Definition

customer journey map

Contributor(s): Lauren Horwitz, Jesse Scardina

A customer journey map is a diagram or several diagrams that depict the stages customers go through when interacting with a company, from buying products online to accessing customer service on the phone to airing grievances on social media.

To create effective visual maps that reflect customers' journeys through these channels, journey maps must be rooted in data-driven research and must visually represent the different phases customers experience based on a variety of dimensions, including customer sentiment, goals and touch points.

To be comprehensive, companies often need to create several customer journey maps based on a 360-degree view of how customers engage with the company. For example, one journey map may begin with a customer using Twitter to comment about a company, product or brand, then using the phone to reach a customer service line, and then using the company website. Another scenario may begin with online browsing, proceed to a phone inquiry and so on.

Importance of a customer journey map

The reasons for creating customer journey maps include understanding the path and channels your customers take to get your product. It's a valuable tool that can be used to forecast the path of future customers, as well.

Creating a customer journey map can provide insightful information for all levels in a department, from a sales rep who needs to figure out the best ways to interact with potential customers to managers looking for insight on which outlets customers use most. It can also highlight gaps or misdirection, and can identify gaps in the customer experience, including:

  • Gaps between devices, when a user moves from one device to another;
  • Gaps between departments, where the user might get frustrated; and
  • Gaps between channels, where the experience of going from social media to the website could be better.

Perhaps the main benefit of a customer journey map is that it provides clear information on how customers move through the sales funnel. Maximizing the efficiency of that path means more sales at a quicker pace. In addition, understanding the customer experience is vital for sales and marketing to understand the customer experience.

Creating a customer journey map

There are four main parts of a customer journey map: inquiry, comparison, purchase and installation. Each stage is vital for sales and marketing departments.

The customer journey begins when a customer asks about a product or service. At that point, they become a prospect. The comparison stage is where customers use readily available information about different products in any given market to compare features, pricing, customer service ratings, etc. The purchase stage is when the prospect becomes a customer, which then triggers the service department to begin the final phase, installation.

The four stages of a customer journey

There are important requirements to map customer journeys effectively.

  1. Focus on customer perspective. The journey map needs to focus on how a customer experiences interactions, not how the company perceives those experiences.
  2. Account for customer segments. Account for the fact that different customer segments experience products, brands and services differently.
  3. Research your maps. Use tools such as customer analytics to develop your maps to best reflect your constituencies and their likely behavior.
  4. Ensure that maps reflect all touch points. Maps must reflect all potential communication points through which customers want to connect with companies: email, text, websites, social media platforms and so on. Maps must also reflect different sequences for these maps, in which customers take different paths.

When designing a customer journey map, there's no set protocol, but there are guidelines for it, including that it should be visually appealing, comprehensive and understandable. Typical customer journey maps include infographics, diagrams and timelines. Multimedia has also been used for customer journey maps, including videos and storyboards.

The information included on the map should have both statistical and anecdotal insight and should be customer-facing.

Customer journey mapping tools and software

With customer journey maps being such an important visual for sales departments, there are a plethora of tools, customer journey map templates and software that ease the process.

There are two ways of thinking about the tools that help to create a customer journey map. The first is software that helps identify the different touch points of customers and that compiles that information for the department. Then, if there is a graphics team or graphic designer in house, creating a customer journey map is left to them.

There are also ready-to-use tools that can help with customer journey mapping visualization. Some include Salesforce Journey Builder, Smaply, Touchpoint and Canvanizer. 

This was last updated in June 2017

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