Customer journey
maps: How to map
the customer

Author: Paul Gillin

Nearly three-quarters of consumers cited customer experience as a key factor in their buying decisions in a PwC report. Now that so many sales happen entirely digitally and with little to no company representative interaction, it has never been more important for business leaders to know how to map the customer journey.

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of the course customers take from awareness through to the decision to make a purchase or, just as important, to not make a purchase. Researching customer journeys is a useful exercise for any kind of business, from mom-and-pop shops to mammoth B2B enterprises.

How to create a customer journey map

Charting journeys has become more complex as the sources that influence decisions have proliferated. Not long ago, most businesses relied mainly on advertising, public relations and word of mouth to get their messages out. Today, customers can be influenced by ratings on e-commerce websites, social media, blogs, search results and even automated recommendation engines.  Salesforce estimates that the average consumer now uses 10 channels to communicate with businesses.

How to map the customer journey: Start with personas

You don't have to boil the ocean to learn how to map the customer journey. Any insight is useful. The best way to start is by creating buyer personas, which are profiles of different customer types that include demographic but also psychographic factors, such as aspirations, motivations and values. In the consumer electronics industry, for example, psychographic segments may include value shoppers and early adopters.

There are many data sources that give clues about customer behavior. Website data can reveal how people were referred to your site and the path they took to purchase a product. Analytics can also identify stumbling blocks that cause customers to abandon a transaction. Online reviews, social media mentions and email response data are also good indications of how your business is perceived and what drives customers to investigate you.

Qualitative data is also important in figuring out how to map the customer journey. Conduct interviews with a sampling of customers who match different personas. Ask how they become aware of products or businesses in your field, how they research solutions, the role of various trusted sources and the factors that most influence their buying decision. The answers to these questions should inform the language you use to speak to different personas, the best way to reach them and the factors that can create a positive perception of your business.

Look for roadblocks

When you are planning how to create a customer journey map, your research should also investigate barriers to sales. These insights can not only identify what you may be doing wrong but also lead to breakthrough ideas that propel your business forward.

For example, Apple designers realized that requiring people to charge their new gadgets before using them for the first time was a source of frustration, so the company took the simple step of shipping all its devices pre-charged, recalls Tony Fadell, inventor of the iPod. That practice is now standard throughout the consumer electronics industry.

The customer journey map should touch on both visible and invisible interactions. Visible factors are those that customers experience directly, such as engaging with a sales representative or using a product for the first time. Invisible interactions are behind-the-scenes processes, such as financing approval or the time it takes to ship an order. Both can have a significant impact on customer experience and the likelihood of repeat business.

Learning how to map the customer journey can also spark innovation since understanding impediments to sales often leads to creative solutions. For example, if abandonment rates are high on a particular page on your website, a video guide or chatbot may rescue sales that would be otherwise lost.

Knowing how to map the customer journey also focuses your priorities on what matters most. It can spotlight the "magical moments" that make or break a customer experience. The Walt Disney Company once revealed that the average person who stayed a single night at one of its resorts had a 70% likelihood of returning and would spend $62,000 on Disney products and experiences over the course of a lifetime. Research revealed that small factors like keeping its properties squeaky clean and ensuring that every employee could find the answer to any question a guest asked became part of the unique experience customers appreciated.

Acquiring new customers can be costly. Investing in a customer journey map is an investment that can help you retain existing customers as well as help you deliver the customer experience your new clients are looking for.

Discover how Verizon's customer experience consulting services can help you learn how to create a customer journey map that can help drive sales.