What is the Customer Journey?

A key ingredient to successful Customer Experience (CX) is the ability to deliver exceptional experiences to your prospects and customers, wherever they may be in the customer journey.

So, exactly what is the customer journey?
Here are two great customer journey definitions:

“The customer journey is the series of interactions between a customer and a company that occur as the customer pursues a specific goal.”

– Forrester1

“A customer’s journey serves as the framework against which they anticipate, and ultimately judge, a seller… It is, simply put, the complete experience of a customer with a brand throughout their entire relationship.”

– Annette Franz, CCXP (CX Journey)2

Every touchpoint in the customer journey is an opportunity to deliver positive experiences that encourage prospects to become customers, and customers to become loyal brand advocates.

To design great experiences, CX professionals must first understand the customer journey.

This means knowing the stages that their customers must go through to achieve their goal, what touchpoints they will encounter along the way, and how everything fits within the overall customer lifecycle.

 
 

What are the customer journey stages?

There is not one single “customer journey”. Customer journey stages can be different for every customer persona, and the goals they are trying to complete.

As such, there is no set list of stages that comprise it. It all depends on how CX professionals choose and define stages that they feel are relevant to their specific brand and customers.

These stages typically cover key events that take place between the time a person becomes aware of a need they must address, to when they address it, all the way to when they may choose to share their experience with others.

Here is a general example that looks at broad categories in which most customer journey stages may fall into, with definitions of the different customer journey stages:

1. Prospect becomes aware of a need

When a prospect looks to inform themselves on a need they are facing. They may have ideas as to what brand(s) could help them address this need, but not concrete information on their specific offerings.

2. Prospect compares different options to address their need

When a prospect researches in more detail and compares different brands and their offerings to determine what option(s) can best meet their need.

3. Prospect looks to acquire their desired offering

When a prospect becomes a customer. They seek the necessary mechanisms to buy, adopt, use or subscribe to a company’s product or services that they determined would best meet their need.

4. Customer seeks support related to the offering

When a customer seeks details from the company’s support resources or company representative to resolve an issue or to help them get more out of the brand’s products or services.

5. Customer considers whether to continue using the offering

When a customer reflects on the value they are obtaining from the company and its offerings, and whether to renew, upgrade, cancel or discontinue their use of the offering. They may also compare their current offering with others by the company and competing brands.

6. Customer considers recommending the brand and its offerings

When customers take it upon themselves to share their positive experiences with a brand and their offerings with family, friends, colleagues or people outside of their immediate circle.
 
 

Where do customer journey touchpoints take place?

A touchpoint is any interaction that takes place between a brand and customer anywhere on the customer journey.

These individual touchpoints can impact how a customer perceives a brand’s overall Customer Experience, and each presents an opportunity to delight and guide them along their journey.

Customer journey touchpoints can occur through both offline and online channels, regardless of whether they are within a brand’s control.

Channels where interactions can take place along the customer journey:

Website

On-location

Phone / Call center

Email

Social Media

Word-of-mouth

Mobile app

Review sites

SMS

The number of customer journey touchpoints, and the time it takes to travel across each stage of the customer journey, can vary based on multiple factors, including:

1.

Customer preferences (e.g., how they prefer to reseaarch, purchase, contact support, etc.)

2. 

Relevance and significance of the goal (e.g., purchasing a car vs. purchasing a pen)

3.

The channels through which companies choose to interact with customers

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What is customer journey mapping?

A customer journey map provides a way for brands to understand better what a customer or customer persona might experience along their journey.

It helps familiarize them with the following items (among other things) for each stage of a specific customer journey for their customers:

The goals they are looking to accomplish

What they are expecting to be able to do

The touchpoints they may encounter

The emotions or frustrations they may be feeling

The pain points (and the “wins”) they may meet

Mapping your customer journey allows CX professionals to easily visualize every possible way a customer can interact with their brand as they travel across their journey. It also helps organize how they can go about providing a positive experience with each interaction.

There is not one correct way for how to create a customer journey map. However, to map a customer journey, CX professionals need a firm grasp on the following about their target customer personas:

What they need

The stages they will take to meet these needs

The touchpoints where they can interact with your brand

Where their “moments of truth” are in their customer journey

The pain points they may encounter across the customer journey

CX professionals can use different data sources to confirm many of these items. However, identifying where the pain points are in the customer journey, and customers’ emotions and frustrations along the way, can be difficult to do without asking your customers directly.

Customer feedback collected using a Voice of the Customer program is a critical complement to mapping the customer journey. It gives you not only the key insights to help you build a stronger and clearer map, but also design positive experiences at critical moments across the customer journey.

 
 

Voice of the Customer (vOc) and customer journey insights

US brands lose approximately $1.6T every year due to poor customer service6.

With 67% of customers saying that their standards for good experiences are higher than ever7, the need for brands to deliver exceptional experiences across the customer journey has never been higher.

To optimize the Customer Experience, brands must first understand their customers and their needs, at every step of the customer journey.

This includes answering questions such as:

What are they looking to accomplish at each stage of the customer journey?

What do they expect brands to provide them to help them accomplish their goal?

How well do they feel the brand is currently meeting these expectations?

A Voice of the Customer (VoC) program that collects customer feedback across the entire Customer Experience Landscape – on all touchpoints across each stage of the customer journey throughout the customer lifecycle – helps brands answer these questions, and visualize:

How their customers perceive their CX at each stage of the customer journey

What customer journey stages offer the strongest and weakest CX

How customer expectations differ from customer touchpoint to customer touchpoint

Using these insights, brands can inform their overall Customer Experience Management (CEM) strategy, and improve the Customer Experience across the customer journey.