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Customer Journey

Customer Journey

Naturally, marketing has always been customer-focused, but never before it was so close to the customer.

In the digital era, the customer is no longer perceived merely as a buyer who plays an important but fleeting role in the sales process.

In the past, the customer was forgotten and replaced by another buyer immediately after the purchase.

Today, they're worthy of remembering. At each contact phase, a customer represents a significant value and asset to a company, brand, product, or service.

In the era of digital products, customers are equally valuable before, during, and after purchase.

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Customer experience in the digital era

The customer experience at each phase (customer experience journey), managing their satisfaction, and dealing with their expectations, needs, and problems are significant components of customer experience management.

One of the most effective tools this method offers is the customer journey. A customer journey map, to be precise.

What is a customer journey map? It's used primarily to improve sales volume and customer experiences.

Did You Know...

The customer journey map is also used to improve the experience and emotions accompanying users who become familiar with a company and its offer. These emotions arise when purchasing or ordering a service.

For this very reason, the customer experience management is currently an activity that is:

  • Strategic — determining short- and long-term competitiveness.
  • Boosting competitiveness, rate of return, and profitability.
  • Increasing sales volume.
  • Strengthening customer loyalty.
  • Enhancing reputation and image.

To say that a customer journey map (also known as customer journey B2B) plays a strategic role for an organization is by no means an exaggeration.

Customers are used to products that go far beyond their basic functionality, services with added value, and customized support provided at least at or above the level of market standards.

In the era of digital products, the experience gained in interacting with companies (mainly via company websites, dedicated applications, and mobile applications) becomes a key element decisive for the character and sustainability of customer relationships.

Did You Know...

You can't only open up to customer needs at the product selection stage. Openness must already be present in the discovery phase of the need for a product, which is often expressed by entering queries in search engines, browsing manufacturer sites, or scanning product pages in online stores.

Nowadays, positive experience (also related to the user experience) is one of the fundamental purchase motivators.

At the same time, customers who have had negative experiences with an organization are much more determined to choose the competitors' offers.

Even when they're less attractive in terms of price.

Customer journey definition: What is it?

A customer journey map (also known as a user journey map) visualizes a customer's experiences by focusing on interactions between a user and a company, a digital product, or an online store.

It's based on customer and user research and is often used alongside other research methods, such as empathy maps and user personas.

It's worth noting that customer journey maps shouldn't be mistaken for a service blueprint. In short, a service blueprint focuses on user experiences and the back-end operations that aren't visible to a customer.

The widespread use of the customer journey tool (customer journey map) is due to several reasons.

The customer journey maps are:

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Moderately easy to create (although few organizations will know how to create a customer journey map professionally)
  • Fast
  • Repetitive — can be repeated in the future (result comparison)
  • Conclusive — allows you to draw practical conclusions
  • Pragmatic — used to optimize operations
  • Diagnostic — allows you to indicate particular issues related to processes, solutions, standards, tools, communication, and deficiencies
  • Awareness-raising — enables you to understand the customers, see a company, offer, and purchasing process from their perspective and based on their values
  • Processual — doesn't focus on selected elements but on the entire process and the whole experience, thereby offering a deeper perspective and a bigger picture.

To be more precise, a customer journey map (similar to the customer experience) is a model, a diagram, and a graphical representation of the customer purchase journey.

It registers customer contact with a company, brand, product, or service in the so-called touchpoints.

Journey maps can be created with various tools that provide customer journey map templates, such as HubSpot, Canva, Miro, or Hotjar. These tools allow you to choose a customer/user journey map template that best suits your needs.

Did You Know...

The touchpoints are broadly defined. They can be brick-and-mortar (stores, customer service points, offices) or virtual (company websites, online stores, applications, and fan pages).

A customer journey map is a tool employees use with different functions, roles, and responsibilities within an organization.

The following people use customer journey maps:

  • Marketers (creating strategies and communication)
  • UX/UI specialists (optimizing digital tools)
  • Salespersons (diagnosing needs)
  • Management (planning long-term product strategies)
  • Developers (enhancing digital solutions with the use of modern technologies)
  • Content writers (improving communicativeness, comprehensibility, and persuasiveness of the language of the offer)
  • Account managers (better understanding of the B2B and B2C customers' needs)
  • Customer service center consultants (contributing to better service standards)

By becoming familiar with a customer journey map and customer experiences, each of these specialists will better understand the customer and the changes and optimizations introduced as a result.

The tools supporting customer journey map creation are consumer insights and personas.

Consumer insight allows you to build an emotional bond with the customer through messages employing the strongest purchase motivators.

Personas are used to "feel" the customer better and more profoundly and to understand their needs, goals, capabilities, limitations, preferences, and expectations (customer experience).

Types of customer journey maps

The Interaction Design Foundation divides customer journey maps into three types. According to them, each one provides different insights and requires a different approach.

Customer journey

The customer journey focuses on customers' interactions with a business (e.g., online store).

First, customers become aware of their problem and want to seek a solution.

Next, they discover your business and start comparing it with the competition. They then make their choice and make their purchase.

Finally, the organization makes an effort to retain the customer and earn customer loyalty. This process repeats with new potential customers.

Buyer journey

The buyer journey is similar to the customer journey but concentrates more on the act of purchase.

The realization stage differs because the potential customer realizes they have a problem but doesn't know the solution.

After that, they seek a suitable solution that will match their needs. Customers start to compare products, brands, and services. Next, the buyer makes their decision, selects the most suitable product, and buys it.

The subsequent stages focus on the buyer, who assesses their satisfaction and experiences during the purchasing process.

User journey

User journey maps concentrate on the interactions between users and digital products such as websites, software, web, and mobile applications.

As with the previous two journeys, the first stage of user journey mapping includes identifying how users discover a product. This can be through organic search or marketing efforts.

Next, they explore the product and compare features and benefits. After that, they engage in frequent interaction with a digital product. In this stage, users assess the usability and functionality of your product.

The next stage examines how users handle issues and errors (customer service interactions). The second-to-last stage describes user engagement over time, whether it increases or decreases, and why. The last phase consists of users leaving positive or negative reviews and potentially referring your product to others.

We can also encounter another division of customer journey maps. According to Kerry Bodine, there are four types of customer journey maps.

Current state map

These customer journey maps illustrate how customers experience your business in the current moment. They highlight existing pain points and are ideal for the continuous improvement of the customer experience.

Day in the life map

This customer journey map visualizes the daily interactions of customers that don't need to include your business. They still focus on a general area and don't include actions irrelevant to your business operations.

This allows you to see the general image of customers' pain points by analyzing their day-to-day interactions.

The goal of this map is to give businesses the opportunity to address customer needs before they realize they have them. It can aid you with discovering new market niches.

Future state map

This type of customer journey map focuses on predicting what the customers will do and feel in the future. You can achieve that by analyzing their current behavior and making predictions based on the collected data.

This customer journey map can be handy when you want to present new services and products. It allows you to show stakeholders how you imagine their operation.

Service blueprint

The service blueprint is a predecessor of customer journeys.

As we mentioned, the service blueprint illustrates the back-end operations. It's based on the customer journey map and layers on the elements that deliver the customer experience, such as people, processes, policies, and technologies.

Service blueprints are often used to identify the root causes of pain points or determine what steps need to be taken to ensure a satisfactory customer experience in the future.

How to build a customer journey model: Customer journey map

A customer journey map is a graphical representation of all interactions between a customer and an organization.

The journey metaphor is useful here as it allows you to determine the typical and most common paths to purchase.

It enables you to indicate places of particular significance within them. Both positive and negative.

Did You Know...

The accuracy of a map determines the quality of the conclusions drawn and the decisions made based on it. Therefore, it's essential to use ethnographic research tools (in particular, the opportunities offered by qualitative research).

Even more importantly, a thoroughly prepared customer journey map should focus on the values offered to customers at each key phase.

However, value can't be understood in the narrow sense as merely a need fulfillment or problem solution, but much more broadly.

For example: To what extent is the contact with an organization, its representatives, or its tools satisfactory to a customer? To what extent is it effective?

To what extent is a customer journey a source of positive emotions? To what extent can the contact be described as useful, prompting a customer to recommend the store or to use it again?

A customer journey map aims to define:

  • What customers do, when, and how
  • What they feel and think while doing it
  • Which contact channels do they prefer, and why are they more likely to choose them and choose them more frequently
  • Who can they or would they contact
  • What typical problems do they encounter
  • What are their goals
  • What journey points function as the so-called ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) moments where a customer or a user decides to continue or stop shopping?

Although no universal customer journey map template exists, it's usually designed with several fixed elements in mind.

Horizontally, the customer journey map timeline should include three phases:

  • "Before" purchase phase
  • "During" purchase phase
  • "After" purchase phase

The vertical axis of the customer journey map should include the following:

  • Touchpoints
  • Thoughts
  • Behavior
  • Pain points
  • Success points
  • Emotions
  • Suggestions to improve negative experiences

The intersection of the axes should feature information on customer behavior, emotional states, attitudes, goals, and thoughts obtained from multiple sources.

The above scheme provides the most general template to which more details can be added where necessary.

At each touchpoint, you can ask additional questions about:

  • Concerns related, e.g., to access to the information a customer is looking for, to what extent the information is exhaustive and attractively presented.
  • Hopes associated with benefits and expectations.
  • Solutions expected by customers and which are currently lacking or which can be optimized.
  • Metrics, indicators of the number of customers lost, number of complaints, and the satisfaction level.
  • Stimuli concerning standards, disappointments, and expectations that can be neutral, negative, and positive.

The significant advantages of creating customer journey maps include the following:

  • Reduction of customer problems (both in terms of quantity and quality)
  • Discovery and definition of pain points
  • Discovery of success points
  • Hierarchy and ranking of problems
  • Preparation of optimization plan, including problem priorities
  • Identification of gaps in expectations and the methods to fill them, and of the relationships between expectations and solutions (e.g., to what extent they're considered sub-standard, above standard, or within the standard spectrum)
  • Look at the purchase process from the perspective of relationships, processes, and interactions, as well as the emotions and thoughts evoked by them
  • Customer-oriented strategic management capability
  • Delivering the expected value to the customer
  • Streamlining of selection, purchase, and after-sales service processes
  • Comparison of performance, efficiency, advantages, and disadvantages of individual customer access channels
  • Testing new channels (e.g., service via Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.) and diagnosing multichannel service problems
  • Positive optimization of a customer's experience
  • Redefinition of objectives, optimization of key performance indicators (KPI)
  • Customer segmentation according to new criteria (discovery of microsegments)
  • Increased team involvement and responsibility
  • Last but not least, revenue increase

A customer journey map should be used when an organization's objectives include the following:

  • Improvement of the quality of service, services, and sales methods
  • Keeping pace with the competitors — verification of the accepted competition standards and methods
  • Customer retention and acquiring new customers
  • Improvement of work productivity and cost optimization
  • Testing new methods and sales strategies
  • Implementation of new organizational culture
  • Creating consistent communication
  • Improvement of information availability
  • Improvement of communication quality

During customer journey mapping, a matter of particular importance is to collect valuable and multi-source materials.

Typically, the sources of data are:

  • Research (interviews, observations)
  • Surveys (e.g., after-sales satisfaction surveys sent after contacting a customer service center, displayed as popups on a website)
  • Interviews with employees who have direct contact with the customers (by email, phone or face-to-face)
  • In-depth interviews with customers
  • Storytelling
  • Analysis of data and existing materials (opinions, ratings, recommendations, complaints, and social listening).

Disadvantages of customer journey mapping

The Interaction Design Foundation highlights some drawbacks of customer journey mapping. Considering them in the mapping process will help you create more effective and practical customer journey maps.

Simplification of customer experience

When trying to describe customer experiences, you may fall into the trap of oversimplification. For example, you can turn complex customer behavior into a linear path, which will result in overlooking the alternate path they may take or in misunderstanding their needs.

You shouldn't be afraid of creating detailed journey maps; they will help you in the long term and ensure you don't miss anything crucial for improving the experience.

Resource consumption

If you're going to create detailed journey maps, you will need to spend a lot of resources and time. Customer journey mapping requires extensive data collection and time to create and maintain, which may pose a challenge for small businesses.

However, suppose you properly manage the resources and adapt the journey map to your business's capabilities. In that case, you will gain a valuable tool that can always be improved later.

Risk of bias

The customer journey mapping process can't avoid the appearance of biases, whether they emerge from the researchers performing studies for creating the map or later in the process.

You should be wary of them because they can lead to data misinterpretation and result in ineffective journey maps that damage the customer experience instead of helping.

The Interaction Design Foundation identifies five types of biases.

Assumption bias occurs when the team makes decisions based on its own assumptions rather than on the collected data or in spite of them.

Selection bias happens when we analyze only a fraction of the customer base and not the entirety of it. This can lead to incomplete results.

Confirmation bias arises when the team only focuses on data that confirms their previous assumption and actively ignores the information that contradicts them.

Anchoring bias occurs when you stick to the first received data to make decisions.

Overconfidence bias happens when the team places too much confidence in the accuracy of the journey map and doesn't see its flaws.

Evolving behaviors

Creating effective journey maps is not the end of the mapping process. From time to time, you will need to invest resources in order to update them due to changing customer behaviors.

If your journey maps are based on outdated information, they can't help improve the experience. Consequently, the resources that were spent on creating them were wasted.

Difficulties with capturing customer emotions

Understanding customer behaviors is one thing, and capturing the emotions behind them is another. It can be challenging to describe them accurately on journey maps.

Teams often create empathy maps to include emotions in customer journey mapping as they're designed for this purpose. Understanding customer emotions can help create better engagement strategies and increase customer loyalty.

Misalignment with customer needs

The misalignment with customers' needs can occur when:

  • The business goals are prioritized over the goals of customers.
  • Ignoring the needs of different customer types.
  • Not considering the customer feedback.
  • Assuming that every customer follows the same path.

Remember, you can create effective customer journey maps only when the goals of your business and customers align.

Over-reliance on the customer journey map

A customer journey map is a tool and shouldn't be treated as a sole guide. Sticking to it rigidly can cause you to overlook feedback and the changes in customer behaviors.

That is one of the many reasons why teams should dedicate time to updating the journey map so that everything is fresh and relevant.

Data privacy

When creating a journey map, remember to follow applicable data protection provisions, as it is based on sensitive customer data.

To calm customers and their personal information concerns, you should develop proper privacy protection strategies. Such strategies will ensure the customer won't lose trust in your business.

Stages of the customer journey

We briefly discussed the various stages of the customer journey when we described different types of it. Now, let's dive a little deeper into them. Naturally, they can differ a little depending on a product or service.

Awareness stage

During the awareness stage, customers learn they have a problem that needs solving. They may already know of a potential solution or not, but regardless, they will start researching.

That's how a potential customer discovers your business. It may be through search engine results, friend or family recommendations, or social media advertisements.

To help customers through this stage, you can make informative blog or social media posts and improve your SEO efforts.

Consideration stage

In the consideration stage, the customer realizes they need a particular service or product to fulfill their needs. They will start to compare brands, products, and services.

To convince customers to choose your business, you must create detailed product pages, case studies, and functionalities that will aid them with benchmarking. These will help sway their decision in your favor.

Decision-making stage

During the decision-making stage, customers are ready to make the purchase — they've chosen a suitable product or service. You aim to make it as easy as possible for them by providing a seamless user experience.

To turn a potential purchase into a successful one, you can use such tools as clear and transparent pricing pages, free trial periods, and personalized discounts.

Retention stage

As the name suggests, the retention stage begins when the customer has purchased the product or service and is now enjoying its benefits.

During this stage, you should pay special attention to customer service to ensure customers have access to support when needed. It's also an excellent opportunity to foster a positive relationship between the company and the customer.

To retain customers, you must continuously improve user experience. Tools like user surveys or customer reviews can help you do that.

Customer loyalty stage

This stage starts when customers are so satisfied with the product and customer experience that they're willing to recommend it to friends, family, and others. They're also more likely to participate in surveys and offer valuable feedback.

To improve customer loyalty, you can use such strategies as offering customized loyalty programs and special discounts.

How to create customer journey maps?

In this section, we present examples of steps you can take to create a customer journey map.

1. Choose tools and format

To create a customer journey map, you need to pick adequate tools to help you organize everything.

This choice, however, doesn't boil down to choosing a customer journey map template alone; it's also essential to consider who you address the customer journey map to. This will determine what information the map will include and how detailed it will be.

Additionally, don't be afraid to ask for help from different departments and stakeholders; they can offer unique insights and make your customer journey maps even better.

2. Set goals and collect data

Consider what kind of user experience your customer journey maps will address.

After that, identify channels and touchpoints at which customers will interact with the product throughout the journey. These can include websites, social media, word of mouth, etc.

Furthermore, you will need to collect customer research data by conducting in-depth interviews, surveys, or competitive analysis. You will use this data to discover patterns, behaviors, and mental models. Moreover, you can also identify pain points and places where cognitive friction occurs.

3. Select the target audience

The abovementioned research will also help you determine the target audience and create a buyer persona. This persona will include information about the target customer, demographic data, typical behavior, expectations, etc.

It will help you understand how your product's audience behaves and what they expect, enabling you to create more accurate customer journey maps.

4. Determine what resources you need

Customer journey mapping lets you determine what resources you need to improve the customer experience. You may discover new opportunities in terms of touchpoints or maybe improve the existing ones. Thus, you will know what marketing efforts need more resources.

Another example may be that the customer encounters an issue related to the user interface in the online store, and then you and your team need to focus on improving the UI design.

As you can see, customer journey mapping can help you better manage a company's resources and ensure they're put where they're most necessary.

5. Visualize the customer journey map and keep improving it

When you've collected all the necessary data: pain points, behaviors, touchpoints, channels, etc., it's time to visualize the entire customer experience. This is the stage when you can enlist the help of various tools that will aid with sketching out the customer journey in an organized way.

These tools will also make it possible to share the map with all interested stakeholders easily.

Furthermore, you should ensure that the customer journey map is regularly updated so you can take advantage of opportunities. Continuously updating the map improves the customer experience and increases conversion.

UX customer journey: Customer journey mapping

Customer journey maps can also be created by considering user experience (UX) expertise, experience, standards, and patterns of best practices.

This is the corpus of "laws governing" (e.g., the popular 20 Laws of UX) the design of websites, web applications, and mobile applications. They make these tools more usable, user-friendly, satisfying, and well-liked.

This directly translates into digital product selling efficiency (customer journey maps are frequently used to optimize paths to purchase).

Did You Know...

Several hundred metrics and design recommendations (such numbers are normally considered in our UX Audit service) enable us to enhance a customer journey map with crucial aspects. These aspects include ergonomics, usability, and customer experience. As a result, places causing disorientation and frustration (pain points) can be transformed into properly functioning locations (success points).

In addition, creating a customer journey map (customer path to purchase) that takes into account user experience allows you to understand better the relationship between the technology applied in a digital product, user interface (UI) design standards, experience (UX), and the process of purchase, satisfaction assurance, and relationship building.

The UX customer journey map is frequently used by online stores (customer journey e-commerce) to increase sales volume. Customer journeys also have a permanent place in banking as a research method, evaluation tool, and optimization tool.

UX Strategy

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