Customer Journey Mapping

Since the dawn of time, humans have been a storytelling species. We are able to connect with stories through content that is compelling and personal to us. It’s no surprise then, that businesses everywhere have used storytelling as a way to attract more business. Whether it’s re-telling the trials and tribulations of a business start-up or a success story from a customer or business partner, stories can play well into a marketing scheme through engagement.

But businesses are realizing stories can be used to teach organizations more about their customers. This can be done through a process called Customer Journey Mapping. A Customer Journey Map is a visual representation of a customer’s experience from initial contact, all the way through the life cycle of a sale and renewal. Included in this map are any obstacles the customer may face as well as key interactions the customer will likely have with the business. Within the map, the customers’ questions, feelings and needs should all be addressed.

When done correctly, a successful journey map will give the business a clear picture of where the customer has come from and what they are looking to achieve by doing business with you. In addition, the sales process can be broken down into different phases, where the method of contact can be optimized to move the potential customer through the process. Here is a good example of aCustomer Journey Map. What are some keys to optimizing your own personal map? Here are four things to keep in mind:

1. Don’t Forget About Potential Obstacles.

When creating a map from initial contact to closing, it’s easy to let optimism take over and create a story map of the ‘best case scenario’. However, any logical business owner knows that this is rarely the case. Customers will come across many frustrations, whether an inefficient sales process, long wait times from a customer service representative, or the difficulty of navigating a website.

In the Customer Journey Map process, these points of frustration are called either ‘touchpoints’ or ‘gaps’. They can either be “gaps between devices” where a customer switches from computer to phone, “gaps between channels”, where a customer switches from interacting on the website to interacting on social media, and “gaps between departments”, where the user might get frustrated when transitioning from one point of contact to the next. It is important to consider these gaps, as by highlighting these problems the map can also address potential solutions.

For example, a company may be creating a customer journey map, and that customer may feel like they have been on hold for too long with a customer representative. This is a ‘touchpoint’ where the customer may leave and go to a competitor. By identifying this touchpoint on the map, the business may incorporate a form a customer can fill out ahead of time that eliminates time with the customer service representative. Or perhaps the business realizes they are simply short-staffed and need to hire an additional customer service representative. After making this adjustment, monitoring the results and determining if that touchpoint still exists is an important part of the analysis.

2. Use qualitative and quantitative data to create your map.

When creating the map, it’s important to be data-driven to ensure accuracy. These aren’t simply assumptions, they are educated predictions based on consumer research. Tracking website analytics can help identify certain frustrations in the process. For example, if customers are spending a long time on a website or a certain page of the website, it’s likely that they are confused during the process.

Groove, a helpdesk software company, found that users spending a short amount of time on their website were stuck on the set-up page. They used this data to reach out to these customers and offer Skype support to finish the set-up. The result was a 26% response rate, and 30% of those users becoming customers within thirty days.

Qualitative data is equally important. Who knows the customer better than the customer himself?  Given that customers drive change, it’s important to listen. Interacting with customers on social media or through e-mail campaigns can help give the data needed to create an accurate map.

3. Keep it simple!

It’s easy when creating a map to think about every single diversion or scenario that a customer can come across when interacting with your business. Creating map with this philosophy in mind is next to impossible, since it is likely to be confusing and muddled when presented visually. The Customer Journey Map should be a simple story that focuses on a customer’s needs. An outsider should be able to grasp the journey within just a few short minutes. If they can’t, it’s likely that your map is too complicated, perhaps hinting that the process for your customer may be too complicated as well.

4. Visually create a map…and don’t be afraid to change it!

The point of a Customer Journey Map is to have some kind of visual. There may be supporting exposition that further explains the sections of the customer’s journey, but the map should be presented in either an infographic or timeline. Simply having blocks of text that explain a customer’s journey makes it difficult to visualize the process as a whole. Some use cork board and pin note cards, that way events and key points in the process can be moved around. Others prefer a dry erase board, which can also be edited. As the ways of reaching a customer (and a customer reaching the business) change, so will the customer journey map. Whether your customer journey map looks like an infographic, a whiteboard timeline, or a dropdown timeline, the importance of the map is its function over its visual form. Do more than create a map: understand it and use it to improve.

By visualizing the customer experience with a journey map, your business can tell the story of your customer and work to optimize their experience. Customer journey maps work — when executed with thoughtfulness, feedback and collaboration. Now get out there and tell your customer’s story!