Understanding your customer and how they interact with your business directly and indirectly is critical in driving improved value, repeat business and longevity of relationship. To deliver this and to be able to create a communication strategy which builds a conversation with your customers, it helps to visualise current and planned customer journeys and the key touchpoints across different marketing channels.
So, where do you start when looking at your business and the journey a customer takes in the initial phases of a decision-making process and in follow-up phases as the relationship builds? This post has been written to provide advice and guidance to marketing professionals on the key steps to mapping your customer’s journey with you.
Understanding the customer touchpoints and channels
When beginning to look at a customer journey, a good place to start is the various touchpoints a customer has with your business. Although this is likely to expand with the following steps, it is an area where several stakeholders can be actively involved with different views on how the customer interacts with your business, be that from a customer service view-point, ecommerce, fulfilment, etc. To begin the discussion look at the core purchase channels as this will be well-defined within the business and should cover areas such as those in Fig 1:
You can then expand this to look at other areas such as:
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- Marketing channels (email, postal, telephone, Facebook, blogs, etc).
- Order fulfilment (delivery, payment, returns, etc).
- Research channels (website, consumer forums, store, customer services, etc).
The items covered above look at direct contacts, but not indirect contacts via social sites, word of mouth, customer reviews, etc; which should also be considered to build a complete picture of various touchpoints:
Customer journey activities/actions
For each of the touchpoints in Fig 2 the customer will complete several actions and activities, which will be different for each industry and business, but could be summarised into the following classic types:
- Use of product of service.
- Bonding with product.
This can be expanded to cover key areas for your business (e.g. For a hotel chain the use of product/service may want to be expanded to look at key elements such as check-in, use of amenities, check out & departure), but is best kept simple to begin with to allow initial customer journeys to be mapped and additional activities discovered and defined.
Mapping the customer journey
Now you have an idea of the customer touchpoints and activities completed, a simple table can be used to map the customer journey with activities listed across the top and the touchpoints down the left hand side, for example (click to enlarge):
This can then be used to look at typical customer personas to map their journey from initial awareness, through purchase to bonding and sharing their satisfaction.
In the first instance, use your own frame of reference to plot your journey when making that initial purchase with your business. For example, in Fig 4 I have plotted a recent journey I completed when choosing a new mobile phone (click to enlarge):
This provides key points on my journey and identifies influence and decision points, such as:
- Decision to stick with existing mobile operator (Step 3 – Review of available phones and costs).
- Influence on phone selected (Step 4 – Review of phones and opinions & Step 5 – Trial of potential phones at store and recommendation).
- Purchase decision (Step 6 – Purchase at store).
In this example I am a returning established customer and a new customer would have a different path, as would other customer personas for example, early adopters (want latest technology), basic users (only interested in using phone in emergencies), social connectors (heavy users of twitter, Facebook, etc). The key is to understand the path and steps each type of customer takes, using actual customer feedback and research if available.
Using the customer journey
Having built an understanding of the customer journeys with your business you are now in a position to improve the customer experience enabling:
- Minimising of negative customer experiences, through identification of key steps and decision points to ensure the correct information is available and accessible to all customer types.
- Improved customer retention, through understanding how they transition though each stage in their purchase lifecycle, enabling relevant and connected conversations to the customer to help them move towards a positive decision point.
- Identification of communication GAPs, where no or conflicting messages are being received. For example, use of social media to respond to customer feedback whether positive or negative.
- Understand core customer journey paths, where additional development will provide biggest impact.
- Understanding of required metrics to identify customer’s progress and fall out points, providing opportunities to bring customers back on board.
In summary when mapping you customer journey remember the following key points:
- Complete the exercise from the customer’s view point, not how you expect them to use your process/system.
- Where possible use actual customer feedback to determine the path taken.
- Identify key customer persona, you cannot map every customers path individually!
- Keep it simple, the idea is to provide context and understanding to help identify areas for improvement or influence in the customer’s journey.
Jim Roberts is the founder of the consultancy BlacklerRoberts Ltd and is an experienced marketing professional with over 18 years experience in the direct marketing arena across multiple industry sectors, including financial, leisure, retail, and charity.