The Client Journey: 101

Are your Clients Walking a Rocky Path or a Smooth and Safe One: The Clients Journey

I have a question for you this week….. what’s it like being your client?

Sounds like a strange question, but its one of the most important ones you can ask as a business owner and it doesn’t matter what field or industry you are in. What is it like to be your customer?

Many professionals struggle with client acquisition and with retention. To say it another way, how you get customers and how you keep them. You might be surprised to know that both of these problems can be solved with no money invested.

Yup, its a simple tool that you can make on a scratch sheet of paper if you want. Although, I know many owners that make elaborate spreed sheets, vision boards, or custom graphics that they print and hang in their offices.

Its called a “Customer Journey Map”. The map is planned out as a timeline or a circle board. It plots every interaction that your client has with you and your business. It organizes all that information in a line from awareness to repeat business. And it shows you what your client experiences at each and every one of those points.

Is this the first time you are hearing of such a thing? You aren’t alone. So many business owners spend so much time envisioning who their perfect client is and how what they do is the answer to all that persons problems. But they forget this simple step, if they were even told about it.

Imagine what it is really like to be your client or customer.

When you get done planning out this vital tool you will be able to see any problems a potential client might have with your process. Can they get all the info they need about your company from your website? Does your site work well on their phone? How was their experience if they came to your location? What was your customer service like on the phone?

A Customer Journey Map can help you answer all of these questions and so many more and I’m going to walk you through that process and show you how.

Benefits of a Customer Journey Map

So, as I already stated, a customer journey map helps you get a better perspective of your clients experience so you can head off any problems at the pass and make better decisions to improve that experience.

When you improve the customer experience, not only are they more likely to do business with you again in the future, but they are more likely to recommend you to the people they know and care about. The “CJM” lets you quickly see the interactions that they love so you can focus on them and points out to you the places that you could do better. Its all about perspective.

This map can even help you create ‘standard operating procedures’ for your business, train your employees, and make your product itself better (depending on the industry). Knowing your clients experience is one of the most important pieces of information in your arsenal.

Breaking Apart the CJM

There are essentially 6 parts to the Customer Journey Map.

  • What are your Goals
  • Who is your Client
  • What are your ‘buying phases’
  • Where are the interactions in each phase
  • How do clients react to those interactions
  • Asses and decide where you can improved

That’s it. Its pretty simple on the surface. 6 parts to make the whole map. But what does each part entail?

Creating the Customer Journey Map

Goals- the 1st step

You probably answered this question pretty early on in your business planning. The first step of creating your CJM is answering the question “What are your goals as a business owner/ professional?”

If not, that’s ok. Now is the perfect time to do that. Think about it for a moment. What do you want out of your business? How is your business the answer to what you want? Who do you want to be as an owner? Does this help you with your personal goals?

Starting to sound familiar? It should. You are your business first client after all. Your business is suppose to be the answer to one or more of your personal pain point. You know those things in your life that drive you crazy and you would change if you could?

Who is your client?

The second step of the CJM is answering the question, “Who is your ideal client?”

Ah, the client persona essay. Many people that take business courses hear about this constantly. Over and over again, who is your ideal client? Describe them. Well, this tool is one of the place where that is functionally useful.

If you know who they are, know what they need, and know how you are the answer to their problem you have already done this part. Yay!

If not take the time and really answer these questions. I cant stress enough that you MUST be able to answer those questions. Imagine you want to sell iced lemonade.

I know its a bit cheesy, but bare with me. If you were selling iced lemonade, would you go to the ice skating rink and sell it or the roller skating rink?

The roller rink, right? Its insanely hard to sell an iced drink to people that are in a frigid temperature. They are already cold. They have no reason to want your product because your product is designed to help cool them off.

But the roller rink is a completely different story. They are hot sweaty places. No matter what style of rink you go to, all that physical excursion leads to a need to cool off. Would you rather have bottled water or ice cold lemonade to quinch your thirst? The product almost sells itself in this situation.

Knowing who your ideal client is, what they need, and how you are the answer and applying that information makes all the difference in the world no matter what you are selling. To say it the way my kids would, it changes the game. You switch from Insane Mode to Easy Mode in difficulty.

What is your buying process like?

The third step in the Customer Journey Map creation is answering the question, “What is your buying process like?” What is your path like?

For most businesses the buying process can be broken into 5 simple buying process parts or phases.

  • Awareness– how they found out about you and the product; more or less you ‘word of mouth’, your marketing whether traditional or digital, and your general reputation
  • Research- looking into your company and the product; now they are curious, they start to ‘do their homework’ and decide whether they need your product or not
  • Consideration– are there other options and is yours the best; they decide its time to solve some problem, look at all the choices, and decide if you have the answer or not
  • Purchase– the actual action of purchasing your product; Yay! You are the answer, now how do they go about buying the product. Do they have to come to your physical location, your website, or call you one the phone? Do you take cash, check, or credit? Paper or plastic?
  • Support-everything after; this includes set up, follow up, and customer support problems. They have used your product or service. Do they leave a review? Do you pick up the phone to answer questions? What if there is a problem?

Now you can choose to make this process much more difficult and add 10 more steps if you want to, but you don’t need to. As I always say, the simpler you keep it, the easier it is to understand and use.

Where does the client interact with each Phase of the Buying Process?

Now that you have layed out the ‘path’ that your client walks when they interact with you its time for the fourth step. You have to figure out how long they stay at each place and what they do while they are there.

These of called Touch-points. They are literally every interaction that your customer has with your brand on their entire journey. Each phase may have many points or none. It all depends on the type of business you are running. They are defined by your approach. How do you do your marketing, sales, product service, or customer service?

It could be anything like:

  • What is your marketing like? Commercials or ads? Posters or flyers? Offline or online? Graphic ads or text based ads?
  • Is your store a real place or an online space?
  • What kind of properties do you use? Brick and mortar, website, social media, display table at the farmers market?
  • Interactions with you, your employees (ii you have any), sales reps, customer service reps?
  • Was the buying process difficult or slow? How are your prices set?
  • Did you follow up and see how things where going? Did you call them, email them, send them a real letter, or text them?
  • How do they renew or God forbid cancel your service?

The answers to each of these questions and many more are your touch-points and the list goes on. You should expect that while you are writing all this out that you will think of touch-points that I didn’t mention.

That’s great! It means you are taking all of this seriously.

How do your clients react each step of the way?

Step five is one of the easier ones. This one is what was their exact reaction when they interacted with each of the touch points?

Not all clients will interact with every touch-point you come up with and that’s fine. Some clients are simple and some require a bit of hand holding. Some people are quick to make a decision and some agonize over it.

Regardless of who your clients may be, this is the step where you start ‘tracking the data’. Don’t guess here! That can be the most fatal mistake you make and make this a nearly pointless exercises. Get real feedback.

Not all feedback is going to tell you how wonderful you are. That is the feedback you want the most though. If your customer is telling you how wonderful you are, they aren’t telling you where you messed up.

If you don’t get to see where you could improve, how could you ever do better? Pay special attention to what your clients say you or doing wrong, when they were unhappy, or what they say is fine but you could do better. These are your growing opportunities.

So put out those customer satisfaction reviews even if you are scared of them. Honest feedback from your real customer base is so unbelievably valuable that many business pay people like me a lot of money to get this information for them.

Improvements and Opportunities

The last step is the most crucial step. Take all that data that you have been collecting and start to make sense of it.

Don’t forget that perspective is everything to a business owner. Don’t see that negative feedback you are afraid of as a problem. It is an opportunity. You aren’t doing anything ‘wrong’, you just have room to improve.

Use all that feedback to figure out where your clients are hitting roadblocks in the process. It will show you where their pain points are.

If you know where the hole in the road is, are you going to drive straight over it or swerve a bit to avoid it? That’s what this is. To take the analogy a step further, if you know the road is filled with potholes and debris, are you going to drive down it if you have another option?

This really is your customers perspective. If they know your process is complicated and stressful, are they going to do business with you or go to one of your competitors?

If you use your ‘opportunities’ to ‘improve’ your process you are essentially surveying the road and taking note of all the potholes. Then by making improvements to your process you are sending a crew out to remove the debris and fill in the holes.

Fixing your process will lead to more sales and happier customers. Fixing the road leads to happier drivers that use the road.

My Final Point

I will wrap all this up with saying, can you describe your clients experience when working with you or your business? If you have never made a CJM or something like it, the answer is probably no. You might think you know but is just thinking it good enough when your business is on the line?

Make that map. Structure is the best friend of any business. It holds the answer to so many of the issues that your are experiencing. Having the right answers and identifying the root problems you are having will remove much of your stress. Create the best possible experience for not just your favorite clients, but for every client.