We have a whole new reality at our hands today. There are profound changes happening on the customer and enterprise level at the same time. To make matters more complicated, the ground on which we stand is shaking because of new technologies erupting from every corner.
The time which we once had has shrunk, leaving businesses to act fast, knowing the future will be even more unpredictable.
The question which arises is – how to act in this present reality, so the future stays bright?
The short answer is to put the customer first. And the only true way to do that is to level up on the entire customer experience and provide a memorable customer journey.
As our friend Steve Jobs once noticed:
A great customer experience is the essence of any successful business.
Together, we will walk through the necessary steps of creating an unforgettable experience for customers. It’s the foundation we must lay down before we reach out for technology improvements.
Definition – What is a Customer Journey?
Quite simply, the Customer Journey stands for the steps your customer takes before and sometimes after the purchase of your product.
Similarly, the Customer Journey Optimisation includes a process of connecting and mapping customer interactions, across multiple touch points, with the aim of influencing the end-to-end experience.
On the other hand, Customer Experience is the sum of all thoughts, experiences, feelings and reactions that customer has or will have in regards to buying or using your product. Customer experience can be either overall or more specifically related to just one touch point with the product.
Everything in the customer journey is customer experience, however, the customer journey is just one part of the overall customer experience.
To illustrate, we have brought to you a Google Trends insight to demonstrate the popularity of these two terms in the past 5 years.
As seen above, Customer Experience has steadily won the search volume on Google search engine. It is logical for this to happen. Customer experience means more than just the customer journey, considering that it covers all stages; pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase of the product.
We also see that both of the terms have a slight but steady increase in the popularity, which bring us back to our first point – it is crucial to optimise the customer journey, and with it, provide the best possible customer experience.
The Impact of Customer Journey Optimisation
Providing a great experience for customers through their journey should be a standard for any business that hopes to stay relevant. The impact of ‘having it all sorted’ is self-evident in the fact that your customers simply expect you to do so. Or else, they would easily leave your brand and sign on to a more ‘caring’ one.
To illustrate my case, recent research shows that 40% of all consumers use five screens on a daily basis and demand personalised experiences when interacting with companies.
To top it all, according to Frost & Sullivan research, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020. You need to be aware, consumers are not just comparing their experiences with your brand against those they’ve had with your direct competitors. Actually, they’re comparing their experiences with your brand against the best experiences they’ve ever had – with any brand.
This is the best possible news for a business which takes customer journey seriously. Or the worst possible news for a business which is struggling to provide a seamless experience for their customers.
It’s clear that in this time of constant changes in technology and new ways in which people buy online, it’s essential to plan and anticipate how a customer will act every step of the way. However, our goal shouldn’t be chasing wild gooses around that journey.
Creating a memorable customer journey requires research, time, resources, team-work, and most importantly an end-goal that impacts the entire business, and not only the marketing department. The last thing you should be doing is using outdated methodologies or introducing a new technology tool that has no means of putting the customer in the centre of your operation.
This is why we have brought to you a comprehensive guide on how to approach the Customer Journey that will guarantee success not just today, but also in the future to come. To understand the topic at hand a bit better, we wanted to highlight the current challenges we come across when it comes to customer journey optimisation, and how to overcome them.
Challenges in the Customer Journey Optimisation
There are a few challenges that can arise when you start planning the customer journey. It’s imperative you get to know them beforehand so you can easily surpass them when the time comes.
1. Corporate Mindset
We know that planning for great customer experience requires alignment and collaboration between different departments. The lack of a unified mindset towards the customer journey is the most common challenge in an enterprise. Sales, operations, customer service and even finance are all needed to help marketers understand the entire path to purchase and what can be done to improve it.
There is no way around it.
To achieve this corporate mindset, communication should be clear and lead by management. Not only that, every department needs to share the customer-focused vision that the managers communicate with the entire organisation. The easiest way to define this vision is to create a set of statements that act as guiding principles. It will help the entire organisation to gain a clear perspective on the work at hand and with it – the goal you are trying to achieve.
2. Data and Analytics
To be able to optimise the journey, it is important to have the data unified and accessible. Looking at the entire journey across all channels you get a taste of your customer’s digital body language. From that, you can have visibility of where you need to improve your efforts or where you are succeeding in your mission.
Also, by connecting the dots among customers’ previous interactions, you are able to anticipate their next move, giving yourself more of a chance to personalise their journey and score a big one.
To achieve this, companies must break down any silos that exist between departments to ensure consistency of data flow between them.
Also, management should look into their employees’ possibilities when it comes to extracting the data into useful insight. Do your employees have the right skills set to collect, enter and analyse data? If not, train them.
Often times, in the Martech sector, a business needs to invest in its workforce to see real improvement.
Today, most customers would gladly share their personal information in exchange for a better-personalised experience. They expect businesses to build meaningful relationships with them and deliver real value. However, so many businesses skip on personalising customers experiences, which subsequently causes high churn rates, low satisfaction levels and a decrease in loyalty.
Marketers should strive to create engaging, differentiated and personalised interactions that will nurture the customer through every step of their buyer’s journey.
With personalisation in mind, you will have more of a chance of delivering an amazing customer experience through the customer journey, and not just an experience that is easily forgettable.
Mapping the Customer Journey
Mapping the customer journey is the first step you do when you are on a mission to improve the customer experience.
It’s the best practice today, and if you do it properly you are on the right path towards delighting your customers.
Before we start digging into specificities we need to do the preparation work.
Get an executive buy-in
Having everybody on board in this planning process is critical. Executive buy-in will help you ensure the right cross-functional resources are committed to participating in the customer journey mapping. Additionally, it will allow your company to break the silos and streamline communication between departments. This is a great opportunity to have the business goals tied into the process of mapping, to have a unified front and a clear vision of benefits that it will bring.
Research, Research and More Research
Get your hold on the customer feedback as soon as possible. Because without it, you won’t know what to do with the journey mapping. You need to know exactly where to dig and you can only know that if you heard it directly from customers. When you start gathering the data you need, it is imperative you diversify your sources of the feedback.
Conducting employee interviews who regularly interact with customers can be an amazing source of insight. Other sources for customer feedback include social media comments, website analytics, call centre recordings, online chat, third-party review sites, forums, inbound emails etc.
You could go a step further and interview customers offline, such as in the retail stores, assuming you have one. That will give you additional context about each interaction and a better understanding of not only what they do but why they do it.
Design the Customer Journey Map
Now that we have done our due diligence, it’s time to get this party started. Well, not literally.
But it should be fun, and it should be creative.
Designing the customer journey map needs to come from the customer’s point of view, and for them, this journey is usually (or at least it should be) easy and kind of interesting.
So let’s dig in, shall we?
1. Find the Ideal Customer Profile
Creating the ideal customer profile (ideal buyer or the ideal persona) for your business is something you shouldn’t take lightly.
Additional to providing a solid ground on which you will build the customer journey, a well-rounded ideal customer profile will also define your customer data model and the data you need to source.
This way your sales and marketing teams can target the ideal customers, and personalise their messaging to them.
The best practice approach states that it’s most effective if you start with just one or two ideal profiles. Later on, you can come up with more.
Keep in mind, for each customer profile you will need to map a separate customer journey.
When creating the ideal persona, it’s good to create a framework which you would follow, similar (or same) to the one we bring you here. Keep in mind, we want you to have a framework which includes personalisation as your customer experience strategy.
Your ideal customer profile should include:
- Personal Characteristics – Consider giving your persona a name, gender, and age. Based on the research you have gathered before, you might see a pattern in customer behaviour, which can help you in this defining step.
- Related Characteristics – You can list characteristics which might include preferences, skills, knowledge, wants, and desires. The more you define, the better the experience.
- Pain Points – What problem is your ideal customer experiencing now, that your product can solve?
- A Vision of Success – Did my ideal customer express a vision of success in the future? Do they know how to measure their progress when it comes to using your product? In case you have a B2B business, it is well advised to dig deeper into each customer profile.
- Responsibilities – What are the main responsibilities of the customer and the responsibilities of their team?
- Business Performance – What would be their typical goals in terms of business performance?
- Business Challenges – What are the current challenges that they are struggling to resolve?
- Capacity – Does my ideal customer have the technical or functional capacity to implement my product or service into their routine? Once we have finished stitching the image of the ideal customer, we can move on to the next stage of our process.
2. Mapping The Milestones
Considering the main steps your customer goes through this journey, you might want to design a colourful template, that will provide a better understanding of each step and subsequently, each milestone.
For example, a customer journey map might look like this:
Or maybe even like this:
No matter which style suits you better, it’s definitely beneficial to visualise what you are trying to create.
Keep in mind, there are many different templates that will help you in the customer journey presentation, so don’t spend too much time worrying about which one to choose. You can with a start plain and simple list or a chart, as it will definitely evolve as you go into deeper into the journey.
The next step is listing the milestones or stages of the journey. Each of these stages will have to go through a separate optimisation process. But one step at the time. In the end, it’s a marathon, not a race.
We have listed some of the most common stages, and you can choose the ones that represent your journey from below:
- Pain Point Recognition
Next step is to walk through the stages in the same fashion your customer would.
By doing this you will be able to list every possible touch point in which customer interacts with your business.
The most obvious touch points would include:
- Your website
- Your outbound marketing
- Your sales team
- Your customer support team
- Your social media accounts
- Your store
For example, in the discovery stage, you would include touch points such as online and offline ads, word of mouth, retail store (if you have one), online search etc. While in the purchase stage, the touch points might include store, website, call centre etc.
The more – the better.
Mapping for a variety of touch points gives you a better chance of controlling all the channels and planning amazing interactions in each of them.
3. Discover Moments Of Truths And Customer Sentiment
Understanding the customer journey through the eyes of your customer is what gives you the insight you need to actually deliver a memorable journey. Again, remember that the customer is skipping through touch points, not just with your company, but with many other companies as well. Be sure to understand the needs and goals of every buyer persona at each point, and the specific actions they take after each interaction.
Just as it’s essential to understand the full journey, it’s important to dig into the critical moments that often result in make-or-break decisions for your customers. These ‘moments of truth’ are usually circumstances which lead your customers to walk away or to buy the product.
It’s beneficial to note that for many businesses out there, moments of truth are usually intertwined with emotional experience.
To illustrate, a customer might feel anxious or even fearful when buying a service that will cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.
This is why you need to account for customers’ logic and emotions in your journey map to develop an accurate portrayal of their experience. By simply including customer quotes you can help bring the emotional side of the journey to life.
4. The Measurements And Tracking
When the map is designed you might feel like you did it and you can relax, however, your work continues.
Now you must do the most important part of the process – analysing the results.
Depending on how your customer journey map looks like, measuring should follow the stages you created during that journey.
For example, imagine calling your internet service provider when you have trouble getting online.
They have a nice customer service agent who handled the issue professionally and promised your problem will be resolved within a few hours. Before hanging up, the service representative asks you if you would recommend the internet service provider to a friend or colleague (a standard question to measure Net Promoter Score).
However, your experience with them is still not over. You are still offline.
This is a common case of poor alignment of customer experience measurement with the customer journey.
To get better results, you should first discover end-to-end customer journeys before you pick the most appropriate metric to use at a given interaction.
There are many metrics that can show you how well you are doing in your customer journey, so we gathered a list for you to help you kick start your analytics process. Let’s break it down.
Customer Journey Measurements
In the Discovery or Awareness Stage, your customer has just discovered you exist.
So the common mistake made here is expecting them to convert into customers straight away.
As the potential customers are still browsing through your content, the metrics would include the following:
- Number of visits to your website
- Increased subscriptions
- Engagement & Reach
For the Pain-Point Recognition Stage, we know that the customer is thinking – Do I have a problem? Considering that for the most part, this stage will take place on your website or possibly on the third-party comparison websites, your metrics would include the following:
- Repeat visits
- Engagement with retargeting
- Positive reviews
The Purchase Stage of the customer journey will mostly include the metrics that track the effectiveness of your page conversion rates or the number of abandoned carts.
- Direct Conversions
- Assisted conversions
- Abandoned Carts
- Bounce Rate of the Product page
Customer Experience Measurements
Companies usually use track one or several of the 6 worldwide recognised KPI’s:
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
- Churn Rate or Retention Rate
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
- Customer Effort Score (CES)
However, just because you can measure everything doesn’t mean you should, because sometimes adding more complexity doesn’t really add value.
Most companies are best off when they choose one customer experience metric and one related behavioural metric.
Find a customer journey map for your type of business
For the purpose of clarifying different customer journey maps, depending on the type of business you run, we have collected some examples of maps created for a specific category of the business.
Have a scroll through them and let yourself be inspired by the journeys presented below.
B2B Customer Journey Map
Source: Dapper Apps
E-Commerce Customer Journey Map
Source: Karten Design
Retail Customer Journey Map
Source: UX Pressia
Most of the customer journey optimisation work takes place in the map creation segment.
That is the actual part where you study the customer’s point of view and gain visibility in your brand’s performance during the customer journey.
It might be wise to leave yourself extra room to adjust or rethink your journey going forward, because the deeper you dig, the more you will discover about your ideal customer and different ways they interact with you.
Make sure you always have the customer in the centre of your strategy because after all, the majority of customers will pay more for a better experience.