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Customer journey maps. They’re all the buzz these days (okay … so we’re kind of giving away what circles we run in, aren’t we? They’re all the buzz in the customer experience world, okay?). If you yourself happen to work in customer experience you may be familiar with customer journey maps already.

Essentially, customer journey maps are a method to understand each point of contact your customers go through as they shop, work with customer support, surf through your website, or weave through your store. Instead of relying on online click data, call center metrics, or observing shopping behavior, customer journey mapping takes a more “scientific approach” to the buyer’s journey. They are built with actual observation of customer behavior, and the end goal is to tell a story about key interactions that customers have with your organization. To sum it up, customer journey maps tell the story of the customer experience.

In fact, customer journey maps are really necessary if you’re trying to elevate customer loyalty, improve customer service satisfaction scores, or really, to put it bluntly, just get customers to buy more from you. And enjoy the experience.

So how do you create these “customer journey maps”?

Fair question. The methodologies, software programs, and data mining used to create customer journey maps are varied. The end goal of a customer journey map is to see the pathway that a customer persona type takes as she works with your brand.

Let’s say that we want to understand how a customer contacts customer support if there’s a problem. The customer journey map will show her process: Perhaps she first goes to your website to find the answer. We see which pages she clicks on. Not finding the answer, she then tries emailing customer support. After two days, she hasn’t heard back, so she then resorts to calling the support line. Once on the phone, she has to navigate through a complex phone tree, sit on hold, and then finally, she’s able to speak to a customer support representative.

Since we can see this process on the map, we’re able to identify shortcuts or a smoother process that this type of customer might go through to get questions answered. In fact, through the customer journey map process, we could even identify how to redesign the website so that the customer can solve her problem quickly, or we might explore building in a live chat feature for her to query.

The beauty of customer journey mapping is that it saves you time, and it saves the customer frustration, because you’re able to visualize the process that customers go through, instead of surmising or guessing how customers interact with your brand.

There are multiple methods to create customer journey maps, as we mentioned, but we’ve found that the most effective way is to create a qualitative research study that helps us actually see how customers behave. With qualitative research, we’re able to interview customers, observe their behavior, and watch the process unfold. If we just rely on data and heat maps online, we may miss out on the “feelings” behind the actions. We will surely miss out on the “why’s” behind a customer’s approach, which leaves a big hole in the customer journey mapping process.

The final step in customer journey mapping: Make it your first step

Customer journey mapping can be remarkably effective, but if you put it off until you’ve started to see loyalty decrease or your Customer Satisfaction Rates (CSAT) rates plummet, you’ll be spending unnecessary resources to undo the damage.

So here’s a better way: Any time you create a new website, set up a customer support system, or even invest in customer service training, first seek to understand the journey that your customers go through when they interact with you. Bring in a third-party research company that puts a proven methodology behind customer journey mapping, and armed with this data (and the map!) you’ll have actionable information to work from, based on how actual customers shop, click, or ask.

Want to feel like Magellan? Great. Let’s create that customer journey map together. We are a top San Francisco market research firm specializing in customer journey mapping >