Customer Journey Mapping for SaaS Companies

An overview of the customer journey map for SaaS companies, why it's important, and how it's executed.

Article

Sara Staffaroni

August 27, 2020

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What does your SaaS company’s customer journey map look like? If this question strikes a little fear into your heart, it’s because your business is making an all-too-common mistake: you simply don’t have a customer journey map yet. Or perhaps you created one, but it’s outdated.

Either way, the SaaS buyer journey has only gotten more complex in the past few years. On top of that, it’s continuously changing. That’s why creating a detailed customer journey map and keeping it up to date and relevant is so vital. It will help you create an excellent customer experience that builds strong loyalty in your customers and the businesses they work for, and that’s how your company can achieve sustainable growth. 

What is the customer journey?

The customer journey is the complete experience a customer has with an organization. This experience encompasses all customer interactions across every channel, device, and touchpoint throughout every stage of the customer lifecycle. Sound like a pretty big deal? Well, it is. And the customer journey has only gotten more complicated. With more and more businesses embracing an omnichannel experience based on consumer expectations, your customer journey can start, live, and end in a variety of places these days. 

The customer journey follows the lifecycle of your customers from the first time they become aware of your business to the point where they become loyal customers and advocates. Since this is quite a wide span, you need to match communication strategies with customer expectations at each stage of the journey. 

Customer journey vs. customer experience

Customer journey and customer experience are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably but they’re not the same thing, even though they’re related concepts. Let’s make a clear distinction so you know what we’re referring to in the rest of this guide. 

The customer journey is what customers do at each stage of the customer lifecycle. It’s the actions they take, the interactions with your brand and company and products they have, and the touchpoints they encounter throughout their relationship with your business. 

The customer experience, on the other hand, is how customers feel about the entire customer lifecycle. It’s their perception of your brand and reputation, their feelings about interactions with your customer service team, and their emotions at each touchpoint in the customer lifecycle. 

Customer journey mapping 

The customer journey for most businesses is quite long and complex as more companies move towards an omnichannel approach. This is especially true for SaaS companies, where your relationship with customers is long and full of touchpoints. Creating a successful and delightful customer journey doesn’t happen by chance. You need to have a thoughtful strategy to make it great. And that’s where customer journey mapping is vital. 

A customer journey map is a visual storyline of every engagement your customer has with your service, brand, or product. The process of creating a customer journey map puts you in the mind, and the shoes, of your customers and prospects so you can see where you may be missing the mark, what you are doing right, and where you can make improvements across the customer lifecycle. 

Why is customer journey mapping important?

Customer journey mapping is essential to creating an exceptional customer experience. After all, you can’t optimize your customer journey if you don’t have a clear and accurate view of what it looks like. Even touchpoints that seem tiny can have a strong positive or negative impact on the customer experience, and you don’t want to ignore a single interaction. Customer journey mapping helps you find and track every interaction and experience, large and small. 

Creating a customer journey map has multiple benefits. It gives you the ability to predict the next step of your target customer so you know what lies ahead for them and how to make their experience great. It also helps you gain a deeper understanding of your customers—what they do, what they want, and how your CX is meeting or falling below their expectations. This understanding is critical to creating a truly customer-centric culture at your company in every department. 

This continuous improvement in the customer experience through journey mapping has benefits as well. When you understand your customers better and pay close attention to their journey, you’ll have faster average sales cycles as you optimize each touchpoint of the sales process. 

You’ll also have more cross-sell and up-sell revenue as you confidently offer exactly what customers need when they’re farther along in their journey with your business. Your customer service costs will be lower as you reduce problems and pain points, thus reducing calls about common issues. You can also make the critical customer onboarding process as smooth and supported as possible, which sets up your relationship with your new customers on the best possible footing. 

Additionally, your marketing will benefit from journey mapping. You will understand what customers love and value about your product and customer experience, and leverage those points in your marketing to bring in new customers who are a great fit for your business. 

Overall, customer journey mapping benefits derive from being able to benchmark the customer experience your customers desire end expect with the one they actually receive. You can’t improve what you can’t track and measure, and mapping your customer journey clearly allows you to do just that without missing any critical touchpoints. The better you understand customer expectations, the better you can then tailor your customer experience to their needs.

How to create a customer journey map 

There’s no one way to create the perfect customer journey map—each one is different since your company’s users and products are both unique. You can get started using GetFeedback’s free customer journey mapping template and guide and customizing it to your own needs with the steps below. 

Draw out the customer journey lifecycle

What does the lifecycle of your customer journey look like, from the first time a prospect hears about your brand to the point where they become a loyal customer and advocate? These are the most common lifecycle stages: 

  1. Discover

  2. Explore

  3. Buy

  4. Use

  5. Ask

  6. Engage

Mapping out these stages can help you see how every touchpoint in this journey relates to another one. 

Identify company and customer touchpoints 

Next, you want to identify all the touchpoints your customers have with your company. This should be approached from the perspective of the customer, not the business. 

Identify what’s happening at each stage

Now that you have all the touchpoints listed, it’s time to dig deeper into what’s happening during each touchpoint as well. This can include: 

  • Actions: What is the customer doing at each stage?

  • Motivations: Why is the customer motivated to keep going to the next stage? What emotions are they feeling?

  • Questions: What are the uncertainties, jargon, or other issues preventing customers from moving to the next stage?

  • Barriers: What structural, price, cost, implementation, or other barriers stand in the way of moving on to the next stage?

These questions will help you understand the customer’s experience and feelings during each touchpoint, which can help you optimize the overall customer experience. 

Analyze gaps between existing strategies and expectations 

Finally, you need to dig into each touchpoint to find out what the expectations of customers are at each point, and how your company is currently actually performing. 

For example, you may find that at your subscription renewal billing touchpoint, your customers expect advance notice and a seamless renewal process. But what your company is actually delivering is only a three-day notice, and the renewal process includes several manual steps. 

Working to improve this part of the customer experience, by providing more proactive communication and cutting down on the manual steps required, can improve your customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Customer journey mapping for SaaS companies 

SaaS companies have complex customer journeys.. The distinction between a good and bad interaction can be a matter of one click. And competition in the SaaS world is only growing more intense, so your customers have plenty of other options if they’re frustrated by even a single touchpoint in your customer journey. 

Since most SaaS companies rely on a subscription model, you must be continually improving and enhancing your customer experience to avoid high churn rates. And that’s exactly where customer journey mapping in SaaS can help. 

Relevance of journey mapping in SaaS 

SaaS has many touchpoints for multiple people during the customer lifecycle. The buying process alone includes an average of 6.8 people, and the sales process for SaaS products tends to be complex as well. There are many features, options, and installations needed to get a new customer on board. 

SaaS products can have many users in a single company. Just one person can cause a whole organization to switch to a competitor and leave you with a significant revenue loss. Customer churn is a serious issue for SaaS companies as they look to grow and expand because acquiring new customers is an expensive proposition. 

Use your journey map to make sure the customer experience, with both your product and company, is meeting or exceeding expectations at every touchpoint. Your customers will be less likely to look for another option when their renewal time comes. That reduction in churn increases your profitability and can even boost your revenue if you can upsell.  

All of this adds up to one conclusion: Your customer journey needs to be top-notch from beginning to end. And mapping your journey makes that possible.  

Benefits of customer journey mapping for SaaS 

Customer journey maps are a strategic tool to show how people and companies interact with your brand and product. This information is important to communicate effectively across your organization, as every department in your SaaS business ultimately has an impact on your customer experience. 

Also, since the customer journey in SaaS tends to be so complex, communicating that complexity and reaching a shared understanding of the current state and the optimal one you’re working toward becomes simpler. Everyone can get on the same page faster if there’s a clear visual to point to when referring to the customer journey, and that’s what your journey map provides. 

Customer journey maps define the data you need to track, attribute, and sync across all your tools. Your SaaS company may use multiple tools and data sources to monitor the customer experience, and your map brings all those resources together so you can view the customer experience as a whole and not just a series of disjointed parts. 

And finally, customer journey mapping outlines how you can orchestrate 1:1 personalized experiences at scale. When your SaaS company is just a small startup, you can create highly customized customer experiences for each client because you only have a few. But as you grow and gain more clients, you need to be able to scale customer experiences. Journey mapping allows you to do this. 

Questions to address

When creating your B2B SaaS customer journey map, there are many possible questions you should ask across the organization to ensure your map is complete and clear to all your employees and executives. 

Who are my users? 

Identifying users in SaaS can be a difficult and complex activity. Your software can have many different kinds of users, and each person has their own specific needs and requirements your product needs to meet. 

For example, users can range from:

  • Managers and executives who need to run reports on the data collected and analyzed by your software

  • Front-line employees who input data

  • IT team who needs to implement and perform any troubleshooting or upkeep. 

Questions to consider when identifying your users include:

  • Who is testing the software?

  • Who is making software purchasing decisions?

  • What features are users looking for in the software?

  • Who is using the software? 

  • Who is benefiting from the software as a third party?

  • When and where is the software used?

Journey mapping here can identify: 

  • Who is involved, and when?

  • What are the needs of different users of the service?

  • What expertise do they have and how should it influence the onboarding process?

  • What other parties do they depend on, and what does that mean for us?

What is the interface between the tool and the “real” world?

These questions are crucial to understanding how your software is used and the context in which it’s used. In other words, what are the other conditions around how people and businesses purchase and operate your software? 

Journey mapping will help you understand: 

  • How did users get to our SaaS?

  • In what physical context do they use my tool?

  • What physical artifacts do they derive from the tool?

  • How does the tool affect interaction and collaboration with others?

  • How does the tool connect to or change existing processes?

How can I support my users’ onboarding to the software? 

Onboarding is an especially critical part of the SaaS customer journey. You’ve made the sale because the buying committee, who are likely not the end-users, saw and appreciated your product’s value. Now you need to introduce your tool to the people who are going to be using it, and train them so they can use it effectively. 

Getting this stage right is vital. It’s the first experience most of the end-users will have with your product and sets the tone for your relationship with your customer. If they feel supported and valued, they’ll begin on a good note - but if they have trouble implementing it and getting it to work as your sales team promised it would, their expectations won’t be met. 

When looking at the onboarding experience, a journey map can help you understand: 

  • Is the interface easy to understand?

  • What resources do our users use during the first steps? Are there any resources missing?

  • What feature or moment is it that leads users to that “aha moment”?

  • Is there anything that blocks the users’ onboarding progress?

Key takeaways 

Customer journey mapping is an important tool for your CX strategy, and that’s especially true in SaaS businesses. Creating a clear, comprehensive map of every customer touchpoint and deciding how to optimize them to exceed your customers’ expectations will create loyal long-term customers who will stick with your business for years or even decades to come. 

Looking for a way to create a customer journey map for your business? Explore GetFeedback’s customer experience plans and learn how you can build what your business needs to succeed in the fast-moving, competitive SaaS world. Your customer journey mapping process will be more accurate when you add sophisticated survey technology and analytics.

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