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Ultimate guide to customer journey mapping

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Getting inside of the minds of your customers is pretty close to an actual superpower.  Understanding what they’re doing, why they’re taking (or not taking) certain actions, and what they really want and need has the power to help you deliver exceptional customer experiences. And in a fast-paced world where new technologies, buying trends, and expectations shift all the time, keeping up is especially essential - and challenging. 

Understanding your customers at this deep level is possible with customer journey mapping. It might sound like a mythical quest, but journey mapping is actually a popular and powerful tool for gaining a clear grasp on your customers’ minds, desires, and expectations, as well as their relationship with your business. 

What is a customer journey map? 

A customer journey map is a visual representation of the customer journey. 

So what is the customer journey? It’s the process of a customer interacting with your business across the whole span of their relationship with your company. The customer journey begins the first time the customer gains awareness of your brand, through the decision and purchase process, and onto the post-purchase process as well. All these touchpoints and interactions add up to the complete customer journey.

Consumers today have so many different possible interactions with a brand that understanding them all can be challenging. This is why customer journey maps exist - they help you create a visual story of the interactions customers have with your brand. Mapping out the customer journey in this visual and easily understood way helps ensure that no customer or touchpoint slips through the cracks. 

One of the main benefits of customer journey mapping is that it helps leaders gain insights into the most common pain points for their customers that may have gone unnoticed or underappreciated. And understanding these pain points and how they impact the customer journey allows businesses to better optimize the customer experience (CX) - and offer a more personalized experience as well. 

What is customer journey mapping? 

Customer journey mapping, also known as user journey mapping, is the process of creating a customer journey map for your business. It’s no small undertaking - customer journeys have gotten much longer and more complex in recent years. But it’s important because it allows businesses to step into the shoes of their customers and see the brand, products, services, and experiences from their perspective. 

This process can be extremely illuminating - it’s not often that most companies take time to see things from a customer’s view. It typically yields insights into common pain points and solutions for them, as well as a deeper understanding of what the business excels at providing already. 

Customer journey mapping allows your business to assess: 

  • Insights - understand your current customer journey better 

  • Impact - optimize your budgets for changes that will positively affect the customer experience 

  • Issues - diagnosing problems and opportunities in the existing customer journey

  • Innovation - areas where you can, and should, completely change the current customer experience 

Why is customer journey mapping important? 

Customer journey mapping is an important exercise for businesses because it has many benefits. 

It offers a strategic approach to understanding customer expectations and interactions at a deeper level. This is crucial for optimizing the overall customer experience, because it’s difficult to improve something you don’t understand. And it allows your business to create a better onboarding process to begin the transition from prospect to customer on the right foot. 

Customer journey mapping also lets you benchmark the experience your customers expect from your business against what they are actually receiving. Since this gap in expectation vs. reality is responsible for much of customer dissatisfaction and can encourage them to go to a competitor instead, identifying and fixing these gaps is essential to improve your customer retention rate.  

Plus, mapping the customer journey allows you to understand the difference in each of your customer personas as they take the path from prospect to converted customer in your buying funnel. You can make your funnels more effective with journey mapping, and also ensure you’re selling accurately and providing proactive customer service once a customer comes on board. 

How customer journey mapping can improve customer experiences

Customer journey mapping is one of the best tools to improve your customer experience, for both B2B and B2C companies.

What is customer experience? 

Customer experience, or CX, is how customers perceive the sum of every interaction they have with your business. Customer experience management (CXM) helps your business manage these interactions better so they meet or exceed the expectations of your customers. 

Benefits of a great CX  

Great customer experience means that every interaction a customer has with your brand is easy, frictionless, and centered around their needs. Providing a great CX has benefits such as increased customer loyalty and satisfaction, as well as increased word-of-mouth marketing from those happy customers. 

How journey mapping can improve CX 

Customer journey mapping helps you improve your CX by gaining a better understanding of your customers and the many different interactions they may have with your brand, including gaps and pain points that currently exist. And this understanding helps you build a more customer-centric company

Journey mapping also helps you get into the minds of different customer personas - how do their goals and journeys diverge from each other? This can help you determine how to optimize all of these paths according to the problems and needs of each persona, which can help you more effectively market and sell your products. Customers are increasingly weary of a one-size-fits-all approach to selling and prefer to feel that your company is anticipating their needs. 

How to create a customer journey map 

Now that you know how powerful customer journey mapping can be for your business, it’s time to begin building your own. 

Components of a customer journey map 

The customer journey map for your business will be unique, because your company and customers certainly are. But there are several components that every journey map should include.

The buying process 

What does the path to purchasing a product look like for your customers? Do they visit a store, shop online, ask family and friends for recommendations, conduct an online search, see ads, go through an onboarding stage, or other steps? 

User actions 

What actions are your customers taking at each stage of the customer journey? 

Emotions 

Buying something is always a process involving emotions - customers typically make a purchase to solve a problem. How are they feeling before, during, and after the purchase process? 

Pain points 

What pain points are your customers looking to solve, and what pain points are they encountering in the purchase process as well?

Solutions 

What solutions is your business offering to customers, and how well does the delivery of those solutions live up to customer expectations? 

Steps to creating a customer journey map 

Set clear objectives 

Begin by asking yourself and your team why you’re making a journey map in the first place. What goals are you attempting to achieve by creating this map? Who, exactly, is this map about? And what experience is it based on? These questions will help you clarify your objectives for creating your journey map. 

Profile your personas 

Next, it’s time to profile your customer personas. Conduct research and gather feedback, but be sure it’s from people who are genuinely interested in purchasing your products or services, and who have interacted with your company or are planning to do so. This will help your research remain accurate - it doesn’t matter what someone who will never buy your product thinks about your customer experience. 

Examples of questions to ask in your research: 

  • How did you hear about our company?

  • What first attracted you to our website?

  • What are the goals you want to achieve with our company? What problems are you trying to solve?

  • Have you ever made a purchase with us? If so, what was your deciding factor?

  • Is there any way we can further support you to make your process easier?

List all touchpoints 

Once your personas are delineated, next list out all the touchpoints your customers currently have with your business. These may include your: 

  • Website

  • Social channels

  • Paid ads

  • Email marketing

  • Third-party review sites or mentions

Be sure to list the touchpoints prospects and customers have right now, as well as the ones you would like them to use. This step will give you valuable insight into the actions your customers are taking and identifying any existing gaps. 

Actions 

In addition to touchpoints, you should also list the actions your customers perform throughout all their interactions with your company. While many touchpoints may be passive, like viewing an ad on a billboard, laying out the actions you’re asking customers to take is important to add. This will help you recognize if customers are being asked to take too many actions to achieve their goals or solve their problems. 

Emotions and motivations 

Emotions are involved in every purchase decision (yes, even in B2B buying!). Understanding the specific emotions that drive your customer’s actions - typically caused by a pain point or problem - can help you provide the right content at the right time. This creates a smoother emotional journey through their buying process. 

Pain points 

What roadblocks in your customer journey are slowing down your customers or preventing them from taking their desired action? Identifying and highlighting these roadblocks and pain points in the customer journey on your map can help you eliminate or mitigate them. 

Map current states 

Next, it’s time to map the current state of your customer journey. What does the customer journey look like right now? This stage helps you identify red flags, gaps, and pain points that currently exist for your customers. While this process can be eye-opening, and a bit brutal at times, it’s important to be completely honest so you don’t leave problems or opportunities behind. 

Map future states 

And once you’re discovered where you currently stand, you can map out where you would like to be. What will your customer journey hopefully look like after you’ve solved those gaps and pain points as much as possible? This ideal state gives you a goal to work toward in your customer experience. 

Make necessary changes 

Now, it’s time to decide how you will get from the current state to the ideal state. Your data analysis from the research phase should have given you a sense of what you want the customer experience to be, and the current vs. ideal customer journey exercise should have illuminated the gaps that need to be filled. 

Taking action to achieve these new goals involves making real changes, which can be difficult. It’s easy to look at the data and the current gaps and feel discouraged. But it’s the only way to actually improve the customer experience - simply creating a customer journey map won’t solve those problems by itself. 

And once you’ve made those changes, your task isn’t over. You should review the customer journey map regularly to measure your results, evaluate your progress, and ensure you’re living up to current expectations and best practices. All this hard work will help you deliver an exceptional customer experience, which will lead to increased customer loyalty and a strong foundation for your business for years to come. 

Customer journey map best practices 

When you’re creating your customer journey map, keep these best practices in mind.  

Set a goal for the journey map 

Creating a journey map isn’t a goal in itself - you need to get clear on why, exactly, you’re creating one. Are you looking to improve customer loyalty, or reduce customer effort, or increase your conversion rate from your marketing? Perhaps you want to create a more personalized experience for all your different buyer personas that will speak closely to their needs - customer journey mapping can help with that as well. But you can’t do it all at once, so be sure to set a clear and actionable goal before you begin.

Survey customers to understand their buying journey 

Gathering data doesn’t mean only looking at analytics - it also means surveying to get customer feedback. Your customers are in control of their own customer journey, not your business. So asking them what they do and how they feel about it is an essential component of the journey mapping process. 

Ask customer services reps about the questions they receive most frequently 

When your customers contact customer support, they are encountering an issue or pain point. The people who will have the most insight into the questions and problems customers have most often are your customer service reps. Are they seeing trends or patterns you should address? Ask them directly to get their unfiltered views. 

Create a customer journey map for each buyer persona 

Each customer will have a unique journey with your business - but it’s clearly infeasible to create an individual journey map for each one. But it is important to create a map for each buyer persona so that you’re getting the full picture of customer experiences and journeys. 

For example, if your business sells athletic shoes, you likely have several different buyer personas. There is the dedicated marathon runner who orders the same shoes online every six months, the casual athlete browsing your brick-and-mortar store to check out new gear, and the new exerciser who is stopping by to get help choosing the right clothes. 

Each persona has a slightly different goal and wants different interactions - your marathon runner does not need input from a salesperson very often, while the newbie wants plenty of guidance and attention. Creating a customer journey for each of them that pays attention to their desires and goals will help optimize the customer experience for everyone who shops in your store, and that creates strong customer loyalty. 

Review and update each journey map frequently

Journey mapping is not a one-and-done process. Your business changes over time, your products and services get updated, your customer channels shift, and buyer expectations are different from one year to the next. 

That’s why your customer journey map should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. You can keep abreast of changes as they happen and respond proactively to keep up with customer expectations. And gathering feedback from customers on a regular basis is also key to this process, allowing you to stay tuned into what’s working well and what isn’t serving them any longer. 

Make the customer journey map accessible to cross-functional teams

Your customer journey crosses almost every team in your business, not just the customer-facing ones. And that’s why all departments should have access to your customer journey map, and be able to understand both the big picture and their place in it. 

Your journey mapping process may also surface places where a cross-functional team would help solve pain points, like getting product and marketing together to fill the gaps between what’s being promised and what is actually getting to customers.  

Key takeaways 

Customer journey mapping is a big task - but it can yield incredible benefits for your business, and an improved customer experience for your buyers and prospects as well. Following this guide will help you create a successful customer journey mapping experience for your business. 

And if you’re looking for a complete customer experience platform to help you gather information, analyze customer insights, and decide where and how to act, GetFeedback has a solution for you. 

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