A definition of Customer Journeys
Customer Journeys are an essential concept in the domain of customer experience management. A customer journey describes all events and experiences a customer goes through to reach a goal, fulfill a need or while interacting with a brand. A customer journey consist of events that describe what has happened to the customers as well as experiences that describe how the customer felt during these events. Events and experiences are then translated into a visualization to show positive and negative experiences. Customer journeys are often compared to customer processes and buying cycles, the main difference is that customer journeys explicitly include emotions and not just events or activities.
The scope of a customer journey depends on the research scope and can focus only on the interactions a customer has with a company or go beyond an organizations boundaries and include all interactions that a users experiences, starting with the first moment he was aware of a need until his need was fulfilled. The customer journey of a car buyer could be visualized as shown below.
The timeline on the X-Axis that shows the sequence of the events have happened, the Y-Axis shows the emotions of the buyer and how they have experienced each event. This visualization also shows the benefit compared to traditional measures of customer satisfaction which usually provide solely one dimensional perspective on the customer experience and customer satisfaction. Customer journeys add another dimension which dramatically increases the resolution of your understanding of the customer experience.
Customer Journeys provide new insights into consumers by incorporating an emotional as well a time-based dimension of consumer behavior.
Customer Journeys and Customer Experience
Customer journeys are an essential tool for customer experience management because they provide complete, high-resolution insights into the customer’s experiences and behavior. Customer journeys are the visualization of your customer’s experiences while interacting with your brand and it turns out that improving customer experience without understanding the customer journey is a very difficult endeavor.
A customer journey can also contain events that are not directly related to a company yet are still relevant to understand consumer behavior. Two customers who buy a smartphone on Amazon.com might have completely different journeys. While one customer might spend most of his time on non-Amazon websites before his purchase, others might go directly to the site and rely heavily on the recommendations and product reviews on Amazon.com itself. Understanding these differences in behavior builds the foundation to extend existing services and reduce friction from the customer’s experience. Informed decisions for improving the customer experience can only be made by understanding these differences in the customer journeys.
Documenting Customer Journeys
The first step to document customer journeys is to identify relevant customers. If personas have already been defined one could select real customers that represent certain personas, if one hasn’t worked with personas before one can select users and develop personas based on your insights separately.
There are two fundamental approaches how to document customer journeys:
Ad-Hoc Documentation:Ad-Hoc customer journey documentation happens when customers document their customer journeys right at the moment the events and experiences happen. This can be done through hand-written diaries that are written by the customer and analyzed after a certain time period.
Post-Hoc Documentation: Post-Hoc customer journey documentation uses interviews to understand the event and experiences a customer has had when interacting with a certain company. Instead of interviews it is also possible to use web-based tools that help customers to document their customer journeys.
The starting point for both of these research methods can be freely defined, it usually starts with the questions: “What was the first event that lead to the decision buy a car/buy a smartphone/do ….”. Users document their customer journeys and the results of these journeys are then analyzed and synthesized into one consolidated customer journey. This consolidated customer journey is then used to perform an analysis where improvements can be implemented.
Working with Customer Journeys
Once a consolidated customer journey has been created, the next step is to work with this customer journey to identify the areas that influence the customer experience.
1) Where do customers have positive, neutral and negative experiences?
2) What can be done to improve the customer experience in these areas?
3) Are there any events where activities of the organization go unnoticed by the customers and do not generate a positive return?
The primary focus should certainly be on removing negative customer experiences as well as identifying events that are present an opportunity to create positive customer experiences. While the documentation and analysis of the customer journey has been an analytic process, the development of solutions to address these problems is a creative process which we call “customer experience design”.
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