At the beginning of 2018, our employees were talking about customer experience and how it influenced user interactions with different teams and products. We wanted to have a deeper understanding of what these experiences looked like so we could better inform our planning for 2019 and beyond.
My team, the Business Enablement Team, builds tools that support customers and helps them scale. We too wanted a holistic view of our customers' experience, and after realizing that our team had subject matter experts in leading these types of initiatives, we got a group of core stakeholders together to pitch the idea of a customer journey map.
For those unfamiliar, a customer journey map visually describes the customer's experience and is authored through their eyes. This image charts out every user interaction with the business so marketing, sales, product, and customer service teams can identify opportunities to improve their experience.
While it's an incredibly useful tool, it's extremely detailed and labor-intensive to complete, especially when customers can follow unique journeys within your business. Nevertheless, going through the process of completing one is well worth the investment.
In this post, let's dive into my team's process for creating HubSpot's customer journey map and highlight some best practices you should consider when making one at your company.
HubSpot's Customer Journey Map
Before we jump into my team's process, let's look at the map we came up with.
While there are a few ways to structure your map, we decided that a linear design would be best for our company. We highlighted common customer experiences on a timeline and color-coded them to symbolize whether the situation was a pain point or a moment of delight. With this format, our map was easy to read and more actionable for other teams.
Another feature we had were testimonials. While not depicted in the visual above, we asked customers to provide feedback on their experience, categorized their results based on where they were in the customer's journey, then picked one that best summarized our customers' perspective of that interaction. These stories connected the map back to our customers and created problems that felt more relevant and urgent to our employees.
Now that we've broken down the structure and details of our map, let's discuss some best practices to keep in mind when creating one at your business.
Customer Journey Map Best Practices
1. Think about your design last.
Since a customer journey map is a visual representation of your customer data, you may think its structure and format are incredibly important. While these elements influence the clarity of the visual, they shouldn't be the sole focus of your project.
Instead, you should center attention around your data and don't think about design until you have a detailed understanding of your customers. Use Excel to organize information then analyze different interactions that customers have with your company. Over time, the structure and format of your map will become clear, but you have to deeply understand the customer's journey, first. Once you do, there's plenty of software that can transform your spreadsheet into a map for you.
2. Lean on qualitative data.
The biggest challenge we faced was obtaining data that would validate the feedback from customer interviews. We thought we needed empirical evidence to persuade stakeholders that our customer journey map was accurate. However, we found that stakeholders, both internal and external, were paying more attention to our qualitative data like testimonials and interviews. These excerpts from actual customers solidified the points we were making on our map.
Recognizing this, we shifted our focus from obtaining as much feedback as possible to gathering high-quality feedback that represented major themes and problems. Instead of interviewing 100 customers, we interviewed 10 then looked for similarities across each one.
Since we observed consistent feedback from each response, we didn't need to spend time interviewing more users. We knew that our data's quality was enough to support our conclusions.
3. Survey internal and external stakeholders.
While a customer journey map is based heavily on customer feedback, this information only provides one side of the story. Sometimes, customers don't know how your team influences their experience and if you solely rely on their feedback, you might overlook an important factor that's impacting customer satisfaction. Therefore, it's important to interview internal stakeholders as well as external ones.
For our map, we hosted workshops called, "Touchpoints." These were 90-minute sessions with employees from all over the organization that highlighted instances where HubSpot influenced customer experience. Any time employees generated a customer interaction via phone, email, or in-person, that moment was recorded and labeled a touchpoint. You can see how these meetings were set up in the image below.
This brought to light a variety of inconsistencies we had when communicating with customers. By bringing representatives from each department together, we addressed issues that affected the business as a whole and created a more consistent experience for our users.
4. Be aware of your bias.
One roadblock that played a larger role than expected was bias. We expected customers to tell us one thing when in reality, they would tell us something completely different. Or, they would be afraid to tell us the truth and potentially hurt our feelings. If we wanted our customer journey map to be accurate, we needed to implement safeguards that filtered out any influence we had on our customers' feedback.
To do this, we worked with our research team to create unbiased survey questions. They gave us a template of questions to ask and encouraged us to have conversations instead of conducting interviews. This created a more casual environment which made customers more likely to share both positive and negative feedback.
You can check out the template we used for interviews here.
5. Create buy-in.
If you want your map to be effective, your organization as a whole needs to be exposed to it and agree that it’s important. So, before you begin your work, you should get leadership from across your company to meet and discuss your project. This will create buy-in and demonstrate the significance of your customer journey map.
For our map, we created a project management document that linked each team’s needs back to the customer journey map. This resource logged the desired outcome for each team and created an understanding that we may need time to gather all the information needed to fulfill their goals.
Once the map was finished, it became immediately actionable. If we didn’t take this step beforehand, it would’ve just been a pretty picture to look at.
6. Take your time.
If you want to do it right, you're not going to put together a customer journey map overnight. It's going to take time to gather all of the information you need to truly understand the customer's perspective.
For us, it took about three months to set up customer interviews and we conducted one or two each week. We had to find users who not only met specific criteria in terms of NPS® and purchase history but also ones who would agree to meet and speak with us in person or over the phone.
Additionally, we had to find time to meet with our internal teams, which, at a growing company like HubSpot, is much easier said than done. Every team at HubSpot is working towards their quarterly goals, so to make our project stand out, we had to position it in a way that was relevant to our company as a whole. This removed pesky data silos and made our customer journey map seem more urgent and actionable to our coworkers.
7. Start with a simple adoption path.
For many businesses, the customer's journey isn't straightforward. Take HubSpot, for example, where customers can begin their relationship with us in a variety of ways. They can download our free tools and grow to be enterprise accounts or start with marketing features and add sales and customer service, or purchase all of our subscriptions together and reassess them over time. There's no "right" and "wrong" path, just some have more steps than others.
For our journey map, we chose an adoption path that was simple but touched as many products and services as possible. This gave us a baseline to work with and narrowed our focus down to one type of customer.
And, that's important to remember. Your customer journey map must be directed towards one customer persona. If you try to encompass your entire customer base, your map will either be too hard to follow or too vague to have value. Narrowing it down to one persona gives you a thorough depiction of that customer's experience.
8. Make more than one customer journey map.
Since your customer journey map should only target one type of customer, you'll likely need to create more than one map. But, this can be a tricky sell for stakeholders. After all, if you're spending all this time and effort to complete one, why should they invest in it for every buyer persona?
The key is to get started with one and then you'll get buy-in from the rest of your organization. Customer journey maps can be intimidating, especially when you need to do five of them to capture every persona at your business. But, once you start having these conversations with customers and employees, you uncover opportunities to optimize the customer experience. The map is simply a visual aid that showcases everything you've learned from all of your conversations.
9. Present your map.
A customer journey map benefits your entire business, so it should be shared with everyone once it's completed.
In our case, we wanted to share it with leaders across HubSpot. Since we didn't have quantitative data, we presented it by playing audio snippets from our customer interviews. These clips humanized problems that were highlighted on the map and connected our conclusions back to our customers' feedback. Once employees heard the feedback firsthand, the map felt much more relevant to our company's goals.
If you're excited to start this process at your business, learn how to create a customer journey map.
Originally published Nov 13, 2019 8:00:00 AM, updated June 15 2021