Connecting the Dots

July 10, 2017

In the age of big data, businesses amass huge amounts of information on their customers, but numbers and trends tell only half the story. Customer journey mapping connects raw information to real people, helping companies visualize the entire lifecycle of their customers and illustrate how every interaction with a brand can work together to drive sales and build loyalty. 

Experts predict customer experience will exceed traditional brand differentiators, like price and product, within the next three years, making it more important than ever for companies to understand how to design customer experiences around the thoughts and motives of their user segments. Encounters with your brand must capture the customer’s imagination, help navigate a problem or need, and become an ongoing part of everyday life. Collectively, those encounters should work together to deliver an experience so delightful, it compels the customer to tell others and become "raving fans." 

Customer journey mapping is a powerful tool that allows businesses to make value-driven changes based not on the operations or sales goals but on the customer. Much like an infographic, the journey map illustrates the steps and scenarios in which you interact with your customer and explores the motivations and obstacles for each of those engagements. Connecting the dots between segments and interactions will reveal pain points in the customer experience and help uncover opportunities for improvement. Organizations that master the art of customer experience will emerge winners among their competitors, and journey mapping is a great place to start.   

Building Your Map 

Every journey map is different, and there’s no one right way to build one. To begin the process, start with colored sticky notes and a dry erase board and follow the next five steps. 

Step 1: Give Your Customer a Life

Design your journey map with specific customers in mind, based on a research-driven understanding of the way they interact with your brand. This strategy is best accomplished by creating customer personas, or detailed composite sketches of key customer segments. Ideally, you should have three to five fictional representations of different customer groups. 

Personas vary across businesses, but most contain basic demographics, information on work life, goals, and interests. For a deeper dive, pull testimonials or quotes from existing customers that fit the persona you are modeling and find a picture of someone that best portrays that persona. 

Step 2: Identify Touchpoints

Throughout the sales journey, your customers will interact with your brand through different channels. These touchpoints represent "hotspots" where you have an opportunity to improve your customer’s experience. Make a list of the different times and places your customer connects with your business, such as online, in-person, in-store, by phone, or even using your product after purchase. 

Step 3: Chart Your Customer’s Actions

Leverage existing data or assumptions to build a hypothetical customer journey. Start with a linear timeline of the actions each customer might take, and then think about what need arose that your business answers. When did the customer learn about your product or service? Did he or she research you online? Did the customer call or visit your store or office? Use these questions to weave your customer through the entire beginning-to-end journey.  

Step 4: Connect the Dots

Consider how interactions might lead to a positive or negative experience for your customer by connecting their thoughts and motives to their actions. Instead of looking at touchpoints independently, consider each in relation to what the customer hopes to accomplish, what emotions or feelings will propel or prevent him or her from going to the next stage, and what questions or doubts the customer has at this stage. 

Step 5: Map It Out

Once the charting is complete, it’s time to start designing your journey map in a way that best communicates to your organization. The diagram should clearly illustrate the various touchpoints and channels of communication each customer encounters with your company, along with the emotions, thoughts, and feelings at each phase. For inspiration, you can do a quick online search to explore the different types of diagrams, and consider hiring a designer to create the final product for you. 

Putting Your Journey Map to Work

The problems and opportunities revealed in the journey mapping process will help your organization prioritize solutions and streamline touchpoints (or break them down into smaller increments). Regardless the design you choose, your journey map should be simple, easily digestible, and actionable. Remember, the objective is to help differentiate your brand and develop a lifetime relationship with your customers.