Customer Journey Mapping

By Cheryl Salazar, The Partner Marketing Group


It may sound daunting to pull together, but a customer journey map comes with a powerful impact on your business. The idea is centered on optimizing every touch point a client or prospect has with your company. I recently had the good fortune to participate in a mystery shopping experience where I could examine the various touch points within the organizations I contacted. I was surprised by my results and how emotional the whole process was, which led me to write this guide on how to build your own customer journey map.

Benefits of Customer Journey Mapping

There are many business benefits, but here are some of the most valuable advantages:

You will establish credibility. This gives “weight” to what you say you do better than your competition. It’s easy to say you’re better / faster / less expensive / more knowledgeable / give greater service / etc. However, when your customers say it—that’s when it really counts and can make a significant impact in getting an (unknown) prospect to take the next step with you.

You will differentiate your business. There is literally no better way to differentiate yourself in this crowded market than proven results and satisfied customers. Loyal customers are also your best source of market research. “What would you Google to find us, what did we do or say that caused you to engage?” This is the gold we marketers are always on the lookout for.

You will improve customer experiences. Mapping the customer journey is critical to your company’s success and ability to become more customer-centric. This process allows the company to break down silos, streamline services, tailor processes and operations to specific customer needs, and expose opportunities for increased customer interaction. Journey mapping also provides visibility to all employees into what happens upstream and downstream of their interactions, improving their ability to deliver the desired experience.

You will shorten the sales cycle.  A natural outcome of a good customer experience is knowing why customers came to you in the first place versus your competition. Take Amazon for example. Their focus on understanding buyer behavior and what they buy or are interested in allows them to propose additional products and services the buyer might not have considered before. Imagine having that level of detail about your customer. Knowing whether it’s your products, your people, your customer service ethic, your support offerings—or any combination—that persuades people to buy from you allows you to tailor your offer or provide more of that kind of offer. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to confidently put this on your website…

Our customers tell us that our XYZ product is the best, why don’t you give it a try?

You will increase referrals. No one is going to (or should) refer your business just to get an Amex card. Prospects need to be comfortable with you, and a rich history of satisfied customers does that.

And all the above will lead to increased revenue. $$$$$!

[bctt tweet=”A Step-by-Step Guide to Customer Journey Mapping” username=”PartnerMktGrp”]

So, where do you start?

First, you need to start. Avoid ‘blank sheet syndrome’ because even if your first step is a misstep, it’s a step and puts you way ahead of the game.

A good customer experience journey map assumes you have the ability to collect and analyze customer feedback from all touch points, as well as the executive support needed to identify opportunities, remove obstacles and to work across the organization.

How to Build a Customer Journey Map in 8 Steps

1. Gain Executive Buy-In

Executive buy-in is critical to any successful mapping effort. You’ll want to have a clear executive sponsor to champion the effort and to engage other members of the executive team early and often. This ensures the right cross-functional resources are committed to participating in the mapping process and taking ownership of the identified improvement initiatives.

To obtain executive buy-in, it’s important to define the objectives of the customer journey map and educate leadership on why this is important and valuable to the business. In an increasingly competitive environment, a company’s ability to create positive customer interactions with their products, services and people influences future buying decisions and referrals.

2. Define Objectives

You need a clear purpose for the journey map and a reason for its creation. Make sure everyone understands what they are and what the journey map is intended to do. Define the ‘why’ by tying outcomes into business objectives. Points to think about include:

  • Increasing customer loyalty
  • Client lifetime value
  • Reducing churn or mitigating risk
  • Gaining market share, differentiation and so on

Map points to goals. For example, if you are trying to reduce customer churn, identify key points in the journey where customers are most likely to stop doing business with you (it could be a person or a process that is prohibiting customers from buying from you). You can also map market share to where customers are more likely to choose you over your competition.

3. Define the Scope

Identify persona/team roles & responsibilities: Identify the personas, target customer segments, and/or specific processes that are being evaluated. To kick off, consider focusing on one area initially (e.g., the purchase experience or the web/phone/email experience) versus the entire experience. This will provide you with enough details to get started and affect change, and make it easier or faster to gain stakeholder support and allocate resources.

Consider what you already know: There may be parts of your process that are solid; don’t reinvent them if you don’t need to. Examine your support calls, customer complaints, negative reviews etc. to make sure you’re looking at both structured and unstructured data.

Document key components:  Define the key components of customer interactions with your company to describe the process—using your customer’s voice. Stages, needs & interactions, expectations, moments of truth, customer listening, quotes, sentiment (removing customer frustration from the process).

And then, because of course this is what it’s all about—can you measure revenue from this program?

4. Gather & Analyze Customer Feedback

The simplest way to do this is to start with a list of your existing customers. Meet with leaders from sales, business development, customer service and executives in your company to review which customers might be a good candidate. Eliminate those that would not be good candidates and customers who should not be approached may need a separate process for handling, which you can define later.

Conduct Internal Surveys: These can be conducted via internal interviews, workshops, and surveys with employees who regularly interact with customers and with internal stakeholders who are familiar with existing processes. Ensure you have the systems in place (phone recordings, CRM, email tracking and so on) which are useful in understanding the customer experience. The information from your employees will help frame out the customer journey and lifecycle stages, as well as the steps your customers/prospects go through when considering, purchasing, using, and remaining loyal to your company or product. Identify personnel who customers love to deal with and understand how they handle customer issues so they can help train other staff.

Gather Customer Feedback: To recruit customers for feedback, you need to provide them with:

  • What you want them to give. Go back to your goals and remember there will be structured and unstructured data for you to consider.
  • Why they should help you and what they get in return. Grocery/retail stores provide gift cards or discounts, yet none of them have compelled me to fill out their survey. On the other hand, I love to give my Physical Therapist or Chiropractor a Yelp review. For me, it’s the personal interaction that counts. I don’t feel a larger grocer or retail store really values me the way my local small business does. So think carefully about what you want here and make sure you personalize it.

Customer-centric businesses are investing heavily in Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs to collect, analyze, and operationalize customer feedback. Unsolicited data goes beyond surveys to sources such as social media comments, third-party review sites, inbound calls, online chat, blogs, forums, internal business data, and more.

Analyze Customer Feedback: Sentiment analysis of customer feedback provides a wealth of useful business information. It isn’t enough to know what customers are talking about—you have to know how they feel. Social feedback channels, for example, provide unsolicited, unstructured feedback in the form of text, images, and video.

Optimize Your Map: Based on your analysis of all sources of customer data, you should now have the information required to start designing or optimizing your map.

5. Design and Build Your Customer Journey Map

There is no right or wrong way to design and build your customer map. Depending on how you plan to use and share the map and its findings, some methods may work better for you than others. You could start with something simple like a whiteboard. Then, as you gather more information and understand your touchpoints, build something more comprehensive (PowerPoint, use mapping tools or build a storyboard).

Note that this is not a one and done project; this is an ongoing process so building a cross-functional team from all areas of your organization is key to your mapping process. They need to have constant access to the map to use it, make updates, and monitor performance and progress.

Regardless of the design you use, all maps should include the following elements to provide a solid framework for building a robust customer journey map packed with insights about your customers, your processes and your overall operations.

  • Customer-centricity. A map must be developed from the customer’s perspective, not yours. Otherwise, you’ll never make headway in changing your customer experience. It should contain both quantitative and qualitative research.
  • Existing data. Dig into your existing data—scour web analytics, surveys, social media, informal conversations and other data sources that reveal how, when and where customers interact with your organization.
  • Internal and external sentiment. Observe and talk to customers and front-line employees. Allow them to tell a story of their experience. Document their actions, thoughts and feelings and match them up with touchpoints, channels and lifecycle phases (pre-sales, post sales, etc.) to truly understand where you may be failing (and succeeding!).

A good map provides a complete view of your customer journey and identifies your most important touchpoints. This comprehensive guide to developing a map may help you get started on this process and help you figure out your next step if you get stuck.

[bctt tweet=”Here’s why #customer journey mapping can’t be a one and done project. 8 steps to build your map” username=”PartnerMktGrp”]

6. Improve the Customer Experience

As you implement changes, you need to ensure you maintain them for your company’s lifespan. Be sure to set goals for yourself when implementing changes as it’s not feasible or recommended to change an entire company’s culture at once.

  • Establish metrics and listening posts: Make sure you continue to listen to your customers and fine-tune your customer maps on a regular basis.
  • Continue to improve: If you continue to revisit your customer maps, you’ll find they become a catalyst for change. Encourage employees to be more proactive vs. reactive; encourage cross-functional teams to communicate and continue to improve the process.
  • Embed the customer journey: The optimized customer journey will become part of your DNA and should also serve as a framework to prioritize improvements and investments.

7. Put It to Work

Now you’re ready to put your customer journey map to work. Socialize it throughout your organization, train employees and use it to drive change. It should be a living document that is refreshed annually as customer needs, wants and expectations evolve.

8. Test the Experience

Once you feel your customer journey map is solid, test it with the Mystery Shopper Experience. Engage an outside third party to call your company and map their experience—identifying who they spoke with, the time it took for responses, their experience with people, the web site, social media and so on. You’ll probably be very surprised by the results.

Creating a successful customer journey will absolutely change your customers’ experiences. Updating the map on a regular basis is an opportunity to expose the good, the bad and the ugly so you can ensure you’re continuously meeting and exceeding customer expectations. And from a marketing perspective, you will also gain deeper insight into who your customers really are to enable more effective, targeted engagement.

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