Customer Journey: Brief Summary
The customer journey can be described as the complete process that a customer goes through when interacting with an organisation or brand. That process includes multiple different stages, from the time when the customer first becomes aware of a brand, its products and/or its services, right through to becoming a customer and even beyond that point.
Customer journey mapping is an associated approach to service design, where the organisation attempts to chart the customer journey, in order to better understand the overall customer experience. This then allows you to identify the areas of strength and weakness, and then make improvements, with a view to boosting your business results.
Customer Journey: Detailed Summary
On a basic level, the customer journey describes the different steps in the relationship between a customer and an organisation or brand. This journey often starts at the point when they first become aware of a brand, its products or services, and it may end at any point from there until the stage at which they become a loyal, enthusiastic customer.
In fact, the customer journey can usually be broken down into five main stages, which are as follows:
- Awareness – The customer becomes aware of your brand, or the products or services you have to offer. They also recognise that they have a need and determine that you could be able to provide a solution to it. Awareness could arise as a result of advertising, chance encounters, referrals or other means.
- Acquisition – When a customer starts to act upon their interest, they enter the acquisition phase, where they want to try a service, buy a product, or otherwise become a customer. However, this can also be a fragile phase of the journey, which may involve registration or subscription, and customers may still back out or fail to fully convert.
- Onboarding – The onboarding phase is sometimes seen as the stage of the customer journey where a person progresses to being a valuable customer. To give an example, somebody who registers for an account with Amazon or eBay has been ‘acquired’, but actually using that account for its intended purpose is when they are ‘onboarded’.
- Engagement – During the engagement phase, a customer’s attachment to your brand or its products or services grows. This could mean that they make use of your products or services more frequently, or that they become a long-term customer. It may also mean taking an interest in your organisation beyond its products and services.
- Advocacy – The final phase of the customer journey involves satisfied customers becoming brand advocates. This occurs when an organisation or brand has done such a good job of satisfying customer needs and expectations that they recommend you to friends, refer customers to you, leave positive feedback and/or help to promote your brand.
It should be noted that customers can progress through these stages at different speeds, and many customers will not actually complete the full customer journey. Some customers become aware of a product or service, try it out, and become attached to the brand quickly, while others may never become attached. Some customers may become dissatisfied early on, or find greater satisfaction elsewhere, before ever reaching ‘engagement’ or ‘advocacy’.
The customer journey is closely related to the concept of customer experience too, although those two terms do describe slightly different things. The customer journey describes the stages of the relationship and the actions customers take, whereas the customer experience is primarily concerned with feelings, or the emotional response.
Nevertheless, many modern businesses now compete based on the customer experience they provide, and for some, customer experience may even be more important than products or pricing. As an example, many customers are willing to pay more for the same product if you can offer things like friendly staff, personalisation and reliable technical support, resulting in a customer experience that goes beyond what your rivals are able to offer them.
Understanding and tracking the journey your customers go on can help you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your brand. It also allows you to determine how many customers are actually completing the journey and how many drop out early. This, in turn, can facilitate change and greatly enhance your ability to compete based on customer experience. However, in order to do this effectively, you will need to actually map out the customer journey.
Mapping the Customer Journey
Before you can fully understand the customer journey and the experience you provide, you need to go beyond the basic five stages and map out the specific customer touchpoints associated with your organisation. This means identifying each and every point at which a customer could come in contact with your organisation, or your products or services.
For example, during the awareness phase, they may stumble upon your website, or they may see an advertisement on social media. Alternatively, they could search for something on Google and end up on your company blog, see one of your Tweets because it has been retweeted by a friend, or read about your brand in an industry publication.
Touchpoints extend far beyond the awareness phase too, so you will also need to think about all of the different ways customers may come into contact with your organisation later in the customer journey. Do you have a company newsletter or a mailing list for promotional emails? Do you run television, print and online adverts? Do you have a customer service phone number? Do you have multiple social media channels?
You need to consider the process of becoming a customer as well. This may include registering for an account on your website, or ordering products or services via the telephone. You might have physical stores, or you might have a presence at major industry trade shows. What is the buying process like? What support do you offer after a purchase?
Once you have mapped out the customer journey properly, considering all of the different touchpoints, you can start to measure performance. This allows you to pinpoint the exact areas where you are meeting or exceeding customer expectations, as well as the areas where you are falling short. Examples of some of the metrics you can use here include conversion rates from ads, or first contact resolution rates from customer service calls.
You can also track customer feedback on review platforms, social media platforms and from surveys that you send out. Once you have plenty of feedback, you can start to look for trends within it, and this can allow you to draw more accurate, evidence-based conclusions about the customer journey.
In addition to helping you to track performance, mapping the customer journey and using relevant data can also help you to understand consumer behaviours. This may help you to learn important information, such as the channels they prefer to use for purchases or for customer service, allowing you to optimise internal processes.
The customer journey can be broadly broken down into the five main stages – awareness, acquisition, onboarding, engagement and advocacy. This can be useful for tracking how many people actually complete the journey right the way through to genuine customer loyalty. However, to fully understand the customer journey and the kind of experience you provide, you will also need to map out customer touchpoints and use data to draw useful conclusions.