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A guide to understand the different stages of a customer journey and using them to improve customer experience.
The customer journey is the path followed by customers through the stages of their relationship with the company, which include all the interactions between the customer and the business over a variety of channels. From their first time hearing about the business, to the end of their relationship, and everything in between, a customer journey includes every touchpoint across every department and makes up the customer experience.
For example, a common customer journey for a SaaS customer might start with them seeing an ad for your product on a website. A few days later, they see a tweet advertising a new blog post that you wrote. They read the blog and sign up for your newsletter. The next month they click through a marketing email to set up a free trial. After using the software for a few days, they are hooked! They talk to sales to sign up on an annual plan. But disaster strikes and they run into a bug when they upgrade. The customer starts talking to customer support to fix the bug.
All of these pieces and the many more that might come afterward are all part of this customer’s journey. Notice how many different departments and teams are involved. Almost every team in the business will play a part in the customer’s journey - which is why it’s so important to have a good understanding of what a customer goes through.
A customer journey map is a visual representation of a customer’s experience with your company, created from your customer’s perspective. It includes every touchpoint the customer might run into, along with their goals and emotions as they progress along their journey.
Each segment of customers has a unique journey map associated with their experience. For example, an admin will likely have a different customer journey than an everyday user. The admin might have been involved in the buying and evaluation process and set up the account, whereas the user might have only received a training from the admin, but interacts with the product much more frequently. Their journeys are different, their needs are different and the way that we support them should be different.
Understanding where your customer has been is important for knowing where they are going, and what they need from you. For customer support, having more context about your customer’s history means that you can personalize their support experience. Imagine a customer who only interacts with your website through their mobile device. If your help center isn’t mobile friendly, you’ve completely disrupted their journey. They won’t be able to easily find solutions to their questions, which results in a negative experience.
This is the importance of managing the customer experience over the entirety of the customer’s journey. Your customer’s perception of your business isn’t made or broken in a moment - instead, it’s a culmination of all the different interactions they have with you.
Putting together a customer journey map is a great exercise to step into the experience your customers have. Having a deep understanding of all the different touch points along your customer’s journey can help identify where you might be falling short of their expectations.
To design your first customer journey map, set aside time to get everyone involved in the same room (or video call if you’re remote). You’ll first break down the entire customer experience into bite-sized interactions. Then, flesh out each of these touchpoints from the customers’ perspective. Finally, put the map together based on the customer’s maturity stage. For more detail on creating a customer journey map, follow the five steps outlined below.
Start by gathering all of the different touchpoints that exist between you and your customers. This might involve customer interviews, a group brainstorming session, or stepping through the journey as a customer yourself. A list of touchpoints might include things like: signed up for a free trial, had a customer support question, received the first invoice.
Identify key activities during each touchpoint from a customer’s perspective. What information do they need? What are they trying to accomplish? What emotions might a customer be feeling during each touchpoint? Is it a positive or negative experience? Key activities help to flesh out the experience the customer is having at each touchpoint.
For example, key activities for an online tech company might include paying a bill, upgrading to a new plan, installing an app, inviting a new user, or contacting customer support. Each of these require different information to complete and might leave the customer feeling accomplished, frustrated or satisfied.
Determine what makes each interaction successful, or not. For example, contacting customer support would be successful if the customer received an accurate answer in a reasonable time frame. Identifying the metrics that measure the experience each touchpoint provides starts to make the customer journey map more actionable.
Now it’s time to put the journey map together. Using the stages in your customer lifecycle (acquisition, onboarding, trial, etc) place each interaction on the customer journey map. You can be as fancy or as basic as you like when plotting the points. Many companies really like using post-it-notes on a whiteboard for their first version of the customer journey map.
Evolve the journey map over time. While the customer journey mapping exercise is quite a lengthy process, it’s important to go back and review it consistently. If you notice new touchpoints that aren’t included in the existing map, it’s time to revise your journey. As new information comes to light, don’t be afraid to shake up your visual journey map.
Every customer journey map will be different depending on the type of business and the types of customers they serve. However, there are a few essential aspects that every map should include to be useful.
Personas: Before starting to design the customer journey map, make sure you’re crystal clear on whose journey you’re walking through. Every customer persona will have a different experience. Instead of trying to make a generalized journey, choose a specific persona to design for. A persona is a characterization of a segment of customers who have similar needs, goals, and motivations. For example, you might do one journey map for admins and one for general users, or you might have separate personas for different industries due to very different usage styles.
When designing your customer journey map, there are a few key points to keep in mind in order to end up with the most helpful document.
Customer Journeys might not be linear. In fact, they almost never are. Your customer might jump ahead and back in the journey several times during their lifetime. Not every customer will have the same experience, even if they are in the same segment. That’s okay. For simplicity’s sake, we map journeys as linear because it’s much easier to visualize that way.
Breaking down silos will give you a more well-rounded picture of the customer’s experience. Invite stakeholders from as many different departments as you can to the table when you’re creating the journey map. From marketing to product to sales - every department has a hand in shaping the customer’s experience and can provide a unique view. Even departments that aren’t conventionally customer facing (like HR) will be able to contribute to this exercise.
Be real and don’t just map out the ideal customer experience. A customer journey map shouldn’t be aspirational - it should be realistic. Only by laying out what your customers are currently experiencing (even if it’s a bit painful) can you start taking the steps to improve it. This is why it’s so important to incorporate user research into the process. You might even walk through your process yourself to experience every painful bump in the road or unexpected touchpoint.
Keep it front and center. Once you’ve designed your customer journey map, it might be tempting to throw it in a drawer, or erase the whiteboard and never think of it again. But the work is not done once you’ve designed the journey. In fact, it’s only beginning. Keep your customer journey map at the forefront of customer experience decisions in order to deliver a more unified experience across the entire customer journey.
One of the most helpful parts of using a journey map to manage the customer experience is that it shows you exactly what places you should be measuring how customers are feeling. At each touchpoint, determine what measurements will help to illuminate the current state of the customer experience.
For example, if one of the touchpoints in your customer journey is when customers receive their delivery, how could you measure the experience? You could look at the number of deliveries that were on time or early, you can send customers a survey asking about the delivery experience or you could track the number of customer support tickets you receive about the delivery.
Once you’re measuring the success of each touchpoint along the journey, you can look at how positive the overall experience is for customers - and how important each touchpoint is for creating a great customer experience. This helps to isolate what the main drivers of customer experience are for your business.
Understanding the customer journey is essential to providing proactive customer service. Proactive customer service is when you are able to resolve and prevent issues before the customer even notices it’s an issue. There are four areas to look at when you’re starting to offer proactive service:
When customer service agents are answering a ticket in Freshdesk, they can automatically view the customer’s journey through the self-service portal. Turning on the Customer Journey feature will show the last five solution articles that the customer has read before submitting a ticket. This helps prevent an agent from suggesting that the customer go read or try something that they’ve already been through unsuccessfully. It saves time and limits frustration on both the agent’s and the customer’s side. If an agent does miss it and tries to link to a solutions article the customer has recently viewed, Freshdesk will automatically alert the agent to make sure they still want to send the article along.
Having more context means that we can see things from the customer’s perspective. We can help them better because we already know where they’ve been.
The more of the customer journey that you can bring into your helpdesk, the more context your customer service team will have. Identifying where your customer is in their journey can provide clues as to what they might run into next. For example, if a customer is close to renewal, customer support agents can pull in the sales team to close the deal when things are resolved.
There are many ways that your customer service helpdesk and your customer journey interact. Your customer journey informs how you set up your helpdesk, and the insights from your customer conversations can help validate and evolve your customer journey map.
Knowing the next step along your customer’s journey allows you to think one step ahead of them. That means things like using live chat to offer supportbefore the customer even starts to look for help, or sending out emails to let customers know about upcoming deliveries or products they might be interested in.
When you’ve documented all of the possible touchpoints between a customer and your company, you can identify the most critical ones for providing a great customer experience. Using your helpdesk’s automation features, you can set smarter SLAs for these moments or route these questions to a high priority queue. Make it as easy as possible for customers to get help when they need it the most.
Your customer journey is always changing, and so should your customer journey map. Once you’ve created it, you’ll need to return periodically to update and revise it based on changes you’ve made to your customer experience.
This is where your helpdesk reporting can come in handy. If you have issues that aren’t currently represented on your journey map coming into your contact channels, you might need to revisit it.
Insights from the helpdesk (like customer satisfaction surveys and the number of tickets) can also help to inform your customer journey map. Customer service is a direct line to the thoughts and feelings of your customers - so don’t miss out on incorporating this valuable data into your customer experience management programs.
The way you communicate with your customers can influence so much of their journey with your brand. That’s why it’s critical to use a modern helpdesk that can support conversations with customers over a variety of channels.
With your customer journey map in hand, you can make the most out of Freshdesk’s powerful and extensive features.
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