How Do You Create a Customer Journey Map?

The journey your customers take, from their initial awareness of your product through to a purchase and then to being a satisfied and loyal customer, is complex and long. It is fraught with situations where the customer may switch to an alternative because of friction or complexity.

Understanding this journey is essential when building a strategy focused on improving the customer relationship. Improving the customer journey can have a direct impact on customer loyalty, advocacy, and also sales and revenue. But how do you get started on the process of understanding the path your customers take when they interact with your brand?

Mapping the Customer Journey

​​​The mapping of a customer journey involves understanding everything a customer does to complete the mission they are on. This is not limited to their interactions with your brand: Google searches, review sites, YouTube videos, social media, and personal research are all also likely to feature at some point in many customer journeys.

​​This mapping will help you to identify potential touchpoints, improve customer experiences, and ultimately drive customer loyalty and ​​advocacy. Your customer journey maps must include any “external” activities, as well as the touchpoints that occur within your environments.

There are several stages, but these are the most important to consider:

Understand Customer Personas

Start by creating customer personas, which are semi-fictional representations of ​​different customer typologies, who experience the journey you are mapping or designing.

Good personas include more than just demographic information: they should include statements of wider personal context and attitudes. Each journey should be mapped against multiple personas; a digitally-confident customer versus one who is digitally excluded, for example. We would always recommend assessing a journey for accessibility too, for example using a persona for a customer with a visual impairment, or different types of vulnerability. This helps you understand the needs, challenges, and behaviors of different customer segments.

Typically, you will need at least half a dozen different personas to effectively map how different customers embark on a journey with your brand. Give them attributes, such as age, location, channel preferences, and different reasons for engaging. Think of people you know or even your own family but make them as real as possible.

Collect and Analyze Data

Use surveys, feedback, web analytics, and other forms of data collection to gather information about how customers move through each stage. Analyze this data to understand where you are meeting their needs and where improvements can be made.

Naturally this data must be viewed in context of the other stages mentioned in this list. Most of these other suggestions will require data and proof of where friction or pain exists for the customer – the data can inform many of the other stages.

Identify the Touchpoints

Touchpoints are the various ways in which customers interact with your business. This can be anything from visiting your website, to talking with a sales representative, to receiving after-sales service. List all possible touchpoints in the customer journey.

This process can be enhanced by stepping through the process using the various personas, because different customers will use different channels at different times of the day. Each different persona may in fact reply or engage using different touchpoints.

Outline the Customer Journey Stages

Typically, the stages are awareness, consideration, decision, retention, and advocacy. At the awareness stage, the customer realizes they have a need. In the consideration stage, they’re researching and comparing solutions. The decision stage is when they decide to buy.

The retention stage focuses on keeping them as repeat customers, and advocacy is when they recommend your brand to others. These final two are of particular importance as it is possible to draw a line from these metrics to increased sales and revenue.

Understand Customer Goals and Pain Points

For each stage of the journey, identify what the customer’s goals are and what obstacles or pain points they might encounter. This could include difficulties finding information, long waiting times, or poor customer service. Friction and pain points are particularly important to identify because they can quickly turn customers away.

This may require additional investigation such as surveys, interviews, or focus groups. You need to identify the pain points and then determine how customers are currently navigating them. A path to reducing friction may not be clear until you understand the solutions that customers are already devising. Are they finding ways to bypass difficult processes?

Map the Emotion Curve

Identify how customers feel at each stage of the journey. This helps in understanding the emotional experience of customers, which is often a key driver of their behaviors and decisions. Emotions may seem less concrete than other measures, but a map of how customers feel during each stage of the journey can be revealing – not least because WOW and “Oh No” moments have to potential to make or break the customer journey.

​Visualize the Customer Journey

Create a visual representation of the customer journey, showing each stage, the touchpoints within it, customer goals, and emotions at each stage. This can be a simple diagram or a detailed infographic.

Many tools now exist to quickly create these maps. It can be argued that in a simple customer journey it is easy to visualize the various touchpoints, but once customers of various demographics are engaging across different channels at different times, this can get complex, and visualization helps when explaining to the managers that are defining future budgets.

Implement Improvements

Use the insights from your journey map to make improvements in the customer experience. This could involve reducing friction at certain touchpoints, improving customer service, or streamlining processes to make things easier for the customer.

This is the bottom line. What conclusions can be drawn from the insights created and where can friction be reduced, or processes be improved to make the journey easier for the customer?

Most companies are not able to connect the dots of a single customer journey all the way from start to finish, so this can be an important process. It may be the first time it has ever been comprehensively undertaken.

In addition to data, surveys, and analytics, it can be useful to also employ mystery shoppers, so you have people actually engaging in the customer journey with the ability to report back on their own experience. This objective reporting can add more data than feedback from real customers alone. It is real and from the actual frontline.

The implementation problem is often internal. The customer journey mapping can identify where improvement is needed, but once the suggested improvements start crossing from the customer service team into other silos, such as sales or marketing, then it can be difficult to implement change.

This is the most common reason why customer journeys are often fragmented and difficult. Sales has a process. Marketing has a process. Customer service has a process. To the customer, there is just one brand, but inside the business, there are many different journeys that the customer interaction can ​​​​take.

Internal Resources, Processes, and Systems

Whilst looking at the touchpoints in a journey is critical, it cannot tell the whole story. Your customer journey map should show the capabilities deployed by the organization prior, during, and after the touchpoints. Identifying and removing operational inefficiency, wastage and complexity is a critical part of reducing customer effort and improving the experience for customers.

Consider Human Interactions when Mapping The Journey

​Whilst you might embark on a customer journey map project to identify cost-saving opportunities, such as increasing the adoption and use of digital self-service solutions and automation, it is important to consider where human support adds value for both customers and the organization.

Some companies have explored their journey and automated almost every interaction. With many e-commerce and digital ​​native companies today, it is possible to become aware of a product, ask for more information, and then to purchase without ever interacting with a person.

In some cases, this is the ideal journey—you don’t want to get in the way. However, in many companies undergoing digital transformation, greater automation does not always create a better customer journey. There are some occasions where customers can benefit from expert advice, from human engagement, and it can also create upsell and cross-sell opportunities if a customer talks about their intentions to an adviser.

Create a Future State

The initial focus of a customer journey mapping study is to identify friction and touchpoints that can be improved. It is almost always possible to identify where the customer journey can be improved, however due to the internal silos within the organization, it can often be difficult to improve.

In many cases investment in improving the customer journey will require careful consideration. A good example is banks and their fight against fraud. Many customers have been annoyed when payment cards stop working because of a ‘suspicious transaction.’

Should the bank block fewer cards and risk a greater level of fraud or focus on defeating fraud, even if it means annoying some customers? This is a real challenge and can only be answered within each organization – either choice is valid.

Comprehensively mapping and understanding your customer journey is the start. Changing your organization’s silos to improve the customer journey and then making difficult choices – about when to make the journey more difficult – will be the next step. But all these decisions require insight and that’s the outcome from the mapping process.

Ultimately the mapping process will allow you to define a future state for how the customer journey should be, with a list of challenges to address. This will feed into your strategic plan for customer journey transformation.

Learn more about how we can help you to create a customer journey map that improves your customer experience.

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