If you want to improve your business's customer experience, it is essential to understand the journey your customers go through when they engage with your brand, product, and service. They can browse on the phones, buy a subscription plan, or visit your local store. There are so many journeys your customers can go through to the purchase decision, and they are rarely a straight line.

Today's consumers interact with companies in ways that are hard to identify. From gaining brand awareness through social media to getting a reference from a friend after his/her successful deals. There are usually many steps, but if you can understand them thoroughly, you will be able to take action on pain points in the journey and keep the customers satisfied.

But this journey is not something you can make a prediction based on personal experience. A specific customer journey will tie with the physical experience that a customer has, whether online or offline.

In this article, I will explain everything you need to know about the customer journey, including the definition, benefits, and how to map it. It can be a really powerful tool to perfect your customer service and gain more loyal customers. With that in mind, let's begin!

What is the customer journey?

A customer journey is an entire process that customers or potential customers go through to achieve goals with your business. With the help of a precise customer journey map, you can understand your customers' motivation - their needs and pain points.

However, simply understanding that there is a customer journey isn't enough. You should visualize it into some types of diagrams so you and your employees can refer to it when making a decision. This is where a customer journey comes in handy the most. The visual presentation is called a customer journey map - which can map out from the first to the final touchpoints to see if customers can reach certain goals, and if not, how you can help them.

Here is a customer journey example:

John, a 27-year-old man, is your potential customer. He was walking down the street when he saw your storefront. He decided to walk in and checked your products. Your employee quickly greeted him and offered to help. The employee was friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful, so John could pick out a good pair of shoes for him. 

John asked a few questions about the return policy after he was reassured, he decided to purchase the shoes, giving you the email address and phone number for future promotion. Later in the day, John tweeted a picture of the new shoes, tagging your store, and even left a review on the website. A couple of weeks later, you sent John a promotional email, which reminded John of your brand and let him introduce you to his friends.


Why do you need to understand the customer journey?


The example above was a positive scenario. Unfortunately, if you don't understand the customer pain points and provide a frustrating experience, many negative scenarios can come up as well. You may miss a sale opportunity, lose John to a competitor, or even make him say bad things about your brand and recommend his friends to shop elsewhere.

Yikes! You don't want that, right? Then you need to understand the customer journey to solve all of John's problems.

Here are some crucial benefits that a good customer journey can provide for your business:

  • Enabling a better customer experience: When you research all stages of the customer journey with your brand, you will be able to isolate where you meet your expectations or where you completely alienate potential customers and customers. By addressing these shortcomings, you can ensure a better experience, empowering your prospects and customers to interact and purchase from your company as they wish. That can turn into a faster sales cycle and more loyal, more satisfied customers who make subsequent purchases.

  • Paving the way for customers to achieve goals: By understanding the customer journey, you can create, adjust and enhance the contact points to ensure the most effective and efficient service. Therefore, your customers will be able to achieve their goals throughout the buying experience with your company.

  • Giving context for company decisions: By creating a customer journey map, you get an essential view of your current and potential customers. This more complete picture helps you realize the result in your marketing investments and equips your company's employees the knowledge to better engage with potential customers.

  • Creating a customer-focus attitude throughout the company: A precise customer journey map can be among your entire organization. The great thing about it is that every step of the customer journey from initial attraction to post-purchase support is listed. Therefore, marketing, sales and services teams can coordinate better to create a good customer experience.

    How to map a customer journey?

    With all the above benefits, you can deny the importance of a customer journey. Now, let's see the steps to map a customer journey to help your company and the customers themselves.

    Step 1 - Build a customer persona

    To effectively understand the customer journey, you first need to understand the customer - and creating a persona is really useful at this step. You can rely on the frequent customers, big spenders, or even brand new customers. It is also a great opportunity to conduct research among customers and get valuable feedback.

    The characteristics that you should include in your persona are:

    • Name

    • Age

    • Sex

    • Job role

    • Family status

    • Professional 

    • Personal goal

    It is very much like the example with John that I said above. Personas help you better understand your customers and gain more insights, demographic data, and customer interviews. You can use personas for both B2B and B2C business models. And, to begin, you should keep things simple with no more than three most significant personas.

    Step 2 - List out the touchpoints

    Then build a behavior line with all the touchpoints - which are all the places that customers can interact with you. This can be based on the journey of a new customer, a returning buyer, or a customer with complaints. You can also create this based on the most frequent or most profitable journeys.

    Remember, customer journey maps follow the experience of one customer type who is following a very specific path. If you're creating your first map, it's best to learn from your most common customers and consider the route they often take when engaging with your business for the first time.

    Step 3 - Write in more details on the maps

    At this step, ask the following questions to fill in more details into your customer journey map:

    • Who is involved in the journey? 

    • What is the process of events that happen during the journey?

    • What are the customer's emotions and attitudes? Go beyond excitement or frustration and be specific.

    • What are the moments that matter the most? These are the moments that make or break the whole journey, and can erase everything good up until that point. In those moments, ask what process/people/things are involved?

    • What are the customer's needs? What do they want to get out of these moments? How do their needs change if things go wrong?

    • How can you measure the effectiveness of you meeting customer needs? 

    Step 4 - Innovate and improve

    When you are mapping out your customer journey, it's important to get an idea of how to improve or innovate the experience. These ideas are not necessarily practical, but by gathering a number of diverse solutions, you can begin to filter out the best and practical ones.

    Then, you test them. Don't ask if you can do it, ask if you should do it? Then you can start innovating your business to be different from the competitors.

    Step 5 - Decide on analytic metrics

    In the last step, use the available information to decide on a measurement framework. What are you measuring? Who are you measuring? At which touchpoint are you measuring? And why there? Finally, what metrics and KPI's are needed to measure this?

    From these decided metrics, you will be able to test your research, then keep reanalyzing and adjusting your strategy to bring the best customer experience possible. 

    The next step

    Understanding and creating a customer journey is not an easy task. It would require a lot of time, effort, and coordination among company employees. So, if you are able to finish one, you should take a moment to congratulate yourself on the good work.

    The next step for you is to use the knowledge from the customer journey and truly see the pain points of the customers, focus on them, and develop solutions for a fulfilled experience. With all of your employees working towards a common goal of maximizing customer satisfaction, your company is bound for success.

  • Author Bio:

    Chance is a marketing specialist at Avada Commerce – a fast-growing eCommerce solution provider, whose goal is to never write a boring article. His enthusiasm for online business has spanned over two years, accompanying his articles with in-depth knowledge about eCommerce. He also enjoys drinking tea and playing Exploding Kittens in his free time.