If you’ve never heard of a “customer journey,” you’re not alone. Understanding this concept is crucial, however, to develop a seamless experience that ensures that your customers are not only being found but retained long-term.
So what is the customer journey? In essence, figuring out your customer's journey through the sales pipeline is understanding their experiences and being aware of their interactions with your business both geographically and across a number of other mediums. Understanding the customer journey as a business owner is the first step toward fostering the flow of customer experiences and gaining a deeper understanding of customer engagement and decision-making.
New to this concept? We think it’s one of the most effective ways to get to know your customers better, no matter what type of space you operate in. Here’s a brief overview of what a typical journey looks like for those who eventually end up being repeat customers. These repeat customers are the ones that will help you dig deeper into the mindsets of your audience at every stage. The customer journey spans a variety of touchpoints by which the customer moves from awareness to engagement and eventually to transaction and retention.
Stage 1: Awareness
The first stage a potential customer enters is that of awareness. The person becomes aware of a company or brand via advertising, cold calls, email blasts or other marketing vehicles. At this stage, a company’s goal should only be to share pertinent information such as company values, ethics and the “why” that describes available products and services. Social media can play a major role in helping organizations of all types boost awareness, as can word-of-mouth which is especially important for small businesses.
Once you have gotten the attention of your future customers, you’ve already won half the battle. The next step you need to own? Engagement.
Step 2: Engagement
At this point, your audience is aware of what it is that your company has to offer. They have chosen to engage in some way or another, whether it be stopping into a brick-and-mortar location, signing up for a newsletter or sampling your product. “Liking” and “following” social media pages is one of the most common touch points for customer engagement, which is why many of the world’s most successful brands have huge audiences on social media. Note that engagement doesn’t have to involve a transaction of any kind—it’s simply taking things one step further after an awareness of your organization has been formed.
Step 3: Transaction
Eventually, someone who is attracted to your company will decide to move forward with a transaction. The nature of your business can largely dictate this stage. IT firms, for example, may find new customers signing up for monthly services, while speaker manufacturers may sell a few units in an online store. At this point, your audience has transitioned from having a casual interest to becoming paying customers. Once you have acquired a customer and made a sale, there is one final stage left to ensure that they stick around and become repeat customers.
Step 4: Retention
Gaining new customers is great, but if they’re just going to disappear after a single purchase, they’re not likely to make much of a dent in your cash flow. This is why it’s important to focus on aspects of customer retention, which may come in the form of product support, post-transaction surveys, product newsletters or even freebies. You may even consider sending out handwritten “thank you” notes if the scenario allows for it. This is an example of an effective tactic for winning over customers, boosting brand loyalty and creating those long-term relationships.
So while there is no right way to create a customer journey, and your own business will need to find what works best for your space and industry, understanding the customer journey is crucial. The stages that your customers travel through as they engage with your company, employees, products and brand overall will shed valuable light on what needs to be tweaked during the process for the ultimate success of your business.
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Have you learned any valuable lessons or gained any insights during the process of understanding your customer journey? Or have you worked for or experienced any companies or businesses that created an amazing customer experience? Share in the comments below! And check back for the next installment about customer journey mapping!