Customer journey maps (CJM) have become a widely-used tool by user experience (UX) designers which enables them to gain a deeper understanding about the needs of their target users. As technology continues to evolve rapidly, 89% of companies are now competing mostly on the basis of customer experiences, according to a 2016 Gartner survey. Yet, meeting user expectations remains a major challenge for many businesses, which journey mapping can help solve as it highlights key issues that need to be fixed in order to create an ideal UX.
What are customer journey maps?
Essentially, customer journey maps are timelines of customer experiences which identify and detail specific needs. Analyst firm Walker describes a journey map in more detail as “a tool used to help [corporations] see what their customers truly want – the real moment of truth and the ways in which customers go about achieving their needs.” In a nutshell, customer journey mapping is a quick and effective way to put designers in to the shoes of the users.
Customer journey maps can be sophisticated and complicated, or short and simple. The length and complexity of these maps is often determined by the nature of a business, the number or channels or duration of the customer experience. However, most of these maps share the same objectives of analyzing and illustrating the experience across various touchpoints, identifying problem areas, and developing the right solutions to address these gaps.
It’s role in the digital user experience
With customer interactions increasingly shifting to digital platforms such as websites and apps, it has never been more important for designers to adjust their perspective and give thought to what kind of impact the end product is having on the lives of customers. Around 86% of senior-level marketers believe that creating a cohesive customer journey is absolutely critical, according to a recent Salesforce survey.
It was Steve Jobs, the architect of Apple’s unique customer experience, who once said: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.” He was clearly ahead of his time, and only recently have businesses begun to realize the importance of managing and perfecting the customer experience.
According to a recent survey by Aberdeen Group, only 36% of companies map customer journeys, and those that do achieve 54%greater year-over-year increase return on marketing investments. The same survey found companies that used journey maps were able to cut customer service costs by more than 21% and boost their revenue from customer referrals by nearly 18%.
How journey mapping actually works
By mapping out the user journey in a visual way, designers can gain valuable insights about the quality of customers’ interactions during the various touch points of the experience, and make the changes that are needed to eliminate any barriers between users and their goals. What differentiates customer journey mapping from personas and scenarios is its ability to depict the actual flow of the customer experience, break down that experience into a series of interactions, and highlight user needs and emotions along the way.
When using customer journey maps, designers and stakeholders from all areas of the business can get a much clearer picture about what the customer experience is actually like. During the mapping process, important questions are often asked that fall along the lines of what customers are likely thinking, hearing, seeing and doing, as well as the “what ifs” scenarios that are explored in more detail.
The key components
There are three main components that customer journey maps usually focus on, namely customer needs (personas showing what customers are aiming to achieve through their experience), interactions (reflecting the steps customers need to take to meet their needs), and emotions (reactions during the “touchpoints” or points of contact between the product and the customer via various channels such as websites, apps, call centers, etc.).
Building a useful customer journey map
Before you start building a customer journey map, it is important to understand the personas or the types of customers who would most likely use your product or service. Once these have been defined, the next step would be to collect valuable user feedback and map their decisions, emotions and reactions throughout their experience.
Alternatively, an affinity diagram can be used as a tool to gather large amounts of data and ideas and organize them into groups according to the natural relationships. When all of this data is organized with a customer journey map, it becomes a lot easier to analyze and identify gaps in the customer journey and come up with an action a plan to solve such problems.
The next part of the process involves brainstorming solutions to the issues at hand, which is where an empathy map can come in handy as it can help designers quickly visualize user needs. Ultimately, designers and professionals using customer journey maps are aiming to create moments of truth or positive interactions experienced by the customers that leave a lasting impression.
Putting the pieces together
There is no standard approach to sketching the customer journey, but these maps should include all of the key components mentioned above, such as the timeline, channels, touchpoints, emotions, reactions, and ideas that have been brainstormed in the previous phase. Often the case, designers have the intention to refine the customer journey map once its built, showcase it and share it with other teams within their organization.
Tools that help along the way
This is why most UX designers today will use digital tools to create customer journey maps. Google Analytics is a very useful and free tool for identifying areas of websites that are in need of UX improvement. It evaluates the entire customer journey, by analyzing customer behavior, channel performance, and other metrics and organizing the data into reports and dashboards.
Touchpoint is another tool that enables teams to visualize the customer journey in a collaborative way. What’s great is that you can import existing customer data into this program before you begin mapping the customer journey. The program comes with templates to help you get started, while it also enables you to easily edit and share information. In addition, designers who use tools like Touchpoint can ask their customers if the map they have created is accurate according to their experiences, allowing them to rank the importance of touchpoint, while the tool can provide report on how your map is performing in real time.
Tips & takeaways
Remember that a customer journey map doesn’t begin and end when a user logs on or leaves a website or app. The data used in such maps should give you a clear idea of where users are coming from in the first place (how they seek out your product), to the actual interactions, and finally the decision taken as a result of their experiences.
Customer journey mapping can often be a lot more complex than the process mentioned above. However, adopting such tools will put you on the right track and bring you closer to your goal of improving the customer’s experience by strengthening your understanding of their needs.
If used properly customer journey maps can be powerful tools that will help you create positive and memorable experiences for users, while they can also boost your bottom line and improve the UX of your app or website. By mapping the customer journey using the steps mentioned above, you have the potential to transform your product into service into something that adds value for your customers.
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