflects the customer experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the sections of a customer journey map?

A customer journey map generally includes a summary of your customer persona, purchase phases, touchpoints with your company, customer thoughts/actions/emotions and opportunities to improve the customer experience.

What do you use a customer journey map for?

Companies use a customer journey map to better understand their customers’ experience when interacting with their brand. Knowing what a customer is experiencing during each touchpoint with your brand can help you identify pain points and improve the customer experience.

How do you define customer journey?

The customer journey is the series of phases and steps a potential buyer experiences before, during and after purchasing your product or service. It can include everything from their independent research and your advertising and marketing to the shopping experience and your customer service and retention efforts.


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