What is customer journey mapping?

A comprehensive guide to boosting client loyalty, data visualization and retention through customer journey mapping

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Chanice Henry
04/23/2021

Drawing a customer journey map

With customers more willing than ever to switch brands when faced with frustrating customer service, the competitive advantage of an organization rests on customer knowledge.

Journey mapping, a top investment priority for CX practitioners according to recent CX Network research, deepens a business’ understanding on customer needs, pain points and the best touchpoints to use certain technologies, such as self-service systems or automated interactions.

By mapping out the customer journey, brands can begin to understand not only who they are designing their services for, but what is holding back current user experiences.

Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review, encountered some surprising findings when incorporating this experience design process. He explained: “We started with journey mapping to find out where the customer pain points were and discovered there were some issues with the design of the site, as it wasn't providing customers with enough information to take the next step.

“Once we began changing these things, we saw an immediate increase in the number of customers who completed the journey, and an uptick in customers who opted in to our mailing list.”

In this exclusive CX Network guide, we dive into the power of customer journey mapping, its challenges and how brands are deploying this technique to enhance user experiences and boost customer loyalty.

What is customer journey mapping?

Labelled as both an art and a science; a customer journey map is a visualization of the moments customers come into contact with a company both on and offline.

Customer experience management tech provider Quadient has defined customer journey mapping as: “The process of capturing what the customer is doing, thinking and feeling as they complete an interaction or transaction while attempting to achieve some goal or outcome. It is a visualization of the steps that the customer takes on the journey, from the moment they had a need until it is fulfilled.”

Stat around customer journey mapping investments CXnetwork

What are the benefits of customer journey mapping?

The ultimate goal of customer journey maps is to uncover opportunities to eliminate customer frustration, create meaningful moments of delight and build proactive processes that can boost customer loyalty.

Better journey design and workflows

Customer journey maps help organizations identify moments of truth and points of friction in user journeys. This visibility provides the transparency to kill inefficient processes, rules, policies and, where suitable, exchange them for automated processes. Adeel Ahmad, CX analyst at PayPal, acknowledged in 2020’s CX Network Digital CX Report that journey maps are helpful for highlighting which touchpoints are ripe for automation such as contract renewal reminders. Ahmad warns, however, that “automation is only as good as the data and content it is based on”.

“It is important to understand the level of data maturity for the process you are automating,” Ahmad advises. “If the data is not enriched with a multi-touch cohesive system like a journey map, the automation will just pass on the problem to the next touchpoint.”

When applied correctly, data-infused journey maps empower brands to automate touchpoints so they can consistently fulfil clientele needs with ease.

Proactive customer experience

With the insight from customer journey maps on common pain points, brands can address customer issues before they escalate. Boundaries can be embedded into customer journeys, which enables prompts to automatically communicate to the customer to nudge them away from the issue, should they begin to near a common point of friction. This predictive approach can deflect inbound enquires and reduce cost-to-serve levels by minimizing manual customer support tasks. Human agents can also be notified should they need to intervene to prevent customers from churning.

Watch: Tech tips to fight customer churn

Customer journey mapping challenges

Due to the high price points associated with the technology required to power customer journey mapping, it is commonly criticized for diminishing business returns when users fail to deploy it properly. 

Collaborating to remove silos

Departmental silos, both physical and cultural, have the potential to greatly damage the accuracy and credibility of customer journey map projects. As advised by Quadient, to create customer journey maps that actually benefit your customers a collaborative culture is necessary. The analytics firm explains this requirement is due to: “various departments across the organization being involved in delivering the journey you’re trying to orchestrate”.

“If your culture is not one of collaboration or one that’s customer-centric, those siloes will be a hindrance to this work,” say the authors of Quadient’s whitepaper.  

Overcoming data access issues

Customer journey maps rely on the validity of the data they are built upon. Data credibility is vital as journey maps will inform business plans and customer experience management strategies. This requires having “data that is accessible, complete and accurate”. However, as seen in the 2020 Big Book of Customer Data and Analytics  a significant portion of organizations are hindered by stubborn legacy systems and datasets of low integrity which are scattered in pockets throughout the business.

CX Network graph showing customer data challenges

Data-centric hygiene projects, such as centralizing repositories, mining data lakes and driving data integrity, are intensive but crucial tasks to heighten the visibility a brand has on its customers, products, orders and the end-to-end buying and selling process. Rather than being guided by assumptions and gut-feelings, a centralized, single source of truth can optimize corporate decision-making and illuminate opportunities to optimize buyer journeys and customer retention.

Persona inaccuracies

The validity of customer journey maps are crushed if the customer personas used to test them are flawed. The power of user personas fade when they are based on data of poor integrity, limited data sources and are only informed by either qualitative or quantitative data.

User personas and customer journey maps are only as good as the research behind them, according to industry commentator Steli Efti. Organizations should base personas on a combination of qualitative, quantitative data and a wide variety of data sources. Remember that personas will not be a perfect representation of reality and will be subject to change, so constant reassessment is required to have an accurate grasp of what customers need.

Customer journey mapping implementation

Where to start with customer journey mapping

Every customer journey map begins with defining the behavioral stages customers pass through when interacting with a brand. The key stages are: awareness, interest, consideration, evaluation, purchase and retention or churn.

CX Network graph of customer journey mapping stages

Quantitative data is gathered at key interaction points at each stage of the customer journey mapping process to pinpoint the activities that occur. Then customer personas are introduced to create a “lens” by which to view the journey. The priorities and goals of each persona will influence the success of a user journey.

By organizing the rich data available, brands open up the opportunity to spot actionable steps to improve their customer experience management. This will expose, by department, where the business is delighting customers and where it is failing.

Steps to journey mapping from CX training institute CXL:

  • Step #1: Define the key behavioral stages: Use Voice of the Customer (VoC) sources, both qualitative and quantitative research, to build your brand’s knowledge of the processes customers navigate through with your organization.
  • Step #2: Outline persona goals for each stage: Gather data to understand persona goals in each stage. Sources such as survey answers, user testing feedback, interview transcripts and customer service emails or support transcripts helpful for grasping what customers set out to achieve.
  • Step #3: Plot out the touchpoints in each stage: Look to analytics software and VoC sources to understand the activities that take place at each stage in the customer journey.
  • Step #4: Determine customers are achieving their goals: Ask yourself; where are roadblocks appearing? Are people abandoning their purchases on the checkout page in large numbers? Are customers clicking on opt-in download pages, but are failing to fully convert? CMS reports will outline the precise points of disconnect. Qualitative research and data will give context on the reasons behind the problems, and in some cases the solutions.
  • Step #5: Recommendations for change: Prioritize which touchpoints should be addressed first according to the risk and returns at stake. Balance this with considering the effort and costs needed to implement the changes. Look to the voice of the employee and customer for recommendations on how customers would like you to fix the tricky touchpoints. Then, a test and learn approach can help you experiment and reach the best solution.

By communicating customer journey mapping findings to all relevant stakeholders, perhaps via dashboard systems, brands can capitalize on new opportunities in their own day-to-day work.

Renault case study: Persona differences

In this section, Marion Humeau, global head of customer experience and digital innovations at Groupe Renault, recounts a customer journey study the automotive brand conducted around personas grouped by geography.

“We mapped the customer journey with [a] qualitative, quantitative survey in different countries to spot any preference differences. We looked at France, UK, Italy, Russia, Brazil and China. The first finding was that the steps in the journeys are indeed the same, but the weight of the steps are different.

“For example, in Italy and France, the exploration, research phase is longer and more important for customers in comparison to those based in the UK. This is because in the UK the duration of car ownership is lower, so the investment is lower and the research phase is seen as less crucial.

“In Russia, they buy their car on stock – they want the car now. So the information relating to delay of delivery or the stock availability is very, very important because this is a key influencer for their purchase decisions.

“In China, the connected services on board are crucial for customers, so our sellers in this country need detailed information on these features.

“The steps of the customer journey are the same, but the importance is different depending on the location of the prospect.

image of customer on a journey in Renault car

Image source: Renault media center

“Interaction habits can be different also. For example, customers are much more interactive in Brazil and China, with apps like WeChat customers are happy to chat with sellers. This is completely different to the more traditional interactions we saw in France, where customers visit the seller’s premise and do not chat with sellers on messaging apps.

“The sensitivity of the data privacy differs according to region also. For example, Germany it is very stringent, but data privacy is not a big problem in China.

Read: How to be a CX leader: Lessons from LinkedIn

“These preferences can alter the solution, the tools, and the delivery that is best suited to a customer according to their region. We are sure to take extra care at the steps that are of key importance for that region, but the global vision of the customer journey remains the same.”

Take extra care at the customer journey stages that are of key importance to particular certain personas  
Marion Humeau, global head of customer experience and digital innovations, Groupe Renault


Top tips for customer journey mapping

Catch stakeholder attention with customized data visualization

Rather than forcing stakeholders to trawl through endless verbatim customer comments, Nick Macfarlane, VP of customer engagement at Sky Ticket, found success in his customer journey mapping project by creating data visualization dashboards that were customized to specific departments with relevant, real-time VoC data.

Sky Spain’s ecommerce customer journey saw impressive results when VoC data flagged customer confusion around the media company’s partnership with a takeaway pizza company.

“We changed one thing in the journey and the sign-up rate went up by 80 per cent,” says Macfarlane. “Suddenly we were getting numbers through this partnership that we hadn’t seen before, just from the ability for departments to listen to customers at scale with their own individualized VoC feedback dashboards.”

Root experience design in customer intentions

January’s CX Network Advisory Board discussion raised the importance of recognizing the difference between “wow”’ moments in a customer journey, that go the extra mile to delight, as well as good CX hygiene best practice that provides frictionless and convenient interactions.

Rather than pouring resources into expensive strategies to wow customers at every turn, the Advisory Board noted that CX practitioners should ask themselves: in this particular journey are customers actually looking for delight or do they just want the job done?

Remember the user journey starts before the customer reaches your brand’s channels

Deb Zell, director of UX/CX/product strategy and marketing at Dell, stated in a CX Network webinar that most customer journey maps only account for customer interactions on a brand’s own website. However, pre-website interactions in the customer journey which occur on various sources and channels, represent a significant opportunity to gain competitive advantage and identify new products and services.

Watch: How Dell used journey mapping to double productivity levels

Zell advises Look to third party data, search engine analytics and VoC insights to unlock awareness of new buyers and customer drivers that can lead to new channels of business.

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