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Businesses seeking to improve the customer experience often build customer journey maps—a visual representation of the various interactions a buyer has with a business.

Building that map from the outside-in—from the customer's perspective—requires a thorough understanding of the customer's needs, wants, and desires.

A common mistake that many marketers make when building a journey map is to operate within a silo, whereas interviewing executives and cross-functional stakeholders for their input and agreement on the objectives is a critical early step in the process, and will help define the scope of the effort.

Some teams actively involve employees who engage with customers on a regular basis, such as customer service representatives or front-line operations managers at retail locations. They also include individuals across the business who will ultimately be responsible for owning the improvement efforts identified during the mapping process.

When you work with your key stakeholders and your customers to develop a useful customer journey map, make sure to build the following four key elements into your map to ensure it truly represents an outside-in perspective.

1. Existing Customer Insights

Don't make building your map more complex than it needs to be. First identify what you already know about the customer journey. What insights do you have from customer feedback that you've collected at various touchpoints?

In addition to survey responses, uncover the voice of the customer from your call centers, social media, online review sites, and wherever else feedback lives. Doing so keeps your journey map as closely aligned with your customers as possible.

Existing customer feedback can be evaluated with new qualitative insights derived from interviewing key stakeholders and employees at all levels as well as customers representing your target personas.

2. Stages of the Journey

Clearly identify the various stages of the customer journey. Define what they are and when they occur.

The number of stages will depend on your business; but, to keep the map easily comprehensible, try to keep the high-level stages to less than 10. If you think you need more, you can break down your stages into smaller interactions.

To define the stages and to ensure that they are taken from the customer's perspective using their own voice, incorporate insights from the following feedback sources and listening posts:

  • Customer interviews, observation, journals, and surveys
  • Employee interviews, workshops, and surveys
  • Website and social media analytics
  • Third-party review sites
  • Call center recordings and agent notes

Tip: use this customer journey map template as a framework for you to visually represent the stages of the customer journey.

3. Customer Needs and Expectations

Once you've nailed down the stages, identify the key interactions or activities that customers have at each touchpoint with your company or partners who represent your brand. What do customers need out of each interaction? What actions does the customer take to satisfy these needs, and what does he or she expect from your business? Look to the sources of data mention in No. 2, above, to help answer those questions.

To be sure that those needs and expectations are aligned with key moments of truth, identify listening posts. Just as you incorporated existing customer feedback to determine the stages of the journey, you need to map out how you will continue to listen to customers along the way and respond to their needs.

A customer journey map is of little value if it's not actionable, so listening posts that are aligned to key points along the journey, such as moments of truth and pain points, will set a clear direction for ongoing customer experience management.

4. Customer Sentiment

Your map should include the emotional state of customers at each stage of the journey. Sentiment analysis of customer feedback is the most effective way of getting to the heart of customer emotions. It isn't enough to know what customers are talking about—you have to know how they feel. Sentiment analysis tools allow you to understand free-form text feedback with as much precision as traditional research outlets like customer surveys.

To make the map relatable to internal stakeholders and the teams that will use the map to improve the customer experience, include actual customer quotes: What is your customer saying that represents his or her thoughts, feelings, and emotions at each stage along the journey?

* * *

Remember, when you've built your journey map, your work is not done. The map should be a living document that is highly visible to all teams in your business that have an impact on the customer experience. Refresh your map every 18-24 months as customer wants, needs, and expectations evolve.

For more on how to map the customer journey, download Clarabridge's The Ultimate Guide to Customer Journey Mapping (registration required).

Continue reading "Four Critical Components of Your Customer Journey Map" ... Read the full article

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image of Koren Stucki

Koren Stucki is the vice-president of CEM consulting at Clarabridge, a customer experience management technology company.

Twitter: @korenCx

LinkedIn: Koren Stucki