What is Customer Journey and Why Is It Important?

what-is-customer-journey

For many years, companies focused on customer touchpoints to gauge customer satisfaction. In recent years, companies have seen that touchpoints do not capture the whole picture.

Management consulting firm McKinsey makes the point that customer touchpoints only measure satisfaction at a single point in time. They don’t necessarily guarantee the customer is happy with their overall journey.

But what are customer touchpoints? These are specific moments when customers interact with the company, from first awareness to purchase to customer service and future sales.

For example, a customer receives excellent service during a call regarding a specific question.  After the fact, a touchpoint survey may indicate the customer was satisfied with the exchange at the moment. However, the survey may not capture the customer’s opinions about their overall experience with the company. They may be unhappy that they had to call in the first place.

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What Is the Purpose of the Customer Journey?

As we’ve seen, satisfaction at a single touchpoint in time is not a guarantee of customer loyalty. The purpose of the customer journey is to increase customer loyalty by building trust via a series of touchpoints over time.

To strengthen loyalty, companies are now shifting their attention to customers’ overall experience with the product or service, in other words, their customer journey. Companies that optimize the customer journey see higher customer satisfaction, by a wide margin than those that focus on only touchpoints.

In fact, Salesforce reported that 80% of customers consider their experience with a company to be as important as its products.

What Are the Stages of the Customer Journey?

The stages of the customer journey refer to the activities and mindset of the customer over time, engaging with a brand, product, or service. Stages may contain several touchpoints. Looking at the touchpoints as part of an overall journey helps create a better experience.

The basic stages are:

  • Interest and awareness
  • Search
  • Research
  • Purchase
  • Experience after the sale with product or service

Mapping the customer’s journey through each stage can lead to valuable insights. Let’s look at some customer journey map considerations.

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What Is a Customer Journey Map and Why Is It Important?

If we are leading our customers on a journey, we need a map, right?

A customer journey map is a great tool for several reasons.  It is a visual representation that helps us see the user experience from the customer’s point of view. It also helps everyone on a customer service team clearly see the context of a customer’s situation.

The customer journey map documents what the customer is experiencing at each stage of their journey. What stimulates their interest or awareness? How are they searching for more information? What will they find? What is the source of customer pain at each stage? What drives their purchase decision? What does their experience after the sale look like? How are they feeling throughout this whole process?

When teams come together to research and create a customer persona’s journey map, they uncover opportunities to enhance the customer’s experience, increase retention and extend customer lifetime value (CLV).

What Are the Steps to Map the Customer Journey?

A map is a great analogy for visualizing the customer journey. Just like planning a real trip, planning the best trip for your customers’ experience with your brand involves a step-by-step approach.

It includes the following variables that teams can change to suit any customer journey:

  1. A specific persona
  2. A series of steps to reach a goal or satisfy a need or desire
  3. Their experiences, thoughts, motivations, frustrations, triggers, and other feelings as they move toward the goal

The Basic Steps to Creating Customer Journey Maps

Different sources offer variations on the theme; you can customize your approach based on your industry, product, or service, and, of course, customer personas or segments.

  • Step 1: Set your goal for a planning session. For a more complex customer journey, you can break the sessions down. Just like you wouldn’t drive from Texas to Alaska in a day, you can plan segments of your customer’s journey to ensure you aren’t missing any important side trips!
  • Step 2: Define and refine your customer personas. Update their information if needed. Be sure to test drive the customer journey yourself.
  • Step 3: Be clear about the behind-the-scenes part of their journey. Think about a successful restaurant – most of the work that makes customers happy takes place behind the scenes and before the customer even shows up. The kitchen setup, cooking staff skills, and employee training all add invisible value to the customer experience. What does your company need to do behind the scenes to prepare a seamless customer journey?
  • Step 4: Optimize high-value touchpoints because they have the most influence in determining your customer’s journey and opinion.
  • Step 5: Make a Plan and measure – measuring results against a plan leads to continuous improvement and motivates the team to see progress over time.
  • Step 6: Review and improve – just like a real road trip, your customer journey will have unexpected twists and turns. Over time, you will learn and improve your map and the customer’s experience. 
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How Does Customer Journey Mapping Improve Customer Experience?

Salesforce reports that 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations, and 82% expect retailers to be able to meet their expectations and be aware of their preferences. 

A customer journey map gives everyone in the company a visual tool to better understand customer needs, challenges and preferences. It also helps employees see customer expectations in the context of their entire journey, not just at single touchpoints.

When mapping your customer support journey, three of the most powerful ways companies can provide an outstanding customer journey are personalized experiences, proactive service, and frictionless interactions. 

Personalized Experiences

Your customer’s journey usually includes a variety of channels and devices, especially when communicating with customer service. To deliver a truly personalized experience, you need to be able to effortlessly communicate across many channels, including chat, email, and social media.

When customer service reps can see the whole history of the conversation over multiple channels, they can personalize their response to individual preferences. Kayako’s Single View interface serves as a compass for your customer’s journey, bringing all the different touchpoints together into a single view.

Proactive service

One of the best ways to build rapport with customers is to anticipate their needs, especially in customer service situations where customers are frustrated. We all know how tiresome it is to be on a call that starts with a chatbot asking you to type in your account number, then transfers you to a representative that asks again for the same number, and transfers you again to a supervisor, only to have to start all over again.

A helpdesk solution that provides a single view of the customer’s overall journey means the customer service agent enters the conversation fully informed, without the customer having to explain background details.

Companies may also send out proactive service alerts or more information that they know the customer will need at a certain stage, even before they are aware of the issue. A non-virtual example of this is when car dealers send out coupons for service based on the car’s age, mileage, or even the time of year.

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Eliminate Friction

Friction in the customer journey is any point that produces delays or frustration for the customer. The main points of customer friction are how knowledgeable customer service agents are about their specific case, how long it takes to resolve their case, and how proactive the agent is in doing so.

Research suggests that customers are willing to pay more for less friction. Companies providing frictionless customer service can charge up to a 16% price premium on products and services. 43% of all consumers would pay more for convenience, and 42% will pay for a friendly, welcoming experience.

For example, a major friction area for customers is being on hold too long, or at all. If customers have to wait on hold for a simple request they could do themselves, 22% will not wait for more than 5 minutes, and 13% of customers have zero tolerance and will not wait on hold.

People like to help themselves. Self-service options can reduce friction and customer frustration. If a customer can quickly take care of a routine task without a service rep, it’s a win-win situation.

Just remember, companies need to test self-service options to ensure they don’t become a source of friction, too! Frustrating self-service options can be worse for the customer than being on hold. Solutions like Kayako’s Self-Service option help customers help themselves quickly and efficiently.

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