Planning the customer journey
Updated: Jun 15
A customer journey map is designed to give you a high-level view of every touch point a customer (or prospect) has with your brand, but how useful are they?
We’ve all sat through the workshops - they involve a load of post-it-notes and print outs stuck up in a meeting room, and usually takes a whole day. We’ll applaud ourselves once complete, and persuade one another it’s ‘seamless’, or that with a little tweaking we’ll have nailed it. The problem is we’re biased. We project what we *think* our customer is experiencing, and even if we’re able to think critically, we often carry these out offline so lack real data points.
At best, we’re outlining the experience for the average customer - a fatal mistake.
It is however a great starting point, providing you view it as such - just the first stage in the process. As a way of benchmarking and to give us something to reference back to, it can include tangible benefits to your business;
The ability to focus on the different customer needs at each stage, and aim to address them head on
Identify if the journey is in a logical order, and if your messaging is delivered in the right context
Highlight gaps - either those you didn’t realise, or those which once viewed with appropriate analysis show are a ‘pain point’
Crucially, they can give you the mandate to focus on those parts which require support - allocating budget to and development prioritisation.
The best are usually carried out by an independent third party - a new team member, or someone from an entirely different part of the business is a good proxy for this - as this is about being objective, not opinionated.
The Key Stages
A classic example might have these 5 key elements to it:
Awareness - the customer journey truly begins before the consumer has even thought about your brand. Whilst going through the process of identifying the problem they have, and starting to consider the appropriate solutions that might exist is when you either make, or fail, to come into consideration. How are you presenting your brand, your product and your solution to match the customer need?
Acquisition and Onboarding - the point where you get the customer to commit, and start using your product. At this point, you’ve moved form consumer to customer, and likely brought them into your ‘world’. The transaction will take place on your website, or via your sales team, you all of a sudden have a much easier chance of controlling the story and crucially, capturing useful insights into what’s worked and what hasn’t. Does it work as expected? Are there additional steps, or barriers you hadn’t noticed before? Are you reaffirming the reasons for choosing you over a competitor and leveraging any USPs you have?
Engagement - Very few businesses neither want nor get a second chance to talk to their customer. From personalised recommendations for future product purchases, asking them to review their experience, handling a query via your call centre or having them visit your store for the first time. Each of these provides a golden opportunity to reinforce the value you’ve added to that customer, or to back up a promise you’ve made to them. It’s also the point of greatest risk to long term success - it costs 5 times more to attract a new customer, than keep an existing one.
It’s also the point where you’re going to ask that customer if you can borrow some of their personal brand equity…
Advocacy - The one time the cost of acquiring a new customer can be less than retaining an existing one, is via a recommendation. It’s about matching up the promise you made the customer right at the beginning of their journey, to the experience they received regardless of what you’re selling. If you can do that, the network effect of positive customer advocacy is huge, as seen by the explosion in popularity of third party review platforms. It’s also the point of greatest risk, if there’s a critical problem you’re yet to identify.
Having said all of this - the most important thing you can do, is get *something* down - even at a high-level, non-segmented view you're likely to to find something which surprises you.