The What, Why, How and Who of Customer Journey Maps
Research shows that 81% of consumer brands believe that they have a 360 degree view of their clients while only 37% consumers believe that their favorite brands understand them.1
In a consumer centered market such a lack of understanding could be detrimental to the growth of brands. But how does a brand understand the needs of its consumers? In the days gone by, when customers and brands interacted at the physical level, it was easy for marketers to read a consumer's emotions, get a quick feedback and improve services. However, with the arrival of e-commerce brands and consumers interact with each other through the internet. How does a brand then read its consumer's emotions and expectations? To remedy this gap of communication between the consumer and the brand, a customer journey map is created. Before we delve deeper into how a customer journey map bridges the gap between a consumer and a brand, we need to understand “What a customer journey map is?”
A customer journey map is a strategic summation of all the key interactions a customer has with a brand. It captures a customer's interactive journey from the expression of their expectation to the fulfillment of that expectation.
Customer journey maps are generally represented as info-graphs. Customer journey maps could be simple or complicated depending on what are the aspects a brand wishes to focus on. There are no set patterns to creating a map. Therefore, I would like to divide my understanding of the customer-brand interaction into these broad categories: Initial Contact, Research/Comparison, Buying and Receiving. For example, say person Jane Doe wishes to buy an item from Amazon. The costumer journey starts from the moment Jane realizes the need of the item. Below is an info-graph about Jane's journey:
It is possible for Jane to have had several other interactions with Amazon but the key touch points that we need to focus on are the ones which create a step-by-step coherent image of the process.
Now, that we have understood what a customer journey map is, we must ask the question of “why is a customer journey map required?”
Before the advent of the era of online shopping, a customer journey map was a powerful tool for marketers who would use it to enhance the quality of their services provided. An important facet of a journey map is that it focuses on actionable touch points. In today's technological age, a customer journey map is used to not only enhance the experience of online shoppers resulting in better chances of customer loyalty but also the quality of the technology itself.
A brand needs to understand that a customer does not see or care about its various factions like marketing, sales or web development; the customer sees the brand as a whole. The map then becomes important because it sensitizes the brand to the emotions of the customer at all points of interaction. It also gives the brand a chance to look at itself from an outsider's perspective. For example, Jane Doe shopping from Amazon does not care that the online marketing team for Amazon is disconnected from its offline supply chain. Even if it is the supplier's fault, Jane Doe's negative emotions would be targeted towards Amazon. A customer journey map in this situation would help Amazon in predicting Jane's emotions and take appropriate measures to placate her and ensure her loyalty.
How does a brand benefit from creating a journey map? How does a brand create the most viable customer journey map? What are the pitfalls a brand may face while creating a customer journey map?
A customer journey map is an investment for a brand but why should a brand invest in a customer journey map?
A customer journey map empowers a brand to understand a consumer's emotions, expectations, frustrations as well as concerns. It gives a marketer an insight into the customer's psyche and helps it in predicting a customer's shopping patterns. With personalization being the future of customer experience, a journey map will help a brand in enhancing its chances of business by understanding and catering to the needs of the customer.
A customer journey map is based on intense qualitative and quantitative research. Where the qualitative data is collected through focus group discussions, feedback interviews, even service centre call records. The quantitative data is collected through feedback forms, customer experience surveys, keeping track of social media mentions. There are several sites which track the social media mentions of brands as well as analyze the emotions of the said mentions.
Having said all of this, it is imperative to remember that customer journey maps are not accurate all the times. The map is created to understand and predict a customer's emotions, but the map is also created from the data available with the brand. This data could be biased, incomplete, outdated and it does not take into account the outliers. Thus, there is no right way to create a customer journey map; in fact different brands may highlight different touch points to include in their maps. One also needs to remember that a customer journey map is a live document, with changing times and development in technology, the map changes. Here are a few key aspects of a customer journey map:
Be clear about the map's purpose- Every customer journey map has a purpose. It would be better to define that purpose beforehand; otherwise extensive customer data may make the marketer feel lost.
All touch points in the map are actionable- As mentioned above, the overwhelming data may cause data paralysis to the marketer. Therefore, it is important to remember that no matter how times or technology change, the touch-points on a map must be actionable points.
The map must be created from the point of view of the customer- One of the most common mistakes made by brands is that they tend to create maps from their perspective while keeping the customer in view. Thus, they are able to divide touch points according to separate business processes. This design however, fails to capture the emotions a customer maybe feeling at that point. It is important for the senior management to be more involved with a more customer centric map design. An effective way to ensure that the map is designed from the customer's perspective is to take empathy walks with the customer.
Customer Satisfaction Indicators- Ideally, customer journey maps end with the delivery of the expected product or services. However, to ensure customer loyalty and to be one step ahead of competition, it must have some customer satisfaction indicators. Such indicators give a brand an insight into how a customer may feel about the brand in the future.
Remember a Customer Journey may not always be linear- It is important for brands to remember that customer journeys may not always be linear. A customer may jump from defining their expectation to buying the product, without even researching about it because of an influencer or other unseen/ unpredictable cause.
Understand the various paths a customer may take to buy a product-
Who does the customer journey map help? Who should have access to this map?
A journey map helps in keeping track of deliverables. An online customer's experience now includes ease of accessibility to the brand, ease of navigation through various channels as well as the website, quality of support from customer care and lucrative offers and schemes on competitive prices.
IBM lists collaboration between various verticals of an organization as one of the top five steps to optimize the benefits from the map. The map helps identify pain points for a customer as he/she moves from one channel to the other. Thus the marketing, sales, technological development and designing departments of a brand must have access to the whole map, so they understand the gaps as parts of the bigger picture. Such collaboration also helps in ensuring the optimization of customer experience as a whole.
Customer experience is a broad topic of which customer journey map is the foundation. It is through this that a brand is able to predict the responses of a customer and take appropriate measures to not just retain but acquire more customers.
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