What Is A Customer Journey Map And How Is It Used In Marketing?

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Craig Smith  |  Founder & CEO

Customer satisfaction is one of the most important facets of success in business. In fact, research shows that 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies that offer great customer service.

But in order to satisfy the customer, you first have to know what their wants and needs are. This is where a customer journey map comes in. Customer journey mapping allows you to look at your organization through the lens of your ideal customer. By taking such a perspective, you become better suited to create custom experiences and products that meet the needs of your customers.

Let’s take a deeper look into what customer journey mapping is, its origins, nuances, and how it can help your marketing efforts.

What Is A Customer Journey Map And Why Is It Important?

A customer journey map can be described as the visual storytelling of a customer’s relationship and interaction with an organization. 

The origins of customer journey mapping can be traced back to 1981 when Jan Carlzon was appointed as CEO of Scandinavian Airlines. As he was working to improve operations, he noticed that many internal processes were being hampered by the bureaucracy within the organization. 

To solve this problem, Jan started developing a format that would empower customer-facing employees to make decisions quickly. He came up with a frame-work known as moment mapping, which is a method used to identify the stages of the customer’s buying process. This framework helped the airline to anticipate customer needs, and therefore improve customer experience by meeting the customer with the right offering at each moment.

The moment mapping framework has been evolved since then, to create more complex tools such as the customer journey map.

The customer journey map consists of at least 4 layers:

  1. The first layer is the customer life-cycle – The customer life-cycle describes the stages a customer passes through from being aware of your business to becoming a customer. 

    The stages of your customer life-cycle differ depending on the industry your business is in, as well as the type of product or service you offer. They can be as abstract as ‘before’…‘during’…‘after’, or they can be more elaborate descriptions, e.g., ‘awareness’…‘research’…‘comparison’…’purchase’.
  1. The second layer is situations and activities – This layer describes the situations and activities that take place within individual stages of the customer life-cycle. Situations are moments that don’t involve a specific task, but which influence a decision, i.e, seeing a neighbor’s new Mercedes Benz. An activity after that situation would be going to the computer to look up the car model.
  1. The third layer is customer needs. Identifying customer needs requires you to have a deep understanding of your customer. This is because two customer types (personas) can go through the same journey yet have different needs. There are two techniques that are particularly useful in defining customer needs:
    • Design thinking  – Design thinking is a process in which you seek to understand your customers, so that you can solve their problems by prioritizing their needs. It uses evidence of how customers actually engage with your product, instead of how internal staff think they will engage with it. This gives you an accurate picture of your customer’s needs.
    • Value proposition canvas – This is a graphical framework that helps to ensure that a product or service is modeled around what the customer values and needs. It details the challenges and needs of the customer, and specifies a product that can meet those needs.
  1. The fourth layer is customer experience – This layer describes how well the customer’s needs are met and is the culmination of all experiences that customer has had with the organization. Just like needs, customers can have different experiences even if they follow the same journey.

These four layers offer a starting point to creating a customer journey map. This base version can be extended into more complex versions by adding additional layers. 

For example, a service blueprint can be created by adding two components to the customer journey map — an on-stage component, and a backstage component. 

The on-stage component contains all the layers that describe the actors that deliver the service to the customer. The term ‘actor’ describes anything that interacts with the customer, e.g website, employee. 

An example of a layer that falls under the on-stage component is ‘touchpoints’. A touchpoint is any point of contact between an organization and its customers or potential customers. Touchpoints are important because the organization controls them and can use them to directly influence the customer experience.

The backstage component includes everything that happens behind the scenes to deliver a product or service to the customer. These are the activities that the customer does not see. This is the reason why layers in the backstage component are described as ‘below the line visibility’ while the layers in the on-stage component are described as ‘above the line visibility’. 

Examples of layers in the backstage component include: Internal processes, IT systems, supply chain, etc.

The power of a customer journey map lies in its ability to drive customer-centric transformation and innovation, by giving an ‘outside-looking-in’ view into the organization.

One of the most powerful benefits of adopting the customer’s point-of-view is that it helps you to craft personalized experiences. 52% of customers now expect personalized offers. Customer journey maps help greatly to meet this demand by allowing you to hone in on the needs, experiences, and behaviors of different personas in different stages of interaction with your company.

It is important to remember, however, that customer journey mapping is not a stand-alone framework. It is part of a larger ecosystem of tools and techniques that are used to improve a business’s internal processes and service delivery. These include: service blueprinting, ux design, design thinking, etc.

What Makes A Good Customer Journey Map?

Customer journey mapping, as with any other business process, has its own best practices. A good customer journey map is:

  1. Crafted from the customer’s perspective – Customer journey maps are based on what the customer thinks, feels, and experiences during interaction with your company. Creating an accurate customer journey requires you to remove your staff hat and imagine yourself as your own ideal customer.
  1. Well-defined and comprehensive – They say that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. This is true in customer journey mapping. The scope of your mapping, the start and end points, as well as all the personas need to be clearly defined so that you don’t end up with an incomplete or never-ending customer journey.
  1. Simple and organized – No matter the tool you choose when creating your customer journey map, the result should be something that everyone can read and understand easily. 
  1. Well-researched – Heavy research is required on all fronts during journey mapping. You need to research your industry as a whole to find specific customer behavior trends. You also need to conduct fact-finding activities such as surveys and interviews to get customer insights that would otherwise go unheard.
  1. Measured against company goals – The point of drafting customer journey maps is to improve customer experience. And the point of improving customer experience is to improve company performance. Therefore, company KPIs should be measured in each stage of the customer journey to find out if the organization’s activities are driving business results.
  1. Dynamic – The customer journey map is not just a presentation item. It is a dynamic reflection of current and future interactions between the customer and the organization. It therefore needs to be malleable.

Which Steps Are Involved In Drafting A Customer Journey Map?

Step 1: Define your business goals

Your customer’s actions play a big part in deciding whether you achieve your business goals or not. That’s why it is important during customer journey mapping, to keep your goals in mind, so that you can guide customers to perform actions that move the needle in your business.

Step 2: Align all departments and stakeholders

As much as autonomy is beneficial among departments in an organization, alignment and collaboration are necessary to ensure a successful customer journey mapping. This cohesion is also important during the implementation of the customer journey map.

Step 3: Identify your buyer personas

Identifying the different types of customers your business serves is crucial in ensuring they all get satisfactory, personalized service.

Step 4: Identify the stages in your customer-life-cycle

Once you have your personas in mind, you need to perform more research to find out which stages they go through before, during, and after them being your customer. You can use general stages such as ‘awareness’, ‘consideration’, ‘decision’, or you can be more specific to your area of business.

Step 5: Define the situations and activities in each stage

The next step is to detail what your personas think, feel and experience during each stage. Additionally, note down what action you’d like them to take to move them to the next stage, and what you will do to motivate their action.

Step 6: Modify and improve

As your business landscape changes, modify your customer journey map to reflect new advancements and changes in customer behavior.

What Are The Benefits Of A Customer Journey Map

  1. Create raving fans for your brand – Customer journey maps help to improve customer experience by giving you a deep understanding of your customers behavior. Better customer experience means happier customers that are ready to promote your brand to others. In fact, companies that do customer journey mapping successfully enjoy 24% more positive social media mentions and 3.5 times greater revenue from customer referrals.
  1. Identify missing touchpoints – By mapping the journey your ideal customer should take until making a transaction, you can identify where your customers are dropping off due to the organization not meeting their needs. Setting up these missing touchpoints and improving existing ones will likely increase your leads as well as customer-retention.
  1. Spot and fix operational inefficiencies within the organization – Missing or ineffective touchpoints can be due to internal problems in the organization, such as poor processes, conflicts, lack of expertise, etc. Journey mapping can help to discover such issues.
  1. Nurture and maximize overall customer lifetime value – Improved customer experience means customers will not only stay with you longer, but will also spend more money. 
  1. Faster sales cycle – Personalized customer experiences and customer-centric internal processes are results of accurate customer journey mapping. When leads feel valued and catered to, they become customers faster.
  1. Boost lead generation and increase ROI bottom-line – Customer journey mapping helps you to precisely meet customer needs as well as improve your business messaging. As a result, your marketing efforts become more fruitful, possibly giving you a 54% better return on marketing investment.

Important considerations when mapping a new customer journey

Start small and be pragmatic.

You don’t need to create the ultimate customer journey map the first time. Start with the general concepts and slowly drill down to create a more detailed journey map. 

Avoid opinions and focus on facts

Opinions have their place in general strategy and planning but when it comes to customer journey mapping, facts are king. Basing your customer strategy on hard research gives you a better chance of gauging the outcomes.

Remember the customer journey map is organic and dynamic

The customer journey map is not a set it and forget it kind of tool. It needs to be updated regularly to ensure everyone is in the loop about the ever-changing behavior and preferences of your customers.

You can adapt it to map employee experience

While employees are seen as actors majority of the time, it is sometimes useful to view them as customers of your organization — their needs also need to be met to ensure smooth running of the business. By adapting the customer journey map to evaluate employee experiences, you are able to create internal environments that suit every staff member.

Time to make your own

Now that you know what a customer journey is, its benefits, as well as best practices, you can set out on the perpetual mission of improving your customers’ experience.

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