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Map Your Customer Journey for Illuminating Insights

Are you losing customers? It’s a tough question, and one no brand really wants to face…but many brands deal with it daily. A customer visits your website, for example, searching for a particular product. They find it and add it to their shopping cart. Then…nothing. Where did the customer go? Were they distracted and plan to finish the transaction later? Did they find a better price for a similar product on a competitor’s website? Did they decide they don’t want the product after all? Brands can’t survey every visitor to their site. Sometimes it’s possible to figure out why a transaction was abandoned. Other times, it’s nearly impossible.

Wouldn’t it be great to know the reasons customers don’t complete a transaction? Or why someone who expressed interest in using your services doesn’t follow through and engage? It could be illuminating and explain a lot. Then I have a question for you: do you have a customer journey map?

It goes by many names—customer journey map, customer experience map, touch point map—but is essentially the same thing. No matter what you call it, its importance is undeniable. To improve the customer experience, you must understand the customer journey.

What is the customer journey? It’s how your customers move through their interaction with your brand.

  • How your customer finds your brand
  • How they use your services
  • How and where they purchase a product
  • How and when they use support post-purchase
  • How, when and where they renew a service or buy again from your brand
  • And any times or places they experience frustration or challenges that change their experience.

The customer journey includes all of a customer’s interactions with your brand, whether online, in person, via phone, social or with friends. It is the overall experience they have with your brand and the impression that experience leaves. You may not think about the sum of customer experiences and service as the customer journey, but that’s what it is. And it is important.

How important? Important enough that a few small tweaks might smooth your customer’s journey and lead to increased sales…increased revenue per transaction…decreased costs…increased customer satisfaction…and earning a loyal-for-life customer.

How can mapping the customer journey help? By evaluating all of the customer touch points, brands can see what can be improved. Think as if you were the customer and determine what you would want to happen at each point in your journey. If that isn’t the experience your customers are having, what can be changed to get there? Where are there hang-ups or delays that could frustrate a customer? Are there specific things that stop a high percentage of transactions? It could be anything from a drawn-out process to a system error to a lack of available information. Find whatever could be hindering the customer journey and fix it.

For example, Bolt Insurance conducts customer research to determine the customer purchase journey online, in person and over the phone. Armed with this information, they are able to figure out where customers begin their information gathering process, where they seek help and where they make their final purchase. This process offers valuable insight into customer journey bottlenecks that cause customers to look to other options, and has allowed Bolt to be proactive and increase sales conversion.

Creating a customer journey map provides a visual aid, if you will, to show everyone in the company how a typical customer interacts with your brand. Whether a flow chart, graphical map or bulleted list, it can help a brand better understand its customers and how to provide better service—especially across channels.

We’ve said it before and it will be said many more times—more customers are demanding engagement on non-traditional channels (Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools). Whether a brand engages on those channels—or not—impacts the customer experience and journey. What would your brand do if a customer posted a negative experience on Twitter? Can your customer service representatives respond on Twitter? If not, is your brand even aware of or tracking Twitter so someone could follow up on tweets on another channel? Same goes for Facebook, online forums, and many other social media tools. Not many brands are engaging on social media, even though customers are there. And the customer journey frequently begins before the brand’s systems “detect” it through a customer visiting a website or calling…because the customer is chatting, researching and posting online.

Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes can be invaluable. What do customers want from any interaction with a brand? A smooth process, with as few roadblocks as possible. Simple, fast and move on to the next thing. Customers are increasingly demanding not just a good, but a seamless journey, from start to finish.

And the benefits of that smooth, seamless customer journey? They are almost too numerous to list. A better understanding of your customer’s experience. Ensuring the customer journey is the same no matter what channel they engage upon. Eliminating confusion. Increasing satisfaction. Improving efficiencies. Reducing costs. Improving customer satisfaction scores. Moving toward only positive customer word-of-mouth. Safeguarding repeat customers. Creating loyal-for-life customers. And, ultimately, increasing customer lifetime value.

For all that talking about why you should create a customer journey map, I didn’t say much about how to do it or what it should look like. Because it is a visual representation of the process, it can take many forms. There are plenty of resources online and through ICMI with samples, ideas, recommendations and lots of advice.

Now get out there and map your customer journey…and see what it can illuminate for your brand.