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A few months ago I wrote a piece about the importance of implementing customer lifecycle marketing strategies to increase the overall profitability of your business.
In that piece I walked you through the ways in which marketing and sales teams can engage prospects, first-time, repeat buyers and at-risk or lapsed customers in a way that maximizes their chances of making a subsequent purchase.
While the methods I discussed are certainly effective in more general terms, engaging with your customers on an individual basis can be much more effective.
To be able to provide such individualized service, though, you must first create a customer journey map to help you understand exactly what a given customer wants at any given time throughout their relationship with your brand.
In this article, I’ll explain how creating customer journey maps not only improves your customers’ experiences with your company, but can also serve to improve internal processes, as well.
I’ll also talk about what goes into creating a customer journey map and touch on how using them allows marketing and sales teams to go beyond traditional customer segmentation and begin focusing on micro segments.
Before we do all this, though, let’s discuss exactly what a customer journey map is and why they’re so useful.
What Is A Customer Journey Maps And Why Are They Important?
This is Journey, the 80s band – NOT to be confused with a customer journey 😎
A customer journey map is, in simplest terms, an illustration of the steps a customer takes when engaging with a company.
Although these steps align with the stages of the typical buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration, decision), customer journey maps get much more specific than that.
Journey maps include information about each touchpoint that occurs between a customer and a company, including:
- What the customer does, thinks and feels at each stage
- How the customer engages with the company (or vice-versa) at each stage
- The customer’s goals for each action and how the company will help them reach these goals
Customer Journey Maps Improve Customer Experience
Perhaps the best way to illustrate how customer journey maps help companies improve the customer experience is to imagine not using them. Imagine a company that:
- Has no clue what its customers think or feel
- Has no idea what its customers will do at any given time
- Doesn’t know who’s responsible for engaging with customers at any time
Clearly, this would cause some major friction for the customer as they make their way through the sales funnel (if they do so at all).
But, when an organization truly cares about its customers’ needs, proactively answers all their questions and instinctively takes action to help them solve their problems, it makes everything just that much easier on the customer.
“It’s essential that organizations understand the new means by which customers find their way to businesses and how to capture them, delight them and keep the coming back.” – Mandy Yoh, ReviewTrackers
Of course, the more streamlined the customer’s experience, the more likely they are to make a purchase from a company – and stick with the brand for a long time to come.
Customer Journey Maps Improve Internal Processes
On the company’s end, the main purpose for creating a customer journey map is to understand and anticipate the actions a prospective customer takes as they move from awareness to decision – and beyond.
In turn, this allows marketing and sales teams to reach out to a specific customer through the most efficient channel, at the most opportune time, with the most valuable and relevant offer possible.
“It’s important for companies to create a customer journey map to better understand their customer’s experience including as feelings, motivations and so on.” – Britt Armour, Clearbridge Mobile
Additionally, the implementation of customer journey maps allows all team members to understand who’s responsible for what as they work together to nurture customers through the sales funnel.
Not only does this increase accountability throughout the company, but it also streamlines the process of “handing off the baton” as a prospect inches closer to converting.
Lastly, customer journey maps allow companies to shift from an internally-focused business to a customer-focused organization. As we’ll discuss momentarily, this is an essential step for improving the overall customer experience.
The Key Components of a Customer Journey Map
Before we get into this section, it’s important to clarify that there’s no “right way” to put together a customer journey map; it all depends on your company, your industry and of course, your customers.
That being said, there are a number of things a customer journey map needs to have in order to truly be effective. Absent the following, your customer journey map would be incomplete – and, therefore, quite useless.
If you think of the customer journey map as a narrative, the customer is the main character of the story.
As with any main character, you’ll want to have your star customer’s personality and characteristics fully fleshed-out before you even begin thinking about where their journey will take them. If you’ve yet to create customer personas based on your target audience, you’ll want to do this before you end up creating a customer journey map that has little to no basis in reality.
Of course, the larger your customer base, the more personas you’re likely to have created. Ideally, you’ll eventually want to create a customer journey map for each one of your personas, allowing you to anticipate the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of any one of your customers at any given time.
As we said earlier, customer journey maps typically align with the buyer’s journey – but they don’t necessarily have to.
You certainly can create a “soup to nuts” customer journey map that describes everything a customer goes through from the moment they first engage with your company to the moment they begin experiencing success with your product or service (and beyond).
But you also might choose to focus on a specific part of an individual journey, such as all that goes on during onboarding, or during the payment process.
Again, you ideally want to end up with a customer journey map for pretty much every scenario you can possibly imagine. Of course, this isn’t exactly realistic when just getting started. To get moving, focus on what you’ve determined to be the most critical part of your customer’s journey and go from there.
Actions, Thoughts and Emotions
Not only do you need to clearly define your main character’s personality and characteristics, but you also need to have an accurate idea of what they’re likely to do, think and feel at different times during their journey.
While you can begin sketching out these actions, thoughts and feelings based on your overall understanding of their persona, you ultimately want to consult both quantitative and qualitative data you’ve collected on your current customers to ensure your sketches are accurate and realistic.
In other words, this isn’t the time to guess or make assumptions about what your customers might be thinking or feeling, or might do, in a given situation. And it’s definitely not the time to project what you wish they would think/feel/do during these moments.
The more accurate you can be with these predictions, the more prepared you’ll be when they actually become a reality.
Touchpoints and Channels
Not everything your customers do during their journey will involve you. But, again, when they do need to engage with you, you need to be prepared. Not only do you need to have a good idea of when they’ll reach out to your company, but you also need to know how they tend to do so.
A few examples:
- Customer visits website and signs up for mailing list to receive preliminary information about company’s services
- Customer contacts sales representative by phone to inquire about pricing
- Customer emails support team after placing an order to ensure delivery is en route
By knowing when, why and how your customers will engage with your company, you’ll be prepared with the exact information they need, exactly when they need it – and be able to deliver it via the method that works best for them.
Insights and Accountability
As we mentioned before, one of the benefits of creating a customer journey map is the ability to see who within your organization is responsible for engaging with the customer at a certain point in time.
While fleshing out this part of the customer journey map, though, you may notice that your organization actually doesn’t have the ability to meet the needs of the customer at a specific time. That being the case, you’d of course want to assess your company’s resources and overall situation to see how you could improve in the area in which you’re most lacking.
Additionally, as you make improvements to internal processes, you can revisit this area of your customer journey maps to reassess your ability to meet the needs of your customers.
Now that we know what all goes into a customer journey map, we can discuss how to go about actually creating one.
So let’s get started!
How to Create a Customer Journey Map
Creating a customer journey map is a multistep process that involves research and analysis of the customer-facing data you’ve collected over time and assessment of your company’s ability and capacity to meet your customers’ needs throughout their journey.
Let’s assume you’ve yet to create full persona profiles of your target customer.
Even if you have done this, you should still complete this step to ensure you know as much as you possibly can about your customers.
Your first step in the process of creating a customer journey map is to dig into the data you’ve already collected on your current customers.
Consult recent customer interviews and surveys you’ve conducted and any other qualitative feedback you’ve collected from your customers (such as from complaints or support tickets).
(Note: If you’re not currently surveying your customers to understand who they are and why they bought from you, Fieldboom can help. Try it free here.)
Additionally, look to quantitative data based around sales funnel and pipeline-related metrics.
For example, you might consider the average length of time it takes an individual to go from one end of the sales funnel (as a lead) to the other (as a customer), or your conversion rate between each stage of the funnel.
Assessing both qualitative and quantitative data in context will help you better understand not only the paths your customers take when engaging with your organization, but also where they face the most difficulty when doing so. In turn, you’ll be able to begin creating your customer journey map with a focus on these trouble spots so as to ensure you don’t overlook them.
Define Persona to Be Used
Again, if you haven’t fully fleshed-out your customer personas yet, now is the time to do so.
In addition to the typical demographic and geographic data you may have focused on when creating your personas, you’ll now want to shift your focus toward psychographic and behavioral information about your customers.
Psychographics refers to your customer’s personality, lifestyle and social class. In discussing personality, we’re talking about the type of person the individual is – and how this relates to their propensity to make purchases.
Lifestyle focuses on the individual’s opinions, interests and the activities they partake in throughout their life. Social class, of course, refers to their stature in society – typically revolving around their wealth.
Behavioral data refers specifically to the ways in which your customer acts as a consumer. This data answers questions such as:
- Are they habitual shoppers, or do they only make purchases out of necessity?
- How often do they make purchases? When are they most likely to do so?
- Why do they make certain purchases?
By taking all this information into consideration before you begin creating your customer journey map, you’ll be able to pinpoint each stage with confidence – rather than taking your “best guess” as to what a customer might do at certain points throughout their journey.
Begin Creating Your Customer Journey Map
As a refresher, each stage of a customer journey map will include information regarding:
- The customer in question
- The scenario (stages) they face and the goals they wish to accomplish at these times
- Their actions, thoughts and emotions at each of these stages
- The manner in which they engage with your company (or vice-versa)
- The people within the company responsible for engaging with the customer at these stages
To illustrate what a customer journey map might look like, let’s consider the process a married mother of two, who works as a school teacher, would go through when purchasing a new vehicle.
In the following example, we’ll describe our hypothetical customer’s actions, thoughts, emotions and goals for each stage of the journey, as well as the personnel involved during each of these stages and how they’re involved.
These points round out the bare minimum of what should be included in a customer journey map.
This guy clearly didn’t start with a customer journey map 😎
Step 1: Discovery
Once the individual in question realizes she’s in need of a new car, her journey as a customer begins.
- Actions: Uses Google to make a list of potential vehicles to check out; Discovers a number of dealerships in her area; Reaches out to make appointments
- Thoughts/Emotions: Hoping to find vehicle that’s affordable and safe for family; Hopeful that she’ll make the right choices
- Goals: Make appointments with local dealerships; Narrow list down as much as possible
- Personnel Involved: Marketing (creation of website and presentation of vehicle info); Sales (intaking inquiry, making appointment)
Stage 2: Comparing
Once the individual has made a list and made appointments, she’ll start to narrow her possibilities.
- Actions: Meets with salesman to discuss possible vehicles to purchase; Uses Kelly Blue Book and CarFax to assess info regarding pricing, safety, stability of vehicles
- Thoughts/Emotions: Hoping information provided by salesman is accurate; Beginning to trust salesman
- Goals: Narrow down list of potential vehicles to begin purchasing process
- Personnel Involved: Marketing (accuracy of information on website); Sales (determining what vehicles are available)
Step 3: Considering
At this point, the customer has narrowed down her choices to about three vehicles and now must decide which one to move forward with.
- Actions: Meets with finance advisor within dealership; Test drives ~3 vehicles
- Thoughts/Emotions: Hoping to get good news as far as monthly payments and financing; Hoping vehicles tested are drivable, comfortable and safe
- Goals: Deciding on the vehicle to purchase; Working with finance advisor to nail down pricing
- Personnel Involved: Salesman (test drive); Finance advisor (pricing)
Step 4: Purchase
At this stage of the journey, the customer has identified the vehicle she wants to purchase.
- Actions: Negotiating price, monthly payments, APR; Signing contract
- Thoughts/Emotions: Hoping to get a good deal and not to get locked into an unpleasant contract
- Goals: Signing contract, officially purchasing vehicle
- Personnel Involved: Marketing, sales, finance, service (all hands on deck)
Step 5: Post-Purchase
Even after the customer has purchased the vehicle, the relationship has not ended.
- Actions: Using vehicle as anticipated
- Thoughts/Emotions: Satisfied with decision; Happy with service provided throughout process
- Goals: Continue to use and maintain vehicle; Keep dealership in mind for future purchase down the road
- Personnel Involved: Service (check in after period of time to ensure vehicle is running smoothly); Marketing and Sales (announcements and new opportunities in the future)
Of course, once you have all of this information ready, you’d then present it graphically using a template such as this one.
Again, this is but one possible journey a single customer may take while successfully going through the process of purchasing a vehicle from a hypothetical dealership. Even a single persona might potentially go about the process in an entirely different way; it’s up to you to prepare for any and all possibilities.
Using Customer Journey Maps to Begin Micro-Segmenting Your Customers
It’s important to keep in mind that the entire purpose of creating customer journey maps in the first place is to learn as much as possible about your customers, which in turn enables you to provide excellent, seemingly individualized service to them as they progress through your funnel.
In short, the purpose of creating customer journey maps is to begin micro-segmenting your customer base.
Essentially, micro-segmentation takes the process of segmenting your customers one step further and considers actual, observed actions over hypothetical or potential ones.
(Note: If you’re unsure how your customers found you, or even how they ended up deciding to buy from you, Fieldboom can help you ask them and get you the insights you need to build out your customer journey maps. Try it free here.)
Using the example from above, let’s say you’ve found that 90% of people who fit this persona will ultimately end up checking CarFax to view a history report on the vehicles they’re considering buying.
That being the case, you’d want to instruct your salespeople to provide customers with links to these CarFax pages up front, instead of making them do all the “legwork” themselves.
This, of course, is a rather general example; the point is micro-segmentation allows you to use data from previous engagements to predict your future customers’ probable needs and behaviors – and focus your attention on giving them what they need before they even ask for it.
Again, micro-segmentation allows you to move past serving the “hypothetical customer” in favor of serving actual people. In turn, you’ll improve the customer experience for the majority of your consumer base, having provided proactive service for them at almost every step of their journey.
However, micro-segmentation does have its drawbacks.
For one thing, it requires the collection and analysis of actual data about your customers and their interactions with your company, to a degree which you may not be used to. If you don’t currently collect such data, you’ll need to begin doing so – which may prove to be a lengthy and perhaps costly investment.
Also, micro-segmentation simply isn’t a worthwhile investment for companies with a relatively small, homogenous customer base. This is essentially because micro-segmentation is done to find nuanced differences between seemingly indistinguishable customers; if your customers aren’t all that different (to the point that their journeys all look relatively similar), there’s no point in diving deeper into their individual journeys.
That being said, in a world of hyper-personalization in which the “segment of one” is all but expected, micro-segmentation enables you to stand out above your competition by providing customer service which most other organizations simply aren’t prepared to provide.
And it all begins by creating a detailed customer journey map. Go ahead and get our customer journey map template to help you get started.