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How to Create Customer Journey Maps in 2021

What are Customer Journey Maps, and Why do Businesses use them?

Customer journey maps are alternatively referred to as buyer personas or user journeys. They define the curation of a visual representation in order to depict a customer’s experiences with a brand, across a variety of touchpoints. Essentially, brands utilize customer journey maps to blanket the entirety of the interactions made with their customer base, regardless of whether this has been carried out through social media channels, emails, or live chats.

In 2021, customer experience has overtaken product and price as the prime brand differentiator.

In fact, 86% of customers willingly pay extra for a better customer experience, and companies whose revenues exceed the $1 billion annual threshold typically earn another $700 million, within the next three years, by enhancing their customer experience. 

"The only person who gets to decide what the service is, is the person who has the goal they need to achieve – and that’s your user. It’s your job to orchestrate all of the pieces of this service in as seamless a journey as possible,” Good Services: How to Design Services That Work, by Lou Downe

As such, the practice of journey mapping helps businesses (smaller businesses, startups, and larger companies) step into the shoes of their customers and gauge their brand from the buyer’s perspective. Doing so further allows businesses to determine the pain points of their customers, whilst gaining important insights into the company’s performance. All in all, this leads to better optimization, and personalization, of the customer experience.

Why should Businesses Prioritise Customer Journey Mapping?

This is because journey mapping is a highly strategic approach towards better understanding the expectations of your customers, and working towards optimizing their experiences. Today, customer expectations are constantly changing, for businesses of all sizes, with clientele across the world demanding an omni-channel approach to marketing, customer service, and sales.

Therefore, personalization is a crucial aspect of the customer experience spectrum.

Research states that over 84% of consumers are more inclined towards businesses which treat customers as humans, rather than just another order, or number. 

By utilizing journey mapping, SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) are able to create highly personalized experiences, across various touchpoints, for every customer, across every channel. The primary benefits, for businesses, indulging in the practice are as follows:

  • Optimisation of your customer onboarding process

  • Ability to benchmark the desired customer experience against what is actually being delivered

  • Comprehending different buyer personas as their status changes from prospective to conversion while in the buying funnel

  • Creation of a realistic plan to approach your buyers’ journeys

Typical Customer Journey Map

What Should Businesses do Before Creating a Customer Journey Map?

Before the actual customer mapping process begins, it is important for businesses to plan a number of factors. Due to the ongoing digital revolution, businesses of today leverage themselves by competing with optimum customer experiences, rather than differentiators such as product, demography, and price. This has undoubtedly led to in-person, and digital, experiences of a quality that simply wasn’t existent previously.

Moreover, customers today understand their importance for a brand, and can rightfully choose where to spend their money. Given the new dynamic between businesses and customers, the restrictions on purchases are limited when the whole world is potentially offered. Therefore, as a brand, setting yourself aside from your competitors is no longer an easy task. Leveraging a powerful customer journey is the key aspect in meeting the growing expectations of consumers worldwide.

Some crucial factors to evaluate before beginning to craft customer journey maps are as follows:

  • Know what you want to accomplish

Businesses must ensure they’re aware of what the company is striving for before creating a customer journey map. Without deliberating your goals beforehand, you’re likely to confuse both your employees and miss critical factors. Here are a few future achievements businesses can deliberate upon:

  • Acquiring more buyers through your company website.

  • More effective cohesion between your brand and your customers.

  • Increasing customer click-through rates via email marketing.

  • Contemplate the areas your business might be failing in when it comes to customer expectations.

  • Deliberate whether certain teams within your company need to enhance their own performances to better serve your customer base.

Focusing on your customer in this particular manner is exceedingly lucrative for brands.

In fact, a study noted that 49% of buyers are known to make impulsive purchases if receiving a personalized, attentive experience. 

  • Creation of buyer personas

Customer journey maps mandatorily require the creation of buyer personas. This helps to accurately implement improvements within your mapping journey, whilst covering the diversity of buyers your business attends to. As a brand, your job is to analyze, understand, and document your customer base through buyer personas, while simultaneously attending to their expectations.

Statistically, 90% of companies utilizing buyer personas have been able to generate clearer understandings of their buyers. 

“Sometimes, it makes sense to start with an assumption-based journey map to get an idea of how to structure the research process: who to ask what, when, and where. However, mind the risk of confirmation bias. If you start with assumption-based journey maps, constantly challenge your assumptions. Over time, assumption-based journey maps should develop into research-based ones with a solid foundation on research data.” This is Service Design Doing (Using Research and Customer Journey Maps to Create Success Services), by Stickdorn, Hormess, Lawrence and Schneider

Additionally, different buyers often have different goals.

For example, you can focus on working mothers within your customer base. As such, you’d have to conduct interviews, compile data, and create a persona card that may look somewhat like this-

Customer Persona

This is a great example of what your buyer persona can cover before beginning with your customer journey map.

  • Understand the goals of your buyers

Once you’ve worked on your buyer personas, you can proceed to comprehend what each buyer hopes to get out of their customer journey. You can also deem this as a buyer’s ultimate goal in the starting phase of journey mapping.

This is highly crucial for a brand since, statistically, 19% of all buyers wish to connect with a salesperson, when they’re first growing accustomed with a product, during the awareness stage.

A few notable goals buyers often have in mind are listed below:

  • Properly researching and familiarizing themselves with the different options available

  • Ensuring they are being charged a fair price

  • Requiring assurance that, as a customer, they possess all the necessary information about a service or product

In order to respond to such customer expectations, businesses should have a few of their own factors in mind. Of this, the most crucial is to understand the goals of your customers, and this can be done in some of the following ways:

  • Conducting interviews, or surveys, of different groups of customers

  • Utilise user testing feedback

  • Analyze customer support transcripts/emails

  • Identify different sets of questions posed by customers within each phase

  • Make use of customer analytics tools, such as Hotjar, to gather information

  • Include people from several different sectors

To create an efficient customer journey map, you should include people from several business sectors. This is because different groups of people are more likely to be familiar with multiple touchpoints, the manner they work in, and how customers respond to experiences with them.

For example, utilizing a customer service team is invaluable, in generating a customer journey map, because the team is able to incessantly communicate with customers, and note their queries in a clear manner.

  • Always keep customers’ emotions in mind

Customer emotions should always be at the very front of your pre-mapping process. With today’s market being essentially customer-focused, in order to set themselves apart, brands must optimise positive emotions whilst minimizing negative emotions. Customers always bear in mind whether a business first caused them excitement or a headache.

According to Hubspot, 69% of customers agree that one of the primary ways of curating a positive sales experience is by listening to the needs of the customers. 

“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” – Kevin Stirtz

As such, brands can allocate negative emotions to the customer’s designated pain point experiences, while assigning positive emotions when users feel rewarded for their interactions.

For example, positive customer emotions are incited when customers receive an email confirming their purchase. Similarly, receiving discount codes, or coupons, in addition to purchase, delivers a similar response.

  • Your customer journey maps must be understandable to its users

Before creating your customer journey map, you can decide to use an excel spreadsheet, a word processing document, multiple flashy visuals, or perhaps even post-it notes placed on a whiteboard. Regardless of what you choose to use, the most important aspect for a brand is to present information in a manner that is easy to understand, and even easier to read. This allows employees (and other people working to create a customer journey map) to quickly, and efficiently scan their work and locate what they desire.

Process of Customer Journey Map Creation

How can Businesses Map an Optimum Customer Journey Map themselves?

Since customer journeys differ for each business, there isn’t an official template brands can utilize. However, there are in fact a variety of practices that are known to generate optimum results, and are widely utilized across the globe. As a brand, you do possess the freedom to explore various designs and exercise your creativity. Therefore, you can construct a customer journey map through the following steps.

1. Split your customer journey map into various sections

While having an overall view of the customer journey is great, it is also vital to have more detailed maps illustrating various stages of your customer base. Some important questions which can be answered within the detailed sections are as follows:

  • What is happening before a customer visits your website?

  • Do customers begin their journeys through a Google Ad?

  • Are customers directed towards conversions through a Twitter campaign?

  • What occurs after a customer completes a purchase?

  • Are your customers receiving a confirmation email?

  • How often should your brand send customer marketing emails after a purchase?

2. Separate the presentation of Onstage and Offstage Actions

Documenting both offstage, and onstage, customer experiences are required within your customer journey map. However, it is important to segregate the two in order for a reader to better understand it.

Onstage experiences refer to ones which occur in the presence of a customer, such as something they are able to experience or see for themselves.

For example, when a customer engages with your brand’s online newsletter, after which they choose to subscribe to your email list for further notifications, is regarded as an onstage event. This particularly refers to the customer’s actions of reading the post and signing up.

Offstage events, in turn, are actions which occur behind the scenes and are invisible to a customer.

For example, in the event of the newsletter above, after a user submits their respective details within the subscription form, the action of being added to a mailing list is considered an offstage event.

3. Map out your buyer touchpoints

A ‘touchpoint’ details the moments a customer interacts with a brand. This is inclusive of the period before, during, and after the purchasing of a product, or service, from your brand. Moreover, this further inculcates proceedings made online, offline, within the marketing sector, over the phone, and in person.

When creating a customer journey map, brands must take into account all the potential touchpoints which could occur between your company and a customer. This allows businesses to take advantage of every opportunity to better understand their customers, and work on improvements which will match their expectations.

  • However, despite knowing what touchpoints are now, as a brand, you might be wondering how exactly to locate them. Initially, this might seem rather daunting for businesses since there’s a large variety of ways customers could potentially interact with your brand. In order to ease this task, you can experience your brand through a customer’s point of view and walk through the journey yourself.

You could question yourself as such:

“Where should I go, and how exactly should I get there, if…”

Following which a number of notable queries can be posed:

...I happen to have a [query which your brand solves]?

...I came across a product by a brand which solves my problem?

...I choose to make a purchase decision?

...I interact with the brand once more after my purchase?

Doing so shall reveal several touchpoints for your business in a simple, and effective way.

  • Another useful manner in which you can fulfill the same task is by questioning your customer directly about their individual experiences with your brand. Or, you could even pose these questions through a survey.

As such, utilizing Google Analytics is another excellent way to accomplish identifying multiple touchpoints. There are two primary reports which brands ideally find extremely useful:

  • Behaviour Flow Report

A Behavior Flow Report portrays how customers navigate through a website by studying each of their interactions individually. This allows brands to understand how their customer behaves, the path they abide by while navigating a website, alongside the mediums, campaigns, and demographics they originate from. Most beneficially, it can help brands identify the pain points a customer struggles with while on their website.

  • Goal Flow Report

A Goal Flow Report allows brands to monitor a customer’s journey towards the completion of a goal conversion. This is done by revealing how traffic is navigated through your buyer funnel, coupled with whether certain points with unexpected traffic loops or high drop-off rates, should be addressed.

4. Locate your customer pain points

After the completion of the aforementioned stages, you should collect all your data (both qualitative and quantitative) and begin to identify pain points within the customer journey. Furthermore, brands must also take note of areas with better performances and strive to improve these as well.

“What is the context in which your product or service is used? What happens before, during and after? Can you identify the pain points? How can you eliminate these pain points?” Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

In order to do so, you could question yourself, and customer-facing staff, while also interviewing customers. A few questions which could ease the process for your brand are:

  • Are customers achieving their respective goals when on my website?

  • What are the primary areas causing frustration, and friction?

  • Where, and why exactly, are purchases being abandoned?

  • What needs to be built, or corrected?

  • Does my brand have to start from scratch and break everything down?

  • Or do we only need to make a few smaller changes to cause a bigger impact?

After answering these questions, you’ll be able to locate the pain points within your customer experience and embed them within your customer journey map. As a brand, you must realize that the primary accomplishment for your business isn’t the optimizing and betterment of each touchpoint, but the creation of a customer journey map in order to push customers through the buyer funnel for generating more conversions.

5. Improve and update

Once you’ve completed your brand’s customer journey map, you can’t simply abandon it and refuse to use it. In fact, because customer dynamics and customer bases are always changing in 2021, your brand should constantly elevate, refocus, and improve your customer journey map.

Realistically, in order to achieve optimum results, testing and updating your customer journey map should ideally be done every 6 months. Furthermore, it should be rearranged and aligned with the introduction of newer, more significant changes in your products, and services.

Process of Customer Journey Map Creation

How can you evaluate your Customer Journey Map?

Once you’ve created your customer journey map, you should ensure it is actionable, dynamic, and most importantly, measurable. This allows brands to ensure the effectiveness of their journey mapping, alongside curating a way to determine its success. This can be done by:

  • Including Key Performance Indicators

Key performance indicators (KPIs) can provide businesses with the necessary evaluative framework required to make their customer journey map more actionable.

One of the primary requirements of a customer journey map is its ability to identify opportunities on the basis of qualitative research. The research is inclusive of customer’s experiences and perceptions, which allows brands to acquire insights into the highs and lows of a customer’s experience. As such, the following KPI can be used:

For example, an indicator such as “meets/unable to meet/beyond expectations” can effectively visualize multiple opportunities for improvements within the customer journey.

Alternatively, other metrics which could help brands track the success of their customer journey map are as follows:

  • Measures for customer satisfaction

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)

  • Variants determining the importance of specific touchpoints

  • Customer emotions evaluated through quantitative assessments

Regardless of the metrics used, they should essentially assist a brand in measuring the quality of their customer service experience presently, and in the incoming future.

Key Performance Metrics for Customer Experience

So what do we know now?

Beginning with the essentials of a customer journey map, alongside its primary utilisation by businesses, we’ve laid the foundation for understanding journey mapping for brands. Moreover, by highlighting why businesses should effectively use customer journey mapping, coupled with factors that need to be fulfilled before creating your own customer journey map, you’re able to positively assert your familiarity with the practise, and gauge whether it’s best suited to your respective brand. Lastly, by elaborating upon the most optimum techniques businesses can use to draft their own customer journey maps, followed by the best methods to evaluate its effectiveness, you’re also positively, and completely, informed of the diverse spectrum that is journey mapping.

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