The customer journey – sometimes called the buyer or user journey – tells the customer experience with a business, brand, product, or service. A customer journey is an alternative approach to other linear models like the sales funnel, which hypothesizes that most customers follow the same path.
Understanding the customer journey
Describing a customer journey may seem simple if we only consider the transaction between the buyer and the seller.
In truth, the customer journey is much more complex and multifaceted.
It begins when a consumer first becomes aware of a brand and extends well beyond the final purchase into loyalty programs and brand advocacy.
Whatever the industry, customer journeys must reflect a deep understanding of the end-user.
How does the user behave and feel as they travel through the sales process? Are there impediments to user or business success?
The customer journey is measured by touch-points, or consumer interactions with a brand.
How a business manages marketing, point-of-sale, and customer support touch-points will dictate whether it can attract and then retain buyers.
It’s important to note that touchpoints should be tailored to a specific buyer persona.
They must also be treated as single, independent entities while still making logical sense as part of a journey from start to finish.
Mapping a customer journey
Creating a compelling customer journey means adopting the perspective of the customer.
How is this accomplished?
Conduct analytical research
Use website and other analytics data to identify where the ideal customer hangs out and how much time they spend interacting with a brand.
Conduct anecdotal research
It is not possible to get inside someone else’s head, but social media can yield vital clues regarding how an individual feels or thinks when interacting with a brand.
Pay particular attention to reviews, as many only feel compelled to leave feedback when they have strong negative or positive feelings.
If this information is unavailable, consider asking the target audience directly by conducting surveys.
Identify customer touch-points
How does the customer interact with the brand via newsletters, advertising, websites, or after-sales support?
Identify the obstacles and then associate each touch-point with a goal that overcomes them to facilitate a seamless customer experience.
Create a graphic
Include both analytical and anecdotal research data to display the customer journey in a spreadsheet or similar.
Highlight areas where customer frustration or dissatisfaction causes them to end their journey and purchase elsewhere, but also make a note of areas where the customer is happy.
To help visualize the customer’s state of mind, some find it helpful to use emojis.
Benefits of customer journey mapping
Some businesses may have a superficial understanding of the obstacles their customers face and how to overcome them.
However, the biggest rewards are had by going deeper to break down the customer journey into smaller parts and then restructure each touch-point.
Here are some of the benefits of doing so:
Refocus the company with an inbound perspective
Instead of the business trying to attract buyers through outbound channels, it attracts customers by creating valuable and tailored content and experiences.
Inbound marketing is more efficient and cost-effective than the alternative which is more of a scattergun approach.
Proactive customer service
Knowing where the customer is both delighted and frustrated allows a customer service strategy to be planned in advance.
As a result, the business becomes more nimble and can selectively market to maximize brand value and equity.
Improved customer retention
It stands to reason that a satisfied buyer with fewer pain points is more likely to become a loyal and devoted fan.
Customer satisfaction is crucial, as a single bad experience from customers might lead them to switch.
Customer journey mapping also allows the business to identify the common behavioral patterns associated with customer churn, and plan accordingly.
Customer journey examples
To solidify the concept of customer journeys, we have included a few real-world examples in the following paragraphs.
Rail Europe is a B2C travel company that enables customers to easily book rail tickets online.
While Rail Europe had a robust on-site user interface, management noted that the company needed to better understand the customer journey across various touchpoints.
Teams within the company created an extensive customer journey map to illustrate a traveler’s experience before, during, and after booking a ticket.
In the process, they learned that customers do not move linearly between stages or channels.
Some customers whilst in the research phase, for instance, tended to move back and forth between website planning features, timetables, and comparison sites.
Rail Europe also used customer journey maps to increase customer empathy by determining the concerns and frustrations travelers experience on their trips.
This included concerns and frustrations that were unrelated to train travel such as someone feeling vulnerable after arriving at an unknown location in the middle of the night.
These points were included on the map because Rail Europe understood that customers connected its brand to their whole travel experience and not just the parts related to taking the train.
Spotify hired a marketing firm to create a customer journey map for a new feature it wanted to add to the platform.
The feature, which enabled users to share music inside the Spotify app and also using third-party applications, would increase social functionality and user engagement.
The map itself was then constructed to identify where the feature would best slot into the overall customer experience.
In short, the map started from the moment a user opens the Spotify app on their phone until the point at which they like a song that a friend has shared.
Based on this journey, Spotify identified various pain points to make the music-sharing process more seamless. Some of these pain points were listed as customer thoughts and include:
- Why do I HAVE to open it on Spotify? That’s really annoying.
- Why do I need to only use shuffle play? It’s weird that I just can’t hit play.
- I would have liked to have a way to see what songs were popular at the moment.
The airline Emirates created a customer journey map to better reflect the multi-channel nature of its customer journey.
The map illustrated three phases: reservations, check-in, and onboarding.
Space was also made for call center interactions and the context they provide for human service agents and interactive voice response (IRV) technology.
Furthermore, the four customer desires of comfort, confidence, safety, and freedom and control were placed in the corners of the map.
As a global brand, customers expect the same experience with Emirates regardless of the channel, touchpoint, or country.
To better understand customer expectations and coordinate touchpoints to deliver a consistent experience, the airline used the map to clarify several new measures.
One of these measures was a unified, virtual contact center platform to streamline interactions across all channels.
Other measures involved attaching experience goals to activities based on the impression of the end user.
These were relevant to the quality of the airport lounge, the perceived time spent waiting in a queue, and the clarity of airport signage.
The nature of the map itself also delivered a beneficial outcome.
Before a standardized and relatable map was created, Emirates’ multilingual workforce did not fully comprehend the customer journey and by extension, the company’s brand promise.
Today, the company notes that employees now commonly refer to passengers as “customers” instead.
Customer journey as an alternative to sales funnels
A customer journey is a great addition to other more linear tools like the sales funnel, as it enables you to have a deeper understanding of how customers get to know your brand.
Therefore, removing assumptions about how customers interact with your brand. This is critical as it helps to act with fewer assumptions and drive more effective branding campaigns.
- The customer journey tells the story of a consumer’s experience from the first interaction with a brand to a point well beyond their last purchase.
- For the business, crafting a compelling customer journey means taking the perspective of the customer. It must conduct analytical and anecdotal research to identify pain points, thoughts, and feelings that influence behavior. Then, it must visually represent the journey to identify obstacles and areas for improvement.
- The customer journey helps an organization adopt an inbound marketing strategy with a focus on proactive customer service. This mindset creates satisfied customers who are more likely to be retained.
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