What is the customer journey?
A key ingredient to successful customer experience (CX) is the ability to deliver exceptional experiences to your prospects and customers, wherever they may be in the customer journey.
So, exactly what is the customer journey? Here are two great customer journey definitions:
“The customer journey is the series of interactions between a customer and a company that occur as the customer pursues a specific goal." - Forrester
“A customer's journey serves as the framework against which they anticipate, and ultimately judge, a seller... it is, simply put, the complete experience of a customer with a brand throughout their entire relationship." – Annette Franz, CCXP (CX Journey)
Every touchpoint in the customer journey is an opportunity to deliver positive experiences that encourage prospects to become customers, and customers to become loyal brand advocates.
To design great experiences, CX professionals must first understand the customer journey.
This means knowing the stages that their customers must go through to achieve their goal, what touchpoints they will encounter along the way, and how everything fits within the overall customer lifecycle.
66% of professionals view improving the customer journey and user experience as the most important initiative right now. - Euromonitor International
What are the customer journey stages?
There is not one single “customer journey”. Customer journey stages can be different for every customer persona, and the goals they are trying to complete.
As such, there is no set list of stages that comprise it. It all depends on how CX professionals choose and define stages that they feel are relevant to their specific brand and customers.
These stages typically cover key events that take place between the time a person becomes aware of a need they must address, to when they address it, all the way to when they may choose to share their experience with others.
Here is a general example that looks at broad categories in which most customer journey stages may fall into, with definitions of the different customer journey stages:
1. Becoming aware of a need
When a prospect looks to inform themselves on a need they are facing. They may have ideas as to what brand(s) could help them address this need, but not concrete information on their specific offerings.
2. Comparing options to address the need
When a prospect researches in more detail and compares different brands and their offerings to determine what option(s) can best meet their need.
3. Looking to acquire the desired offering
When a prospect becomes a customer. They seek the necessary mechanisms to buy, adopt, use, or subscribe to a company’s product or services that they determined would best meet their need.
4. Seeking support related to the offering
When a customer seeks details from the company’s support resources or company representative to resolve an issue or to help them get more out of the brand’s products or services.
5. Considering whether to continue using the offering
When a customer reflects on the value they are obtaining from the company and its offerings, and whether to renew, upgrade, cancel or discontinue their use of the offering. They may also compare their current offering with others by the company and competing brands.
6. Comparing different options to address the need
When customers take it upon themselves to share their positive experiences with a brand and their offerings with family, friends, colleagues, or people outside of their immediate circle.
“[The] customer journey can span all elements of a company and include everything from buying a product to actually using it, having issues with a product that require resolution, or simply making the decision to use a service or product for the first time.” – McKinsey & Company
Where do customer journey touchpoints take place?
A touchpoint is any interaction that takes place between a brand and customer anywhere on the customer journey.
These individual touchpoints can impact how a customer perceives a brand’s overall Customer Experience, and each presents an opportunity to delight and guide them along their journey.
Customer journey touchpoints can occur through both offline and online channels, regardless of whether they are within a brand’s control.
Channels where interactions can take place along the customer journey:
The number of customer journey touchpoints, and the time it takes to travel across each stage of the customer journey, can vary based on multiple factors, including:
Customer preferences (e.g., how they prefer to research, purchase, contact support, etc.)
Relevance and significance of the goal (e.g., purchasing a car vs. purchasing a pen)
The channels through which companies choose to interact with customers
What is customer journey mapping?
A customer journey map provides a way for brands to understand better what a customer or customer persona might experience along their journey.
It helps familiarize them with the following items (among other things) for each stage of a specific customer journey for their customers:
The goals they are looking to accomplish
What they are expecting to be able to do
The touchpoints they may encounter
The emotions or frustrations they may be feeling
The pain points (and the “wins”) they may meet
Mapping your customer journey allows CX professionals to easily visualize every possible way a customer can interact with their brand as they travel across their journey. It also helps organize how they can go about providing a positive experience with each interaction.
There is no one correct way for how to create a customer journey map. However, to map a customer journey, CX professionals need a firm grasp on the following about their target customer personas:
What they need
The stages they will take to meet these needs
The touchpoints where they can interact with your brand
Where their “moments of truth” are in their customer journey
The pain points they may encounter across the customer journey
CX professionals can use different data sources to confirm many of these items. However, identifying where the pain points are in the customer journey, and customers’ emotions and frustrations along the way, can be difficult to do without asking your customers directly.
Customer feedback collected using a Voice of the Customer program is a critical complement to mapping the customer journey. It gives you not only the key insights to help you build a stronger and clearer map, but also design positive experiences at critical moments across the customer journey.
“Business leaders who significantly exceeded their top business goals were 1.5x more likely than other marketers to have a clear view of customers’ journeys across channels and devices.” – Google/Econsultancy
With a unified CX platform that brings together marketing, commerce, and care, Emplifi provides brands with the solutions they need to not only better understand their customers' journeys, but also empower their teams with the tools to elevate experiences at each stage of these journeys. Schedule a demo today to see how Emplifi can help.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on astutesolutions.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.