The customer journey, at its heart, is a very simple tool that every business should be utilising. At a basic level, it allows you to understand the steps your customers go through when engaging with your company, whether you offer a product, experience or service. The more touchpoints you have with your customers, the better you can guide them along the route to conversion.
Typically, a prospective customer’s experience will begin when they realise they have a certain requirement that needs fulfilling and end once this has been met – or it may be an ongoing necessity! To develop and improve customer experience, it’s key you understand all the interactions the potential client has with your brand as they progress through the sales funnel, across all channels. This is vital when building a sustainable business, having a solid business plan or product is only half the battle. So, today I’ll be taking you through the customer journey and highlighting how you can utilise this understanding to grow your business and stay on track with your overall vision.
What is the customer journey and what are the benefits of knowing this?
This journey is all the interaction a customer has with your brand, as we’ve already touched upon. Mapping out this route is critical as it forces you to look at how your customers actually experience your business as opposed to how you think they do – you have to take a step back and view an alternative perspective, often this reveals new areas of improvement you may have otherwise not even considered. By better understanding your customers, you can improve your delivery and exceed their expectations, identifying common pain points ahead of time.
To survive and ultimately thrive in this ever-changing and developing business world, you need to dedicate yourself to becoming an experience-led business, which means optimising every customer touchpoint. But, what exactly are the benefits of understanding the customer journey? Truly understanding and empathising with customers lays the groundwork for meaningful interactions and successful outcomes.
Enable better experiences
When you begin analysing a customer’s journey with your business, you’ll be able to identify and isolate where you aren’t meeting expectations or alienating prospective customers. A disjointed path significantly impacts your overall conversion rate, as these unclear, inconsistent moments lead to frustration. Typically, a customer will choose to go elsewhere if they find the experience painful – customers value their time, and if your business causes them stress and eats into their day, they’ll likely avoid returning to you in the future.
By addressing these shortcomings and creating a better overall experience, you can empower your prospects and customers by allowing them to purchase from your business as they desire – rather than purchasing feeling like a chore or means to an end, it becomes an exciting, enjoyable experience. This can translate into faster sales cycles and an increase in satisfied, loyal customers.
Customers will achieve their goals
Of course, you want your customers to succeed – in regards to converting to a sale as your product or service fulfils their needs. But, to do this you need to understand their experience through the customer journey. This provides crucial insight into what is and isn’t working well for them. There are predictable challenges at each stage of the customer experience and to effectively improve this, you need to anticipate and remove these.
When you understand the customer experience as it currently is, and as the ideal state, you can create, adapt and optimise touchpoints to ensure the route is the most effective and efficient it can possibly be. As a result, your customers will be able to better reach their goals, from the initial realisation of requirement through to completion.
Provides your business with much-needed context to develop a solid brand
If you are struggling to understand the customer journey, it’s likely you don’t know your customers well enough. A shallow understanding of your customers will not suffice; every prospect or customer wants to feel as though the experience has been personalised and tailored to them.
By creating a customer journey, you’ll gain an invaluable perspective of your potential and existing customers. As you build a more complete picture, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions, allowing you to boost your return on investment when experimenting with new marketing strategies and in addition, employees working within your business will be better equipped to engage with customers too.
Now, we know the importance of the customer journey, but how can you ensure the portrayal you create is actually effective?
Improve your customer experience with these top tips
There is no specific, tried and tested customer journey, and in fact, it is far more effective for your business to not constraint itself to a set path. You need to be open and willing to listen to successfully build a route that will improve your overall experience – a bunch of post-it notes dotted around the office and endless team discussions may see you overlook a key element only revealed by your customers. After all, if the journey is about ‘seeing the world as the customer does’ rather than an objective series of boxes, the first step is to realise that customers are not calculating machines!
#1 Talk on an individual basis to customers
Journeys are different for each person, so by using a consolidated approach, you remove all the learnings that are vital for development. Another report won’t suffice as a stand-alone tool, as this does little in the way of creating actionable change. Instead, you need to use surveys and interviews too to fully understand your customer. Not only will this improve your overall customer experience as you reveal isolated incidents but you’ll also be boosting satisfaction. Customers will feel respected and valued, increasing loyalty in the long term – but, of course, you need to actually implement these suggestions!
Furthermore, this process of speaking to customers should not be a one-off occasion. You need to consistently monitor and update your customer experience journey to ensure you are not neglecting a certain touchpoint and can experiment with new ideas.
#2 End-to-end and routes for a specific goal
It’s important to understand the difference between the two different routes: end-to-end and specific goals. You need to identify if one, or a combination of the two is most appropriate for your business.
An end-to-end customer journey allows a brand to follow the touchpoints of a customer as they travel through the various phases over the experience, from brand awareness to consideration, purchasing, retention and finally, brand advocacy, across all of the brand’s channels. This is a detailed, often vast, journey plan that highlights every touchpoint and can be especially useful for new customer experience initiatives as you understand the typical route. In addition, it can also be helpful for identifying potential pain points along the journey.
Some businesses may find it helpful to narrow down the experience and focus on multiple, smaller, more specific journeys instead. For example, this could be an additional awareness route encouraging the user to upgrade or replace, or perhaps add another service. Taking this concentrated approach allows for a greater depth of understanding around the customer’s needs, their search, the influencing factors and how they ultimately make the decision.
#3 Involve your whole team
The customer journey extends across all channels – from marketing to sales, finance, IT and so on. And, therefore, all departments within your creative agency should be involved in the process of creating a map of the customer journey. Brands need to avoid constraining the process to just one or two departments – everybody should be a part of this. It’s important that every member of the team shares the same vision and understands all the strategies in place to benefit customers.
To effectively understand the customer journey, you should involve representation across your organisation allowing for a diverse range of opinions – businesses that do so typically don’t see their initiatives fail. Whilst you may not see the need to incorporate HR and IT (the two most commonly neglected departments), limiting your research will not improve customer experience.
#4 Immerse yourself
Immersion means both observing and walking through the experience yourself, you need to think like your customer and understand the process first-hand. Many employees have never trailed the full route and therefore have little knowledge of what a customer has to go through to successfully make a sale, or raise an issue or complaint. Immersing yourselves in the journey will reveal new areas of improvement and will allow you to creatively think of innovative solutions. You can stand out from your competitors by analysing your current processes and updating outdated, traditional routes.
It can be difficult to know where to begin with the customer journey! With over 30 years in the industry, I’ve successfully worked with a range of businesses to develop effective customer routes that provide the right results. And, I can help you too. Together, we can transform your organisation and unlock its true potential. To learn more about me and what I do, click here to visit my website, or email me at email@example.com and discuss your individual requirements today.