a customer’s journey with a brand is a straight path with predictable behaviors throughout it. A customer discovers a product for the first time, purchases it, uses it, and continues to repurchase. If only it was that simple.
In reality, when you start to consider the different channels, devices, and moments available to a customer the journey becomes anything but simple. From awareness and consideration to the point of purchase and product usage, different customers have different needs, expectations, and questions at each step of the journey. While it may be a big task to stay in sync with a customer throughout their journey, it is critical in today’s consumer-driven world where customers have higher expectations for every interaction they have with a brand.
Before we dive into customer journey mapping, let’s first explore how it ties into customer experience and how investing time and resources in customer experience can produce significant returns.
In fact, 95 percent of senior business leaders say customer experience is the next competitive battleground.1 It has been and continues to be the most important differentiator between brands. Today’s consumers generally expect a fast, personalized experience from a brand no matter what they buy, how they buy, or where they buy.
To better understand the significance of customer experience, let’s first consider the impact of a negative customer experience versus a positive one. The stats below prove there is a tangible ROI tied to a positive customer experience. That’s why it’s crucial to keep your current customers happy so they can hopefully become brand advocates and continue to provide long-term value to you.
Customer experience has replaced the three P’s—price, product, and promotion.
Through the process of creating a journey map, you can easily discern your brand’s Moments of Truths (MoT), or the critical moments that shape your customer’s perception of your brand. And, once you’ve identified your MoTs, you’re able to start examining whether or not you’re meeting, exceeding, or falling short on the expectations your customers have for these moments. With this detailed perspective, it is easier to: identify gaps and pain points the customer is currently experiencing; look at things in context of the whole experience, making it easier to make value-driven decisions; understand how internal teams and processes contribute to a customer’s journey and overall customer experience; and turn a first-time customer into a long-term, loyal brand advocate.
Once you’ve decided to invest the time and resources into creating a customer journey map, you’ll likely have a ton of questions. How do I start a customer journey mapping initiative? Who should be involved? What research does journey mapping require? Have no fear — we’re here to help walk you through the process.
One of the most important steps in the customer journey mapping process is involving the right stakeholders in the process. This likely means you need to involve a large number of people in the process which can sometimes seem counterproductive. But, it’s essential, as there is rarely ever one single person within a company that knows everything about the current customer journey in detail. It’s also extremely helpful to develop buy-in early on in this process because the end result of your journey mapping exercise will likely result in a number of changes that you want to make to the overall customer experience.
Below is a list of the types of roles that we recommend involving in your customer journey mapping process:
Executive Sponsor — It’s critical to have a member of the leadership team supporting this cross-functional initiative because while your team may be leading the project, it will impact every aspect of the business and will likely create additional work for a number of people.
Marketing and Communications — Your marketing team is a crucial part of any customer journey mapping initiative and is sometimes the team leading the initiative. Their perspective is vital because they typically own a large number of the touchpoints between your brand and customers throughout the journey. They also have access to a number of different analytics about customer behavior.
Customer Support — Your customer support team hears from customers every single day and has a pulse of how customers feel about your brand. They’re also likely attuned to the internal processes that can make delighting customers more difficult.
Sales — The members of your sales team have an important perspective about what drives prospects to purchase, and can share a great amount of insight into how prospects perceive your brand and overall customer experience. They also can usually provide some competitive insight into what is causing prospects to choose competitors over your brand.
Product — It’s key to have a representative from your product team participate in the customer journey mapping process since they have in-depth knowledge about your product offering. They know the current product roadmap, which will prove to be helpful as you work to map out improvements.
Finance — Another critical part of this process is having access to analytics, and financial information can be a big part of that. By having a member of your finance team involved, you’ll not only have access to this information and hear their insights and feedback on the customer journey, but also have someone that can help with any financial models that need to be created for any new initiatives you want to pursue.
Human Resources — At first, it may seem unusual to involve members of your HR team in the customer journey mapping process since they’re not directly involved with customers. However, they do know a great deal about your employees, which can come in handy as you start to map out any new initiatives. They also will likely be involved in the implementation of new initiatives, so it really helps to get them onboard early on.
After the introductory project meeting, you’ll want to schedule a longer meeting that is at least four hours with the understanding that it may need to be stretched over multiple days depending on the size of your company and the complexity of your customer journey. For more established companies with an existing customer journey, we recommend scheduling your first in-depth session to focus on mapping out your current customer journey. You’ll likely want to start sharing ideas on how to improve various aspects of the customer journey during this meeting, but it’s important to stay focused on the current journey and the perceptions customers have about it now.
While mapping out your current customer journey, we recommend a few tangible tools to help you through this process. It is usually helpful to have a large, open wall and a big supply of post-it notes that are given to everyone participating in this exercise. These post-it notes allow everyone to write down the various touchpoints, and put them up on the wall to visualize a timeline of the customer journey. This exercise allows input from the people involved in each step of the journey, which helps them buy into the overall initiative.
After you map out the current customer journey, you’ll likely have some gaps on what happens in specific points of the journey because no matter how many people you include on your team there will always be some areas that you need to research further. Your goal after this meeting should be to have a fairly-well mapped out customer journey, and to have a list of action items for team members to tackle to find out additional information. During this research phase, you’ll also want to capture any customer perception data and include it on your journey map. This could be information such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) for specific touchpoints in the journey, sales metrics, retention rates, etc. This information will help tell the story about how your customer perceives your experience and identifies areas for improvement.
We also highly recommend that you take the time to conduct customer research if your company hasn’t done this lately. This can include a quantitative survey, focus group, in-person interviews, etc. The goal of this effort is to learn more about what motivates your customers, what are their MoTs, and what improvement areas do they want to see from your brand. It’s usually advantageous to conduct this customer research at an overall level for your brand and then dive into areas that you’ve previously identified as potential problems based on the other data you’ve collected. All of this information should be included in your customer journey map.
Typically, your team will need two to three shorter sessions to go over the data you have collected during this process, and then one longer session to finalize your current customer journey map. Because this should be based on facts and data rather than opinions, it’s important to make sure that everyone is in general agreement on what has been mapped out at this point in the process.
Once you’ve mapped out your current customer journey and identified your customers’ perceptions and emotional reactions throughout the process, then you should plan to have a separate session to start reimagining your customer journey. This is the point in the process where everyone needs to “think outside the box.” While it may be difficult at first, it’s really important to not get bogged down on how difficult or impossible an idea might be to implement. Instead, you need to consider what is the best customer experience and then focus later on how to feasibly implement it.
For this session, it usually makes sense to take a similar approach to the one you did for the current customer journey mapping process (think: a long wall and lots of post-it notes). Some companies find it helpful to have a printed copy of the current journey map hanging somewhere up in the room. It serves as a reference point to identify pain points, and ensures you’re not forgetting any crucial touchpoints. It’s usually most effective to give everyone a set amount of time, such as 30 minutes, to write down all of their ideas on post-it notes and place them on the wall without any group discussion. Then, the group can walk through everyone’s ideas, and make a decision about whether or not the group agrees that the proposed idea is ideal for the customer experience. You’ll likely experience conflicting viewpoints during this part of the process because this is when opinions starts to play a factor.
While mapping out the ideal customer journey is the fun part of the process, it’s usually the longest part because you’ll need to work to get group consensus as much as possible. This will be extremely important when you present your proposed customer journey map to the leadership team along with your proposed action plan and timeline. Having a united front in these types of meetings will help you garner buy-in much faster. It also ensures the actual implementation process of key initiatives is smoother since you’ll already have cross-functional supporters.
[kuhs-tuh-mer jur-nee map-ing] verb — to visually tell the story of a customer’s overall experience with a brand using specific, chronological interactions
After you’ve solidified your ideal customer journey map, you’ll need to create an action plan for how you’re going to implement this new customer experience. For most companies, it will make the most sense to break it down into multiple key initiatives that you can tackle over a set period of time. There are various ways to tackle this step in the process, but we find that teams that work together to identify and prioritize the key initiatives as a group and then breakout into smaller groups to develop action plans for each initiative are typically the most effective. This method ensures that the entire group is onboard with the overarching initiatives and allows the individuals most knowledgeable about each initiative to help craft the plan to accomplish it. Once each subgroup has crafted their action plan, then the larger group should meet again to review each plan to make sure nothing has been missed. It can be helpful to bring in an outside perspective from someone not in the subgroups to accomplish this.
Each subgroup should also be focused on identifying performance indicators for their specific initiative and include those in the action plan. It’s vital to have a set of measurable goals for each initiative you plan to implement, so you can know when you’re successful and when an area needs more attention. You’ll also want to discuss as a group what your overall measures of success will be for the proposed customer journey such as improvements to NPS, customer acquisition goals, increase in retention rates, etc. These metrics should tie to your business goals and align with the pain points that you previously identified in your current customer journey mapping session.
That is, how you decide to present it is just as important as the content. Typically, journey maps are presented in some form of an visual graphic in chronological order, but even a storyboard or video works. While there are a variety of ways to display, the objective of a journey map is to optimize key stakeholders’ understanding and decision-making based on the information displayed. So, keep it simple and straightforward.
Once your customer journey maps are ready to present, you’ll need to schedule a meeting with senior leaders to review and approve the proposed journey map and associated action plans. We recommend involving multiple team members in the presentation to show there is cross-functional support, and highlighting performance indicators. Once the new customer journey map and action plans are approved, consider planning a rollout to the entire organization to drum up excitement. Sharing it with everyone also ensures transparency and accountability across the organization. The final consideration to think about when you present your new customer journey map is sharing it with your customers. This is a great way to show your organization is listening to their feedback and working towards making improvements for them.
Once you’ve started implementing your new customer journey, you’ll want to continually measure its performance. There will be some initiatives that drive phenomenal results and align with exactly what you were hoping to achieve, but there will also be certain initiatives that don’t perform the way you expected. Don’t fret when this happens! If you keep your eye consistently on the metrics, then you’ll be able to identify problems quickly and make adjustments as necessary. And, don’t forget to share the results of this major project with others in the organization. You’ll want everyone in the company to celebrate the successes and understand why you’re making changes.
There is no single right way to create a customer journey, but one thing holds true across customers, brands, and industries—customer journey mapping isn’t something to set and forget. With customers’ expectations and behaviors constantly changing and new technology always developing, customer journey mapping is not a one-time event. Periodically reevaluating your customers’ journey and mapping out their overall experience will help you in analyzing what is working and what needs to be changed to continue to improve your customer journey and overall customer experience.