Two years ago I posted Customer Journey Map – the Top 10 Requirements. Since then, it’s been viewed over 60,000 times at this site, as well as many times on other sites. After a little more than two years I decided to revisit it. While the core philosophy remains consistent, we’ve made a few small tweaks and brought in some new examples.
Understanding your customer experience is the key to improving it, and the best way to find out what customers do, think, and feel while interacting with your company is by creating a customer journey map. This visual representation shows how a customer uses your product or service, or the decision-making process that turns a potential user into a customer.
But not all journey maps are created equal. There is no “standard map,” because there is no “standard” customer experience. The best maps are highly customized, documenting your customer’s journey, as it is today, through your customer’s eyes. This allows you to easily identify where to focus your resources in the future, and the most effective changes to implement.
You can build a map following high-quality design principles, or use smiley faces. You can make it an engaging work of art, or scribbles on a napkin. But, ultimately, what matters most is the content, and the integrity of the process used to compile it.
In this post, I’ll detail the criteria used to design and build customer journey maps that can accelerate your customer experience program, focusing on the ten critical components all great customer journey maps share. The examples on the right show Heart of the Customer journey maps that utilizes this criteria; links at the end of this post lead to other samples.
Here’s what you need for a true customer-focused journey map:
- Represent Your Customer’s Perspective. A great customer journey map must represent the experience as your customer sees it. That means it will often include aspects out of your direct control, such as social media exposure or web searches, as well as steps your customers take before you even enter the picture. For example, while studying the software purchase process for a large B2B client, Heart of the Customer – much to our client’s surprise – discovered that the vast majority of clients and prospects relied extensively on their network to create their list of vendors, ignoring conference trade shows, Google searches, and other forms of traditional marketing. While those items were used later in the purchase process, if a company didn’t win at “word of mouth,” they lost before they even knew they were in the running. This invaluable insight allowed the company to avoid wasting resources on efforts that wouldn’t really improve their results – or their bottom line – and concentrate on areas where they’d have the most impact.
- Do Your Research. You can’t rely on internal staff to build a true customer journey map. (Unless you employ a lot of mind-readers, in which case, go right ahead!) Depending on the scope of the journey, you’ll need interviews, ethnographies, focus groups, and/or other types of customer research to figure out what’s really going on. Start with qualitative research, as often your customer’s touch points involve interactions and emotional responses that will be a surprise. We always begin there, then use quantitative surveys to confirm the results.
Some companies bring in customers to work hand in hand with employees to build the map, but care must be taken in that scenario to avoid the bias that results from a small sample size. This approach typically works best with B2B companies that want to focus on a specific journey, such as customer support. But in most cases, we’ve found it’s better to do customer research first, then build on the information gathered.
- Recognize and Represent Customer Personas. Different customers have very different experiences. For instance, while mapping how consumers purchase health insurance, we found that while one segment of customer spent only a couple of hours on research, another invested six weeks and used completely different tools. A great customer journey map can’t lump those two segments together, because the result wouldn’t accurately reflect the experience of either.
If you have existing segments, use those in your research. If you don’t, we use the qualitative research to uncover different personas, which you can extend in the quantitative phase.
- Include Customer Goals. A great customer journey map illustrates your customer’s goals at each stage of their experience, and reflects whether those goals evolve as the journey progresses. For example, when studying a health care journey for a hospital, we found that in the early stages, one persona (type of customer) focused extensively on understanding everything involved with the journey, whereas a different persona was just focused on getting through the process as quickly as possible.
- Focus on Emotions. Emotions are critical to any customer experience, whether B2B or B2C, and a great customer journey map sheds light on these emotions. Personally, I’m not a fan of using the smiley and frowning emoticons prevalent in many journey maps, but the information does need to be conveyed somehow. We always use professional designers. Through color, style, and graphics, they help put the reader in your customer’s shoes, to understand how they feel throughout the journey.
- Indicate Touch Points. One reason many clients choose to create a customer journey map is to better understand the order and type of all touch points – all of the times when your customer and your company interact – including those over which you have little or no control. In fact, these “external” touch points can be the most important parts of the journey, as they are often the key to understanding friction that occurs.
- Highlight Moments of Truth. Some interactions have more impact on the customer experience than others. Great journey maps spotlight those critical moments. For example, Heart of the Customer research recently revealed for a client that when there were problems checking in to the hospital, it tainted the entire patient experience, even when the patient was otherwise satisfied with the care they subsequently received.
- Evaluate Your Brand Promise. Done right, journey mapping can reveal how your brand promise aligns with the actual customer experience you’re providing. Do you sell your process as being effortless? Highly personalized? Affordable? A great customer journey map will show whether your customers believe that you’re delivering on that promise – and if they think you’re not, how much disappointment impacts customer behavior and loyalty.
- Measure Time. The length of a customer experience provides important context. Does the typical call last 30 seconds or 10 minutes? Did shoppers deciding on a product consider it for 20 minutes or 40 hours? A great journey map recognizes that this information is essential, and includes it.
- Ditch the PowerPoint. A great journey map is designed to be pored over and studied. The story is immediately obvious, but the nuances are revealed in the details. Too many journey maps are created so that they can be presented on a screen, communicating basic information through concise, bulleted points. A great customer journey map defies those limitations. Use a desktop publishing application and a professional designer to create your map so you can more freely convey the richness of the customer experience.
Those ten points highlight the critical components of any great customer journey map, but every customer experience benefits when you go above and beyond, right? So below I provide four “bonus” criteria that you’ll also want to consider:
- Break the Experience into Phases. In longer journeys, customers are trying to accomplish different things, at different times, and in different ways. Document their mindset throughout, so you can tailor your customer experience to meet your customers’ needs at each and every stage. For example, it’s typical for preliminary shopping steps to revolve around finding out what questions to ask, but later steps in the journey are more transactional. Keep tabs on what your customer wants from you, and when they want it.
- That’s What She Said! Including customer quotes – what they’re actually saying during and about the experience – isn’t strictly necessary, but I’ve found it really brings the experience to life, and helps employees identify with what the customer is going through.
- Include Non-Customers. A pre-sales customer journey map should always include “the ones that got away,” i.e. non-customers. Finding out whether their experience followed a different path than the people you successfully converted into customers is likely to shed some light on the reasons why. For example, a recent Heart of the Customer project revealed that our client’s non-customers were typically people who relied on in-person meetings when making purchasing decisions – something our client didn’t offer at the time. That realization was critical to their improvement efforts, with a corresponding impact on their bottom line.
- Incorporate Your Other Voice of the Customer Components. Journey maps shouldn’t stand alone. Just as your maps can explain the findings from other methods of customer feedback, other methods of research can add richness to your journey maps. Add comments about low scores for invoicing, or incorporate operational data to add explanatory power to your journey maps. In fact, when presenting to executives, we find that incorporating operational data brings it to life for them.
Keeping these 10+4 components in mind during the journey mapping process will ensure you create a rich document that provides a solid foundation for your customer experience efforts. And keep an eye on this blog, too, as many posts feature more details about how Heart of the Customer applies these principles to our customer journey maps. For more examples, download our journey mapping toolkit.
Below are those useful links I promised you earlier. You’ll find there’s a wealth of information out there explaining how customer journey maps can enhance your Voice of the Customer program:
- Check out the customer journey map examples here. Chris walks you through each one, providing his perspective. I particularly like how he calls out the need for both qualitative and quantitative research in the mapping process.
- This site has a great case study of a complex gamer’s map. See what can happen when you ditch PowerPoint!
- Can you believe the British government made a guide to creating customer journey maps? Take a look.