A customer journey map visualizes every step a current or prospective customer takes with your product, service or brand, across the entire customer journey.
This includes first exposure and research, and goes all the way through to purchase, use, loyalty and retention — detailing each touchpoint along the way.
A customer journey map increases empathy for consumers, by enabling businesses to put themselves in their customers shoes and visualize all the potential areas to add value and reduce friction. This is why customer journey maps are an essential tool for all businesses, across all sectors, whether you operate B2B or B2C or both.
To start with, creating a customer journey map forces you to see your product, service or brand through the eyes of the consumer.
By following the customer experience, step by step, from start to finish, teams can better understands what the consumer is doing, hearing, seeing and feeling as they interact with the business.
The best customer journey maps leave no stone unturned and, as such, can expose weaknesses or disappointments in the customer experience. The flip side, of course, being that once you know where you’re currently underperforming, you can work to make it right.
Customer journey maps can also deliver a host of internal benefits, too.
For one: a better understanding of engagement and experience throughout the customer journey enables a business to allocate accurate funding to certain features and builds.
Imagine, for example, your support team needs to know at what stage of the journey customers are more likely to reach out and make contact. By drawing up a customer journey map, you identify two hotspots — earlier on, in the research phase, and later again, as returning customers come in search of loyalty rewards.
Armed with this information, the support team now has a clear focus: to improve ease of communication for prospective and existing buyers, through website chatbots, Facebook Messenger or call centers — wherever your customer journey map tells you these consumers will be.
Customer journey maps can also seek to motivate employees, by truly understanding the value your product, service or brand gives to customers.
If your company builds medical devices, then your organization’s mission statement and purpose is likely to be felt clearly throughout the team. If your day-to-day activities revolve around streamlining logistics for online grocery delivery, however, this purpose may be less tangible at first.
By uncovering moments of true customer delight and added value through the customer journey map, teams can more readily see why and how the work they do has meaning.
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Customer journey maps can, and should, be used across the whole organization.
The type of ‘customer’ these visualization models work for has no bounds — a customer journey map could be used to better understand the end user of an app, how a store owner comes to renew your business insurance, or how a mother decides to buy her son your electric drum set.
As the use cases for customer journey maps are so wide-reaching, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to creating one.
There are, however, some set steps you’ll need to take to prepare, draft up and validate the customer journey map you have made.
Before you get started with your customer journey map, you need to know why you’re investing time and energy into drawing one up.
In the same way we don’t add features for feature’s sake, we don’t map for the sake of it either. Failing to set a clear objective for your customer journey map may see your work change course or lose traction down the line.
Common goals for customer journey mapping include understanding current pain points in the on-boarding process, or exploring the steps users need to take to purchase again.
Customer journey maps can also be used to imagine ‘what ifs?’ — e.g. to draw up an ideal scenario for how a new buyer would first come across your product, service or brand.
It’s possible you have several buyer personas, each of which takes a different journey when interacting with your business.
That’s why each customer journey map should hone in one just one customer persona — it can help to develop your map alongside a user profile, and name each of the journeys you create, for easy comparison.
It can be a very insightful exercise to set completed maps side-by-side, to see the differences between different users — either current, or prospective. Where are the hotspots for new buyer interaction? How does that compare to existing customers?
A customer journey map works best when every single step of the process is taken into account.
Whilst this takes a while — and may even require in-depth research to find out — the map is only full if every touchpoint has been recognized.
Touchpoints could include seeing your business advertised on Instagram, following a link to your website, reading customer reviews on a third-party blog, the purchase process, delivery of goods at home, unboxing, assembling, maintenance, etc.
You may quickly see there are far more steps involved for the user than you expected.
To gain real insight from a customer journey map, you need to imagine how the customer thinks and feels throughout the experience.
Where do they feel at ease? Where are they uncertain or a little nervous? What is required of them at each stage? Do they ever feel vulnerable or at risk? Are there any moments of true delight?
What are they saying about your product, service or brand to friends and family throughout the journey? Is this positive, negative or neutral feedback? What’s the sentiment?
Not only will adding all these layers in your customer journey map help you empathize with users, but it will certainly teach you a thing or two about your user relationships.
You don’t want to fall victim to any assumptions in your customer journey map.
So, wherever possible, try to validate your work by speaking to real users of your product, service or brand.
This may be through formal face-to-face interviews, or through social media polls, post-purchase surveys, etc.
As technologies develop and customer needs change, so too will your customer journey map.
In fact, your customer journey map should exist as a living, breathing document. One which can help you in your long-term product strategy.
Don’t think that just because you’ve ‘finished’ the task, that you’ve learned all you can.
If given enough importance, a customer journey map can add on-going value to your product, service or brand’s development — bringing you closer to consumers today and into the future.