understanding the customer journey from start to finish

Understanding the customer journey from start to finish

The customer journey is easily one of the most important, yet most misunderstood, parts of doing business. One of the reasons for this is that the needs of customers can change. Additionally, not all customers are alike. Therefore, it can be difficult for many businesses to ensure customers have the best buying experience from the start of their journey through to making their purchase and using the product or service.

Businesses that want to have a better overall feel and understanding of the journey their customers take will need to learn more about what the journey is and the path most customers will follow when they are making a buying decision. Knowing and understanding the customer journey map is more than just a good idea. It is essential for optimizing the customer journey.

What is the Customer Journey Map?

Although you may know about the customer journey, you might not know what a customer journey map is. Essentially, this is just the visual representation of the engagement your customer has with your brand from the time they know they need a product to the point of making a purchase. The visual timeline doesn’t need to have fancy graphics, of course. It could simply be a list that touches on the various points of the customer journey.

The map needs to lay out all the stages the customer will work through when buying, along with helping to identify the pain points during the journey. A customer journey mapping study from 2018 found that 67% of customer experience professionals that participated in the survey had been using this type of mapping in their business, and 90% of those using it found that it had a positive impact.

Below, we’ll be briefly discussing the benefits of the customer journey map. You’ll also see some simple examples to give you an idea of how you can make your own map. It’s easier than you might think, but it is well worth taking the time and putting in the effort to create journeys for the various products or services that you offer. After all, a single customer journey map will not work for all products or services.

Why Create a Customer Journey Map?

Ultimately, the customer journey map will help to improve the experience customers have with your company. You can better visualize and understand what the customer is experiencing at each step along the way. This could help you find some common pain points that will need to be addressed or that could be used to help with the marketing of the service.

Mapping the customer journey can help you to get answers to a range of questions. For example, you can learn more about where customers might be dropping out of your sales funnel. Are they leaving your website? This could mean that the site is not user-friendly, and it might not meet the customer expectations. How often does the customer reach out to customer service with questions? Is the customer service department able to answer those questions efficiently and in a timely manner? What interactions is the customer having with your brand before they make a purchase, or before they leave and don’t come back?

When you have the answers to these questions, and when you are creating quality customer journey maps for the services and products you offer, it can help immensely. You can use the map and the information it provides to help you train the other team members on the customer experience best practices. You can make sure that the team is focused on the customer, you can improve your marketing using information from the maps.

Consider the benefits that the customer journey map can offer:

  • Find Gaps in Service or Communication: You can often find problems and gaps that occur in your customer service, your website, communication among employees, etc.
  • Increase Sales: One of the other major benefits is the potential for increased sales. Naturally, when you can understand the customer’s journey and find ways to make it easier on them, there is a greater chance that they will end up buying from your company. It could also help with upselling and cross-selling, as you are learning more about the customers and the best ways to market to them.
  • Better Customer Satisfaction: When customers are provided with the types of experiences they want, and when you can make buying easier, they will be more satisfied with your company. They will not only be more willing to buy from you in the future, but they are likely going to let friends and family know about your business.
  • Better Employee Satisfaction: Additionally, knowing the customer journey and creating a customer map will help your employees to know the customers better. This means they can perform their roles better and ensure they are providing the best possible service to customers at various points along the journey.

As you can see, there are many benefits to creating a customer journey map. However, you might not know where to begin. Fortunately, it is not as difficult as some might think. Let’s look at what you need to do to create these maps.

Creating a Customer Journey Map in Seven Steps

Below are seven simple steps that you can take to start creating your customer journey map. Keep in mind that this is just one way to create the customer journey. It can be a good starting point for you. Graphically, it can be anything that makes sense to you and that will work for your business. Once you have created the customer journey map, you can put it to use and start gleaning information that can help your company provide a better overall customer experience.

Step 1: Know Your Goals and Set Your Targets

The first thing you need to know is what your goals are for creating the customer journey map. What are your targets? When you know the goals and targets, you will have a destination that you want to reach. Knowing your goals will make it much easier to narrow down the best ways to hit your targets. The goals will help you to keep on track.

Here are some of the most important questions you have to ask when you are creating your goals and targets before you get too deep into creating the customer journey map.

  • Why are you making the map?
  • What do you want to find out from the map?
  • What do you want/need to achieve?
  • Whose perspective will the map be from?
  • What experiences will be factored into the map?

Remember, you will likely need to have more than just one customer journey map for your business. This is because you may need to cover different types of services or products, or because you have different types of customers. The next step will help you with this.

Step 2: Create Buyer Personas

buyer persona vector infographic

Now that you know your goals, you will next need to create buyer personas. Most companies that have done any sort of marketing will have an understanding of buyer personas and their importance. They are fictional versions that represent a specific type of customer segment for your brand. When you are putting together a buyer persona, you need to make sure to consider and include important characteristics such as:

  • Demographics
  • Background
  • Lifestyle
  • Personality
  • Shopping preferences
  • Information sources

The market research that you have done for the company will be beneficial here. The more data you have available, the better it will be when it comes to seeing things from the customers’ perspective.

When you are creating the buyer personas, it is a good idea to use only one to three in total. You want to avoid using any more than this, or it will dilute your focus. You won’t end up getting the information that you need when it comes to narrowing down pain points, needs, etc.

Step 3: Identify Customer Motivations

Once you have narrowed down the customer personas you will be using for your map, you then need to think about the motivations of the buyer persona. Keep in mind that the motivations will vary based on the persona and the product or service involved. You need to put yourself in the shoes of the customer. Think about what it is that they will be thinking about when they are looking to buy.

Just as you need to know your own goals when creating the customer journey map, you also need to know the customer goals when it comes to their journey. Why do they need to buy? What is it that has caused them to come to the decision that they need whatever it is your company—and your competitors—are offering? Think about it from their perspective.

Step 4: Identify Pain Points

As you are going through and identifying the motivations the customers have, you will also want to stop to think about the potential pain points. What is it that could be causing them to hesitate and not reach their goals? Are they worried about things like the price? Shipping? Installation of a product? Are they worried because there are so many options available, and they don’t know which one to choose? This can lead to analysis paralysis, where they continue researching products but don’t make a decision.

When you can see the pain points, you have an advantage over your competitors. You can then see what you can do differently to improve the customer journey. You can focus on removing those pain points. If the customer is nervous about spending the money, you can mention that you have a return policy, or you could talk about all the benefits that the product or service offers that will make their lives easier. Think about the ways that your brand can help.

Step 5: Understand the Journey the Buyer Takes

Most of the time, there will be three main stages in the buyer’s journey. Of course, there could be more substages depending on how their experience goes. The three main stages include awareness, consideration, and decision.

At the awareness stage, they know that they have an issue or that they want to make a purchase for one reason or another. The consideration stage is when the customer is trying to determine exactly what they need and how it will help them. The decision stage is when the customer knows what they need and is searching for the best solution or product to meet their needs.

You want to get an idea of what the buyer is thinking at all of these stages. When you know what they are thinking, it becomes much easier for you to find areas where your company can meet those needs or answer those questions as early as possible.

Step 6: Have Plenty of Touchpoints

In the digital world, there are many potential contact points where a customer might encounter your brand. You want to have as many touchpoints and channels available as possible, so you can increase the chance of the customer finding your business at the various stages of their journey. Some companies will have traditional touchpoints, not just digital, of course. The goal is to make sure that all of them, whether it’s a storefront in a brick-and-mortar store or a website, can provide the customers with what they need. Remember, think about things from their perspective. Make it as easy as possible for them.

Step 7: Revise and Improve

Mapping the customer journey is not something that you are only going to do once. This is something that you need to watch and update regularly. If the customer’s journey changes, then your map and your efforts will need to change as well. It’s expected that you will continue revising, working on, and improving to meet the changing needs of your customers.

Two Examples of Customer Journey Maps from the Customer’s Perspective

customer journey map process buying decision

Below are two customer journeys for different types of products and services. By understanding these types of journeys from the perspective of the customer, it will help to make it easier for you to apply them to your own business.

  • Example 1: Buying a Portable AC Unit
    • It’s hot already, and summer is fast approaching. You don’t have central AC, but you need to stay cool.
    • You search on the web for ways to reduce the heat in your apartment and find several Window AC units, portable AC units, and fans. You know that fans don’t work well enough, and you want to avoid going through the hassle and expense of a large window unit. So, you choose a portable AC unit instead.
    • However, when you start to research the options, you find that there are so many choices available, it’s hard to make a selection. You spend time looking at reviews, features, costs, etc.
    • Once you finally narrow your selection, you then head to an online retailer. However, the one that you choose has a terrible website layout and the shipping is outrageous. They don’t have an option to have someone install it,
    • You then search for a different retailer that offers free delivery and installation. Even though the unit costs slightly more, you go for this option because it has what you need.

This is just one example. These are the same types of things that your potential buyers are thinking about when they visit your website. Although the products might be different, the types of pain points that they come across could be the same.

  • Example 2: Finding a Mobile Mechanic
    • You go out to start your car only to find out it doesn’t want to cooperate. Nothing happens when you turn the key.
    • You check the battery and find that it’s fully charged. It’s a different problem. Maybe the starter or the ignition switch, but you aren’t certain.
    • You head online to look for mobile mechanics that can get out to the house and see what’s wrong with the vehicle and complete the repair.
    • You have to narrow your selection based on where you live and which mechanics will service your area. After finding a suitable mechanic with good reviews, you contact them and see if they can provide an estimate once they examine the vehicle.
    • The first mechanic calls you back and tells you that it’s a problem that needs to be fixed by a locksmith rather than a mechanic without even looking at the vehicle.
    • You contact a locksmith, but they examine the vehicle and tell you it’s a problem for a mechanic.
    • You go to a second mechanic who comes out and diagnoses your vehicle, finds the problem, and fixes it for you.

Now, taking the two simple examples above, you can start to think about how a company might be able to better illustrate the customer journey using the stages that the customer goes through—awareness, consideration, and buying.

Putting the Customer Journey Map Into Action

Once you know how to put yourself into the shoes of the customer, and how to build and apply their journey to your map, you can start to find ways that you can improve your service. You will start to see the things that the customers want or don’t want, you can better identify their goals and their pain points, and you can work toward improving the way your company handles those things.

Even if you feel that your customers aren’t having any problems, that’s probably not true. It just means that you aren’t yet aware of them. Creating a customer journey map and being proactive about these matters is the only way to find out and make the improvements that are needed.

You can make the changes you need easily when you are using the right platforms. With NICE CXone, the most complete cloud contact center platform, you will find that it’s easier than ever to create extraordinary customer experiences. The platform can handle all the interactions with customers across over 30 digital and self-service channels, as well as provide AI-driven customer insights, performance metrics, and reporting. This makes it easier than ever for you to manage the customer journey from beginning to end.

With CXone, you can align your company to improve the customer journey. You can better understand your customers, so you can find ways to improve their satisfaction. Learn more about NICE CXone and see how you can offer the digital-first experience that customers demand today.