On the surface, crafting a good customer experience looks simple. You offer a product or service that the customer needs and the customer buys it. Deal done! Sounds easy, right? Look  closely and you’ll realize that delivering good CX is neither that simple, nor that easy.

To tune in to the customer experience, you need to think, feel, act, and react like your customer. This is not hard to do, especially if you believe your brand offers a product or service that people have a real need for. In fact, understanding your customers’ needs is the essence of being able to put yourself in their shoes.

 To map the customer buying journey you need to adopt a customer persona and experience their buying journey while walking in their shoes.

Establish context with a timeline. Start at the beginning and retrace your customers’ steps to when they first became aware of your product or service, right up until it became a purchase option. Now ask yourself how and why this happened.

  • Was it customers’ needs that made your brand relevant?

  • Was it your brand that made customers aware of their need?

  • Was it the purchase experiences of people they trust that drew them to your brand?

Identify the reason, learn everything you can about it, mark its position on your customer journey map, and make your way up to the actual moment of purchase. All the while paying heed to when, where, why, and how customers decided to buy your product or service, or your competition’s. If it is the latter, take heart, because there is probably plenty for you and your team to learn and understand from that particular buying journey.

Collaborate to keep it relevant. Take the time to share your experience with your team and include them in the process. Have them each pick a persona to trace a customer journey for themselves. With the information and understanding from this experience, your team will be better equipped to understand the information and map your customers’ buying journeys.

Maintain accuracy to make it effective. Be diligent and stay true to the task at every step.  The extent and accuracy of your information will determine the effectiveness of the process and its outcome. The more accurate and detailed the map is, the more effective your marketing efforts are likely to be.

Classify touchpoints to evaluate the buying journey. Multiple points of interaction between your brand and your customer occur before, during, and after purchase. These touchpoints can be broadly classified as:

  • Direct communication with support, sales, or marketing personnel.

  • Indirect communication through your advertising, marketing and media efforts.

  • Solicited interactions that are requested, planned, and prepared for.

  • Unsolicited interactions that are impromptu, unplanned, and not requested.

  • Word of mouth recommendation or detraction by other customers.

Considering touchpoints with this perspective makes it easier to assess and evaluate the immediate and potential benefits of each step of your customers’ buying journey.

Tenets for better interactions with customers are rooted in common-sense thinking and comprehensive consumer research to deliver communication that is:

 Suitable for the context and the culture within which the interaction occurs.

 Necessary so the interaction provides an answer to the customers’ needs.

 Significant in that the interaction is seen as being vital or crucial to the customer

 Engaging to connect with customers with honesty and empathy, while listening to understand.

 To understand the value of customer touchpoints, you need to:

1. Relate to your customers to understand their experience.

2. Identify the various touchpoints and interactions.

3. Assess and evaluate the real and potential benefits of each touchpoint and interaction.

4. Understand customers’ generic and specific needs for your product or service.

5. Recognize the hurdles they may face or perceive to buying.

6. Be aware of what customers expect from your product or service.

7. Anticipate the questions your customers might need answers to.

Following this will help you gain the advantage you need to give your customers a better experience, especially at touchpoints that don’t yield as many purchases as you may hope.

Digital media plays a significant role in customer interactions and expectations before, during, and after purchase. This new media platform has a more immediate and much wider reach than any other marketing channel. Here it only takes one sub-par interaction to make a customer unhappy enough to go public with their discontent and compromise your reputation.

Mapping your customers’ buying journey is an essential marketing exercise, the product of which is the map itself. A viable journey map needs to be a functional document with visual pointers to plot important markers and convey their import:

  • Customer decisions, expectations, concerns, state of mind, and needs during and after each touchpoint.

  • Customers’ perceptions about success and how your brand sees it.

  • When, where, and how your brand can impact the buying journey and affect customer engagement and value.

  • The first purchase—crucial because it can color the overall customer experience either positively or negatively.

  • What your brand can do to deliver a better customer experience.

A good customer journey map is an honest record of your customers’ experience. It presents every detail of every interaction, together with its outcome, across the entire buying journey.

If you’re setting out on crafting customer journey maps, do it right and always pay heed to it. Remember to make it a meld of the two most vital elements of communication today, the narrative and visual representation. This will make it easier to understand and interpret across teams and cultures.

Photo by Matt Duncan on Unsplash

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