Customer journey mapping is not just a technique for big-budget projects or companies, but a critical step in understanding your customers’ needs, desires and pain points. They allow you to stay focused on the consumer, and to identify the ways that you can better serve them.
So what are customer journey maps anyway?
A customer journey map is an illustration of a customer’s experience engaging with a company and its product or service. The map can tell the full story covering the entire customer lifecycle from initial contact to activation, engagement, and beyond or focus on only a part of the story that lays out interactions or touchpoints critical to part of the customer’s experience. What makes these maps unique to traditional funnels is that it focuses on the customer and the questions and motivations behind his/her behavior. This helps to humanize the problems and thus put the consumer at the forefront of a company’s mind and strategies.
These are fairly easy to construct (depending on the level of sophistication you use), and require you to do something you should be doing anyway: observing your customers and talking to them!
There are several forms of journey maps to be aware of, based on the scope of the visualization:
- User Experience Journey Maps: to chart the digital experience
- Sales Journey Maps: to chart the path through the sales funnel (awareness to purchase)
- Customer Journey Maps: to holistically examine the full experience
We will focus on the last of these as it is the most expansive, most used, and often the most impactful in identifying big impact areas, and understanding your consumer’s full experience (which is what they will remember).
Another set of customer journey maps depends on the stage of the product. They can be either:
- Retrospective Maps: in the case of existing products and with actual users where we map existing behavior OR
- Prospective Maps: in the case of new products where we map how expect a consumer will behave
Here we will be focusing on retrospective maps.
Creating the Customer Journey Map
The thing to remember here is that this does not have to be a work of art, but it does need to communicate the critical things that illuminate what the behaviors, thoughts and frustrations are, and where opportunities lie. Although adding pictures and making these more visual are nice, it is more important to be substantive. Remember this is more a science than an art!
Here are the steps to take to get good output:
- Establish Internal Hypotheses (Define): As this process is meant to be collaborative and bring everyone along on the journey; the process usually starts by understanding the current way we think about our customers and how they engage with our products/services. This step usually entails going through the steps of mapping based on existing knowledge, and allows us to understand the internal ways we think about our customers and their interactions and to define the boundaries/scope of the journey map. It also allows everyone to begin to focus on the customer first-and-foremost.
- An empathy map (see below) at this stage is a good tool for helping to put the customer first and not prioritize internal challenges. I recommend reading Paul Boag’s article on Adapting Empathy Maps for UX Design as I think the adaptation goes beyond UX as well.
- Gather and Analyze Research (Research): Now that we’ve collected some internal insights, we need to delve into the data. This should be done with a combination of qualitative and quantitative measures: talking to and surveying stakeholders, customers, customer service teams, etc. Also examining data that your company is already tracking on your consumer’s activities. Very important to include contextual inquiry and ethnographic research here so the customer’s voice comes through. At the end of this step, you should understand:
- Plot the Customer’s Journey (Visualize): Based on the data you have gathered, you should now be able to map out the stages by which you can define the customer experience and the facets of what they entail for the customer. The key touchpoints within each of these stages should be catalogued although they may not all be detailed in the final distilled map. For each step include the following elements:
- Also important to include are:
- Happy Points
- Pain Points
- Satisfaction Levels
- Also important to include are:
- Spread the Word and Act on Areas of Opportunity (Mobilize): This is what it’s all for. Once the journey is understood, and areas of opportunities identified, it’s time to act. Get everyone in your company to understand and internalize the map. Begin to mobilize in better serving your customers needs and making them happier. The map should now become a living document such that you continue to keep a pulse on your customers changing behaviors, attitudes, and motivations.
Here are a few examples of journey maps showing how the columns/rows depict the various stages and facets of behavior/perception:
It is important to note that this process does not stop at simply drawing a diagram to demonstrate the learnings. The final step of the process is a critical one — mobilizing. These paths may not be linear and every element will also will be continually evolving so monitoring how things are shifting will enable you to anticipate and meet the challenges that come with these changes.