In today’s market, you don’t have any other choice but to understand your users’ needs. This allows you to create products and services, let’s push it even further, experiences that people will enjoy and recommend, making them come back for more.

There has been a shift in power from companies to consumers in the last years. Consumers can compare everything. It’s very easy to find alternative products when they’re not happy with yours, whether it concerns price, quality or its environmental and social impact. We all look at reviews before purchasing, from booking hotels to buying furniture, and even choosing your doctor! That’s why it’s key to know and anticipate your customers’ behaviors.

When a company tells us: “We’ve done a market survey and analysis, our approach is already customer-centered”, we usually say: “Great, that’s a good start”, as often it’s not enough. One of the best ways to really understand your customers is to map their experience with a customer journey.

What’s a customer journey?

You can use a customer journey to design a new service or to adapt and improve an existing one. It’s an extremely valuable tool which we use all the time when we help our clients design products and services.

The customer journey allows you to visualize the complete process that a customer needs to go through to make a purchase, from discovering who you are to payment and reorder. You can see where their pains are, which steps are important for them, and how they interact with your company/product. This pushes you to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. This is referred to as empathy – an essential step in design approaches. Through empathy you can connect with how people might be feeling about a problem or situation and better understand their emotions, desires and expectations, while identifying behavioral patterns to create better customer experiences.

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Persona & Customer Journey template (pdf)
Persona & Customer Journey example (PDF)

The process

To start off, you need to create personas. The persona (buyer) is a fictional character that represents your ideal customer. It summarizes the key characteristics, qualities, pain points, motivations and habits of a person who is in your target audience. The type of information you will detail needs to be customized to your product or service. For example, the information will differ if you’re selling a kickscooter or an online game. A persona should not be built on assumptions such as, “I think that…”. You need to research your users by talking to your customers directly through surveys or interviews. The more you know about them the better!

Once you’ve identified the personas you want to address, start working on their journey.  There are different possibilities, but we generally use these four main steps:

  • Discovery: This represents how the customer discovers your company (google search, social media, blogs, tradeshows, visits, calls…)
  • Learning & consideration: This is how the customer learns more about your product (website, reviews, flyer, emailing, social media, google search…)
  • Purchase: This is the decision-making process for buying your product/service.
  • Post-purchase: This includes the post sales experience and advocacy.

In each of these steps, make sure you ask yourself:

–  What is the customer doing in this step? What actions are they taking to move on to the next step?
–  What are the customers’ motivations to keep going to the next step? How do they feel?
–  What are the issues preventing the customer from moving to the next step?
– What barriers are preventing the customer to going to the next step?

One last thing, the journey has to reflect real customer experiences, and should be based on research & real feedback, not guesswork, you can even include customer quotes in your map.

Touch points

You also need to include touch points all along the journey. This is when customers interact with the company. Touch points will help you analyze what works and what doesn’t, giving you the information you need to improve your experience and address your customers’ expectations.

Here are the main touch points based on our steps above:

  • Discovery & learning: this could be direct emails or calls, seminars, social media, talking to a salesperson…
  • Purchase: this is your sales point, it could be your physical store, online shop, reseller, sales representative, catalogue etc.
  • Post-purchase: this could be onboarding processes, customer service, billing, returns, newsletters, post-purchase evaluations, etc.

Some touchpoints are more important than others for the lead-to-client conversion, customer loyalty or recommendation.

One last thing, the journey has to reflect real customer experiences, and should be based on research & real feedback, not guesswork, you can even include customer quotes in your map.

Resources

If you’re looking for a great resource that you can customize and download, Hubspot offers an online tool for building your personas: https://www.hubspot.com/make-my-persona