What is customer journey mapping?

“Everyone within a company should know what it feels like to be a customer, having deep customer empathy and acting on those insights is what will enable you to win.” – Fazier Jameer Ali, Digital Experience Lead at Toyota

Customer is king is an “age-old [adage] accentuating the importance of customers (and would-be customers) in every business.” Understanding the customer experience, wants, needs and emotions is critical for organisations, to enable them to tailor their efforts in the hope of driving satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.

So how does one begin to comprehend such a fundamental component of organisational success? Step forward customer journey mapping. A process used to identify interactions a customer has with a brand, product, or service over time. Ultimately, a simple, holistic snapshot of the customer / organisation exchange. The customer journey map is a valuable tool for businesses of all sizes as it helps to identify areas where the customer experience can be improved. A value only strengthened by insights from a 2021 study that found 80% of customers have switched brands because of poor customer experience and 43% were at least somewhat likely to switch brands after only a single negative customer service interaction. By understanding the customer’s journey, companies can better design their products, services, and interactions to meet customer needs and expectations, hopefully removing areas of friction.

“The more trouble [a customer has in reaching the end of the funnel], the more likely they are to become someone else’s customer. Customer journey mapping attempts to create an efficient pathway for success and increase the likelihood that they will indeed do business with you.” – Steuer, Forbes

The process will often involve creating a visual representation of the customer’s journey to gain insights into customer behaviour. As part of our research at Square Holes, we’ve produced journey maps for numerous clients across a variety of markets. Each is often unique, framed by the client’s specific objectives and customer experiences, yet the steps taken to develop such an output are often consistent:

(Example of a template Square Holes journey map)
  1. Determine key customer personas: To effectively develop a journey map, first an in-depth understanding of the customer is required. Generally, 3 – 5 personas are created based on core segments and important demographic / psychographic features (i.e., motivations and goals). With these in mind it becomes easier to frame interactions
  2. Gather data: Data can be collected through a variety of methodologies, through a review of both customers and internal stakeholders; surveys, interviews, focus groups, naturalistic observation, and analytics. Data will help you to better understand the customer experience, and expand potential pre-conceived ideas of what interactions make up the journey
  3. Outline the stages: Define the steps that encompass the entire customer journey, often these are an iteration of four general stages; initial awareness, consideration, decision (or purchase) and post-purchase
  4. Map the customer experience: Visualise the actions, needs, pain points, touch points and emotions of the customer as they move through each stage. Ask questions such as ‘What does the customer want to achieve at this stage?’, ‘What do they want to avoid?’ and ‘What are they feeling?’
  5. Understand the internal component: Once the external review is mapped out, it is also important to look within the organisation. ‘What is it essential we get right?’ (the moment of truth) and what are the things that could be implemented at each stage to overcome potential pain points and ensure the moment of truth is consistently delivered at a high level
  6. Measure, monitor and improve: Once the map is created, constant measuring and monitoring (e.g., speed of service, customer satisfaction) is vital for maintaining a frictionless experience and addressing areas for improvement as they may arise

Let’s give an example of how the customer journey map might be used in practice. Think of an online clothes retailer. Once an order is completed, customers have an expectation they will receive their delivery promptly in lieu of any indication during their transaction. Customers may become frustrated if they experience delays in receiving their purchased products or if the products arrive damaged. As on-time and accurate delivery is the moment of truth at this stage, the retailer may look to improve the shipping and delivery process by partnering with more reliable carriers, offering real-time tracking information, setting clear expectations for delivery times on the website pre-purchase and providing a clear return policy.

“Journey mapping is a creative process that allows you to understand – and then redesign – the customer experience. The output is not just a ‘pretty picture;’ once the map is developed, it is meant to be a catalyst for change.” – Annette Franz, CEO of CX Journey Inc.

Customer journey mapping is a valuable tool for businesses looking to understand and improve the customer experience. Brands with superior customer experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than competitors that lag in customer experience, and if you needed any more convincing, here’s another 50 stats that prove the value of prioritising customer experience. By charting the customer’s journey and emotions, businesses can identify areas for improvement and create a customer-centric strategy that leads to increased satisfaction and loyalty.

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