The customer journey mapped out

The customer journey is a useful tool for looking at the customer’s experience from his or her perspective. After all, he or she expects a seamless experience during his or her decision-making process, with a customized type of relationship and readily available content, be it physical or digital touchpoints. A clear view of the total customer relationship experience is undoubtedly necessary to ‘Act Human’. The customer journey therefore is a valuable compass to achieve successful relationships with our customers.

The customer journey map

A customer journey map (also: customer experience map) allows us to document the journey of a customer (persona) by depicting the different touch points that characterize his interaction with our service or product. It is a useful tool to map out where the highlights, pain points and “moments of truth” are in the relationship with the brand.

Then we can also see where we should look for solutions – often digital – to make it easier for the customer to either take the next step in the journey or skip one or more steps. Players such as Amazon are going particularly far in this regard, by making steps unnecessary each time, to eventually automate the buying process completely. For example, customers can already do their shopping without having to select products thanks to the voice assistant Alexa and the Amazon Echo. The next step, based on previous purchasing behaviour and additional customer data, is to have orders delivered to the home that they know the customer needs even before they themselves realize they are almost out of pampers, toilet paper or soda.

In short, the customer journey helps us look through the eyes of the customer using an objectified outside-in perspective. There are several ways to do so: looking at the customer journey related to a specific product or experience, or looking at the entire brand life cycle (from getting to know the brand to being a brand ambassador). This allows us to evaluate whether we are meeting our customer’s expectations, but equally well meeting our own objectives. We also learn which touchpoints/channels to focus on, allowing us to continuously optimize the customer experience.

It is important, however, not to consider the customer journey as a static object. The consumer’s context and expectations are constantly and rapidly changing, and so is his/her journey. If we don’t regularly map out this entire process, we can easily forget a step in the decision, purchase or consumption process that can determine whether a prospect chooses us or a competitor; or whether a customer returns or looks for an alternative after all.

Capturing the customer journey

The power of peaks … and ‘the end’

As a brand or organization, you want to have a good idea of the so-called moments of truth within the customer journey. These are the big pain points or opportunities that the customer experiences, and where you can therefore make a difference – negative or positive. In a nutshell, the big peaks throughout the journey.

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman summarized this in the peak-end rule: when people think back on an experience, they don’t think of the total experience, but remember it only based on certain details, “the peak” and the end. For example, a one-week vacation with a few great moments AND a great ending is judged more positively than a great three-week vacation with no real peak, which ended with a let-down.

Illustration of the peak-end rule

IKEA cleverly anticipates this by focusing on the moments in the customer journey that really matter to their customers and are closely aligned with the brand’s promise. Customers go home with design at a low price and end the shopping experience positively with a bargain hot dog, ice cream or the legendary köttbullar. Thus, the annoyance of searching for the product in the warehouse or waiting at the cash registers is forgotten.

To evaluate whether the experience at a specific moment and touchpoint in the customer journey is perceived positively or negatively, you can use research methods such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), which indicates the minimum experience standard the customer should experience per moment or touchpoint. Keep in mind that these customer expectations are constantly and rapidly evolving. Companies such as Coolblue, citizenM or Amazon focus obsessively on customer experience, making the customer consider it the new normal. Next-day delivery for online orders placed before midnight is quickly becoming the standard.

A never-ending story told by every department

Quite a powerful tool, the customer journey. Especially if you bring it in regularly: mapping the current ‘as is’ and the ideal ‘to be’ customer journey is a process that needs to be repeated regularly and continuously evaluated. In addition to the overarching cross-channel high-level journey perspective, it is important to map and adjust the micro journeys for each touchpoint in greater detail.

The customer journey map is a very useful starting point and convenient handhold for this never-ending story. This is illustrated by the case of Sylphar, a global player in the consumer healthcare & cosmetics market: by putting itself in its customer’s shoes with the help of the customer journey, Sylphar not only succeeded in optimizing the customer experience, but also proved to be the catalyst for its international growth.


From customer journey to human activation journey

Even stronger and essential ‘to Act Human’ is to not only ensure that the customer journey runs pleasantly and smoothly, but as a brand or organization to constantly look for how you can really activate the relationship through the many touch points.  In this way, the customer journey becomes a human activation journey. Instead of merely aiming for the quickest and easiest possible transition between “I see a product” and “I buy a product,” you try to understand why people are triggered by the product, want to buy it, and so on, and respond accordingly.

An example from a nutritional supplement manufacturer: after the order is placed, the brand not only sends the customer an e-mail with a track-and-trace code, but also provides some concrete advice. Is it about a person who orders nutritional supplements to be fit, feel his best and get everything out of life? Then he/she will get recommendations around what to do to feel as vital as possible on a daily basis. Is the customer a person who takes nutritional supplements because he/she wants to avoid, say, catching a cold during the winter? Then the brand will offer advice regarding that as well. That advice may even transcend the context of “nutritional supplements,” but it ensures that the brand strengthens the relationship with the customer in that moment. Thus, by consciously responding to the changing nature of the relationship throughout the human activation journey, the dietary supplement manufacturer becomes a true health partner to its customer.