How to Improve Your Brand Using Customer Journey Mapping

Today, with global competition saturating every product and service category, it is ever more important that brand owners measure, understand and manage the experience customers have with their brands. A less than expected or even poor brand experience can send your customers to alternatives—and we all know how hard it is to win back a lost customer. What’s worse, an unhappy customer tells three times the number of people about their brand experience than a happy customer does.

Brand owners use a number of techniques to assess and improve customer experience, ranging from customer satisfaction surveys to net promoter scores to forward-looking product design clinics and focus groups on unmet customer needs and wants. All of these tools serve their purpose but usually reflect a point-in-time or are tailored to explore a specific issue. One powerful tool we want to focus on here is customer journey mapping, which assesses the perceptions and experiences customers have at each and every touchpoint with the brand—from when they first become aware of the brand all the way through long-term ownership and/or usage. A customer journey map is a high-level and contextual tool that shows how the brand fits into the customer’s life and informs marketing and branding, customer service, product development and strategic planning. As the term “map” implies, this customer journey is most often portrayed in a pictorial format where space represents time. Here are two examples of customer journey maps.

Beyond assessment of a customer’s perceptions and experiences across all the touchpoints with the brand, the process of developing the journey map ideally also involves the identification of opportunities to improve those perceptions and experiences through the process of extrapolation and brainstorming.

 

How to Get Started

At Six Degrees, we start the customer journey mapping process by identifying the main customer personas based on user and market research. In essence, customer personas are archetypal or “average” customers that represent a major group of a brand’s customers based on demographics, psychographics and behavior (e.g., Ashley, a middle-aged, professional woman with an advanced degree, unmarried, physically very active and with extensive social life). Typically, a brand will have 1-3 major customer personas and customer journey maps may need to be created for each persona.

After the brand’s personas are defined, we finalize what to measure along the customer’s purchase/use journey with the brand, informed by our primary goal (e.g., improving service, discovering new product ideas, etc.). The following input form serves as our starting point and is modified as necessary for any given project. The input form is used to describe the situation, environment and experiences (each row) for every touchpoint with the brand (each column). A touchpoint is basically any interaction between the customer and the brand—from seeing an ad, to conducting a Google search, to making a purchase, to “living” with the brand for a while, to sharing comments about the brand on social media.

With multiple observers completing their own forms for each persona, the analysis involves a robust discussion and distillation of the experiences each persona tends to have with the brand. These insights may be elevated further by appropriate additional data sources, including but not limited to customer surveys and customer service data. Moreover, the initial (draft) journey map may be further refined based on reactions to the draft map by customers, staff and partners before the final customer journey map is produced.

Using the final customer journey map

Once the customer journey map is finalized, it can be used to improve appropriate touchpoints, to train team members on customer experience standards and best practices, to enhance the sales process, to improve customer service activities and measures, to develop new product/service offerings, as well as in the development of forward-looking quarterly and annual business goals. Overall, conducting a customer journey mapping exercise sensitizes the entire organization to the importance of customer service to the health of the enterprise.

For help with your own customer journey map, contact us at Six Degrees.

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Frank Schab
An experienced marketing and branding strategist, Frank has been helping clients optimize the value of their brands through insightful analysis and effective strategy for more than three decades. Along with holding positions at General Motors and Pfizer, Frank served as a Managing Partner at Interbrand New York and VP of Global Brand Research at Opinion Research Corporation before co-founding Six Degrees. His brand-building work in various sectors including hospitality, medical device, pharmaceutical, automotive and technology has taken him to 17 countries on four continents. Frank holds a doctorate in psychology from Yale University and speaks fluent German.

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