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A person looking at a laptop computer, presumably embarking on a customer journey.

What is a customer journey?

A customer journey is the end-to-end experience a customer has with your brand or business. When you create a successful customer journey, you’re able to reduce costs, increase revenue, and establish and nurture customer loyalty.

Each customer experience, or touchpoint, is a key interaction in the customer journey—including both traditional and digital experiences that span websites, emails, social media, phone calls, customer loyalty programmes, paid advertisements, and even physical locations.

Understanding these touchpoints lets your team manage expectations and evaluate success—and misses—to help make ongoing refinements to deliver consistently great customer experiences. But no matter the touchpoint, you want to ensure your customers have the most memorable and satisfying experience possible. How? By understanding and mapping the customer journey.

Understanding customer journey phases

Because they include every interaction throughout the customer lifecycle, customer journeys can span days, weeks, or months depending on the complexity of your offering and generally cross multiple channels. Ensuring your teams are aligned on creating a singular, holistic, and seamless experience will make it easier for you to shorten the path to positive, more effective customer engagements.

Customer touchpoints generally occur across five phases of the customer lifecycle. By defining your touchpoints, you will better understand when your customer interactions take place and how, where, and why they occur. The five phases include:

  1. Awareness. A customer has identified a need or pain point and is seeking information about how to solve for their need. At this phase, your actions can help to increase your target audience’s general awareness about your product or service.
  2. Consideration. The phase at which a prospect is open to actively evaluating an offering before making a purchase. They may also be identifying and researching alternatives to your product or service.
  3. Conversion. In this phase you are prompting your customer to adopt your offering with a dedicated call to action, usually a call for them to buy or sign up.
  4. Retention. A happy customer is likely the one that continues to gain value from your offering over time. They are likely customers who continually bring consistent business to you and who demonstrate their loyalty by making consistent purchases.
  5. Advocacy. A returning, satisfied customer who tells others of their positive experiences by sharing reviews or opinions through word-of-mouth marketing. They are probably those most likely to help other customers through forums, or by agreeing to structured actions, such as participating in case studies and success stories.

The benefits of optimising your customer journey

The purpose of understanding and building your customer journey is to evaluate and anticipate your customers’ behaviours. By accurately predicting their actions and needs, you’ll increase your chances of a successful customer experience. The following are just a few of the benefits to defining your customer journey.

Measure and improve customer experiences

By analysing the end-to-end journey across all channels and over time, you’ll be able to see opportunities for improving your marketing strategy, inform actions—such as making refinements to your campaigns to improve marketing effectiveness—and ultimately, your customers’ experience.

Increase operational efficiencies and cost savings

Identify where there are opportunities to streamline ineffective customer journeys that lower customer effort, while decreasing operational costs.

Increase loyalty

By scrutinising your customer journeys, including behavioural triggers that result in high likelihood of churn, you’re able to quickly determine which areas of your customer experience need editing to increase retention and how you can encourage loyalty.

Boost your revenue

When your organisation is able to pinpoint customer needs, you can use those insights to improve the customer experience. You can design and implement successful marketing strategies, such as upsell and cross-sell to those most likely to convert, to maximise your revenue.

Create a customer journey framework

When you explore and map the journey your customer takes, you’re better able to understand their needs and empathize with them. By identifying and examining everything they will see, hear, and feel in each touchpoint, you’ll learn how customers want to engage with your brand. You’ll identify opportunities to better position your offerings to meet the needs of the right audience, and, ideally, to build loyalty so customers come back again and again.

An effective customer journey framework includes:

  1. Actions. What actions will your customers take to discover your brand and, after they do, to move to the next stage of the buying process? What actions are needed to connect them to the right content at the right time and in the right channel? How do you respond to customers likely to churn or that stagnate in their buying journey?
  2. Motivation. What is the problem your customer is trying to solve, or what is the desire they are seeking to fulfil?
  3. Questions. What will your customer need to have answered or understood before making a purchase? Will they need to try out an offering before they purchase your product or service?
  4. Friction points. What obstacles are preventing your customer from purchasing?

A journey framework helps you think from and understand the perspective of your customer. Meeting your customers’ expectations can become easier once you’ve mapped their journey, and can dive into the importance of each touchpoint.

Journey mapping vs. journey analytics

While mapping the customer journey is a standard practice to help you understand touchpoint paths, it lacks the insights into behaviours and other details needed to improve the journey end-to-end. Journey analytics can provide a much larger picture of your clientele, giving you the full picture needed to personalise experiences.

Some of the advantages of journey analytics are:

  • Data-driven analytics that help create a more well-rounded picture of your customers. Includes behaviour, transactions, and demographics, including when, how, and where they interacted with your brand.
  • Up-to-date information, along with the ability to see how that data changes over time and measure it in complex omnichannel journeys. This delivers actionable insights to help teams across the organisation make data-driven decisions that improve experiences and change outcomes.
  • Unified quantitative and qualitative data that helps spot opportunities to improve customer experiences, reduce churn, and increase loyalty.
  • Uncovering the root causes of customer experience problems through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help improve service quality and customer satisfaction.

While mapping can offer your business a visual snapshot of the customer journey, journey analytics can be used to directly measure and quantify customer behaviours. Implementing a customer insights tool that has both capabilities will ensure your business is ready to enhance its customer experience.

Understand the journey with Dynamics 365 Customer Insights

The amount of time it takes to identify journeys, understand performance, and optimise customer experiences can vary. It may seem simple to remove a few obvious friction points from the journey but delving into the specifics may be a more fruitful effort.

With Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, you’ll unify your behavioural, transactional, and demographic data to get the AI-driven insights that help you better understand your customers and how they’ll interact with every facet of your business. Gain a holistic view with unmatched time to insight that helps you optimise every customer journey.