The customer should be the heart of most business operations. Companies that put the customer first are often more profitable and enjoy extended periods of growth.
In fact, companies that are considered “customer-centric” enjoy 60% more profits compared to companies that are not as focused on the customer. This statistic makes sense, considering that 80% of customers today consider the experience with a particular company just as important as the product they are purchasing.
Part of the reason “customer-centric” businesses do so well is that they have a thorough understanding of the customer journey. Then, they use that information to optimize the customer experience to keep those clients coming back for more.
What Is a Customer Journey?
The customer journey sets out the complete “life cycle” for an individual—from how they first become aware of the product and company to the final purchase and use of the product, including whether the customer will be a repeat client or a “loyal” customer.
The concept of the customer journey (also referred to as the user journey or the buyer journey) was introduced just 20 years ago by OxfordSM. As a result, it is still relatively new to the business world.
In general, the customer journey involves the following basic steps:Out of Market
- Initial Brand Consideration
- Active Evaluation
- Purchase Decision
The journey steps are very similar to the concept of overall customer experience, but they are different concepts. The customer experience gauges how a customer feels at each step in the journey, but the journey simply involves what a customer does in each step. The result is that the customer experience is an integral part of the customer journey.
Ensuring that the customer experience is positive at each point in the customer journey is how you create loyal, repeat customers who tell others about their good experience with your brand or product.
An Example of a Customer Journey
Imagine a potential customer coming in off the street because they see your brick-and-mortar storefront. The sighting of the storefront and signage is the first interaction. Below are a few more customer journey touchpoints that are part of this example customer journey.
- Seeing your layout in the store
- Viewing various signage or displays in the store
- Employee greeting
- Employee offering to help the customer find something
- Friendly and knowledgeable employees
- Assistance with picking out a product
- The product looks good and is of good quality
- Reviewing the favorable return policy
- Collecting the customer’s email address to send promotional material later
- The customer recommends your store on Google or Yelp
- A promotional email a week later is sent to the customer to offer her a discount on new products
In this quick example, the customer goes from seeing the signage and storefront to making a purchase. Then, there is additional follow-up communication to increase brand recognition and loyalty in the future.
Going through this customer journey as a business will help you spot any problem areas or issues from the customer’s perspective.
The Basics of Customer Journey Mapping
Customer journey mapping involves actually drawing out the customer journey lifecycle. It also identifies the specific touchpoints between the company and the customer throughout the customer journey. The result is that businesses can spot areas for improvement where there might be gaps in the customer experience.
Common parts of the customer journey map might include:
- Your website
- Reviews on review sites or social media
- Brick-and-mortar store layout and signage (both internal and external)
- Customer service team
- Follow up customer feedback surveys
- Discounts or specials offered after the initial purchase
- Loyalty programs or points systems
Creating a customer journey map (or user journey map) involves developing a visual story of how each customer might interact with your brand. When it is built correctly from the customers’ viewpoint, businesses can gain valuable insights into how a customer interacts with a business and how the company can improve those interactions.
Companies often create a customer journey map for each of their buyer personas. Doing this more in-depth mapping allows the business to spot issues that might be unique to a particular type of customer. A younger customer, for example, might rely more on technology and web presence compared to an older customer.
Technology and the Customer Journey
Technology is playing a huge role in an altered customer journey. Specifically, technology, when used properly, can give customers more information and better communication than they have had in the past.
Digital signage, for example, answers specific questions without having to hunt down a customer service representative. It can also help customers decrease waiting time and get what they need faster, such as by using Ombori’s queue management system.
Analyzing the Customer Journey Map
As you create the customer journey map, you should review what each customer is doing while they are exposed to a touchpoint.
A customer that sees a storefront might be shopping nearby at other stores. They might be out with friends or family at a nearby restaurant. They could simply be driving by. In each of these scenarios, you should think about motivations—what type of action will encourage your customer to move to the next stage in the customer journey? What emotions or thoughts is the customer experiencing when they are exposed to your storefront?
You should also consider potential problem areas. Does your location make it hard to reach by car? Does your signage answer questions about what your company does or what you have to offer? If there are any uncertainties, how can they be addressed quickly? Will those uncertainties cause the customer to move on to another store?
Putting yourself in the shoes of the customer is a critically important part of customer journey mapping. While you might be able to sketch out what the customer is supposed to do next, analyzing what they are actually doing and why will be a much more productive use of your mapping efforts.
If You Don’t Know, Ask
Many companies make the mistake of assuming they know what their clients or customers want without actually asking them those questions. In fact, only one in five businesses collect this type of information to improve the customer journey. You might be surprised to learn what questions a customer is asking or what challenges they are facing that stop them in the customer journey.
Simply asking questions through a survey or other similar methods can be extremely valuable. Perhaps, for example, a customer sees the long line at your store and does not move forward with viewing your products simply because they hate waiting in line. Conversely, maybe your specific call to action or product offering (like free samples or free demos) are not really what the customer wants to see when they need more information.
When you focus on the customer journey and get direct feedback, your company is more likely to be successful. Some businesses see increased sign-ups of nearly 175% by asking questions about the customer journey and then optimizing the customer journey based on that feedback.
Technology can be a huge asset to analyze and improve the customer journey. Ombori offers a wide variety of solutions to help your business fill in the gaps in your customer journey mapping. Learn more by booking a demo or exploring what Ombori has to offer.