As a CX professional, a crucial part of providing a positive customer experience is the ability to place yourself in the mind of your customer. Conversely, a failure to fully understand the customer's thought process when deciding to make a purchase means that you're not understanding how potential sales can slip through the cracks.
You can put yourself into the shoes of your customer base by developing your own customer journey map. Then, you can use a customer journey template as the foundation for creating your own journey map that applies to your specific business.
What is a customer journey?
The processes a customer takes when interacting with your business to purchase -- or not purchase -- a product or service is known as a customer journey. The user experience starts with the customer's recognition of your product or service. The customer path will then go through a series of customer interactions, thoughts and considerations about the product or service until a decision is made on whether the customer believes the product or service you are selling is worth the money you're asking.
If a customer journey indeed ends successfully in the form of a completed sale, the journey should not be considered complete. Instead, the customer will again go through the process, this time deciding if they will choose to become a repeat customer or advocate for your business or brand.
What is a customer journey map?
A customer journey map is a documented flow diagram created to visualize the journey that most of your current and potential customer base are likely to follow. It's essentially a step-by-step representation of your customer's interactions as they discover, research, purchase and reflect on the value of the product or service.
Customer journey maps are similar to service blueprints; they are both visual tools for understanding business processes. A service blueprint, however, delves into the process an organization takes when delivering a service, while a customer journey map details the customer experience, including a customer's emotions and touchpoints.
Why are customer journey maps important?
For many businesses, a customer's journey is becoming increasingly complicated, thanks to social media and other connected technologies that are used as touchpoints between potential customers and the product or service. Thus, it's more important than ever to create a customer journey map. This can provide a detailed shared vision across the organization so all departments involved can better support the entire process.
The purpose of a customer or user journey map really depends on your company's overall goal. In general, however, journey maps provide visibility into what potential customers are seeking at various customer touchpoints. This information can then be used to make changes to how you're interacting with customers to better increase the chances of a sale versus a lost sale.
Customer journey map template
Because each business is unique, every customer journey map will be slightly different. That said, a customer journey template can help get you started creating your own specific map.
6 steps to create a custom customer journey map
When setting out to build a customer journey map for the first time, it's important to understand how to create the most accurate and useful document. CX teams should gather internal information that provides details into marketing, service and sales processes. But even more so, a customer journey map should gather information directly from prospective, current, former and even lost customers. This includes information gathering techniques such as customer surveys, service ratings and various market testing. Much of this data is likely stored and cataloged in a digital CX platform if your company has one.
With this type of information gathered, you can create a simple customer journey map in just six steps using the template provided above. Each step corresponds to a different column in the template.
- Define your target customer
In the first step, understand who your product or service caters to most. Be sure to understand how it differentiates from competitors and why those choices were made. Based on this information, you can identify one or more customer demographics that most customers can be categorized into.
This process can help determine the desire of the prospective customer -- and how strong that desire is for your product or service. For example, are your target customers impulse shoppers or do they conduct plenty of research first? Is price the most important purchase factor -- or are you targeting an audience that's looking for a premium brand or service, regardless of price? Once you define your target customer, it will be easier to complete the customer journey map template, especially in the customer goals and customer emotions rows.
- Identify marketing strategies (awareness)
Next, understand how your brand or product is being marketed to the targeted customers you previously identified. This includes methods such as: websites, social media, online or print ads, YouTube videos, webinars, etc. In the customer journey map template, you can record this information in the touchpoints row. Once you identify marketing strategies, you also can begin to fill in the awareness column.
With this information, you can decide whether the marketing content or methods are optimal for your target customer audience. For example, an in-depth product comparison guide would likely be good marketing content for customers that will conduct plenty of research.
- Determine customers' preferred research method (consideration)
In this step, your goal is to walk through the various thought processes that the defined customer persona would likely go through, given their general demeanor, appetite for the product or service and types of marketing and informational content available to them. You can record this information in the consideration column on the customer journey map template.
Consideration is the point in the customer journey where you can begin to understand the type of research the prospective customer does -- or does not -- do, as well as what they consider to be trustworthy resources from a product research perspective.
- Understand reasons for a sale or lack of a sale (decision)
The point where a potential customer decides if the product or service is right for them contains a wealth of information. Unfortunately, this thought process is largely hidden from the company selling the product. That's why customer satisfaction surveys and marketing feedback is so valuable. This data gets to the heart of why some sales happen, while other opportunities are abandoned. You can record this data in the decision column of the customer journey map.
- Analyze customer satisfaction (service)
A customer purchase isn't the last step in the customer journey; it's also important to determine how to educate and help customers with the product or service once they've made that purchase. In this step, you should understand what determines whether a customer is satisfied or unsatisfied. For the most part, this revolves around if the product or service met the expectations of the marketing and customer research performed. Keep in mind that it's not only the specific product or direct service that dictates satisfaction. It can also come down to other factors, including:
- how the customer was treated by customer service representatives;
- if the customer could get satisfactory answers to post-purchase questions, either through product documentation or conversations with customer service reps;
- how long the customer needed to wait on hold for customer service, if at all; and
- the user experience of the website.
- Build repeat customers or brand advocates (loyalty)
Businesses thrive on repeat customers, so it's also important to evaluate the level of your customer's loyalty. From there, you can determine how you can generate brand advocates, or customers who recommend your business through word of mouth, social media or positive reviews.
Based on the level of satisfaction, determine how likely it is that customers will repurchase products or services on a continuous basis. Perhaps even more importantly, how likely are they to advocate for your brand or product to friends and family? Customers who are passionate about what you're doing should be the goal for every business. Gathering data on this step gauges how smoothly the customer journey went.
Reevaluate, update customer journey maps
Customer journey maps are fluid in nature. As products, services and customer interactions change, so will the customer journey map. You must update maps as products and customer preferences change -- or as there are changes in the market. This can include things such as new competitors, changes in regulations, product obsolescence, changes in economic conditions or shifts in targeted customers. Generally, you should review customer journey maps semiannually -- or when major market changes occur.