Of all the problems that plague growing businesses, the most frustrating is trying to understand user behavior. But then, when you think you've figured it all out, loyal customers begin to leave without warning. Or, new visitors spend hours on your pricing page only to leave without buying.
Every team — from support to sales to marketing — wishes they could get inside the head of your customers. But while you can't read minds, you can get close to it with customer journey maps.
Customer journeys visualize the touchpoints and steps toward reaching a goal. It outlines customer sentiment along the way to find where they're satisfied, stuck, or frustrated.
But as these paths become more complex, even the simplest ones promote a better understanding of customer needs. With a well-thought plan, today's business tools make the customer journey mapping a breeze.
What is a customer journey map?
Before we talk about customer journey maps, let's briefly define what we mean by a customer journey.
Customers go through multiple stages as they interact with your brand–from discovery to becoming a long-term customer. Each stage is full of different touchpoints. For example, finding your product on social media or reaching out to support with a technical issue.
Each touchpoint is an opportunity for either confusion or delight. The more you can deeply understand your customer's experience and how they feel at each step, the better suited you are to serve their needs.
Here's an example from a customer's perspective.
Let's say you're looking for a new business phone system. Your customer journey could entail the following touchpoints:
- Problem or need: You realize your current phone setup isn't working or that your customers can't contact you quickly enough.
- Research solutions: Then, you start looking for options through search, social media, referrals, ads, and all other resources.
- Evaluate vendors: Next, you'll start to narrow down your options and make a choice of which solution to use. You might hop on demos and chat with a salesperson.
- Onboarding: After you buy, you'll start setting up your phone service integrating it with your workflow, and training the rest of your team. Likely, you'll also port your phone numbers over.
- Product usage: You'll begin to use the tool and hopefully have an outstanding experience with it.
- Support: When you have an issue or want a second opinion, you reach out to customer support.
- Renewal: If all goes well, you'll keep having a great experience, renew your plan, and even add more lines as you scale.
- Advocacy: The final stage is when you move from a user to an advocate and recommend the product to others.
However, a journey alone doesn't define your customer experience (CX). This outline summarizes distinct stages along the customer lifecycle.
A customer journey map represents this flow of touchpoints as they move towards their goal. It also includes straightforward interpretation and action items to move the customer onward. As an internal document, a customer journey map guides team members and partners on how to serve customers the right way — your way.
Of course, not every customer follows a linear journey like this.
A number of them will opt for a different solution and never interact with you. At the same time, many others will hit a roadblock during onboarding or have a poor support experience that will make them leave.
However, by knowing how your customers act and feel along their journey, you can forecast ways to create a better overall experience and offer proactive customer service.
Customer journey map examples
There are many customer journey map templates out there and we've linked them below. They generally all adopt the idea that there are distinct stages between customer needs and your business offerings.
For some organizations, a customer journey can be quite extensive. A wise place to start is the current reality of the customer experience. Study it closely to mock up the future state of where you want it to be.
These templates open in a new window.
- Consumer tech service (Spotify)
- E-commerce (UXpressia)
- UX user journey map (Nigel)
- User journey template (Saroj Shahi)
- Restaurant blueprint (Arthur McCay)
- Coffee shop - Starbucks (Erik Berkman)
- B2B enterprise software (Segment)
One of the takeaways from a customer experience map is to harness real market research and define key actions across operational silos across your company. There's a ceiling to the influence the accounting team can have on the voice of the customer. (But they can wreck it if billing isn’t effortless!)
Tip: A simple, easy-to-understand customer experience map beats one that aims to impress for its complexity. Consider these visualizations as sources of inspiration for creating your journey map.
The benefits of customer journey mapping
Customer journey mapping is a visual representation of the intricate path a customer takes when interacting with your brand. But more than just another planning tool, customer journey maps bring numerous benefits:
- Builds a customer-centric organization. Too many teams get stuck in a myopic view of the customer. For example, sales only care about the customer from a sales perspective. But with customer journey maps, all your teams share a holistic and unified point of view. Read on to see how to make this a reality.
- Exposes (and solves) pain points. Customers don't often give second chances. One-third of consumers say they would switch companies after just one poor experience. Customer journey maps identify situations where customers get lost, confused, or frustrated. It anticipates negative moments and prescribes solutions so customers don't get stuck.
- Highlights gaps in the user experience. A customer journey map can also point out gaps as customers move between devices (mobile to desktop), channels (social media to live chat), or departments (sales to service team). These handoffs influence the user experience, such as offering self-service materials or 24/7 support.
- Benchmarks for each customer touchpoint. Every purchase requires customers to go through a long chain of decisions and actions. But every decision point is also an opportunity for them to fall off your ideal path. Journey mapping plots metrics for each touchpoint, so you know where to focus your efforts.
- Gives support agents context from the start.72% of customers expect support agents to know personal information about them and their previous interactions as soon as they answer. Data-driven customer journey mapping software places this information at their fingertips. Examples include past website visits, support tickets, and survey responses.
- Anticipates user needs based on Your decisions are only as good as the data that informs them. A personalized customer journey map combines qualitative data like surveys and Customer Effort Score (CES) and quantitative data like product usage to uncover your customer's true motivations and needs (before they know them)!
- Increases customer retention. Customer satisfaction drives sales, not just support. Current research shows that 85% of customers pay higher prices for better experiences. The secret to business growth isn't more advertising; it's increasing product adoption from existing customers.
CX leaders plan for the next generation of customer journey maps
The limitation of traditional customer journeys is that they primarily orbit around the business needs, not the personalized experiences of your customers.
Instead, modern CX leaders use customer service software that goes beyond singular touchpoints. By combining journey maps with actual user activity and customer surveys, teams can respond to the customer experience in real time.
This results in two types of complementary customer journey maps:
- An overall customer journey map. This workflow visualizes the touchpoints and customer sentiment on their way to a goal.
- A personalized customer journey map. This scenario-based plan takes your overall map and layers the individual experience on top. For each customer, your team members will be able to see their past interactions, sentiment trends, and overall experience scores.
With these two tools, support leaders and sales teams can see exactly where each customer is on their journey and jump in when (or before) they hit an issue.
How to create a customer journey map in seven steps
It's easy to see the benefits of customer journey mapping. Yet, only 39% of enterprise companies currently map out user experiences.
To help you get started, we've simplified the process into a simple seven-step plan:
1) Identify and understand your ideal customers
The mapping process starts with understanding your customers' needs, motivations, and experiences.
To do this, many organizations start by defining a customer or buyer persona. A customer persona is a fictionalized personality based on demographics, lifestyle, and other characteristics based on data.
Personas help you craft experiences for a specific person by combining information from several sources, such as:
- Conduct in-depth user interviews on real customers – both current and past
- Chat with your support team to uncover trends in customer satisfaction
- Use surveys to quantify certain aspects of your best customer segments
- Listen to phone call recordings to hear the language and context for sales/support/onboarding verbatim.
- Gather Net Promoter Score (NPS) from critical milestones along the customer journey.
Pay special attention to customer feedback on how they found your brand (and why they started their search). You'll also want to understand how customers felt during their first experience and what pushed them to make a purchase.
You'll more than likely end up with a few different personas from your research. That's ok. Narrow it down to the top one or two based on their shared motivations and needs. These will be the basis of your first customer journey maps.
2) Define a specific goal for your customer journey map
Every customer journey map needs a goal. In other words, where is this map taking your customer?
Your goal could be the entire customer journey, from uncovering a pain point to becoming an advocate for your product. Or, it could be something narrower, like upgrading an account or leaving a review after a purchase.
Customer journey map goals come from two sources:
- Internal stakeholders: Larger goals require cross-team collaboration. You'll find plenty of goals by bringing together different stakeholders and asking them about their perspectives on improving the customer journey. For instance, your legal team might want to be privy to expectations made before reviewing a contract to avoid assumptions.
- Customer interviews/persona research: Customers come to you with their own goals. Sometimes these are blind spots or are different from your business goals. While it can be tempting to try and squeeze customers into your internal goals, you genuinely understand what paying customers want.
Again, there will be tons of goals you could choose to work on. To start, pick a single experience and a single persona to map.
3) Speak with customers to understand the stages of their journey
Speaking with real customers provides you with a framework to understand their goals and needs.
To start, look for people who are part of your persona and have met and failed to reach their goal. Examining both can be eye-opening.
During the interview, you'll want to cover several areas:
- Actions: What steps do your customers take on their journey? This includes everything from Google searches to signing up for a free trial. If you're unsure of the questions to ask, start with how they heard of you and proceed one step at a time. Otherwise, you can walk in your customer's shoes and try the journey yourself.
- Motivations: Try to find out what forces triggered their initial journey. Was it an aspirational goal? A specific problem? A required feature or service? Turn these insights into a backstory for your persona. You can also ask about motivations at each stage of their journey. Customer experience leader, Aimee Lucas, calls these moments of truth — the individual interactions that have the greatest impact on customer experience.
- Questions: Where did they get confused or have questions that went unsolved? For example, could they not find your pricing information on your website? Or did they get confused about whether you integrated with their business apps?
- Barriers: What roadblocks got in the way of your customers taking their desired actions? This could be technical roadblocks (lack of features) or ones outside of your control, such as delegating to their employees.
One of the main objectives of this step is to map out the stages your customer goes through on their journey. For example, the simplest customer journey consists of five stages:
- Awareness: They discover a need for your product or identify a problem you solve.
- Interest: They become interested in your specific product or service.
- Consideration: They try out or research your brand through free trials, reviews, social media, and other channels.
- Purchase: They become a customer by signing up and using your product.
- Advocacy: They're satisfied and recommend your brand to other people.
Use these stages as an outline for your map. Then, plot the actions, motivations, questions, and barriers that come up along the way.
4) List out and visualize all touchpoints
Touchpoints are all the places where your customers interact with your brand along the customer journey stages. Each one represents an activity or conversation that influences their actions.
Based on your research and talking to customers, make a list of touchpoints, such as:
- Social media channels
- Your website
- Email marketing
- Paid ads
- Third-party reviews
- Phone calls
- Live chat
- Text messaging
- Customer surveys
- Product onboarding
Think about where these touchpoints exist along the stages of the customer journey.
For example, do customers reach out over live chat before purchasing? Are they more likely to call or email support when they have an issue? Plot these touchpoints out on your map.
If you're mapping out the entire customer journey, don't ignore the touchpoints that potential customers go through. According to research, it takes an average of eight touches before an interested person becomes a customer.
It's a good idea to run a Google search of your brand to find pages that mention you or look into your analytics to see your actual traffic sources. A savvy marketer on your staff can help you make sense of these analytics tools.
5) Determine the resources you have and the ones you'll need
A customer journey map touches nearly every part of your business, including sales, onboarding, and customer support.
But up until this point, we've only focused on the "front stage" aspects of the journey. That is, how the customer experiences the journey. However, you also need to consider the "backstage" components that power it. Examples of this include software, emails, messaging, internal systems, and team resources.
With a good understanding of the touchpoints you'll be dealing with, it's time to see if you have the tools and resources in place to track and support them.
Bring all your touchpoints together with a contact center
Customers interact across more channels than ever, making it difficult to monitor the entire journey in one place. Look through your list of touchpoints and see if you can access them easily.
This is where a cloud contact center becomes an essential tool. Contact centers create a single interface for all your communication channels, such as phone, email, social media, and video.
Not only will this help you maintain a better customer experience, but it removes potential gaps when customers switch channels.
Sync with your CRM act on customer data
Data is at the heart of every customer journey map. But collecting and sharing data from across touchpoints can get messy. A CRM (especially one that integrates with your contact center) ensures that everything from recent interactions to survey data is available and actionable by others.
6) Monitor individual customer journeys for common issues or pain points
Up until this point, you've been creating a benchmark customer journey that maps out the ideal flow of touchpoints a customer goes through to reach their goal. But it's a mistake to think that a customer journey map is simply a series of touchpoints.
Instead, customer experience is all about how someone feels as they go through their journey.
The tools we listed above–an omnichannel contact center connected to a dedicated service CRM–allow you to monitor individual customer journeys in real-time. This way, you can create a personalized journey for every customer, track their changing experience, and jump in when they need help.
Here are a few examples of the tools you can use to build out a personalized experience:
1. Customer experience score. A solution like Nextiva keeps track of each customer's experience score based on their actions and interactions with support. For example, if a customer messages about repeated issues, Nextiva detects and elevates their negative experience so you can deal with it.
2. Automatic conversation analysis. Sometimes emotions get lost in a conversation. But with Natural Language Processing (NLP), you can quickly understand where a user is on the customer journey and alert a relevant agent. For example, if someone reaches out over chat to ask about a product's feature, the conversation will be flagged as high-priority and passed along to an agent.
3. Apply automation from survey responses. The easiest way to personalize a customer journey is to ask customers how they're feeling and what they need. Nextiva can send automatic requests for feedback after every support interaction and trigger surveys after their response to find out more.
7) Set up automation to guide customers along their journey
It's impossible to actively monitor every customer and guide them along their journey. Instead, intelligent automation puts the customer journey on autopilot.
Surveys and feedback requests are the simplest forms of customer service automation. However, they're only the tip of the iceberg. When you have a deeper understanding of your customer's journey, you can identify moments of friction or momentum where you can step in.
For example, suppose a customer gives you a high rating. In that case, you can help move them from the customer phase to the advocate phase by automatically offering a reward and then assigning a follow-up task to an agent.
Of course, you could use these same strategies if you see a customer slipping backward or facing down a major issue. The key is that you know where they should be going and can automatically help them along the way.
Create the ultimate customer experience with a customer journey map
If you're not actively thinking about your customer's experience with your brand and product, you're already behind the competition. Not only that, but you're wasting money as 65% of consumers say a positive experience is more influential than great advertising!
Customer journey maps can be your differentiator. And with cloud-based technology making it easier than ever to build and monitor them, there are no more excuses.
Ramp up your CX with Nextiva.
Enterprise marketing leader at the intersection of marketing and customer experience (CX). I lead marketing departments and enterprises through game-changing, industry-altering transformations with CX as the key differentiator.