Customer Journey Map – Creating Valuable Experiences

Let’s face it – in the digital world, competition is fierce. Your brand must not only provide great products and services, it must also find a way to express the unique strengths that make you different from competitors, in order to thrive. And, while many brands are great at celebrating their niche qualities, few take the time to focus on one of the most important aspects affecting customer engagement – the actual customer experience, itself.

Think about it – how many times have you been excited to connect with a brand or business, only to be put off by a website which was difficult to navigate, or an introductory experience which was unable to answer your questions? This experience is far too common in the digital world – and a failure to offer a well-planned customer experience can have drastic impact on your business.

A customer journey map is a tool which helps you outline your customer experience, so you can gain insight and understanding into the needs of your visitors. An excellent customer journey map takes the customer perspective into consideration, and carefully maps a hypothetical experience from initiation to completion. This helps you identify areas where you are effectively meeting customer needs, as well as those which could use improvement.

When it comes to the creation of a customer journey map, there are really no rules. Each business or brand is different, and your map can be as simple or as complicated as your business structure. Regardless of the design format or complexity, it is essential that your customer journey map follow these best practices:

  1. Identify your customer’s perspective. Many brands will create personas which represent their targeted demographics. Creating a persona helps you put yourself into the customer’s shoes – it helps you identify their personalities and motivating factors, so you can more effectively work to meet them. Different segments will have different needs and experiences – don’t try to lump them all into one approach. Map the process for your targeted audiences separately.
  2. Identify behavioral stages. Your customer does not simply appear on your doorstep – something leads them there. So, what is it? Think about the process which leads your customer to your site, initially. Conduct research via customer surveys or interviews – knowing what inspires your customer to seek you out is an excellent first step, but knowing the personal process and stages of exploration which preceded their first contact is even more valuable.
  3. Acknowledge the outside world. Many interactions in the customer experience happen outside of your control. Your customer may have been affected by social media interaction, peer reviews, or other influences. Some customers may have even completed their investigation process before ever visiting your site – so take a moment to put yourself in their shoes, and explore what’s available in the outside world. You may decide it’s important to incorporate these elements, later.
  4. Outline your customer goals at each stage of the journey. Acknowledge that these goals often shift as your customers’ interaction unfolds.
  5. Focus on emotional experiences. A great customer experiences incorporates the human experience – as does a great customer journey map. For best results, your interaction should be designed to acknowledge and cater to the emotional state of your customer.
  6. Create consecutive touch points. An effective customer journey map should outline the order of touch points, and provide detailed information even for those which fall outside of your sphere of influence.
  7. Highlight critical moments. Some stages of interaction have more impact than others. One great example of this is represented by the moment of checkout – cart abandonment is far more likely to occur if customers experience dissatisfaction during check out, regardless of the time spent previously on your site. Focusing on pivotal moments in your customer experience will go a long way towards overall improvement.
  8. Assess your integrity. Does your customer experience meet your brand’s overall goals and mission? Are you living up to your brand’s promises? Let’s say your brand is focused on luxury items, geared toward effortless living – if your online experience is cumbersome and difficult to navigate, you’re poking holes in your brand’s integrity. Your customer experience should seamlessly support your brand image.
  9. Estimate experience length. Including a timeline will help create context for your customer experience. Acknowledge that this may vary greatly, depending on which customer segment or persona you are representing.
  10. Take your time. Incorporate feedback from actual customers. Get input from a wide team of staff members. Creating a customer journey map is an involved endeavor, and breaking the process into phases which allow you to carefully assess your customers’ experience will help you create a more comprehensive overview of the experience.

Remember that this is a living document, which will morph and change as your business does. The more detailed your map is, the more insight it will offer into areas of potential improvement – but it doesn’t need to be exhaustive. And, don’t worry if your customer experience doesn’t appear linear – you are outlining a complex process! It will more closely represent a road map than a set of directions from Point A to Point B.

The important thing to remember is that this journey happens through the customer’s eyes. As long as you maintain that perspective, and follow these best practices, you’ll end up with a rich and detailed document which will help you hone and improve your customer experience – and a happy customer is the best customer!

For more information on how to create a customer journey map which will help you retain traffic, increase sales, and improve your customer experience, contact the experts at Strongpages today!