The Customer Journey

Customer needs and expectations have evolved significantly over recent decades. In the past, businesses could compete and differentiate themselves based on product and pricing. Not any longer! These days, customers expect an amazing experience, and they don’t mind paying extra to receive it. So how do we create a delightful experience for our customers? By understanding them.
The more we understand our customers, the more we will be able to create an experience – and process  – that delights them. Without understanding how, when, and where customers interact with our company, all the data and analysis in the world is worthless.
Customer Journey Mapping
What exactly is customer journey mapping? How does it give us an insight into customers so we can deliver customized experiences?
A customer journey map is a visual that helps us outline the story of a customer’s experience, from start to finish. It outlines the crucial points of contact,  also known as touchpoints, and the customer experience, each step of the way. This map is the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with a business. Instead of looking at just a part of a transaction, the customer journey map documents the complete experience of a customer.
Creating a customer journey map that is unique to your company allows you to walk in your customers shoes. You will be able to see the path they take from start to finish. Once you see what your customers experience at every touchpoint, you will know exactly what is going well, and what needs to improve. Without understanding this journey, it will be impossible to understand your customers’ expectations.

“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” –Kevin Stirtz

Below is a very general example of a customer journey map. The touchpoints and details of the journey will vary according to the type of business and its products or services. But the journey generally  involves a customer’s need for or idea about something, the awareness of a brand that provides it, research and price comparison ( in most cases), contact with the business, purchase and use of product or service, and the post-purchase follow-up.

We can summarize the general steps in a customer journey as follows:

  • Need or Idea – customer has a need or idea
  • Awareness – customer is aware of your brand
  • Consideration/Research – customer is comparing and deciding whether to purchase
  • Purchase – customer has decided to purchase your product or service
  • Experience with Use of Product/Service – this will determine the next point
  • Loyalty – the quality of the relationship between your brand and customer

For each touchpoint, there will be sub-categories that are applicable to the customer’s unique journey, such as type of customer and need, mode of contact, type of touchpoint, communication channel used, and follow-up.
Here is an example of a Customer Journey Map for the hospitality industry:


In this map, we have 5 main touchpoints, starting with idea (inspiration)  and ending with a post-stay follow-up. All of these touchpoints can be tracked and reviewed in detail ,  in order to improve and optimize the customer experience.
Create an Effective Multi-Channel Communication Experience
Note in the Hospitality Customer Journey map,  that online content and communication plays a major role in the customer’s journey. According to Gartner, by 2020 customers will be conducting 85 percent of their relationship with a company without having direct contact with a human.
So, to make sure customers are satisfied, we need to build experiences that link the different communication channels seamlessly and effortlessly, throughout the customer journey. As part of our customer journey mapping, it will become more and more important to track customer conversations and feedback across all communication touchpoints.
Pinpoint Customer Issues and Solve Them
A customer journey map can help us understand where issues arise and find ways to solve them before they become major issues. Without knowing how and where your customers interact with your company, you cannot identify any difficulties in their experience. But with a customer journey map, you will be able to analyze the entire experience.
Improve Efficiency, Reduce Costs
In our last article, Customer Care Begins at Home ,we discussed the importance of internal customer service. Customer journey mapping gives you insight into a lot more than your customers’ experience. You will be able to discover any internal difficulties and inefficiencies as well.
In other words, you will be able to identify any inefficient processes that are taking valuable time and resources and, on top of that, effecting your external customer service. You can eliminate these inefficiencies and free up resources to improve the customer experience instead.
Get Everyone to Work Together
Customer journey maps replace the outdated “silo” business model and help bring everyone together as a team. The map itself can be a flowchart,  showing how all your departments can work in unison to deliver great experiences. Once team members can see how they are ALL involved in the success of the company, it’s easier to gain their commitment. In this way, we can use journey mapping to establish a common vision and change mindsets – thereby getting the different departments to work towards a common goal.
Customize the Customer Experience
Companies with great customer service often have customer journey maps that are personalized to fit a particular type of customer’s needs. Not every customer takes the same path, so you need to understand their journey. When building a customer journey map, you have an opportunity to obtain some very important insights, including how a customer’s journey varies, depending not only what they want and need, but also their circumstances and behavior.
The Customer Journey: A Roadmap to Success
Creating a customer journey map can be made easy. All that is required is to get an overview of what the process looks like at this time. This can be done on a poster or whiteboard, to begin with. As you visualize the steps in the journey, you can discuss any known stumbling blocks in the customer’s path and create a better, more effective process.
Keep in mind that the whole purpose of customer journey mapping is not to over-analyze but to get to know your customers’ behavior and needs, so you can deliver outstanding experiences consistently. If done right, you can eliminate silos, reduce costs, and do away with any internal frustrations and inefficiencies. This will result in happier customers,  which translates into increased customer retention and loyalty, lower customer acquisition costs, team member engagement, and continued business success.

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Customer Service Institute of America