Step into your customer’s shoes. You might learn something.

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Horn and Mane Customer Strategy

Photo Credit: Matese Fields

Mapping customer behaviours is the first step to building an exceptional customer experience.

There’s no disputing that customer behaviours are changing following an unprecedented year of turmoil. Change is inevitable in any year, but 2020 certainly accelerated an evolutionary shift in how we work, socialize and shop. More and more of our day-to-day experiences have gone online – work sessions with colleagues, a family celebration and routine grocery shops have all gone digital in the past year.

Businesses have had to evolve quickly, replacing smiles and handshakes with virtual interactions that, just a couple of years ago, might have been dismissed as cold or transactional. Many have also had to re-evaluate their entire customer experience strategy to accommodate shoppers and buyers who no longer feel comfortable interacting in person.

But regardless of where those interactions happen, one thing remains unchanged: in order to understand our customers, we need to step into their shoes from time to time to really get what it is that they’re feeling and thinking. Only then can we influence what they’re doing.

A customer journey map can be a powerful tool when trying to chart out behaviour patterns from a neutral point of view. In plugging into what a customer is feeling and doing at each stage of the experience journey, we can begin to identify patterns that help us predict future behaviours. Even better, we can get ahead of challenges and roadblocks and remove them before the customer even realizes they exist.
 

Positive customer experiences are the key to sustaining a successful business. How your customer feels about you and your product or service defines your brand. If we fail to get to know our customers in a real way, we will never connect with them in a meaningful way.

A Customer Journey Map is a visual representation that outlines every experience a customer has en route to buying what you’re selling. It includes all of the emotional highs and lows along the way and can help you assess where you may be missing critical touchpoints to help strengthen the relationship.

A well-built customer journey map can help you:

  • Understand how customers interact with your business
  • Identify a competitive edge that differentiates you
  • Create an exceptional customer experience
  • Find new opportunities for new product development
  • See gaps between customer needs and what you’re delivering
  • Clear the path for brand advocacy
  • Create a customer-focused culture throughout the company

Customer journey mapping forces you to look at the experience that you’re delivering through the eyes of your customer. It helps remove bias and corporate group think and puts customers at the center of all decisions that your company makes. This big shift in thinking, if nurtured by leadership, can have a huge impact on company culture and clear the path for innovation and growth. They’re also a great tool to get cross-functional teams aligned against a singular mission.

The basic components of a customer journey map include building audience personas, identifying essential touchpoints, noting key actions, recognizing rational and emotional behaviours, setting expectations and clearly framing opportunities.

Build Audience Personas

It’s just as important to understand who your current customers are as it is to identify your customers of tomorrow. Once you know who you want to talk to, you can tailor your goals, strategies and communications to the audience personas most likely to generate the best return for your efforts. It’s important to be as specific as possible when building these personas, particularly in the digital space, where access to copious amounts of data has removed most barriers to really getting to know your customer. The more targeted your efforts, the higher your returns.

Identify Essential Customer Touchpoints

Every point of contact your customer has with your brand from the moment they identify you as a potential solution to well after they make a purchase, is an important point of influence for companies. It’s important to consider how you’ll connect with them through the planning, shopping and consuming stages of the journey. When you take the time to understand each customer touchpoint, it becomes much easier to plan around the identified customer needs. When you’re able to see gaps in the journey, you’re one step closer to finding new opportunities to connect.

Recognize Rational and Emotional Behaviours

The hardest thing about human beings is that we’re always battling over the rational and emotional. It’s important to identify both the highs and lows during each phase of the customer journey. Think about a shopper’s mind frame when they’re looking for the perfect gift for a loved one during the holidays. The emotions can range from deep frustration with poor customer service to pure elation after a shopkeeper helps you find the perfect item for your most difficult to please family member. Small micro-moments during the most routine annual missions can leave lasting impressions on a shopper. Even when we know it’s completely senseless to get frustrated over what we can’t find during a last-minute holiday shop, our emotions are what drive our reactions and are usually what we remember years after the experience itself. Tuning in to both the “thinking” and “feeling” customer reactions at each stage of a customer journey can provide powerful insights into how to deliver a positive customer experience.

Leverage Key Customer Actions

Each touchpoint on the journey will trigger an action that moves a customer further along the path. When you get to the point where you can anticipate your customer’s next step, you’re well on your way to designing a customer experience. It’s important to anticipate the key actions that each of your priority personas may take and then build a plan to bring them into the fold. No action is too small to consider. In fact, it’s usually the smallest details that resonate in the biggest ways.

Set Realistic Expectations around Clear Opportunities

It’s important to differentiate between what’s good for the customer and what’s good for your business. If you put yourself before the customer, chances are you won’t be around for very long. A customer journey has to keep the customer in focus. It’s not about conversions, sales or retention numbers… it’s about consistently meeting customer expectations at every stage of the journey in order to generate those conversions, sales and retention numbers. Pay close attention to how your customers move through your stores, whether they’re on the main street or online. Every visit, every interaction, every response and piece of feedback should be valued and then applied to your customer experience strategy.

Interested in learning more about Customer Journey Mapping? We’re happy to get you started.

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