The key to creating business value is focusing on customer value. Truly understanding the needs and preferences of customers, as well as their behavior during the buying journey, is essential for your business strategy.
Customers buy products and services but also customer experiences and emotional gratification. The buying decision is connected, highly individual and highly emotional, even if rational elements “hide” that emotional dimension. Customer journey mapping is a relatively straightforward method to map all these elements. Although such maps are rooted in the practices of customer experience management and user experience design, they can be used for much more, including marketing budget allocation, content mapping and conversion optimization of processes and of online marketing, to name just a few.
Customer journey mapping: what and why
By building strategies upon the customer journey, we take the position of the customer and go for customer-centricity. This helps us avoid taking inside-out views that don’t take the customer reality and experience into account enough.
Two examples of such approaches that often are placed before a customer-centric view:
- Content-centricity: putting content first and then looking at distribution mechanisms to target often poorly defined segments, let alone understanding the individual buying decision.
- Channel-centricity: being too blinded by the various, often isolated, channels and media used to interact with customers (for instance, in marketing) or enabling interaction (for instance, in customer service).
By working with customer journeys and matching them with business goals, content and channels become function of value creation.
Before you start: asking the right questions
Although customer journey maps can be used for many reasons and you can use many elements to fine-tune them, it’s best to start simple. Focus on the key questions and insights you need to have so you can achieve the – customer – goals you’re doing customer journey mapping for to begin with. It’s easy to get lost when looking at various examples on the Web of – often good looking – customer journey maps. Don’t get frustrated if you can’t get that and realize many of these customer journey maps are online for a reason. Yes, by having good and nice journey maps, brands and agencies can indeed send out a message. In our overview of customer journey mapping you will find many additional tips and recommendations but don’t get blinded by them if you start with customer journey mapping. Your goal is to be more customer-centric and understand your customers better in order to serve them better and improve customer experience. You don’t need to know everything in order to achieve that.
Customer journey mapping starts with understanding the customer (journey) in correlation with the business and brand goals. From a customer experience view this means that, as CustomerChampions puts it the customer journey map, maps the experience:
- you want to “provide” to the customer.
- the customer would like to receive.
Although it’s rather “simple” and there’s more to it, this emphasizes where the customer experience gaps really occur: in-between what you believe and what the customer wants.
Traditional and less traditional ways of using customer journey mapping
Customer journey mapping is an underused method and many existing approaches are too narrow. When using them in a broader way than just the actual journey and the user experience context, they offer many opportunities.
Traditional goals of customer journey mapping are:
- End-to-end customer experience management/optimization.
- Mapping and ranking touchpoints in order to identify where to optimize/invest first (as in practice you can’t invest in every single experience or touchpoint at once).
Note that customer journey mapping is not the same as touchpoint mapping. Both are complementary: the customer journey map puts the journey in the center while touchpoint maps focus more on these touchpoints and the value within each of them.
However, much more can be achieved using customer journey mapping. When adding stages, touchpoints and connections outside of the buying journey that often is at the core of customer journey maps (from awareness to actual purchase), even more opportunities arise.
Personas in customer journeys and personas in marketing
Personas are used for many reasons. You might see there is often a big difference in the use of personas and buyer personas in customer journey mapping, compared with the use of personas in developing customer-centric marketing strategies.
In B2B marketing, for instance, we often primarily look at the market context, pain points and essential questions we need to know in a buyer persona context so we can develop our strategy around the customer. Very often you will not find typical aspects of personas in B2C or in customer journey mapping. Both exercises are closely related (customers are customers) but the focus is different and thus also very often the approach regarding persona “development”.
Let’s start by looking at some of the things that you can achieve using customer journey mapping outside of the traditional context.
We advise you to also use customer journey mapping for following (additional) goals:
- Building a customer-oriented content marketing strategy/plan.
- Conducting content gap analysis.
- Looking at potential leaking buckets in customer processes and interactions.
- Improving what you do right now and acting upon those leaking buckets.
- Developing new products and services.
- Reconsider customer service, contact center and other service-related processes and propositions.
Emotions and experiences are key
Very often customer journey maps also only look at the intent, goals and pain points of customers or focus too much on just funnel and touchpoint elements as in the case of the generic customer journey map above. It’s our belief that this isn’t enough either. The customer experience is by far an emotional given, even if in buying decisions rational elements are – often a posteriori – cited as criteria by buyers.
The difference between emotion and ratio is far less real than we like to believe and stems from the belief that human beings are split into different “compartments”. Mind versus matter. Body versus mind. Ratio versus emotion. This doesn’t correspond with reality and is a consequence of the clear dominance of biological thinking and cause-consequence view of modern times.
Much of what we do – in a conscious and apparently logical or rational way – de facto is the acting out of emotional processes and patterns. It’s key to understand this in order to understand customers and people overall.
Therefore, when making customer journey maps, we also advise you to:
- Look at emotional satisfaction and triggers. The customer experience is mainly about emotions to begin with, anyway.
- Go beyond rational personas and buyer personas if needed and include psychological models when relevant.
- Beware of generalizations and strict cause-consequence approaches.
- Not just look at pain points but also where possible at success points, persuasion points, passion points and anything else that plays a role in emotional decision taking and, most certainly, unconscious triggers to act (even if rationally there seems no reason to).
Simply said: look at your own buying behavior and decisions. You don’t only chose a supplier or partner, based on so-called rational criteria. Objectivity is by definition impossible and subjectivity is far stronger than we often tend to believe.
One of the shortcomings of customer journey mapping in this sense of course is that we cannot understand or map everything and everyone and thus need to use a more or less structured method, constructed around generalizations and stages that are de facto overlapping and, as such, simplifications.
When we stay as close as possible to our customers in the broadest sense – what we want to achieve with customer journey mapping – it is much stronger and closer to reality than, for instance, traditional funnel models.
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