Where are your customers heading? Map their journey and you will know
The stake of customer journey planning is if you are able to convert a lead to a customer and also keep her. The stake is now raised by COVID with poker face: maybe you’ve have been confident about the whereabouts of your target audience on their journey, but now it’s time to redesign the customer map.
In the first part of our blogpost we quickly run through the basics of the journey planning. We also give some highlights of an international a research on how successful (and less successful) companies approach customer journey mapping.
What is a customer journey? The path your customers take along a purchase, service or administration process. It is typically much more winding and tiring your customers would tolerate, and also sometimes leads into a dead end. In this case, the cart is left empty, the client complaint starts to spoil without handling, your customers, clients, patients begin to churn one by one.
The purpose of customer journey mapping is to spare the customer and ourselves from such unworthy situations. This is the way you can plan your future customer’s journey from the first contact to the purchase, and beyond. If you do it right, your customer will not only make new purchases and interactions at the end of the journey, but also will recommend your services or products to others. (Some of them will simply just look for the bathroom, but they are out of our scope now)
Follow your customer’s journey
When customers begin their shopping adventure, they usually go through five phases until they reach their destination. It is your job to guide them through these phases with real consciousness and care.
The model, of course, simplifies real life. On one hand, many of the experts define six, seven or even more phases, on the other hand, there can be dozens of customer touchpoints for each and every phase. These are the “interfaces” you contact the customer personally, by phone, email, website, social network, or just a Google ad.
In reality, the customer path is not a clear-cut, straightforward path the customer is strolling on whistling cheerfully until she arrives to the cashier Nr. 6 on a meadow. In real life, customer journey is much more like a sophisticated Monopoly board game, where the player is sometimes forced to return to an earlier stop and then begin their journey again heading to the goal, but becoming more and more smarter through the game.
Heading straight, round and round
According to Forrester, as online shopping and digital service channels are becoming more prevalent, we rather need to envision a customer journey path through a spiral. The customer begins the journey by searching the internet for a solution. Suddenly comes across something, but it’s not the real one. So she starts again, finds the real thing, and only then she proceeds to trying out. The model below shows this path full of attempts, hesitations and detours. The small cubes indicate the touchpoints mentioned above: the contacts where the company contacts the customers and influences their decision.
Every step you take, every move you make
The five-phase model outlined earlier mainly serves as a simple guide to find out where to deploy the company’s customer journey and how to select the appropriate communication channels for it. Following this very model, CustomerThink surveyed, how seriously companies weigh on customer journey mapping and how they approach it in practice.
77 percent of the respondents stated that customer journey mapping is an essential element of their customer experience strategy. It was also highlighted that the emphasis is on the consistency: it is necessary to be present at every step of the customer journey: that’s the only way to control the process. All this is demonstrated below (the three colors indicate the maturity of the companies).
The map and the landscape
The customer journey map, despite its resounding name, is not yet another spectacular figure, that can be whomped up in 5 minutes for a management presentation. On the contrary, it is a rather complex process that involves several sub-activities.
The research asked the most important of these. Respondents rated their engagement on a 1 to 5 scale. Given that the highest score was 4.5, values above 4 are already considered good.
1. Create the persona
The person is the protagonist of customer journey mapping. It is nothing more than a personalized avatar of a target group or a customer segment. During the planning you try to walk along the customer journey of our own company as on these characters. If it’s an insurance brokerage, you can imagine how a young manager in his thirties buys a life insurance package – from the first internet browsing to signing a contract. The elaboration of the personas received 4 points from the mature companies and 2.9 from the laggards.
2. Exploring customer attitudes at the touchpoints
What rational considerations, moods and feelings influence the customer at different touchpoints? How can the company respond to them? If your customer has already purchased that insurance online, but has been waiting for the contract to sign for 3 months, how should your customer service prepare to handle her on the phone. Exploring such and similar attitudes received 4.1 / 3 points.
3. Customer research
It is very useful to picture yourself in the role of the customer when planning a journey, but it is even more useful to ask them directly. How do they get on with your trap-filled webshop, your complicated offer forms or the not so seamless customer service? The easiest way is to ask them for an answer, for example in an online form, email, SMS questionnaire or on the phone. Obviously, information from the first hand, i.e. the customer, is the most valuable. Points: 4.2 / 3.2.
4. Involve customers in planning
The most professionals also involve customers in the planning itself, asking them for advice and ideas on how to improve their processes. A simple questionnaire is not enough for this, such co-thinking requires personal communication, focus group sessions and workshops. Only a few will undertake such a thing, although combined with research, it can calibrate our compass very accurately for drawing the map. Points: 3.4 / 2.3.
5. Involve partners, suppliers, colleagues
A practice similar to the one above, also helps us to see ourselves a little from the outside. Involve not only your partners, but also your colleagues who are not directly connected with your customers, but do have an impact on the customer experience through their work. Just like the finance control issuing the customer invoices: by mistaking a single decimal point on the invoice they can ruin the company’s reputation. In the survey, this activity received the highest score from the leaders: 4.5 / 3.7
6. Offline and online touchpoints
It goes without saying that when planning a decent customer journey, all of the company’s offline and online channels must be mapped. Although most of the companies agree with this, it only received 4.2 points from the best ones and 3.6 from laggers.
7. Mapping your existing customer journey
The most surprising result of the survey is how little companies are concerned with exploring the current situation: as if they wanted to cut right into creating the perfect customer journey, but without facing the existing problems. Which, of course, doesn’t make sense. The mature companies gave 3.8 points getting pretty close to the other team (3.4).
What you can start right now …
Exploring the status quo is exactly the point you should begin with. The good news is that even revealing the main phases of your company’s current journey will point on some hidden problems you can address immediately. This can be accomplished with the least amount of effort, and still can dramatically boost your customer relationship and business performance almost overnight.