Part 3 in our Creating a Killer Customer Experience Series
Your customer is on a kind of scavenger hunt. There’s an end-point they need to reach (a confident purchase), but at the start, they aren’t exactly sure where they will end up, or how they will get there. Your job is to lead them through their process to your door, drive them to purchase and then deliver enough value that they want to return. To do that, you need to understand the path they’re on—and where that path forks or veers off-course—so you can meet them at those decision points and guide them your way. You need a map of the customer journey.
In the first two segments of this five-part series on Customer Experience (CX), we started by demonstrating the importance of having a CX strategy. In the first story, we shared how the Disney Company employs its mission of “Creating Happiness” across every touchpoint to create a customer experience that is truly magical and memorable. In the second story, we explored the definition of a customer and how to better understand your customers by creating effective profiles. In this third segment, we will use those learnings to visualize the key touchpoints in the customer experience by creating a customer journey map.
A Customer Journey Map is a visual portrayal of the many touchpoints where a customer interacts with your brand—from awareness through the decision and purchase process, and beyond. Think of it as a flowchart of the customer experience.
Why is the customer journey so important to map out? Today’s customers select products based upon the depth and quality of the overall experience they have with a brand, and then they tell others about that experience—good or bad. Companies spend millions of dollars each year with the goal of deeply engaging these customers: nurturing, educating, converting, and retaining each—ultimately to create long-term value and loyalty for their brand. And from a financial business standpoint, enhanced loyalty translates to enhanced profitability for these brands and their companies.
Where to Start
Creating your customer journey map from scratch does take some focused time and effort, but making the investment is well worth the impact to your brand and bottom line. Once the initial foundation is created, it’s easy to update and optimize over time.
Our agency, Interrupt, has refined the journey mapping process and helped many of our building products clients create a more dynamic and profitable customer experience process. Our customer journey mapping process culminates in a deliverable we call the CX JourneyPath™. Based on what we’ve learned over the years, here are the key steps to creating a strong customer journey map.
4 Steps to Creating a Customer Journey Map
1) Assemble a Dedicated CX Team
Any successful endeavor has a champion behind it. Designate an internal and/or external team to help generate momentum and guide the process. Ideally, the team should include members from market intelligence, marketing, sales and industry and influential end-users. Also, be sure to identify key stakeholders—those senior leaders invested in the success of initiative—and keep them apprised throughout the process.
Tip:Make sure your CX team is fully accountable for managing the process. It cannot be merely 5% of several people’s accountability, as it will never get accomplished— at least not at the depth you need to deliver real value to your organization and your customers. During these initial stages, working with a firm that specializes in leading this process—like Interrupt—can help guide and educate your team to create a strong foundation for your process.
2) Research & Discovery
Before you can assess customer engagement touchpoints, you’ll need to outline the conversion funnel. This includes the various stages that a customer goes through before, during and after the sale.
Think about the customer experience at each stage—what your customer is looking for and where you interact with them to meet those needs. Then start filling in the engagement touchpoints within each of these stages. Keep in mind that these touchpoints could be what you’re already doing (assessing marketing and sales tools, website analytics, etc.) or what the market and your competitors are doing, or to stretch yourself—even what other categories or industries are doing. Decision-making and purchasing experiences can be very complex, so it’s important to look at all angles and information possible to start to build how the customer might touch your brand.
This is the place to incorporate (or if needed, to initiate) both qualitative and quantitative research, depending on how much you have already collected in the past. (Note: Data over 3 years old is considered outdated given how fast the interaction types change.) To start, first look inside your organization for data. Companies tend to fall into one of two camps: either flying blind with limited information (going only by gut), or information overload (tons of data without the right insights, tools or processes in place to understand and apply it). You may already have a wealth of data points available: customer surveys, web analytics, warranty cards, specialized commissioned studies and others that are purchased industry data.
Once you have truly uncovered all the data points inside your organization, then fill in the gaps with external data that will bring deeper insights to the journey. External data could come from secret shoppers, in-aisle experiential studies or jobsite work-alongs, among other options. Be holistic, as it is important to recognize that each data source has its limitations. For example, a qualitative survey will only tell you what the consumer already knows they want, but some breakthrough customer experiences are delivered via features and services that customers might never think to ask for. (Disney’s MagicBands, as described in the first story in this series, are a perfect example.)
3) Categorize the Findings
Once you’ve collected enough data to get you started, it’s time to use a structured process to use the information to more deeply define the customer journey map, as well as help you to identify any gaps in knowledge or insights. It is also important to prioritize which elements have the most importance at the different stages of the experience. We typically use four categories:
Thoughts: This is how people formulate their decision process while going through the experience. This includes things like: evaluating options, steps of the process, defining expectations.
Behaviors: This is how people act in their everyday interactions with similar product categories and brands. (Note: this is more valuable than mere quantitative surveys as we have found a big disconnect in survey answers and actual behaviors).
Emotions: These are the emotional influences people have at different points of the journey—good and bad. Look for where your customer may be feeling doubt, excitement, anxiety, fear, comfort or confidence, as strong emotion means key opportunity areas.
Aspirations: This starts to define those things people are searching for that the current experience does not yet provide. Many times this bucket will be the insights your team gleans from the overall data (especially outside the category or industry) versus what customers “say” they want.
4) Visual Portrayal
Once the research phase is complete, it’s time to pull all the findings together into one comprehensive snapshot. The all-encompassing CX map will be the go-forward activation guide to ensure marketing, sales and operations are focusing on the appropriate key areas.
This visual map will also make it very apparent if current marketing efforts are actually addressing the needs of the customer. In the past we’ve been able to streamline tools or efforts because we’ve found that big expenditures were being made in areas that did not add value for the customer. This map will also help marketing teams to see where there are gaps in communication and show how additional efforts could create a better experience during consideration, purchase or post-purchase.
Within the CX journey map, it’s important to overlay the conversion funnel you created in step 2 with the key touchpoints and the customer emotions that accompany each. This exercise will help you pinpoint key areas of engagement throughout the process, and ultimately help streamline marketing efforts and highlight missed opportunities to engage with customers. This step is often the most challenging task, as you will have a lot of information, opinions and insights to sift through—and the CX team will have to decide how it all connects.
Depending on the needs and skills of the internal team, this is another area where outside assistance can be helpful to connect all the pieces and more importantly, give them relevant context and meaning. For instance, at this stage in the process, Interrupt offers a CX JourneyPath™ Workshop with the client CX team to not only define the current state of the Path, but also to map out the future state they aspire to.
A Compass for Investing
This mapping process provides very detailed knowledge to support both short- and long-term strategic planning purposes. The customer journey map serves as an in-depth compass you can use to decide where to invest in your customer experience—to glean which specific resources will create the most value for your customer, and which will generate the best financial return for your company. As with any strategic planning tool (such as scenario planning or market intelligence), this living document adds depth to your knowledge and evolves over time, becoming an invaluable source of intelligence to help guide your business and branding strategies going forward.
Your Brand…Delivered Consistently
The impact of any brand is in delivering its unique and relevant promise to its intended customers. This promise must be experienced the same way at every conceivable customer touchpoint. Consistency is key, as an inconsistent experience with a brand causes confusion, doubt and potential abandonment of the purchase—or even of the brand altogether. The customer journey map shows you a snapshot of where the touchpoints are happening, so that you can ensure the customer has a consistent experience with your brand, from the on-hold messaging to the channel partners that represent you before, during and after the sale.
Managing a Moving Target
Technology has not only increased the number of customer touchpoints in the customer journey, but also the speed and fluidity among them. Marketing automation has helped take lead nurturing and lead generation to the next level, making it possible to deliver very relevant content within a customized experience. In retail, technology has created an omnichannel experience—an endless aisle offering customers the ability to buy whatever they want, whenever they want it, at any quantity and with immediate fulfillment. Good and bad experiences happen—and are shared—almost in real time. And even if you aren’t talking about your company online, someone else is.
The explosion of technology means both greater opportunities and greater risks for today’s businesses. So, it’s important to have the right technology capabilities in place, and leverage them appropriately within the overall customer experience. Your customer journey map can be a powerful tool for identifying and managing these complex connections. Even if you don’t fully understand every digital and social touchpoint, putting all the potential elements on paper is a great first step in visualizing how they fit together within the scope of your customer experience.
A Continuously Evolving Document
Road maps are regularly updated to reflect a growing and changing landscape. In the same way, your customer journey map should continuously be evolving with new engagement approaches, customer or market trends and technology. Companies should also be continually assessing which touchpoint and marketing tactics net out the strongest impact and ultimately conversion. This may be different by audience, promotion or time of year, which is why continually analyzing customer experience engagement points is crucial to learning and optimizing your resources and investments.
So start the process if you haven’t already, and continue to invest in your team and the process. CX should be a critical part of your annual strategic planning process. A strong understanding of the customer journey will help create valuable knowledge of your customers, and help to better optimize your sales, marketing and operational investments.
In the next part of the series, we will demonstrate how to embed this knowledge and philosophy into your organization and channel partners. And the last story in the series will help you put a dashboard in place to help measure the success of the impact of the improved customer experience you’re creating.