There is no doubt that customer journeys are more complex than ever. But by putting yourself in your customers' shoes, you can make great strides in both areascustomer experience andbusiness success.
To get a handle on the customer journey, it's good to first understand the general stages a customer goes through when making a purchase. Whether you're buying a physical or digital product, signing up for a service, or making a reservation, these steps are universal and apply to every industry out there.
Here is everything we will cover in this article. To jump directly to a specific section, simply click on the link below and you will be taken directly to it.
Table of Contents
- What is the customer journey?
- The customer journey stages
- How Customer Journey Stages work in practice
- Customer journey stages vs customer touch points
- How to define your customer journey
What is the customer journey?
First things first. What do we really mean when we talk about the customer journey? The customer journey describes the customer's path to making a purchase and beyond. Customers very rarely decide to buy on a whim. Instead, they work through a series of steps to become aware of, consider and evaluate their options before making a decision.
Understanding your customer journey is critical for any business. Why? By knowing their goals and expectations every step of the way, you can do a much better job of empathizing with your customersandperfect positioning of your product or service.
The customer journey stages
There are many different variations of the customer journey. However, you will most often find that it is divided into five main stages: Awareness, Consideration, Decision, Retention and Advocacy. Let's take a closer look at each of them.
Phase 1: Awareness
This is where someone first encounters your brand, usually when they're looking for a solution to some kind of problem.
For example, if someone wants to plan a trip to Paris, their first step will probably be to search onlinehotelsor apartments in the city. By clicking on things like booking portals, travel blogs and individual hotel websites they becomeawaredifferent accommodation options.
What is important to know is that at this stage the customer is not ready to make a decision. Rather, they are becoming familiar with what is available.Your goal here is simply to communicate what you have to offer.
To be discovered at this early stage, online visibility is key. Things likeonline reviews, blog posts, social media posts and optimizing your website for SEO can all help you appear in search results.
Phase 2: Consideration
This stage is where the customer begins to more seriously evaluate their options as opposed to casual browsing. They will be more specific about the features they are looking for in a product or service and will also start comparing companies or products.
Your goal here is to convince your target customers that your product or service can solve their problem (ideally in a way that your competitors can't). It's a really important stage because it's one where you're most likely to have your customer's full attention.
With that in mind, it's a good point to really focus on doing your bestcustomer experience. Think about content and interactions that will not only answer your prospects' questions, but also make them feel valued.
Not sure where to start? Sheepfeedbackfrom your existing customers is a great way to gain real-life insight and see where you can improve.
Step 3: Decision
The stage we've all been waiting for! The customer has now done the bulk of their research and is ready to take the plunge. But don't get too excited just yet! It is still possible to lose your customer at this point.
As a company,your role here is to make the buying process as easy and convenient as possible. This applies not only from a user experience perspective, but also in relation to what you can offer your customer. Things like free demos, trials and introductory discounts can be enough to make the decision.
Another big factor here is online reviews. Why? Almostni ud af ti forbrugere læser anmeldelser, før de foretager et køb(1). To make sure you get a steady stream of fresh opinions, aaudit managementtools are the way to go. It will not only help automate the process, but will also provide you with valuable analytics that you can use to grow your business.
Step 4: Retention
Remember, the customer journey doesn't end once they've made their purchase. Research shows thata 5% increase in customer retention can yield more than a 25% increase in profit(2). That's why it's important to keep in touch at this stage of the customer journey. But how?
Surveysis an essential part of the retention phase of any business. They're a great way to get honest opinions from your customers and the insights you need to make sure they stick around.
Measurements thatCustomer Effort Score (CES)orNet Promoter Score (NPS)are a good indicator of customer loyalty and are really easy to implement. To read more about these and other key metrics, read our handy article:.
Just remember that to see real change, you need to not only collect customer feedback, but also act on it! Individual follow-up on any problems that arise can greatly turn things around.
At this stage,keep the focus on strengthening the relationship with your customer and ensuring that they get the best possible experience.Do that and chances are they'll keep coming back for more.
Step 5: Advocacy
This is the stage where happy customers become brand advocates! They tell others about their experience by writing online reviews and generate more business through word of mouth marketing.
The core concept of the advocacy stage iscreate a community around your brand and make your customers feel valued. Of course, not all customers will reach this stage, but those who do are invaluable to your brand.
The advocacy phase should always includeproactive ways to handle customer feedback. This means not only collecting customer feedback, but also responding to it in a personal and timely manner. In other words, show your customers that their opinions really do matter!
Incentives are also key here. Personalized rewards, offers and referral programs are all great ways to encourage customers to spread the word.
How Customer Journey Stages work in practice
It's all well and good to explain the stages of the customer journey, but maybe now you're wondering how they actually work in practice. Let's look at one together!
Take the example we used earlier about someone who wants to plan a trip to Paris. Here's an example of how they can work their way through the customer journey stages.
- Attention– They begin by doing a basic online search for 'hotels in Paris’. They click on a few different links and become aware of some accommodation options. While searching, they also read a few articles about some of the best things to see in Paris and the best neighborhoods to live in.
- Consideration- In continuation of their first search, they decide that they want to stay at a hotel in the Montmartre district. Ideally, they want to stay somewhere with a hotel bar that offers breakfast as part of the price. With this in mind, they begin to narrow down their options by comparing amenities, prices and reviews.
- Decision -The guest will find two hotels that suit their needs. The prices are almost exactly the same, so take a closer look at the reviews for each. Option A has good reviews, but the latest one is from several months ago, so not sure how relevant it is. Option B, on the other hand, gets consistently good reviews, with one remaining as recently as last week. Because of this, the guest makes the decision to book option B.
- Holding back -The guest has a fantastic stay at the hotel. They can easily check in online, send requests to the front desk directly from their device, and the service and facilities exceed their expectations. They are offered a 5% discount on their next stay and are happy to book again for their next stay in Paris.
- Advocacy- When they get home, they receive an invitation from the hotel to write an online review, which they are happy to do. Back at work the following week, their colleagues ask them about their trip and they tell them all about the hotel and how excellent it was. A certain colleague was considering planning a trip himself and asks them for a link to the hotel's website where they later make a reservation.
Customer journey stages vs customer touch points
When looking at the customer journey, you may also come across the term customer touch points. Although the phrases sound similar, there is an important difference between the two that is important to understand.
Customer touch points are the individual interactions someone has with your businessduringeach customer journey phase. In our hotel example, contact points can e.g. include:
- Follows the hotel on social media
- Ask a question via live chat
- Check prices or look for information on the website
- Reading hotel reviews
- Check in at the reception
Note that touchpoints can be both online and offline, so it's important to think about both throughout the customer journey.
How to define your customer journey
So now you know the basics of customer journey stages and touchpoints. But what should you do with this information?
Customer journey mapping is an incredible tool for plotting your customer's entire experience from A to B. It includes not just every step, but every single touchpoint. Along with each interaction, a customer journey map also outlines any pain points your customers may encounteranddescribe the emotions they feel along the way.
The benefits of Customer Journey Mapping
Visualizing your customer journey has many benefits for your business. It allows you to:
- Gain a better understanding of your customers' goals and expectations
- Identify and remove pain points to make customer journeys as smooth as possible
- Get rid of ineffective touchpoints in the consumer journey that can hurt your conversions
- Find out what customers actually receive versus what customers want
- Assign ownership of touchpoints to increase the accountability of your employees and departments
Customer journey mapping helps make yourscustomer experience managementthe best it can be. Look at it this way. The more you understand your customers, the more you can increasecustomer satisfaction. And the more happy customers you have, the more will reach the advocacy stage and introduce even more people to your brand. Cool, right?
If you'd like to learn more about customer journey mapping (including step-by-step instructions to get started), head over to our article:How a customer journey map helps you offer unique experiences.
Just as customers are all unique, so is the customer journey for any given company, from onesmall or medium-sized businessto an internationalCorporationfeel. While the five steps we've shared with you are the most common way to segment the journey, feel free to do it in a way that works for you! The most important thing is that you have a solid understanding of your specific customer and the journey they are on with your brand.
By doing so, you will be better equipped to offer unmatchedcustomer satisfaction, increase your revenue and turn everyday customers into excited fans. It is of course easier to map your customer journey when you have the right tool for the task.
Something goodVoice of the Customer-programmetmust include a way to visualize the customer journey. At Customer Alliance, our customer journey functionality gives you a holistic view of satisfaction every step of the way, plus smart analytics that enable you to compare data across individual touchpoints.
Do you want to know more? Join us for onefree, personal demoand one of our experts will be happy to show you what we can do.
- Canvas8, 2020 'The Critical Role Of Reviews In Internet Trust'
- Bain & Company 'Prescription for reducing costs'
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