Most companies understand the products they offer as well as a general idea of their customers needs. However, many customers are unhappy with the interactions and resources available from their current or prospective solutions. With an increasing number of resources available online, consumers are educating themselves and, in many cases, taking much longer to make a purchase decision. Add to this an increasing social media influence and both the average sales cycle and customer churn rate of many businesses are growing rapidly.
With the increased demand for quality interaction and resources, traditional means are no longer as effective. Common advertising and customer service techniques are often glanced over. How businesses interact with prospects and clients must be replaced by a custom-tailored process. Perhaps the most common solution to this modern sales dilemma is to create a customer journey map. We created this guide to walk you through the essential components and best practices for creating a customer journey map. In this guide, we’ll discuss:
What is a Customer Journey Map?
A customer journey map is a process often lined out in a visual format that displays how customers are obtained. Customer journey maps are created from the perspective of the buyer. Understanding the viewpoint of those who purchase your goods and services can help in both marketing and sales.
Here are just a few of the benefits of creating a customer journey map:
- Higher customer satisfaction
- Lower customer turnover or churn
- Improved sales process
- Better advocacy from current customers
Consider this: More than half of customer interactions (56%) are part of a multi-channel, multi-event buying journey. What’s more, companies that implement customer journey-led transformations (by identifying operational inefficiencies) can lower the cost to serve by as much as 20%.
Screenshot via My Customer
In customer journey mapping, either the entire journey is laid out or a specific portion. For instance, a map could start at the point an individual (or “prospect”) becomes aware of your brand and continue on past the purchase. Another map may simply begin after a purchase (or trial signup) and help maximize the onboarding of new clients. All maps will include multiple touchpoints (or phases) to display how the prospect/customer is interacting with your company and products.
When Do You Need a Customer Journey Map?
Customer Journey maps are useful for almost every business. The complexity of your map may vary based on your several factors.
A few of these factors may include:
- Your company’s sales process (inbound/outbound)
- Length of your average buying cycle
- Having a recurring revenue model (e.g., SaaS)
- Level of post-sale interaction with customers
For instance, a low-cost B2C product may only require an advertisement that leads to a sales page. On the other hand, something like a high-priced B2B software product may take many touch points over the course of several months leading up to a sale.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of a customer journey map, for any business, is the ability to better understand the perspective of their prospects. Understanding who it is that is making the decision to buy, down to firmographic and demographic details, as well as the interactions they make with your brand is valuable to every company.
More Than a “Buyer Persona”
The term “buyer persona” has become incredibly popular and is known by most marketing and sales professionals. However, a customer journey map details the very steps your buyer personas take during the sales cycle. More and more businesses use personas while a great many still neglect to document the journey from the eyes of their prospects.
Key Stat: One study found only 34% of companies employ customer journey maps.
Types of Customer Journey Maps
There are several ways to document the process of your prospects or current customers. Since you’re creating a map of a different perspective, it can be framed differently based on your intended goals. Let’s briefly discuss three different styles of customer journey maps:
- Current State mapping
- Future State mapping
- Day in the Life mapping
Current State Mapping
Current State Journey Maps are commonly created to understand how customers are interacting with your brand “right now.” Most often, these maps aid in visualizing a business’ customer experience process. The vast majority of individuals dissatisfied with a solution will leave without complaint. Others may complain that the company does not monitor certain channels (e.g., social media) to adequately address consumer concerns.
Screenshot via Smart Insights
Poor customer service hurts sales through negative customer feedback as well as lowering repeat business. Using a current state map can identify weak points in various stages. Imagine planning a trip to the grocery store. Before you leave, you take an inventory of what you currently have in your refrigerator and cupboards. This is an illustration of current state mapping.
In order to create this type of map, you will need to identify:
- Where prospects come from
- At which points they interact with you (via marketing materials, sales reps, etc.)
- How they become customers
- How they begin to use your product(s)
A company, in their research, discovers that many customers are reaching out for support via Twitter. Unfortunately, many of these service requests have gone unanswered due to an inactive Twitter profile. After this realization, the company can now include Twitter monitoring as part of their customer service routine.
Future State Mapping
If current state mapping was taking an inventory of what you have in your kitchen before visiting the grocery store, Future State Mapping is the list of things you will need to buy at the store. Instead of being a right now picture of how prospects and customers interact with your brand, this type of map lays out the ideal journey you would like prospects and customers to take. According to Opinion Lab, reporting on data from Forrester, just 26% of companies have future state journey maps as of May 2018.
Future mapping is still done from the perspective of customers. However, you are concentrating on how they act at a certain point versus how you would like them to act and then determining the best way to achieve the desired result.
This particular style of map can be useful for both the sales process and customer onboarding. In sales, future state journey mapping can be used to create marketing materials, improve copywriting, and identify when leads are ready to purchase. For onboarding, this map can be used to help new customers have success with the product and improve retention.
In order to create this type of map, you will need to:
- Identify the starting point of your lead or customer: If you are future mapping the sales process, this will likely begin when an individual becomes a prospect. For onboarding and customer retention purposes, a map may begin at purchase or a trial sign up.
- Determine the endpoint: Again, for the sales process, this will likely be a trial or a purchase. For onboarding, this could be a certain level of success or interaction with your product.
- Plan your messaging: In order for future mapping to work, the interactions and touch points have to be pre-planned. Resources need to be created, funnels need to be set up, and the customer service team needs to be trained.
A software company, with poor customer retention, desires to decrease their churn rate. To achieve this, they discover which feature of their product (when successfully used) helps satisfy their users. The company then creates a series of tutorials to help users learn how to properly use those features and delivers them via an email campaign once new customers sign-up.
Day in the Life Mapping
Day in the Life journey mapping is often used as part of the sales process to better understand buyer personas. Knowing the demographics of those who typically buy your products is valuable. However, having a detailed picture of what they do (in relation to what you sell) is powerful. This map type can also be used post-sale to improve customer satisfaction and retention.
Essentially, the name says it all. You are looking for what prospects or current customers do in their day-to-day life. For prospects, you are looking for pain points. The problems that your products solve and how these pains influence the decisions prospects make. Post sale, it’s more about getting your products integrated into that daily life of your new customers.
In order to create this type of map, you will need to identify:
- Goals: For B2B products, it could be the career goals of the target role. B2C might be the desires of prospects which would get someone to buy your product (i.e., weight loss, vacationing).
- Pain: These are the common everyday hindrances that are keeping your prospects or current customers from reaching their goals. For instance, an HR professional may struggle with open enrollment rates when their goal is a certain percentage of signups.
- Timing indicators: These are certain moments of time or indicators that can alert you to impending behavior. For sales, this could mean role change or a certain time of year when changes are being considered and made (e.g., open enrollment).
A SaaS company that sells HR software creates a day in the life map and discovers that HR professionals struggle with open enrollment rates on an annual basis. These professionals are often given a target goal of a certain percentage of signups to achieve. The company decides to begin pushing on this pain point ahead of open enrollment and positioning their software as a way to improve signup percentages.
Key Elements of Customer Journey Maps
Screenshot via Nielsen Norman Group
Every map is different, but nearly all of them will have certain key elements. These items have commonly known names and definitions:
- Personas: Knowing who it is you are targeting to be a customer is vital. The best sales process and customer retention program could be lost if the wrong people are looking at your products. Putting this in the form of a buyer persona is necessary for a proper customer journey map.
- Timeline: The timeline for your overall customer map could vary. If the map is of the entire sale and post-sale process, it could stretch for more than a year. However, if it is simply for the onboarding process, it could only be a couple of weeks.
- Touchpoints: These are the points at which prospects or customers will directly interact with your brand. This could be downloading resources off of your site, replying to an email, attending a webinar or just about any other interaction that a customer makes.
- Device: The device is whatever means allows for an interaction to occur. For instance, you send an email with a webinar invite and the prospect clicks through to a landing page to register for the webinar. The devices were the email and the landing page.
- Emotions: Part of understanding your customers perspective is knowing the emotions they are feeling at different touchpoints of the journey. When prospects are researching products, they may feel anywhere from hopeful to confused. New users to a product may feel excited, yet uneasy.
4 Best Practices for Creating a Customer Journey Map
Understand the Beginning
Many companies begin with the means and methods of communicating with customers without attempting to understand where customers begin the process of their journey. Failing to fully understand the beginning often leads to lower conversion rates and poor customer satisfaction. Simply writing down and attempting to understand how and where customers enter their journey with your brand can significantly improve results.
If it’s a customer journey map of the entire sales process, you will want to begin with how prospects find your brand (either from marketing materials, organic search or even outbound sales). For onboarding, this could begin at trial signup or purchase. Discovering the starting point aids in the process of both segmentation and content development.
Understand the End
The end can be different desired results. If the goal is improved sales, you’ll want to understand how to convince prospects to purchase and identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor results. If the goal is to reduce churn, the problem could be found in the quality of your prospects or a need to improve the onboarding process. Whatever you hope to get out of your customer map needs to be clearly laid out.
Gather the Needed Perspective
When it comes to obtaining the viewpoint of your customers, there is no better way than actually talking to them. Both current and former customers can be a wealth of knowledge in gaining perspective on how your buyer personas view your product and company.
Here are a few tips for your calls:
- Ask open-ended questions
- Ask follow-up questions
- Record your calls and print transcripts
- Listen for common themes
- Compare transcripts for similar language
Once you have the desired data, you can begin formulating your touch points and the means of communication.
Note: If you are creating a current customer journey map, calling your current and former customers can help gather the information for the “right now” snapshot. For future mapping, this is creating the map that future prospects and customers will travel through.
Create a Rough Draft
When you understand the map from start to finish and can review the journey from the eye of your customers, it’s time to create a rough draft. This draft will be the first iteration of your visible customer map. It’s here you will list your touchpoints, personas, emotions and devices across the estimated timeline of your journey map.
Here is a simple, yet visually appealing example of a completed customer journey map.
Screenshot via Salla Koivu
Of course, the complexity of your map will vary. Some examples are very large visual representations of an incredibly complex sales process and buyer Journey. Other maps are simpler than this example.
Once you have your rough draft finished, you can either create the finished visual product or test your draft for its accuracy and effect. If you put together a current journey map, you may begin improving your current process where you find opportunities after completion. For the other map types, you can continue to improve and iterate changes over time to maximize results. Most importantly, don’t just create a customer journey map – put it to use to communicate the customer journey to stakeholders and other departments within your organization. Then, leverage anyone with the power to influence the customer journey to improve results and meet your goals.
Customer Journey Map Templates
Of course, the easiest way to create a customer journey map is to find a template that closely matches your needs and customize it to your specific preferences or requirements. Fortunately, there are lots of resources that offer free customer journey map templates. We’ve listed a few of the best resources offering customer journey map templates below, most of them free:
Additional Resources on Customer Journey Mapping
Get more insights and tips on effective customer journey mapping from the resources below: