How to create an effective customer journey map
Updated: Mar 16
We’ve all experienced a brand website where finding the right information was an endless loop of confusion. Ironically, one of the biggest challenges can be finding where to contact support online and offline. If that is the case with your website, customers might abandon your page and head to one of your competitors. Getting inside the mind of your customer is no easy feat, even customer feedback, scattered post-its and unreadable bulletin boards can seem incomplete. So how do businesses track and address these gaps in user experience in an organized way?
Understanding each major and minor step users take, in the most natural way possible, is important for achieving business and client goals. Meet the customer journey map - a powerful tool which illustrates a holistic experience through the eyes of a single persona’s journey.
Simply put, journey mapping portrays how consumers engage, feel and think about your products based on actionable touchpoints (e.g. call center, social media channels, website). These clear visualizations portray the complete end-to-end customer experience, enabling companies to develop the necessary product improvements that cater to their users’ journey. You could hire an expert to map this out for you, but doing it on your own is a skill that every entrepreneur and business owner should possess. It’s worth it for the insights into how customers interact with your service, and how well they’re able to meet their purchasing goals.
Definition: Customer journey map
A customer journey map is a visual representation that details all the touchpoints your customers have with your business en route to achieving their consumer goals.
A touchpoint is defined as any interaction with your brand. Online touchpoints are those directly associated with your site (e.g. buttons, forms, closing a pop-ups). Offline touchpoints are any interactions that happen outside of your brands site (e.g. social media, reviews, forums).
For example, if you’re an eCommerce business and noticed customers are abandoning your cart page, you will want to track touchpoints (e.g. product pages, shopping cart) leading up to this in order to determine why they decided not to purchase a product.
The importance of a customer journey map
It is no secret that customers have high expectations when choosing a brand. Think about it - we all want things to go as planned, we want to succeed and we want it to be done faster than you can say ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’. The truth is, we want our experience to be seamless and user-friendly. Imagine if Amazon’s checkout process led customers on a wild goose chase around their site. Users would simply close the tab in protest and head over to a competitor. It’s true - customer experience is a top priority for all businesses. Therefore, it’s no surprise that interest in customer journey mapping has increased exponentially over the past decade:
It’s become very clear that customers are demanding more from companies. In fact, a Walker study found that by the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
So if you’re struggling to understand why customers are not having the desired experience they thought they would have, or even why your marketing strategy isn’t performing well, a customer journey map can help you check all the steps along the way leading to the outcome. Here are seven reasons why you should start a customer journey map for your business today:
1. Helps create content based on customer searches. You may be already using marketing strategies for your business to attract potential clients. Believe it or not, customer journey mapping can unfold gaps of knowledge among your customers. For example, if you run a travel company, your map may indicate many users feel confused at the process of booking a flight. As a solution, you may create a blog post, self-service content or YouTube channel with straightforward tutorials.
2. Provides a micro and macro overview. Depending on the customer journey focus, you can cover a macro-level journey (e.g. customer awareness to retention) or micro-level journey (e.g. steps to book a flight).
3. Identifies gaps in your user journey. If you want to understand why prospective customers leave at a certain point in your product, a journey map will enable your business to adjust focus. For example, you may notice a site visitor reading your blog but never actually continuing on to your product pages. This could indicate your blog post does not relate to what they are searching for.
4. Creates a better customer experience. What are you doing to design a better customer experience? Do you know your clients’ expectations? Goals? Feelings? Customer journey maps take you outside your business mind and into your customers’ shoes, enabling you to capture every step they go through until they achieve their goal.
5. Enables your business to make better decisions. Your customer journey map can eliminate preconceived ideas in order to make value-driven decisions and help you prosper. Plus, you won't be swamped with Excel sheets and numbers. Instead, your map will bring a customers’ journey to life in a visual way, while providing precise data so you’ll never be second guessing.
6. Gives you a better understanding of your audience. If you want to grasp who your clients are, you could ask for customer feedback, send a survey or use third-party analytics tools. But sometimes all of that can appear surface-level. Some companies may have various customer types which means you’ll have more than one journey map. For example, if you have a marketplace mobile application, you will map sellers and customers making a purchase.
7. Provides insights you can share throughout the company. While journey mapping is common practice in marketing and UX departments, sharing your customer insights with other teams can be highly informative to customer service, sales, marketing and product teams.
Learn how to recover from a bad customer experience.
Steps to take before mapping your customer journey
Before mapping your customers journey, open a document and answer the below preliminary questions. These will give you a general overview of what you may already know based on existing customer insights from your help desk software and/or product research. Once you start building your customer journey map, you’ll get a better idea of the user experience across touchpoints:
How do your customers find you? (e.g. Social channels, Google, referrals)
How do they solve their problem before using your solution? (e.g. Via another company or they manage to find a partial solution)
How can your product alleviate customer pain points? (e.g. Increase productivity, exceptional customer support)
How easy is it for your customer to contact your support team? (e.g. Contact options located in strategic places, 24/7 support)
How does your business try to improve customer engagement across channels? (e.g. Engaging content on social media, personalized customer service, YouTube content)
Is it easy for your customers to pay for your product or service? (e.g. Multiple payment options, guest checkout, intuitive user experience (UX) flow)
Once you’ve answers these questions, it’s time for the fun part - creating your customer journey map.
Creating your customer journey map
1. Understand the user persona: The first step to creating your customer journey map starts with knowing who your clients are and what goal they are trying to achieve. Let’s call them the ‘user persona.’ These customer profiles help you understand how your users interact across all touchpoints. Each persona is unique, which means every stage of interaction with your set touchpoints can prove different results. For example, you may have an existing user who understands where to start and finish in your journey, whereas another is still exploring their options to find the right solution. Start by refining your persona by age, income, marital status, location, gender, etc. You can do this with the help of interviews, collected data from your help desk software, market research and online surveys. Example user persona: Jennifer is a small business owner specializing in mobile device accessories. Her goal is to find a way for her team to provide real-time customer support to her clientbase in order to communicate with customers globally.
2. Organize customer journey stages: Once you’ve defined your persona, your next step is to define the stages or ‘goals’ your customer is attempting to achieve throughout the entire journey. Remember, these stages may vary based on your user persona. Here are possible phases you could use:
Awareness: Discovery of your brand.
Exploration: Examining your product closer by trying out your product.
Comparison: Weighing all the available options - trying other products, reading reviews or through word-of-mouth.
Decision: Evaluating and making a final decision to go through with your product.
Purchase: Proceeding to follow through with your choice. Depending on your business model, you may not have a purchase option, but a demo or sign-up form.
Retention: Remaining loyal to a brand based on several factors (e.g. exceptional customer service, satisfaction levels, self-service options).
Referral: Generating word-of-mouth on social media, review website and peers.
Keep existing customers happy with these customer retention strategies.
3. Understand the touchpoints: Simply put, a touchpoint is any instance in which your customer comes in contact with your business. These can include: finding your brand on Google based on keywords, via advertisements or on review website. Additionally, a touchpoint can be a visit to your website, inner site pages, online store (e.g. product description page) or customer service portal. Listing and describing your touchpoints is a cornerstone to mapping the customer journey. Examining your touchpoints can give you a better understanding of customer’s pain points. For example, if you notice a decrease in customer touchpoints, it could indicate they deserted your website. On the other hand, if there’s an increase in touchpoints, this could mean your website requires too many steps to perform a specific action. There are a few readily available ways to track customer touchpoints:
Google Analytics: Tools such as Behavior Flow and Goal Flow reports can provide you with clear visualizations, user behavior and navigation cross-site, based on events. You’ll be able to determine if users complete a goal, of your choice, through a funnel.
Search engine results: One of the simplest ways to understand where your customers are coming from is by searching your brand name on Google. If you noticed customers are directed to your site through a product review, you can double check the lead through Google Analytics.
4. Pinpoint the gaps: Once you’ve established the personas, customer journey stages and touchpoints, the next step is to understand the users’ pitfalls. These describe any point within a journey when a customer may decide, for example, to leave your website. Gaps do not have to be as extreme as losing a customer. They could also include pop-ups that distract the user from achieving their goal. In order to avoid losing potential customers in the gaps, come up with three to five reasons clients abandoned ship. Examples include:
Channel switching - e.g. taking them from social media to website.
Device type - e.g. user switches from mobile to desktop computer.
Poor customer service - e.g. sending a customer from one department to the next without disclosing any further details.
5. Create a plan to resolve: You’ve reached the final phase of your customer journey map. Within each stage, you will most likely come up with simple to more complex fixes, such as redesigning an entire flow, to simply adding a CTA link. Moreover, you’ll notice your visual representation can sprout new ideas during the process for improving the entire customer experience. Always remember, a journey map can take on different forms based on what experience you are trying to track. For starters, use this basic customer journey map template:
Businesses constantly undergo minor and major changes. This is why revisiting and refining your customer journey map is crucial on a monthly to quarterly basis. If you’re serious about your customers and their entire experience, using a map can literally make all the difference. If you’re not sure where to begin, schedule an hour long staff meeting to get a few pairs of eyes on it, and then share it with your department or organization for additional input.
Effective customer journey maps are not limited to one table or formula. Investing time while incorporating the steps and insights listed above can ensure your business and customer goals are met, seamlessly. Want to map your customer service journey? Use high quality insights from the best help desk software.