The following is adapted from The Seven Pillars of Customer Success.
I’m going to share a secret with you that I’ve learned after spending several decades in customer success. Here it is: if you understand your customer’s journey, you and your company are going to succeed. If you don’t, you won’t.
How can I make such a bold claim? Because I know that when you understand their journey—the full set of experiences the customer will have when interacting with your company or brand—you’ll know when to intervene, when you need to help, and when you need to add value.
In other words, you’ll know exactly what to do to make sure your customer is happy, and you’ll know what you need to do to retain each customer. When you have this deep understanding about each and every customer, it leads to massive expansion, and it also probably means you’ll have a customer base that advocates for you to everyone they know.
Luckily, there are two simple, effective tools you can use to capture this information: the customer journey map and the churn journey map. These tools will give you the data you need to figure out exactly what you should be doing for your customer (and when). They’ll also help you find and eliminate potential problems that could cause your customer to walk away.
Creating these maps doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, over the years, I’ve come up with some simple, powerful strategies you can use to build maps that are ultra-effective.
The Traditional Customer Journey Map
The traditional customer journey map is simply a visual representation of the customer journey that you’ve researched or captured. Typically, they’re developed by marketing departments and focus on the sales and marketing funnel. But many customer journey maps stop as soon as the prospect becomes a customer.
The key to making sure your map gives you everything you need to create an exceptional customer experience is to go a step further. You need to own the journey of the customer after the conversion. Among other things, this will accelerate the customer’s time to value and identify efficiencies, such as where you can automate parts of the journey or eliminate steps in the journey that aren’t needed or slow down value attainment.
There are at least 50 million different types of customer journey maps that exist. If you google “customer journey map” and look at the images, you’ll see they’re all different. Some are sophisticated, some are a little crazy, and some are simple. Some were even written on the back of a napkin! It doesn’t really matter what your map is like, as long as your map encompasses the process of being a customer.
Create the Map From the Customer’s Perspective
While there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules about what your customer journey map should look like, there are some things you should avoid doing. The number one mistake I’ve seen done (I’ve done it, too) is to create a customer journey map based on your own viewpoint of the customer.
Instead, create the map from the customer’s perspective. That’s because there are so many other things the customer is doing that you don’t see and aren’t involved in. It’s your job to collect data from your customers and prospects and piece the journey together from their perspectives.
When you understand the journey from the customer’s perspective, you can relate to their painful experiences and potentially lessen negative impacts because you’re aware of the problems ahead of time. By really understanding your customer’s needs and pains, you can structure touchpoints to create effective and efficient processes that will deliver success and a great customer experience.
Churn Journey Map
The customer journey map isn’t the only tool you need to capture your customer’s journey. You also need a churn journey map—which is essentially just a map of why customers leave. If you’ve never heard of a churn journey map, don’t stress. At its heart, it’s just a different type of customer journey map. However, I’ve found this type of map is exceedingly rare.
I’ve also found that it’s exceedingly valuable. Most companies do churn reviews and analysis. However, to make this data as valuable as possible, you need to map it. In my experience, this simple step provides important clarity about how to eliminate churn.
How do you create a churn journey map? Once a customer leaves (for example, they don’t renew their subscription or they decide to purchase products from one of your competitors), go back and map out their entire journey. You have to find out what went wrong and what went right.
One tip that will make this process smoother: hire a third-party vendor to interview every customer who leaves. If you conduct the exit interview yourself, you’ll probably be told lies because your customer doesn’t want to hurt your feelings or thinks you are trying to find a way “back in.” When you bring in a third party, they can discuss every step of the customer’s journey with the customer in a much safer environment.
When the interviews are done, you can then begin to look for patterns of behaviors, systems, processes, people, and so forth that are inhibiting value and preventing the customer from deriving value from your product. Once you find those patterns, you have your churn journey map, and you’ll know exactly where focus is needed to solve negative customer experiences.
Both Maps Are Essential Tools
Being able to visually see patterns in your customers’ journeys is a huge asset. That’s why it’s so important to create customer journey maps and churn journey maps.
By making sure that your customer journey map is created from the customer’s viewpoint (and that it encompasses their entire journey), you can pick up on key areas where you can add value. Similarly, by studying the patterns that emerge from your churn journey maps, you can make improvements, enhance your offering, and significantly reduce customer churn.
For more advice on understanding and enhancing the customer journey, you can find The Seven Pillars of Customer Success on Amazon.
One of the world’s leading customer success experts and a Top 100 Customer Success Strategist, Wayne McCulloch works with Google Cloud’s entire SaaS portfolio as the Customer Success Leader. He’s a keynote speaker and the recipient of multiple industry awards with more than twenty-five years of experience in customer-focused roles. Wayne began his software career at PeopleSoft and Vignette before becoming an SVP at Salesforce, the Chief Customer Officer at Kony, Inc., and the VP of the Customer Success Group at Looker. For more information about The Seven Pillars, including downloadable templates and training and certification materials, visit www.cspillars.com.