How do you measure engagement? Likes, clicks, and purchases are often the default metrics to turn to, but they don’t tell the whole story.

You need to know how much customers feel they’re in a relationship with your product, business or brand to truly measure customer engagement.

Is your product part of your customers’ daily lives? Does it fit harmoniously and instinctively into their world? Customer engagement is pivotal to UX design because of this, and one of the best tools to examine it is the customer journey map.

The customer’s perception is your reality. — Kate Zabriskie

What is a Customer Journey Map?

A customer journey map examines the relationship between a customer and an organization, brand, or product over time. It’s a research-based tool which takes all touchpoints and channels of interaction into account.

relationships

Now, you might be wondering how this is at all possible when no two customer journeys are the same. Rest assured in the knowledge that the goal is not to map out every single customer journey; it’s to generalize and give an insight into the “typical” journey of a customer. Doing so will not only provide insight into current interactions, but also shed light on the potential for future interactions with customers.

Customer journey maps can help you explore what customers think, feel, see, hear and do in relation to your business. This makes them invaluable when trying to provide stakeholders with an education into what customers perceive when they interact with your business. They have the ability to raise some interesting “what if” questions, possible answers to them, and — ultimately — some ways to improve the overall user experience.

Adam Richardson of Frog Design puts it like this in Harvard Business Review:

The more touchpoints you have, the more complicated — but necessary — such a map becomes. Sometimes customer journey maps are “cradle to grave,” looking at the entire arc of engagement.

As you can probably tell, this means customer journey maps are incredibly powerful and relevant across your entire organization. They can help align colleagues across UX design, marketing, customer service, sales, and logistics departments (just to name a few!) and enhance the holistic understanding of how customers should be treated. In this way, customer journey maps can help to break down operational silos and start to get the wheels turning in regards to a wider, customer-focused communication strategy.

Some Preparation is Required

You will need to do some preparation to get the most out of your customer journey map. Before you start to create one, you should try to have an understanding of the following:

  • User personas: You won’t know if you’ve created a typical customer journey if you don’t know the general stories behind it.
  • Timescale: The length of a customer journey largely depends on the type of product it involves. You’ll want to know whether to measure the journey over a week, year, or lifetime before you start!
  • Customer touchpoints: What your customers do and how they interact with your brand.
  • Channels in which actions occur: Where your customers interact with the business — be it via email, social media, or in-person, for example.
  • Moments of truth: Any interaction during which a customer may form an impression of your brand or product are known as moments of truth.
  • Any other actors: Friends, family, or colleagues may influence how a customer feels about a brand or product, and may therefore alter the customer experience.

How to Create a Customer Journey Map

Once your preparation is taken care of, you can follow the eight-point process below to develop your customer journey map.

  1. Create organizational objectives

    It’s essential you know what the purpose of the customer journey map is before you start to build it out. The first step is therefore to outline your goals for this mapping exercise and what organizational needs you intend to meet.

  2. Utilize existing user research

    You might be in a position where you have a bunch of user research at your fingertips. Fantastic news if that’s the case! If you’re not quite there, be creative and consider how you can carry out research that will help you define your customers’ journey.

  3. Map out touchpoints and channels

    This is where a lot of your preparation will come in handy. You need to effectively map out all touchpoints and channels so you end up with a full overview of where your customers interact with your brand or product, and the channels by which they do this. A great way to build on this stage is to brainstorm and see if there are any touchpoints or channels you’ve missed in your initial round of data collection.

  4. Create an empathy map

    You’ll start to uncover how your customers feel during each interaction with your brand or product through the creation of an empathy map. Make sure to focus on how your customers feel and think, and what they say, do, and hear in any given situation.

  5. Build an affinity diagram

    This is the point at which you’ll start to group ideas, concepts, and feelings from the previous stages into categories. You can give these categories labels and brainstorm around each of them further before you start to create a diagram which links them all together. What’s good to note is that you can also eliminate the ideas, concepts, and feelings which don’t seem to have any impact on customer experience at this stage.

  6. Sketch the customer journey

    The form your customer journey map takes is now open to interpretation. You may want to build a timeline which brings the journey together over time. You may even want to turn the map into a video, audio clip, or animation — it’s completely up to you! You’ll be on the right lines as long as you show customer movements through touchpoints and channels over time, partnered with how they feel about each interaction along that journey. That is, the customer journey map should include the outputs of your empathy map and affinity diagram.

  7. Iterate and produce

    As with all good design processes, you must move through phases of iteration. Take some time to refine the content of your sketches to ensure every part contains something useful. Your aim is to end up with a customer journey map which is visually appealing and useful to a wide variety to people — starting with your team members and stakeholders. You may even want to get a graphic designer on board at this stage if your skills don’t stretch in that direction.

  8. Distribute and utilize

    Your customer journey map won’t fulfill its purpose if it remains on your hard drive or under a pile of paper on your desk. The final stage of the process is to get it out to the masses and explain why it’s important as you do so. This is the only way all your hard work will get put to good use! For example, you should be able to define KPIs (key performance indicators) around the ideal customer journey and measure future success as you work to improve the journey.

What Does a Customer Journey Map Look Like?

A customer journey map is open to interpretation and can take any form or shape you like, as mentioned in stage six of the process above. The Interaction Design Foundation produces a wide variety of templates that are free to access, use, and distribute (with fair recognition) — and their customer journey map template is worth a look in this context. You’ll see it’s split into three key zones:

  • Zone 1: The persona this customer journey refers to, and the scenario the map describes.

    personas

  • Zone 2: Where you can capture the thoughts, actions and emotional experiences of the user, at each step of the journey. These are based on the results of the qualitative user research you carry out and can include a variety of resources including quotes, images and videos. Remember to discuss both touchpoints and channels in this section — that is, details of the customer interactions as well as where and how the interactions take place (such as in person, via email, on the website, and so on).

    capturing data

  • Zone 3: The bottom section is a place to identify the insights from each step of the journey as well as any barriers customers may face when trying to progress to the next step. You may want to turn these opportunities into action points for internal team members to handle.

    insights

In Summary

A customer journey map is a research-based tool that provides powerful insights and intimate knowledge about a “typical” customer journey. It enables you to see what your brand or product looks like from the user’s point of view, and you can translate this empathy into a design that better accommodates your customers’ needs and removes (or alleviates) as many pain points as possible.

Every stakeholder who views it will get the chance to contribute towards an improved customer experience. In this way, customer journey maps are relevant across an entire organization — to align customer perception and treatment, and improve the overall user experience.

The Interaction Design Foundation (IDF) is a nonprofit organization on a mission to make design education accessible and affordable. Their range of UX design courses are completely online and self-paced, and provide industry-recognized Course Certificates which are backed by the world’s strongest authority on UX design.

This piece is based on Customer Journey Maps – Walking a Mile in Your Customer’s Shoes.



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