Journey Component: Journeys
Your company offers products and/or services to your customers. However, most customers don't spontaneously buy these products and services from your company.
There is something else why customers buy a product or service. And that reason is that the product or services helps the customer achieve some goal or fullfill some need.
Before a prospect decides to buy from your company, there exists a whole path of exposures to your brand, your marketing and your company products and service. It is very likely that the customer also looked at the offers and prices of competing firms or alternative solutions (e.g. customer decides to save for a future big expense, instead of taking a loan and buy that big expense now).
A recent development in the area of marketing is the rise of Customer (or Consumer) Journeys.
A Customer Journey is a graph where you plot out the buying and decision process of your customers. On this plot you also map at which points the prospect makes important decisions to buy (from you or from your competition). And you plot at what touchpoints you interact with your client, e.g. via a live (sales)person, a support desk or a marketing campaign.
Of course, Customer Journeys existed already before they were discovered. But nowadays, this approach to interaction marketing seems to become widely accepted.
I often joke with my clients and colleagues about how I personally discovered Customer Journeys. Back in the time when I was a student and single was my initiation on this topic. In my quest for finding a partner, I tried out many things to meet a potential partner. I figured out how relationships are formed and how they evolve. As a testosterone filled young adolescent man, my and my male friends were going out at night to meet women in bars and clubs. Our goal was to take the pretty girl home at the end of that night.
The distinction between a buying process (of the customer) or the purchase & delivery process (internal processes within your company), and a Customer Journey is the following:
A customer journey takes the prospect as the center piece, and then maps the steps and interactions around this prospect toward buying and using a product or service.
So the difference is that we do not look at internal, 'cold and rigid' business processes. Instead we hypothetically look with the eyes and from the perspective of the customer.
How does your customer experience the route from hearing about a product all the way to owning and using that product?
And how does your brand fit in?
And if it is a process that is internally handled, but the customer does not hear any updates about it, then that step will be experienced as 'doesn’t exists' to the customer and 'why do I have to wait so long'?
An example of a simple customer journey is plotted in the table below:
|Channel / Step||Step 1: orientate||Step 2: inquire||Step 3: compare||Step 4: buy|
|Channel 1: phone||⌣||⌣|
|Channel 2: office/retail||&nsbp;||&face;|
|Channel 3: website||&unhappy;|
The key to customer journey is believed to be creating meaningful impact at the points in the buying process that [influence?] the decision of the customer the most. These touchpoints are called Moment of Truths.
E.g. when a prospect is evaluating offers from your company and comparing those with the offers of your competitors, there will be one or a few elements that may be decisive in the customer's choice.
Be also very aware that customers may already have made the emotional decision to buy from you (or your competitor), but for backward (ir)rational reasons and self justification reasons look around for competing offers without the intention to buy from those other firms. So a caveat: some touchpoints may seem to be very important to you, but in fact, you may be too late and need to look for a touchpoint earlier in the customer journey where you can influence the [presupposed/preconditioned] choice of the customer.
Typical subjects for (sets of) customer journeys your company would be:
A generic customer life cycle journey (“from cradle to grave”), with touchpoints not directly related to your product or service, but related to the customer and the main industry (e.g. “finance”, “groceries”, “utilities”, “holidays”, “gadgets”). Important life events that cause your target audience to come in or drop out of your market or industry would be added to this journey (e.g. “having first job”, “raising a child”, “having more free time”, “living at a place of your own”, “being single and adolescent”).
A customer relationship journey, with generic brand and contact touchpoints between you and your customer. This journey represents the overall contact strategy your company has for onboarding and keeping customers, and creating top-of-mind brand awareness. No actual product or service needs to be bought by your prospect or customer in this journey. But when they did sign a contract with your company, the ‘debtors process’ would be sub-journey of this main journey. But also if you differentiate on generic customers and VIP customers, those two kinds of treatments would be great sub-journeys for this one. And how about customer feedback and trade shows?
Often companies come up with this one first: Product or Service Customer Journeys. Driven by the pressure to generate more net sales, marketers (as expected) do start with mapping this type of product related customer journey. But please do take a close look and don't limit yourself to the name of the product or type of product – name the customer journey to the actual subject in the mind of the customer that your product or service is solving (e.g. “living” instead of “mortgages”, “fishing” instead of “fishing rods”).
For larger, complex products and industries, a fourth level of Customer Journeys may be created by your team. This is especially true for long term contracted products and services, like mortgages, utilities and transportation vehicles. Or think of a toy store, where a customer starts with buying the first few toys for his/her toddlers, and evolving that relationship over the years into several levels of customer intimacy and buy-in. The child goes through several age segments while raised, and your toy store company may have suitable products for each of these age categories. Thereby ‘moving’ the customer ‘up’ to the ‘next’ level of customer journey.
Beginning and ending
Please note that customer journeys do start before the first contact with your company. Customer journeys also do endure after a product sale (in fact, once the product is sold, the customer journey becomes even more important to keep alive and under the attention in order to enforce and strengthen the relationship for further product sales and usage), or even after a termination of a customer relationship after a period of inactivity.
As a small side note for the more advanced topics, you can group or split up one Customer Journeys with other Customer Journey. So Customer Journeys can be linked to each-other.
For example, when one Customer Journey more or less ends – that of buying a house with a mortgage – the next Customer Journey starts – that of paying of the mortgage on the house, or of changing contracts to another bank.