Facilitating smooth transitions: the importance of customer journey maps
As businesses compete against one another in increasingly crowded marketplaces, customer engagement – and collective customer spending power – is where bottom lines are lost and won. Placing customer experience at the heart of business operations and process, from start to finish, can mean the difference between garnering greater market share and becoming redundant and overlooked as a brand.
As customer experience experts, Emplifi, state: “we live in the age of the customer” – highlighting the central focus of customer needs and customer satisfaction in overall marketing efforts and approaches. Their customer and user experience statistics reflect this vital metric:
- 65% of customers find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising
- Social media is the number one channel customers prefer to use to engage with brands – especially Gen Z audiences
- Customer experience drives over two-thirds of customer loyalty, representing more than brand and price combined
- 42% of customers expect a seamless experience across all devices and channels
- 65% of customers would become long-term customers of a brand if they received positive experiences throughout their customer journey.
The value and importance of a positive, seamless, real-time and stress-free customer experience is vital. So, how do companies begin optimizing the experiences of their customers?
What is a customer journey map?
The term customer journey – also known as user journey or buyer journey – refers to the ‘story’ of a customer’s experience with a company across all the related touchpoints. For example, when a customer first visits a website, follows a brand on social media, purchases a product, reaches out to customer support, and so on. A customer journey map, therefore, is a helpful visual representation of these customer touchpoints and the various experiences and interactions.
The customer journey mapping process involves the creation of this visual map as a marketing planning tool.
Why is customer journey mapping important?
The most critical, and immediate, aspect of customer journey mapping is that it enables brands to – figuratively – step into a customer’s shoes and understand their point of view. It provides a strategic framework and approach to gain insight into their expectations and experiences, including identifying any pain points and opportunities to elevate interactions.
Mapping helps brands to understand their existing customers and target audiences better. Assessing the journey from the customer’s perspective enables brands to plan and improve activities from a position of knowledge. With the requisite data and insights, companies are then better placed to tailor, personalize and optimize the overall experience to individual customer needs and desires. It aims to identify and optimize ‘moments of truth’ in a journey, where a specific event or key action occurs and the customer forms an opinion of a brand.
Other benefits of customer journey mapping:
- Brands are able to optimize their onboarding processes
- The customer receives a better-structured, more-logical journey, free from ineffective touchpoints
- Silos and fragmented processes and operations can be remedied
- Personalisation can be integrated across all touchpoints, for all customers
- It is easier to identify differences in buyer personas – for example, the transition from prospect to conversion as customers progress through the marketing funnel
- The customer experience can be benchmarked and used as one of a brand’s key performance indicators (KPIs), and feasibility and profitability of future investment can be assessed
- Specific personas can be targeted with content and communications of greater individual relevance
- Brands shift towards a more customer-focused standpoint.
It enables marketers to objectively assess current marketing strategy and make evidence-based changes as, when and where they are needed. These improvements can then help to increase conversions, boost customer retention, build brand loyalty and increase profits.
Businesses of all sizes stand to gain from conducting a customer journey mapping exercise, as customer expectations of service, marketing, point of sale and post-sale support are changing across the board.
How to create a customer journey map
- Set goals. Who are the current customers and potential customers, and what attainable goals should be set for these audiences throughout their journey? Goal-setting helps to define measurable, tangible impacts that can be felt by customers and the wider business. Relevant stakeholders – who may oversee various stages of the journey – should all contribute to the goal-setting exercise, offering perspectives, data and insights that can help to pinpoint issues and possible solutions.
- Conduct customer persona research. How are customers discovering the brand? How user-friendly do they find the website? Did their problems get solved? At what stage did they decide to make a purchase, or not? Gather market research and real data from prospects and existing customers to develop accurate customer profiles and journey map templates; interviews, surveys, customer service logs, recorded interactions, social media interactions and web analytics that demonstrate customer behavior can all be valuable sources.
- Define customer touch points. What action is required of a customer at various stages, and what response or action is required of the brand? Are customer interactions occurring via email, live chat functions, social media or other channels? What emotions and challenges are involved? Closely assess all possible touchpoints to observe how, when and where customers interact with, and experience, the brand. A visual aid of the customer journey helps to ensure that a holistic, omnichannel view is achieved and that all customer experiences are accounted for. When all touchpoints are identified, the physical mapping stage can begin.
- Map current states. There is now sufficient information to collaboratively map the existing customer journey and all the touchpoints. Ensure that the customer journey map, and each of the touchpoint stages across its lifecycle, are matched with details such as actions, emotions and empathy mapping, channels, transitions, and ownership information. While there is no set format for maps, using the clearest visuals to communicate the journey will help to highlight further pain points or gaps that need addressing.
- Map future states. Are there weak transitions in the customer journey, or gaps in the experience that require more thought? Perhaps there are more obstacles, roadblocks or customer pain points than initially assumed? Producing a comparison map – so that the current state can be cross-referenced with the best-case-scenario, improved future state – supports the development of solutions, as well as a roadmap for future, controlled changes to the journey. Communicating this to all marketing teams, sales teams and other stakeholders will facilitate better understanding of both the micro and macro-level improvements.
Adopt a customer-centric approach to boost your marketing efforts
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