Understanding your customer journey

Author
Maggie Robinson
Sales and Marketing Expert | innovate2succeed
24th November 2017

How many times have you lost interest in a product or service? You’ve seen the ads all over Google for, let’s say, a free software package. Then, after a few minutes or a few tries at using it, you left, never to return. 

Or maybe it’s a new service you’d like to use – like a hairdresser. You take a look at their work and their marketing, but something just holds you back from making the booking. It’s probably happened more times than you can count. 

But think back for a second and ask yourself why that happened? Why did you lose interest? 

It’s highly likely that you abandoned it because something went wrong along the way. Maybe you decided a competitor’s product was better, you weren’t convinced enough to go forward with using the service, or maybe you had tried to get in touch and had a bad experience. 

In those cases, your customer journey was derailed somewhere along the line, and from a business standpoint, that’s a big problem. That’s why your customer journey should be the simple most important element of your business.

What is the customer journey?

Put simply, the customer journey involves every interaction with your company, product or service. But the journey doesn’t start, or finish, when a customer buys your product or service. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

The buying of a product or service is just one part of a journey created by all of the touch points leading up to and following the purchase. 

You could have great products or an amazing service, a nice website, speedy delivery of your products and services and a dedicated customer service team, but any weak links in that road could derail your customers and send them elsewhere. 

So it’s important to understand what your customer journey looks like and if there are any weak links in the chain. If there are, you need to improve them, or risk losing more customers in the future.

How can you improve?

When you break it down, your customer journey is made up of a variety of touchpoints, each one representing a time your customers come into contact with your brand. 

These touch points can be split into before sale, during sale and after sale. As a business owner, your goal is to make sure that your customers are happy at every stage of the process. To work out what your touch points are, think of yourself as a customer who has never had any experience of your brand before and are buying a product or service for the first time.

Before the purchase

This is anything your customer will see before they visit you directly. It could be one of your marketing efforts, like your social media, a newspaper advert or a recommendation from a friend. 

At this stage, customers are already forming an impression of you and your business, so it’s important to make sure your marketing materials are up to scratch.

During the purchase

This is the point at which a customer makes a purchase from you. This could be a physical shop, a website, a catalogue or even a phone call. 

At this stage, your customer is likely to interact with your technology and your staff. Both need to be trained and tested to ensure they are able to perform properly and are giving off the right impression. 

For customers on a more long-term basis, this touchpoint is repeated every time they renew or you deliver a product or service, which requires more ongoing attention and care.

After the purchase

This end of the transaction involves billing, delivery of products or services, support, questions, returns and customer feedback surveys; anything that happens after your customer has made their purchase. 

For example, you might decide to send a newsletter to all of your previous customers informing them of new offers, or send them a thank you card for big orders.

The customer journey applies to every single kind of business. No matter what size you are or what you’re selling, your customers go through a journey in order to buy from you. 

By going through all of these touchpoints, you end up with a pretty clear picture of what your customer journey looks like. The only question now is, how can you make it better?

We've put together a useful guide to help you identify at what point your prospects and customers engage with your brand.

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