Understand the customer journey – How to create an effective customer journey map

Understand the customer journey – How to create an effective customer journey map

Even if you run the biggest business organization in the world, your customer is still your boss. To make your product or service successful, you need to have satisfied customers who appreciate your service or product enough to sign a contract or make a purchase.

While customer journeys may sound simple on the surface, recent research has shown that the dynamics of user journeys are changing rapidly in the modern world. 

According to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the modern user expectations are evolving on a daily basis, and an average customer now uses up to 10 different channels to remain in contact with a business. These communication channels are often referred to as touchpoints – and each one of them is important in ensuring a positive user experience (also refers to as UX). 

A study by Salesforce concluded that 80% of customers regard their experience with a business as equally important as the product or service being offered. Further, up to 69% of customers prefer talking to a business representative in real-time before signing a contract or making a purchase. 

In order to meet these changing demands of customers, it is high time that businesses start investing their time and resources into a process known as customer journey mapping. 

What is customer journey mapping?

A customer journey map is essentially a visual representation of the process that each customer undergoes before reaching the final point of making a purchase. This visualization gives businesses an idea of the experience that a customer has with a specific business.

Whether it’s a service providing company, an e-commerce web-store or a physical store, customer journey mapping is important to retain every prospect that visits your business, website, reaches out to you through social media, or visits your store. 

Customer journey mapping is incredibly important for B2B businesses who need to retain customers in a highly competitive environment. By having the entire user journey mapped out, businesses can better respond to customers expectations and provide a personalized experience to every buyer. 

The entire process of customer journey mapping involves stepping into the customer’s shoes. This means analyzing the reasons why customers leave before making a purchase, the aspects of the business that they are unsatisfied with and viewing the business from the customer’s point of view. 

The process of customer journey mapping

To make an effective customer journey map, it is important first to identify all the customers touchpoints. This refers to the different channels through which a customer interacts with a business through the website, social media, or direct/indirect conversation with representatives.

Since each customer is different, it is essential to consider the various buyer personas in the next step of the mapping process. This means analyzing how a millennial buyer persona might be different from one of a Gen Z buyer persona and cater to each customer’s individual needs accordingly. 

The last step in creating a customer journey map is to evaluate the action that a customer takes at each stage of the process and how your brand can respond to these different stages. This serves as the overall experience of the customer at your organization – something that is very important in determining how and why clients react to various scenarios. 

Advantages of creating a customer journey map

While you may think that only business executives or shareholders benefit from customer journey maps, in reality, that is untrue. Each person in your organization will benefit from an effective customer journey map because it provides various teams and departements the opportunity to make their services or products better for the customer.

On a more collaborative level, customer journey maps allow businesses to build a customer-focused perspective instead of a service or product-focused one. 

By developing a customer-focused perspective, businesses can create an efficient flywheel framework. This is a solution that enables companies to engage with current and potential customers, allowing them to perform better than the competition.

Since this is a cycle framework, it is important to establish that each part of the process affects another to keep the flywheel running. In an organization, the actions of one team can impact the actions of another, which is why customer journey mapping is essential at all levels. 

Typically, a business’ flywheel includes the marketing, communication, service, and sales departments. 

Customer journey map for the marketing and communication department

Marketing and communication teams work long and hard to determine when they should target current and potential customers. Even if they have the most effective marketing strategies, all of their efforts could go to vain without a practical customer journey map.

This map will allow the marketing team to pinpoint exactly when they should deliver marketing content to customers to land a conversion. By giving the marketing and communication department access to a customer journey map, the team can effectively give customers the content that they are looking for at the right time following the right path. 

When a potential customer visits your website for the first time, the marketing and communication department needs to step up and convince the visitor to engage and convert before they leave. 

Customer journey map for the service department

The service department is only present in a business to ensure that each potential customer has a positive experience. With visual customer touchpoints and pain points, the service department can view the actual customer experience and alter their strategies accordingly. 

If the service department improves its strategies, potential customers will likely have their problems addressed quicker and thus recommend the business to more people. Good customer service is the key to achieving success in any business organization. 

Customer journey map for the sales department

The sales department has a simple objective: to generate as much revenue as possible. To achieve this, sales teams are constantly looking for opportunities where they can target customers effectively. This can be done more efficiently with a customer journey map since the map allows them to locate new opportunities that might be going unnoticed in routine. 

If the sales department is unaware of the customer’s pain points, they will never be able to make as many sales as they aim to. With a customer journey map, more targeted sales content or engagement strategies can be developed accordingly. 

Customer Journey Map for the Entire Organization

The bottom line is that every department in your organization can benefit from a formal customer journey map. The map allows everybody to locate new opportunities for collaboration, thus ensuring consistency in their customer service efforts.

As a result, the business benefits from a higher ROI. While companies may think that investing in formal customer mapping journeys is not an effective way to spend resources, research by The Aberdeen Group suggests otherwise.

Here are four reasons why every business should invest in customer journey mapping: 

1. Higher returns on marketing investment

There is no purpose in investing more and more into the marketing department if you do not see valuable returns. Using a customer journey map, an organization can benefit from up to 54% greater ROI on the marketing budget because it makes targeted marketing considerably easier. 

2. Faster sales cycle

Since the sales department can have a broader perspective on customer touchpoints and pain points using the customer journey map, the result is an 18x faster sales cycle. This incredible increase only happens because the sales department knows exactly where they are slacking and learns to engage with the customer more effectively. 

3. Increased revenue from customer referrals

When customers are satisfied with your brand, they will refer other people also to make a purchase from your business. This word-of-mouth advertisement is significant to ensure success, especially in the age of social media, where customer reviews are practically everywhere and more important than never before.

When resources are invested into achieving customer satisfaction, businesses can enjoy up to 3.5 times higher revenue generated solely from customer referrals. 

4. Returning customers

The only way to retain customers is to provide a highly satisfying experience the first time. By ensuring that each customer has their specific needs met through the customer journey map, businesses can achieve up to 56% higher up-sell revenue where customers are willing to make a second purchase from your company.

8 steps of customer journey mapping

Once you are aware of the benefits of customer journey mapping, it is essential to start investing time and resources into mapping immediately. While the process may sound complicated on the surface, it can easily be broken down into eight steps that help you create the right customer journey map for your organization. 

Step 1: Know your customers

Before you get into the details of the customer journey map, you need to sit down and determine why it is needed in the first place. To determine what customers your map should target and what experiences are important, the business needs to evaluate the target group first.

This means developing buyer personas of your typical customer by dividing them into several clusters.

Remember that these buyer personas must be based on actual customers and should be representative of your larger target population. Consider your target group demographics and psychographics whilst developing effective buyer personas for your customer journey map. 

Step 2: Do your research

You cannot get to know your customers without engaging with them. The easiest way to create accurate buyer personas and customer journey maps is to give your target population a detailed questionnaire about their customer experiences. Apart from basic demographics like age, location and status, this questionnaire can give you an accurate insight of customer experiences with your brand. 

Consider asking questions like how customers learn about your company and whether they have interacted with your website. If customers are getting to know about your company through search engines or social media, then it might be time to start investing in digital marketing strategies that can attract more customers.

If customers are not engaging with the website, then it is vital to determine why through the variety of user behaviour analytics tools to understand what’s happening at every touchpoint of your customer journey. No guesswork required.

For customers who are engaging with the website, you can ask follow-up questions such as the usability of your website, the ease to find the information they looking for or whether they have made an online purchase from your company before. Based on the answers, you can determine the various pain points that a customer might experience, such as an ineffective user interface on the website or the slow loading time between pages translating into a poor user experience.

Step 3: Determine your typical customer

While you might have a diverse range of customers who are purchasing from your company, it is possible to boil it down to one or two buyer personas. This buyer persona should be representative of your typical customer in terms of both psychographics and demographics.

Many businesses make the mistake of developing too many buyer personas. This way, making an accurate customer journey map becomes impossible since the map cannot reflect the journey of a specific visitor from learning about your company to convert. 

It is also normal not to get the right buyer persona on your first attempt. You might have to compare various buyer personas before you reach the right one. Initially, it is crucial to focus on only one buyer persona for your customer journey map. Later, you can create individual customer journey maps for all types of customers that engage with your company.  

Step 4: Find the TouchPoints

Touchpoints refers to how a potential customers interacts with your business. This depends on the nature of your business. If you have an e-commerce website, then your touchpoints may be Google, social media and the various navigation buttons on the site. By listing down all the touchpoints, you can understand the reasons behind certain customer actions. 

If your customers leave your site without converting, your current touchpoints are probably ineffective. If your page visitors spend too much time, then your user interface could be too complicated for them to navigate or understand. By focusing on improving your touchpoints, customer experience can be improved. 

You can also locate your touchpoints by looking at data analytics. Determine where most of your online traffic comes from – organic traffic, direct sources, email marketing or social media?

After making a list of all the touchpoints, move on to determining customer motivations for performing a certain action. This can also help you evaluate the various obstacles or pain points that your visitors face through the journey. 

Step 5: Choose a type of customer journey map

There are four types of customer journey maps.

  1. The ‘day in the life’ customer journey map that helps you understand your potential customers’ emotions, motivations, and actions on an average day. This type of map can help you determine the unmet needs of your target market and focus on those. 
  2. The ‘current state’ customer journey map. This map is specifically related to a customer’s interaction with your company. It will display the different thoughts, emotions, and actions of your typical customer. If you want to improve customer satisfaction, this type of customer journey map is highly effective in the long run. 
  3. The ‘future state’ customer journey map. Instead of focusing on what your customers want right now, this map focuses on future needs. If you have a highly innovative product or service to offer, then this type of map can help you determine customer journeys in the future. This type of customer journey map focuses on changing the current state of your customers. 
  4. The ‘service blueprint’ customer journey map is a complex mapping technique for businesses that have already developed a basic map. Instead of the basics, the service blueprint map focuses on innovative processes, new technology, and policies that might affect consumer actions. 

Step 6: Conduct a resource analysis

As mentioned earlier, a customer journey map will engage every department of the business. To streamline the process, you can conduct a resource analysis. This includes taking inventory of all the resources you currently have and the resources you will have to invest in to improve the customer journey. 

If you locate pain points on your website related to the user interface, you might have to invest in a new site developer. Once you recognize this, hiring a new website developer will require time and resources from the company’s budget. Before you make the investment, add this additional resource to your customer mapping journey and make predictions about the results that you expect. Make sure that every resource that you invest in is directly contributing to an improvement in the customer journey map. 

Step 7: Test the Customer Journey

To make sure that your customer journey map is optimal, you need to try it out. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer and interact with the business using every touchpoint identified by the map. An effective customer journey map will ensure that every pain point has been eliminated from the journey.

Once you go through the customer journey yourself, you will be able to locate any new pain points that might be overlooked in the initial stages. This helps you constantly redefine and optimize your customer journey. 

At this stage, it is important to identify all the unmet needs of your potential customers. Make sure that the support representatives are efficient enough to respond to every customer query promptly and accurately. 

Step 8: Make practical changes

The purpose of a customer journey map is to improve your visitors user experience. The only way to do that is by implementing practical changes in the organization.

Consider investing more resources into eliminating the pain points, such as an efficient pay per click ad to hit your target group, well developed SEO strategy for an increased organic traffic that has shown to be of high conversion rate according to most marketers, better social media presence to attract and engage with new customers. Of course, here, your marketing strategies may have to be adapted according to the results of the customer journey map. 

Every time you add or remove products or service from your website, you will have to reevaluate the customer journey map. Make sure that every part of your website is easily accessible and that the customers feel satisfied when they first enter your website. 

The importance of customer journey mapping

Every organization knows that the customer is key to a business success. The customer journey mapping process allows businesses to follow a strategic approach to understanding and meeting consumer expectations.

While some people believe that customer journey mapping is only for large businesses, it is actually important for enterprises of all sizes. Customer expectations do not arise according to the size of a business. Instead, customer expectations are continuing to change rapidly for businesses of all sizes. 

Businesses are becoming too focused on their numeric performance. 84% of customers reported that the easiest way to attract consumers is by treating them like humans instead of numbers. This means that a personalized experience is incredibly important for your potential customers, and a customer journey map helps you target just that. 

When you map a customer journey, you can optimize the number of potential customers that engage with your brand. The map also provides you with a benchmark that helps improve customer service. This helps businesses meet the changing customer expectations. By understanding the customer through every step of the buying funnel, businesses can easily achieve higher sales revenue ad conversions. 

In the modern world, customers are looking for an omnichannel approach to customer service. Even if your marketing strategies are appealing, the sales and customer representatives must be useful enough to solve the problems of an individual customer. By understanding your potential customer, you can personalize their experiences according to their expectations and needs. 

Omnichannel marketing with customer journey maps

Instead of sending out computer generated emails to all your customers or potential customers, you need to adapt a better approach to marketing. Each customer wants to feel like they are of special importance to a business. This means that they want a personalized customer service experience that caters to their specific needs. 

Customer journey maps are the easiest way to enable omnichannel marketing strategies. Once marketers understand the journey of a typical customer, they can target them through various touchpoints simultaneously. If a customer visits your website, they can later be contacted via email to follow up on a purchase. If a customer looks at your social media page, then targeted ads can be shown to them as a reminder of your business. 

Apart from omnichannel marketing, customer journey maps also allow omnichannel customer service. This means that your customers should be able to contact the business through various platforms. Customers should have access to live chat options, social media apps, or to call a representative directly. This can help resolve pain points in the customer journey map and help businesses retain customers in the long run.  

Optimizing the customer journey map

Mapping out a single buyer persona might be easy. Once you move on to multiple buyer personas, things can get complicated very quickly. Instead of wasting too much time on customer journey maps, it is important to use effective tools that can help you. Many marketing automation software have built-in features of customer journey mapping. In case you are looking for other choices, here are a few customer journey mapping tools that are popular this year. 

1. A Whiteboard

If you want to go back to basics, simply draw your customer journey map on a whiteboard. This is great for businesses that don’t have a high-tech SaaS system or an operations management collaboration software.

Everyone can understand what is written on a whiteboard, making it easier to communicate your map with the entire team. There is also little to no cost involved since almost every business has a whiteboard in their office. 

However, the drawback is that data is only stored temporarily and can be erased after a while. If you want your customer journey map to be more concrete, switching to electronic software might be a better idea. Still, there is no harm in starting with a traditional whiteboard and marker duo. 

2. PowerPoint

Instead of fancy software, you can make a customer journey map on PowerPoint. It is available in the Office Suite, and most businesses already have access to it. You can customize the templates according to your business theme and present your slides even when you are offline. PowerPoint is one of the easiest ways to make a customer journey map on your laptop and save the data. 

However, you will not have access to more complex features like real-time collaboration. 

3. Microsoft Visio

Visio is a basic, entry-level mapping tool. Businesses can have access to interactive elements like actions and links to create a basic flowchart. The drag-and-drop visuals make Visio easy to operate. If you are just starting out with customer journey mapping, then Microsoft Visio can be a great choice due to the simplicity and ease of use. 

The only drawback of Visio is that the elements tend to glitch sometimes. Also, it does not offer MacOS support as of yet. 

4. InDesign

Creating complex graphs is easy with InDesign software. You can customize the flowchart according to your requirement or choose a template from the gallery. Once your customer journey map is complete, you can export it to other formats to make it more compatible. If aesthetic is an important part of your business representation, then InDesign has incredibly pleasing graphics. 

While InDesign is a great software to use for customer journey mapping, there is a high learning curve. Your team might take some time in getting used to the software and learning how to operate it. There is also no real-time collaboration in InDesign. This means that different departments cannot contribute to the same customer journey map simultaneously. 

 5. Smaply

To make simple yet detailed customer journey maps, use Smaply. This software is known for the simple drag-and-drop interface which makes it easy to create flowcharts. It can be integrated with multiple CRM systems, making operations management alongside of customer journey mapping simple. If you want to automate certain actions, then there is a marketing automation add-on available on Smaply. 

Smaply is not a very modern software though. The interface looks outdated and might glitch occasionally. There is also a high learning curve for more advance features such as CRM integration. 

6. Canvanizer

For businesses who don’t want to invest too much, Canvanizer is a free customer journey mapping tool. It allows for collaboration because anyone with the link to your flowchart can access and contribute to it. It is also possible to add visuals to make your flowchart more meaningful. You can also make edits via the mobile app, which makes it easier to create an effective customer journey map based on real-time evaluations. 

Apart from the free version, there are paid plans that offer over 40 templates to choose from. However, export options to PDF and PNG are only available on the paid version.

With Canvanizer, you can begin creating a basic customer journey map and eventually switch to the paid version if you are satisfied with the software. 

7. Gliffy

For charts with multiple buyer personas, Gliffy is a great choice. This customer journey mapping tool is great for wireframing. With helpful prompts, you can easily create maps with various shapes and icons. 

However, users report that Gliffy can start slowing down with very long maps. There is also some restriction regarding connector placements so you may not be able to make a highly customized customer journey map on this software. We suggest trying the free version of Gliffy first because it is a great tool for simple customer journey maps. 

Choosing a customer journey mapping software

When you are creating a customer journey map, everything needs to be well-planned. Before selecting a software, it is important to consider the user interface (UI). T

he UI should preferably allow for real-time collaboration to ensure that each member on your team can make the chart for their respective department. It is also important for the UI to present your data in a clean and attractive way that is easy to understand. 

The customer journey mapping software should be easy to learn. You should not be wasting all your time in learning to operate the software instead of working on the customer journey map itself. It is always a plus point if the software has useful tutorials and access to tech support. The best-case scenario would be to have customer journey map templates available. 

The Final Word

In a world where customer expectations are changing rapidly, it is essential for businesses to adapt to this environment as well. By using software to create effective customer journey maps, any business can strive to achieve high customer satisfaction, ROI and conversion. 

Dani Thifa
Dani Thifa

My name is Dani Thifa and I am a husband to a clumsy wife, dad to two cute spider babies, uncle to triplets, blogger, and digital lead at #CGI.

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