Knowing how to map the customer journey, and understanding its concepts and benefits, is critical in today’s consumer first world. Customer journey mapping leads to an understanding of how a customer interacts with your brand, including both offline and online touchpoints, and is fundamental to delivering a best in class customer experience. Through mapping out your consumer goals and thought processes at each stage of purchase decision making, and aligning and optimizing your back end processes and consumer facing touchpoints accordingly, you can surprise and delight your customers, delivering an exceptional customer experience at all stages of the funnel.
There is common misconception that mapping the customer journey is challenging. This is due to the complexity of modern customer journeys, often spanning from offline to online, and the fact that there are thousands of possible customer journeys to consider and not one size fits all. Whilst these challenges are viable; through careful planning, technology and a structured approach- they can be overcome. This guide tells you how!
The benefits of customer journey mapping
Before spending time and resource on mapping your customer journey, understanding its benefits are important.
1- Increased Customer Retention
Simply put, if a customer has a delightful experience when interacting with your brand (from pre-purchase to post-purchase) they have no reason to switch alliance to a competitor and will continue to come back. This is hugely important considering acquiring new customers is more expensive than retaining existing ones!
2- Customer Experience As A Differentiator
Customer experience is the new battleground in competitive differentiation. Not only can brands compete solely on this premise but these also cannot ignore it or risk falling behind their competitors.
The reason for this is that consumer expectations have risen to a level where they now expect to have a convenient, trustworthy and personalized experience when engaging with brands.
A Walker study found that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key differentiator between competitors.
Now onto how to map the customer journey.
Stage 1 - Understanding the purchase journey
The marketing funnel, a term widely used by agencies and brands alike, lists the difference stages of a customer goes through when interacting and purchasing from your brand – awareness, consideration, purchase, retention. These stages should be the basis of your customer journey map, however do not be afraid to be even more granular in the stages you outline as in most industries these stages can be dissected into even smaller stages. For example, in real estate the purchase stages may require multiple stages a customer might have to go through before a transaction is made i.e. bank loan.
Stage 2 – Seeing the world through the eyes of the consumer
At each stage of their purchase journey, customers will have different needs and goals that will need to be fulfilled before they move to the next stage. List these down below the purchase stages you outlined previously. For example, imagine a brand that sells IT software, during the consideration stage buyers will likely have multiple questions that are not answered on the website. What type of support is included post purchase? Can I run the software on internal servers or just cloud? The more in depth the needs of your customers are understood, the more fruitful the results of customer journey mapping will be.
Stage 3 – Moving away from touchpoints toward end-to-end journey optimization
To meet the needs and fulfil the goals outlined in stage 2, your consumers will search for outside help. They will talk to friends, family, research on the web and reach out to your company via social media and other support channels. This is the most important part of customer journey mapping and therefore you must be honest with yourself. It is where gaps in your tech stack and customer experience strategy are highlighted! List all touchpoints that are available to customers, both out of your companies control and also in it, that will help them achieve their goals and move down the purchase funnel. For example, at all stages of the customer journey, customers will reach out to brands will social media for information on a product/service (either pre or post purchase), do you have technology and a strategy in place to answer these quickly and efficiently?
Before adding your company’s touchpoints, think to yourself, do they offer support conveniently, quickly and in a personalized manner? If not, this is where there is room for improvement.
Stage 4 – Current State vs Ideal State
Understanding the current state customer journey allows brands to put themselves in the shoes of their consumers and gain insights on what areas of their customer experience strategy can be improved. Critical to being able to do this effectively is creating an ideal state customer journey. This means conceptualising, ideating and documenting the perfect customer journey you can imagine for your customers where no limitations or restraints are considered (this could relate to budgets, technology or internal processes). When planning your ideal state customer journey, keep in mind the main pillars of customer experience: personalization, convenience and trust.
Importantly this should be done in a workshop format where all departments are represented to ensure that the results are not disjointed and are seamless (a critical aspect of a good customer journey). Often customer experience is disjointed because initiatives are implemented in departmental siloes and not planned as a consideration of the customer journey as a whole.
A comparison of what your customers are currently experiencing and what you’d like them to experience, and the resulting gaps that are identified, are the basis of your customer experience strategy moving forward. This strategy should consider three core areas: technology, data and content.
The Key Pillars Of Transformation
Putting in place an ‘ideal customer journey’ requires companies to look at three key pillars.
Technology - The Deliverer
Commonly, ‘ideal’ customer journeys revolve around technologies and the introduction of new or updated systems. For example, companies might decide to introduce WhatsApp as a communication channel due to its global penetration and consumer popularity. Technology deliverers the ideal state customer journey, without it customer needs will not be met.
Data - The Enabler
In the digital era, data is king. It allows brands to truly understand who their customers are and what stage of their customer journey they are at. Often, in order to create a seamless customer journey, companies will need to remove data siloes through integrating systems and creating a single-source-of-truth. Only then can they understand the customer journey in its entirety.
Content - The Messenger
In this case, content refers to the different touchpoints that consumers interact with and the quality of that interaction. For example, company A invests in WhatsApp For Business solution, and it is fully integrated into their CRM system. ‘Content’ in this respect refers to how personalized, convenient and humane the interaction with a chatbot or an agent is. Whether website, chatbot script, customer service channel, portal or marketing communication, each interaction should be personalized, convenient to the customer and delivered in a friendly and humane manner.
During the era of customer centricity, mapping and understanding the customer journey has become critical. Brands who do not do not prioritize the customer journey are not able to meet customer expectations and risk losing them to their competitors. Through considered investment into data, technology and content initiatives, coupled with a sound strategy, brands can great experiences that delight their customers. They are now ready to use customer experiences as a primary tactic in competitive differentiation. With this guide on how to map the customer journey you are all set to take on your market head on.
Reach out to our team for a free customer experience meeting with one of our consultants!