What is the Customer Journey?

And why does it matter to your business?

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 3.09.44 PMIf you run a business, and you’re looking to improve sales and build your brand, you should consider thinking less like an entrepreneur–and more like a consumer. Why? Because unless you’re keeping your customer in mind every step of the way, you could be missing out.

When a customer buys your product or service, that transaction is merely the tip of the iceberg in what is essentially a journey created by all the moments leading up to and following the purchase. You could have great products, a nice website, speedy delivery and a dedicated customer service team, but any weak link (in what turns out to be a very long chain) could send potential customers elsewhere.

How do you improve this process? If you think about your customer transaction as a customer journey, it helps you to focus on the entire experience of doing business with you–from hearing about your product through a friend, to seeing your advertisement, to returning for repeat business. The good news is that you create and control these customer touchpoints. All you have to do is identify them to smooth out the process.

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What are customer touchpoints?

A customer touchpoint is any moment when a customer comes into contact with your brand. This includes before, during, and after the purchase. Your goal is to make sure your customers are happy every step of the way.

Identify your customer touchpoints

The best way to find these touchpoints is by thinking like a customer who has never experienced your brand before and is going through the entire process of doing business with you. Common touchpoints include:

Before the transaction: This could be one of your marketing efforts like ads, online testimonials or social media activity; customers can also form an impression through product reviews on e-commerce sites or through word of mouth. So make sure to listen up by paying attention to social media channels.

During the transaction: Your point of sale environment could be a physical store, a website or catalog; here, customers might interact with your staff, sales team or call center.

After the transaction: This involves billing, product support, questions and returns; also, you might send customer feedback surveys, product newsletters or thank you cards.

Understand how touchpoints create the experience

After mapping out the touchpoints in the customer journey, step back and see how they all fit together. Are there any obstacles the customer might experience along the way? Are any of the touchpoints missing or underserved? Is it clear for the customer how to resolve potential issues in the transaction?

Once you establish this map of the customer journey, you’ll be able to evaluate the experience and make improvements where necessary.

Always put the customer’s needs first. Always!

Your business might have a superior product, dynamic shopping cart or top-notch customer support team, but they won’t amount to much if your customers have trouble accessing them. Smoothing out the touchpoints on the entire transaction with the customer in mind will improve customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

If any of your touchpoints are unclear, you can always survey your customers to find out how they came across your brand, how they felt during and after the transaction and what could be improved. And if you know your touchpoints inside and out, try using customer experience management software to scale your efforts to get feedback everywhere you need it.

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