Explore Your Customer Journey with Customer Experience Maps

By Kathryn Casna

The customer experience isn’t what it used to be. It’s no longer just about bringing people into your store and skillfully selling them your wares. Consumers are inundated with opportunities to buy products everywhere they go, including in their own homes. A great customer experience encompasses all those opportunities and provides more value than your competitors do on diverse platforms.

McKinsey Research and Harvard Business Review put together a study that shows 73 per cent of consumers are omnichannel, meaning they interact with a brand across several channels. That could include shopping in store and online simultaneously, reading your company blog, getting your newsletter, chatting with you on social media, and more.

Catering to omnichannel audiences is important. These shoppers spend an average of four per cent more in store and 10 per cent more online. Additionally, the more channels they used, the higher those percentages increased.

That said, omnichannel marketing is challenging. Doing it well means providing a seamless experience across every channel and breaking down silos in your organization. Many customer experience (CX) professionals struggle to get buy-in from department heads and leadership for coordinated omnichannel experiences. How do they unite multiple teams and departments to work together in an entirely new way? And, more importantly, how do they get their bosses to buy into that move?

The answer is customer experience mapping.

Customer Experience Mapping

A customer experience map is a carefully researched document that seeks to understand how customers feel about the touchpoints in your customer journey. The process of creating one is similar to creating a customer journey map, but they are two distinct documents that examine customers from different angles.

It’s understandable that many organizations use the term “customer experience journey mapping” to mean the process of creating either or both of these documents. After all, each is a visual representation of a company’s customers that helps different departments understand how to serve those customers better.  

Still, there are some key differences between customer journey and customer experience maps.

What Is Customer Journey Mapping?

A customer journey map typically follows one buyer persona. It’s common for companies to develop many customer journey maps, each targeting a different customer avatar. The map shows how a particular buyer moves through the sales funnel on a quest for different products or services.

Think of it like using the “Get directions” feature of a map service like Google Maps or Waze. The map shows where the customer begins their journey, where that journey (or a particular segment of that journey) with your brand could end, and all the stops in between.

These kinds of maps may begin with a customer’s realization that they have a need, then cover the research they do, their awareness of your brand, how they make contact with you, and how they complete a purchase.

Creating this focused document helps answer questions about how a segment of your customers typically moves through touchpoints on their way to purchasing a product or service. Many companies create multiple journey maps to cover the various ways people are likely to travel through the sales funnel.

Customer journey maps are important, but they don’t tell the full story. You also need to get a sense of who your customers are, how they react to each touchpoint, and how they feel throughout their journey. You need to get inside your customers’ heads.

That’s precisely what customer experience maps are for.

What Is Customer Experience Mapping?

The customer journey map shows the starting point, touchpoints, and method of conversion; the customer experience map shows how customers feel throughout the journey. If a customer journey map is like getting directions on how to get customers from point A to point B, then a customer experience map is about the experience of taking the trip and realizing one stop should be skipped, another is a lot of fun, and another is frustratingly busy.

A customer experience map captures the emotional picture of interacting with your brand.

Why Create a Customer Experience Map?

When done well, a customer experience map can reveal new ways to attract and retain customers, opportunities in the market no other company is pursuing, and the best ways to keep customers happy during their buyer journeys with your company. Discovering these insights takes some work, as well as buy-in from multiple departments. Go into customer experience mapping with specific goals, such as:

  • Improving customer retention 
  • Increasing customer satisfaction 
  • Understanding how certain touchpoints may be causing customer attrition 
  • Uncovering ways to grow customer loyalty 
  • Understanding what parts of the user experience are doing well 
  • Discovering opportunities to create competitive advantage

Each of these goals involves eliminating any friction between how and why the business does things and how and why it affects customers.

How to Create a Customer Experience Map

So how do you get into a customer’s head? Collect quantitative and qualitative data and do a lot of research on their experience. If possible, your data should include interviews with customer-facing people within your organization, as well as analytics you can collect from your customer relationship management (CRM) platform. More importantly, conduct customer surveys or interviews that ask about emotions and thought processes throughout the experience. Ask specific questions about your touchpoints. Take your research a step further and conduct focus groups or surveys with prospective and previous customers, as well as consumers who have never purchased from your company.

Customer Experience Map Use

Once you gather your research, break down the experience into emotional stages. These stages will coincide with touchpoints. Your research will reveal which touchpoints are creating frustration, if any help customers move more quickly through the funnel, and how the journey affects customers overall.

Use this information to smooth the way. Try to improve the customer experience by updating, modifying, or removing touchpoints that negatively affect the customer and their journey. Your customer journey map and customer experience map go hand in hand and can help you guide customers more effectively to purchase.

Getting Buy-In

Most consumers are willing to pay more for an upgraded experience and discovering how to optimize that experience can differentiate your brand from competitors. Great customer experience maps also take a lot of work, from collecting the right research to analyzing data and designing a clear, helpful document. That means you need leadership buy-in and a budget.

It can be hard to get leadership to support such a time-consuming project without first establishing a clear link to profitability. If you find yourself on a one-person crusade to build a customer experience map, it’s okay to start small.

Gather what research you have access to and chat with customer-facing employees. Get to know people from your target market. When it comes to creating the map itself, skip the bells and whistles and fancy designs and create a simple mock-up instead. Easy-to-use customer experience mapping tools can be a huge help, too.

Use the insights you gain from your research to suggest a single or simple change that has the power to make a huge impact. According to McKinsey & Company, “Armed with advanced analytics, customer-experience leaders gain rapid insights to build customer loyalty, make employees happier, achieve revenue gains of five to 10 per cent, and reduce costs by 15 to 25 per cent within two or three years.” When your boss asks how you came up with such an insightful idea, that’s your cue to pitch a more extensive customer experience mapping project.

Conclusion

The best way to provide a great omnichannel customer experience is to ensure everyone in your organization understands your customers better. A well-researched, clear, visually appealing customer experience map is key to penetrating silos and bringing departments together to create touchpoints that reach your target audience and add value to your customer journey.

About the author

 
Kathryn Casna is a digital marketing and travel writer from San Diego, California. Customer-facing retail, hospitality, and event production make up her professional roots. Today, she runs her own writing business from whatever new locale she happens to be exploring.

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