The customer journey begins when a prospective customer realizes that they have a need to fulfill, and ends either when they have satisfied their need through a brand, or more hopefully, it will never end, as they remain a loyal customer. A customer journey map looks at all of the interactions that a customer has with a brand as they progress through the marketing funnel across all of the brand’s channels, and it’s a vital key to improving the customer experience.

In our last journey mapping article we discussed the five phases of the customer journey: the brand awareness phase, the consideration phase, the purchasing phase, the retention phase, and the brand advocacy phase. We covered the advantages of creating customer personas, and mapping out each touchpoint in the different phases of the customer journey. Even more importantly, we talked about mapping out the pain points in that customer journey. Finally, we looked at visually displaying the customer journey map. In this article we will delve a bit deeper into journey mapping to get the most improvements in the customer experience.

Speak With Customers Individually

Jim Tincher, mapper-in-chief at HeartoftheCustomer, a customer journey mapping consultancy, and author of How Hard Is It to Be Your Customer? Using Journey Mapping to Drive Customer Focused Change, shared that more important than simply creating customer personas is actually speaking to customers one on one. “You need to talk with customers individually. Journeys are different for each person, so using these consolidated approaches removes all the nuance and learning. It particularly prevents the change management that is so critical to success–journey mapping goes from a way to engage your company on customer needs to being just another report.”

One way that brands are doing just that is with the help of human insight platform providers such as UserTesting. UserTesting obtains on-demand feedback from members of its own broad User Testing Panel, or brands can use their own customers, partners, or employees to obtain rapid feedback from individuals on any experience, including the following:

  • Needs discovery
  • A/B testing
  • Website and app design, content and usability validation
  • Mobile validation
  • Card sorting and information architecture testing
  • Marketing campaign, creative and message testing
  • Concept and prototype testing
  • Online/offline customer journeys and ethnographics

Getting feedback from individual customers, rather than demographics from a larger group of similar customers, is vital to improving the customer experience. “It's critical to use customer immersion (interviews, other qualitative research) to truly understand your customers,” said Tincher.

Jill Grozalsky, product marketing director at Sitecore, a customer experience platform provider, reiterated the importance of data that is collected from the personal interactions between customers and brands.

“It is important to continuously validate the customer journey with actual interaction data. Using holistic customer data that marries together interactions across touchpoints and provides visibility into where users are engaging, what content they are consuming and what they have purchased, provides real-life validation of the previously mapped customer journey.”

The ability of brands to empathize with their customers, to understand what those customers are going through, is vital if they wish to craft exceptional customer experiences. “Ultimately, if brands want to provide the best possible customer experience, they must put themselves in their customers’ shoes. They need to be empathetic and work to truly understand their customers long before they try to market or sell to them. This can take shape through a number of sources, including analyzing data for patterns of behavior, mapping and analyzing the customer journey, or undertaking customer research where organizations interact with customers to understand their concerns and ideas,” said Grozalsky.

Related Article: Designing for Every Stage of the Customer Journey

End-to-End Journey Mapping

An end-to-end customer journey map allows a brand to follow the touchpoints of customers as they travel through the various phases of the customer journey, from brand awareness, to consideration, purchasing, retention, and finally, brand advocacy, throughout all of the brand’s channels. This vast customer journey map touches on every aspect of a brand’s touchpoints with its customers. This can be useful for new customer experience initiatives to provide a broad picture of what a typical customer goes through, and can also be helpful for pointing out some of the potential pain points in their journey.

“There’s no one answer on what is the right journey, but published work by CustomerThink, as well as unpublished research we’ve done, shows that the most effective brands first do an end-to-end broad journey to discover where problems are, then come back and do narrower maps around specific business problems,” said Tincher.

As Tincher mentioned, the end-to-end journey, which may encompass many months or even years, is most useful for providing brands with the ability to pinpoint those areas of the journey map that they really wish to focus on — which should be those that facilitate the goal or goals of their CX initiative.

Journey Mapping for Specific Goals

Michelle Berryman, principal of interactive strategy at  Capgemini North America, an IT service management company, thinks brands may find it helpful to narrow the aperture and focus on multiple, smaller, more focused journeys. “Examples may include the journey from brand/product/service awareness through purchase or the post-purchase journey from usage to upgrade or replacement. The service and maintenance journey is another important journey to consider. Taking this approach and focusing on smaller journeys enables a greater depth of understanding around the customer's need state(s), their quest for information, the influencing factors for their decisions, and how they make decisions.”

Since we know the five phases of the customer journey, there may be a specific area or phase that we are interested in focusing on, such as the consideration phase. The consideration phase occurs directly after the awareness phase, and is the point where the prospective customer is aware of a specific need or desire that they have. They are looking at various products, and are perhaps weighing the benefits or features of one brand’s product over another brand’s.

Learning Opportunities

Sometimes there may have already been an awareness phase and a consideration phase, when suddenly there becomes a new awareness phase and consideration phase. An example would be that of when a customer realizes that there is very little milk or eggs left in the fridge, so it is time to go shopping. They are aware of the need to purchase food. Now they consider whether to shop online at Walmart, or Amazon. They weigh the merits of both, and decide to go to Amazon for their shopping needs. Once they are on the Amazon website, they are presented with many different brands, all of which are competing for their consideration. In the end, they go with Amazon’s own brand, which they consider to be both high quality and value priced. As they go through the checkout process, which is the next phase of the customer journey, Amazon shows them products that they may want to include in their order, such as orange juice. The customer realizes that they would like to get some orange juice after all (awareness phase), and begins to compare orange juice brands (consideration phase), and then adds the OJ to their shopping cart and once again continues the checkout process.

This is just one example for a specific type of transaction. The customer may have been watching TV and saw an ad for lawn mowers and realized that summer is coming, and they need to upgrade their old mower with a new one. They begin searching Google for a list of the best mowers, then move on to compare prices, once again using Google. Alternatively, they could have become aware that they need new summer clothes while they were taking their evening walk around the block, and once they returned home, they began looking through tropical clothes on Amazon.

A brand may recognize that its own website, Amazon storefront or product listing is inadequate to help a potential customer come to the decision to make a purchase. By speaking to its customers about what helped them come to the decision to make a purchase with the brand, or to go with a competitor’s product, they can effectively map out the consideration phase of the customer journey, and using the actionable insights they have gained, improve the customer experience while increasing sales.

Nancy Porte, CCXP, VP of global customer experience for Verint, a customer engagement platform provider, told CMSWire that as part of her company's transition to a cloud company, Verint wanted to intentionally design the customer journey for its SaaS customers. “In order to do this, we mapped the current journey — and the desired, future journey. The gap analysis between the two maps provided a roadmap for changes that needed to be made to provide a great customer journey,” she said.

Customer Journey Mapping Is an Across the Board Process

Because the customer’s journey extends across all channels, the process includes variables that are affected by all of the departments within a brand. There shouldn’t be any silos or departments that do not participate in the customer journey mapping process, unless the department does not have anything at all to do with customers, such as an Employee Payroll department, for instance.

Natalya Bucuy, content marketing writer at LiveHelpNow, a customer chat, support, and helpdesk platform provider, said brands need to break through silos that limit CX journey mapping initiatives to one or two departments. “Sharing the customer journey map with the entire team is essential. Customer experience is not a job of one or two siloed departments. It's everyone's job. So it's important that every member of the team shares the same vision and understands all the strategies in place to benefit customers.”

Tincher also told CMSWire that brands need to engage a broad cross-functional journey mapping team that needs to involve HR, marketing, sales, IT, customer service, data management, analytics — all channels and departments need to be involved in the process, and failure to do so is the reason that many journey mapping initiatives fail. He said that it was one of the key findings from research that led to his first book. “Effective programs involve representatives from throughout the company; despite that, few involve HR or IT, and IT in particular was surprising. The primary reason that 2/3 of maps fail to drive change is because a small research team does the work, and the rest of the organization isn't immersed in the process.”

A customer journey mapping initiative gets everyone on the same page, working towards the same goals, and is a great way to eliminate departmental silos. “My favorite use of journey maps is for starting conversations between ‘silos’ that exist in the company,” Porte related.  “When we get internal audiences looking at the journey and ask questions about whether they know what happens before they serve the customer — and after — it provides some great opportunities to discuss how we make the journey easier and more consistent for the customer. There’s nothing like a picture to get everyone into a collaborative conversation.”

Final Thoughts

The customer journey map is one of the best ways for a brand to more fully understand its customers. By speaking with customers individually, creating an end-to-end journey map to get an overall picture, honing in on specific areas of the customer journey for specific goals, and involving all of the brand’s departments in the process, a brand can improve the customer experience while enhancing its bottom line.