8 Steps in Understanding Your Customers Journey | Customer Journey Mapping
Updated: Oct 17
Don Davis PhD, MBA
Customer Journey Maps are not just a buzzword. They are a useful tool in taking others along on the journey that your customer experiences. A customer journey map is also a great way to sketch out the feelings of both highs and lows that a customer experiences so that you can clearly illustrate the customer feeling to people in your organization that is visually appealing that cannot take a field trip to experience it themselves.
The most valuable thing that anyone at a company can have is substantial customer interactions. Understanding a customer’s journey in many companies will help you overcome the stagnate or possibly short-sided views of individuals so that you can solve more significant company problems. In Lean, there is a term Genchi Genbutsu which translates to “real location, real thing,” and frequently, this statement is simplified down to “go and see.” If at all possible, get out of the office and “go and see.” Calling people is fine but immerse yourself in this journey. Customer journey mapping can be your excuse for understanding how customers arrive in your company, customer pain points, what customer persona arrives most often, how customers interact with your company and lastly how closely your organization determines the customer needs. Customer journey maps take the broader view of their entire journey versus just looking at customer feedback to best understand how to improve.
At the beginning of your customer journey, before you ask a customer needs the first question, you need to understand “why” you need a customer journey map research. Some of the examples I have seen from companies I have worked with are:
We are working on a transformation of one part of the organization and we need the customer’s perspective to ensure we are changing the right things.
We want to build tremendous customer satisfaction with their experience with the company.
We are building a product, and from the start, we need the customers’ perspective to drive customers' buy-in.
In the eight steps below, we are going to walk through some high-level portions of the customer journey. Customer journey mapping is not a simulation, and it is not you sitting somewhere trying to think like you're wearing a customer's shoes. This may be obvious to some of you, but I feel like it needs to be said, Get out there and ask your customers! and let's dig into deeper insight.
Customer Journey Maps
1. Setting Things Up
Suppose you are going to ask a customer for their valuable time. Why should they give it to you? Make sure that you are going to take action. If not, please do not start this process. It takes time and energy on your part, but it will be a harsh reminder that you do not follow through with your customer feedback if you do not take action improved customer retention.
Write out why your customers should give you their time. Describe why you want to interview them and how you are going to put it in action.
Write out what you are going to do to follow up with them and let them know how you have used their input.
Work with your stakeholders and improve the research process to identify customers that you should interview.
When setting up the interviews with customers, describe the “WIFM” (What is in it for me?). These words accurately reflect what you are trying to do and how you hope to use the customer data. As you interview them go though each of the customer touchpoints to make sure that you have fully captured a journey map represents the customer experience.
2. Customer Persona
Who is buying your product? Who is calling in for customer service? Who is it that makes all of the decisions about what is most valuable, from the customer's perspective? Is the person that you are focused on biased in one way or another from the start of the journey?
Understanding the personas will give solid identify patterns input about the point of view of average customer holds of your company. As you think about this starting point, stay focused on what your customer expectations are within their persona (i.e. is the expectation for something they purchased to improve productivity in their department? Maybe they are measured on good outcomes based on what you are offering). A deeper understanding of what the goals of the different customer personas are key in this process.
Create a list of customer personas and target customers to validate that list with other people in the entire organization.
While you are interviewing customers on their journey validate your list of personas.
3. Where does the customer journey start?
How does your customer research begin whatever journey you are mapping? If it is a sales teams process, how do they get in touch with Sales? What is that experience like? Is it via email, phone call, via SMS, or do they reach out via social media channels?
As someone who has led service teams in the past, I have seen where customer engagement will go around call centers to avoid the initial screening that goes on to try and direct them to the right person. Instead, customers want to directly reach out to the target persona. In many cases, this could the customer service team who is routinely on the phone or working to identify gaps and solve problems of customers. If the buyer journey starts with going around the process that you are looking at a particular touchpoint, it is time to ask why?
Ask a customer to show you a visual representation to start the process with your company. Capture what it takes and especially capture the mood of the customer interacting as they go through the process.
4. Follow the Customer's Footprints
At each step in creating a customer journey, you want to gain the customer journey mapping important perspective, through their eyes. What are the major steps and how customer takes about that portion of the process?
Ask a customer actions to show you. There is nothing more validating than getting to see what your customer sees at each one of their touchpoints. I am writing this at the time that COVID-19 has many of us locked up. If you cannot see it in person ask a customer to screen share with you. Interview them with video and watch their facial expressions.
Develop a high level process map with steps and feelings from the entire customer journey.
Have one person capture notes with the customer touchpoints while another gets a more of the perspectives from the customer survey.
One of my favorite shows as a kid was Columbo. For those of you who have not watched it, there are episodes on YouTube and from my perspective it is classic TV worth watching. Columbo was a detective and while investigating the case he often times would start asking questions of a suspect. The scene then would turn to just when you thought Columbo was walking away. He would then turn and say “just one more thing” and then the most important question of all would come out of him.
As you go through your interviews think of yourself as Columbo. You are trying to solve what excites or frustrates your existing customers throughout their journey. The goal of understanding the existing customer journey is to focus on your company and what could be improved. Use your detective skills to conduct research, survey customers, and really dive into what is going on throughout your customer's experience.
5. Capture the detail
After the initial interview is over make sure you take time to capture the details. I would plan at least one hour per interview to clean up your notes and walk through the interview in your mind to ensure that you have fully outlined what is happening and when.
For every customer interaction in your schedule makes sure you plan time to capture the detail after the call. Schedule at least one hour per interview to think through what you just heard. Write down the details and try to adequately capture the valuable information you have just been given.
Raw notes about the real customer experience are the pain points, what we need at this point. Walk through the steps and what the customer was doing. Did you get all of the information that they gave you?
6. How To Build a Customer Journey Map
When you search online for real customers' journey map templates you will find hundreds of different ways to capture what you have just learned from your customer. In large part, these are summary templates for telling your story. I personally use Visio or PowerPoint to build a visual representation for a customer journey map for a client. No matter how you do it there are a couple of details you want to make sure are in the materials for telling the story: A high level process map, an area to talk about what you observed and a place to show the customers feel (Note: PowerPoint now has icons that you can use for all sorts of emotions).
Here is a link to customer journey map templates by User Interviews.com. After you review a few of them print out some versions that you like.
Build your template in either Microsoft Visio or Powerpoint.
7. Build what the future will look like
As you fast forward to the future what do you want to change? Is there one major pain point in the customer experience that needs to be changed? Can you change or shift something that the customer is experiencing from a real downer to something that will end with a flat or upward emotional feeling? How can you build real excitement about what the customer is doing with you? How can you make sure that their next step will leave a positive emotion behind? If you could time travel into the future 3 years from now what do you want customers to be saying about your process or your product?
Hold a team brainstorming session. What do you want to remove or significantly change?
Use this future-looking exercise time to develop the “guiding principles” for somehow to accurately predict the future state customer journey.
8. Comunicate, Communicate, Communicate
Your customer has just provided you with absolute gold, their point of view. Too many times this information is just shared with one department or even worse, one individual. In this step you need to get out there and share with people that are on your project what was just given to you, personally or on any social channels. To use Stephen Covey’s analogy of the circle of influence, you need to be communicating to your circle of control, circle of influence, and circle of concern what you learned from your customer.
After building your story setup meetings with people all around your circle of influence to talk about the findings.
Start to build how you are going to put your findings, and find solutions into action.
Don’t forget to circle back when the time is appropriate and tell the customers you interviewed what you have done with what they told you.
Now that you have the 8 steps for building a customer journey map, get out there and give it a try. I hope that this was helpful. If you would like to review more of my content feel free to visit one of the more recent articles: The Role of the Chief Operating Officer (COO)
If you have any questions, comments or would like to discuss Customer Journey Mapping please feel free to setup some time.