Simply put, a Customer Journey is the route, or journey, your customers take from first identifying a need right through the successful resolution of that need and beyond.
A customer journey may apply to any number of scenarios, whether it be a sales process, where sometimes the customer journey is called a ‘path to purchase’ or a service related journey.
Irrespective of the context, what binds each of these journeys together is the notion that the customer will progress through a number of different stages depending on their motivations and at each stage their actions may cause them to have a brand interaction with your business.
Of course, while it is easy to slip into thinking that the Customer Journey is all about the customers interaction with your brand, the most likely scenario is that on their journey to complete a certain task the customer may choose to engage, or come into contact with multiple influencing factors. If you’re lucky, your brand will be one of these influencers.
An end-to-end process
Understanding your customer journeys, through tools such as a User Journey Map is therefore essential if you want to fully appreciate the process the customer has been through to arrive at your organisation and where their onward journey will take them after they have ended their engagement with you.
This final point is important, as in most instances the customer journey can go on well beyond the point at which they end their interaction with you. Businesses will often focus their attention on pre-sales, thinking that as long as the customer can be motivated to buy the product then their job is done.
Let’s assume for a moment I’ve just pushed a new sofa. Think for a moment about some of my needs as a customer that are still unresolved. In this instance, the I’ll likely still have a need for a delivery service, perhaps I’ll need assistance with the sofa assembly and further still, I may have concerns about what to do if the sofa gets a stain…
Do you need help to better understand and map your customer journeys? Would you like us to facilitate a journey mapping workshop?
By understanding the customer journey in a wider context, we start to gain a much better appreciation of the full range of customer needs and ultimately the drivers of long-term customer satisfaction. These insights in turn, allow us to refine and tailor our service propositions to create more compelling products aligned to the requirements of our customer.
The customer journey may not start with you
The opposite can also true. For all but the strongest of brands, a customer journey is unlikely to start with your business. From a customer perspective a number of interactions may already have taken place in advance of arriving on your website, or store, or contacting you on the phone.
To demonstrate this, think about your car insurance. Chances are long before you clicked on that buy button, you went through a series of steps, which may have included being notified of your insurance renewal premium by your previous insurer, deciding to compare alternative tariffs on a comparison website, possibly reading expert reviews, or maybe seeing an advert for insurance on TV.
While it’s unlikely your business will have an ability to control or even influence these interactions, failing to recognise they happen, may cause you to fail to understand where your customers are coming from – both literally and figuratively, and how best to welcome these customers when they do eventually find their way to you.
What do you get from understanding the Customer Journey?
By understanding the Customer Journey and literally walking in the shoes of the customer, issues will come to light that otherwise you may not have thought of before, or recognised the true importance of.
Customer Journey Analysis helps to break down the assumptions we inadvertently make about our customers, such as their level of understanding of our processes, their knowledge of the subject matter, expertise and what to do after purchasing a product from you.
If you’ve ever had to fill in a tax return online you’ll understand the importance of this intimately. While I’m sure there are plenty of tax experts out there who totally understand all the jargon – and good for them! – however, for the rest of us non-accountants, we need a little bit of additional help distinguishing our ISA’s, IHTs or IBs.
Understanding the challenges your customers face means you can pre-empt difficulties and design experiences, services and products that are tailored to customers needs from the outset, which translates into less customer confusion, fewer contacts, greatly improved customer satisfaction – and ultimately, an increase in brand advocacy.
See also: Customer Journey Mapping: A How-To Guide