What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map details all the individual touchpoints and interactions that customers have with a specific business.

Whilst all customer journey maps are unique to a business and its different customer groups, the process in creating these maps is broadly the same. If an end-to-end customer journey map has not been created, then it can be useful to map this out starting with how a customer becomes aware of a business or brand (such as through the website or a word-of-mouth recommendation), right through to service delivery and ultimately, what happens at the point at which a customer wants to exit the relationship or indeed, return and continue doing business.


On a journey, you need a map!

Alternatively, a business may want to instead focus on one part of the customer journey (rather than the end-to-end journey) to understand this better and to explore this in more detail. As an example, if a business is happy with the sales process upfront but is more concerned about understanding the after-sales customer experience, then it may wish to build a map to explore specific interactions that occur at this point in the journey to examine where they are performing well, where there are potential problems or customer “pain points” and which departments are responsible for owning each of these specific customer interactions or experiences.

A key point to bear in mind is that emphasis is always on the customer where the map that is produced must be through the lens of a customer. In other words, it should represent the interactions the customer sees and experiences, rather than the internal processes that may occur behind the scenes within a business, which the customer does not see. For example, a customer may order a product for delivery, but they might not see how that order is specifically processed by the organization internally.


The overall “spine” of the journey

To begin the process in creating a customer journey map, then you would seek to agree on a journey “spine”, namely the key overarching stages of the customer journey. An example of this can be seen below:

steps of a customer journey

It is worth noting that these stages may not follow a linear journey in singular stages. For example, in the case of “Service Delivery/Support”, then the service offering may lend itself to a number of different key stages, rather than just one. Similarly, “Relationship Strengthening” could be an area that feeds into different stages, rather than something which is standalone. This may mean that it can, in fact, loop into other parts.


The individual touchpoints which sit beneath the spine

For the next step, then under each key stage of the “spine”, you would seek to list all the individual touchpoints or interactions a customer may have at that stage. As an example, under the “Awareness” stage of the spine, then the individual interactions of how a customer might become aware of a brand may include some or all the following:

  • The company website
  • Social media
  • Trade publications
  • Word-of-mouth recommendations
  • Branded vehicles or delivery trucks
  • Seeing the brand at sponsored events

Post-it notes and flip charts (or similar) are useful for capturing all this information. We would always advise that one post-it note is used for each touchpoint, as when doing this as an internal group exercise, then you will likely want to add or remove individual touchpoints, or potentially move these around or group them together. The key here is to keep reminding yourself that these touchpoints should all represent experiences through the eyes of the customer and so if a customer does not experience it (i.e. it’s an internal process they do not see), then it should not be included.


Heat-mapping performance

With multiple touchpoints and interactions mapped against each key stage of the “spine”, a customer journey map can shed light on the hundreds of specific interactions a customer can have with a business. Knowing what these are is a vital basis for formulating a plan or allocating resources appropriately towards effectively managing the customer experience across these different interactions.

However, a useful exercise in helping a business understand where attention is required, is to heat-map performance of these touchpoints. Once again, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and then decide (either in groups or individually) which touchpoints can be classified into the following:

  • Customer pain points: Those touchpoints where there are challenges faced by the customer or where a business feels it fails to meet customer needs and expectations now.
  • Moments of delight: On the flip side, those touchpoints where a business feels that it delights customers by doing a good job or exceeding their needs or expectations.
  • Moments of truth: The touchpoints which are the most important or critical because they have the most impact on the longer-term loyalty of a customer.

When heat-mapping, it is not necessary that every single touchpoint is classified into one of the above and some may be left blank because they could be somewhere in the middle – neither a pain point nor a moment of delight. Equally, it is ok if some touchpoints are marked as a pain point and a moment of delight as well as a moment of truth, since this might represent that this touchpoint is important, but there are extreme inconsistencies in the experience of the customer here.

Of course, this exercise captures an internal perspective only and so it’s important to also test this out by speaking directly to customers. By doing this, it can be a powerful catalyst for change to conduct gap analysis on what we think internally versus what customers feels in practice. These insights can be used to help a business prioritize its resources on where these are needed most and where these could have the most positive impact on longer-term customer loyalty.


The importance of emotions

Finally, when we think about building customer loyalty, we want customers to become emotionally engaged with a brand – delighted enough to repurchase but also to advocate and recommend the brand to others. With this in mind, it is useful to review all the overarching stages of the journey (the “spine” we talked of earlier) and think about how customers feel at each now as well as how we want customers to feel at this stage (the aspiration).

All these key components can help to build a comprehensive picture of the journeys our customers take when doing business with us. Armed with this information, a business can hold up the mirror on itself and start to think about where it needs to focus attention to better its customer experience and in turn, build customer loyalty. The ultimate aim is to start to create “planned” moments, interactions and memorable experiences that truly delight customers – so that they return to us and also behave as advocates of our brand.

For further information on the topic, download our report “Winning with Emotion“. We researched 3,000 b2b decision-makers to find out which emotions play a key role throughout the customer journey.

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