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What’s the difference between “customer journey” and “customer experience”?

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#Analytics 06 april 2023
  • Dmitry Gubarev

    UX-researcher

Everyone in the digital industry is familiar with the terms “customer journey” and “customer experience”. But what do they really mean, and what are the differences between them? You may experience confusion trying to differentiate one from another. It’s understandable because both terms are similar and describe your customers, however, they do not serve the same purpose.
The customer journey can be interpreted as steps your customers take while interacting with your product or brand. It’s a complete interaction map, where every touchpoint allows us to uncover critical obstacles and find opportunities to deliver the best customer experience.
Customer experience is customers’ impressions from interactions with your business or brand. The key to improving customer experience is mapping out a customer journey to find out how their interactions with a brand make them feel. In order to provide your clients with the best experience possible, you must always consider their journey.
To help better understand the difference between CJ and CX, let’s take a closer look at what they mean, and why your company needs both.

Customer journey

The customer journey is a series of specific actions and interactions that a customer has with your product or your brand. These actions can be real or possible and include things that happen before, during and after the contact with your product/brand, as well as the pre-sale and post-sale stages.
This information can be used as a strategy to plan future investment in your products and services. If you know the steps that your customers take to achieve their goal and what touchpoints they encounter along the way, it gives you the opportunity to design the best experience.
Understanding the customer journey can help you answer the following questions:
There are various stages of the customer journey, and just like the goals of different people, it can differ from person to person. If we acknowledge these stages, we will be able to provide the best service to our customers and respond to their needs at the right time.
There are three main stages that make up the customer journey: awareness, consideration and conversion. With the development of digital technologies, two more stages have appeared, retention and advocacy.
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Awareness
Customers look for solutions to their problems. It includes searching for information, reading blogs, articles, browsing or asking for advice.
Consideration
This is the first contact with the brand. Customers look for a specific product, compare it with other brands and product features.
Conversion
This is a decision phase. There’s time to consider the price, value, and service. Customers have to be sure that they can get the best solution to their problem.
Retention
This is a post-sale stage. You get your customers, and now it’s all about earning their loyalty. We all know that a loyal customer costs less than a new customer. So the focus has to be on building long-term relationships with your clients and making them satisfied with your product and service you provide.
Advocacy
When your customers are happy with the product experience and service, they may recommend your brand and its products to a friend. It’s a great opportunity for you to get new clients and build better brand awareness.
Touchpoints
A customer journey touchpoint is a point of interaction between the brand and a customer throughout the main phases of the customer journey. It can be either digital (website, email, social media) or physical (phone call, retail store, company office). Touchpoints have a great impact on customers’ perception of your brand, and they help to identify and manage customer expectations in different phases of the customer journey. Identifying touchpoints is part of a customer journey map creation.

Customer journey map

A customer journey map is a visualization of the customer’s steps that they take throughout the interaction with the brand and its product. This tool helps us understand better how every touchpoint affects the customer experience and what pain points they may encounter. The main goal is to create an ideal product for customers, and get them satisfied.
Proper use of this tool helps increase the level of customer loyalty, ensures both growth in sales and replenishment of the client base.
Situations when CJM can be especially useful:

New product or feature
Analysis of your target audience and their customer journeys helps you understand the current situation in the market, determine your product positioning and reduce risks of user experience failures during the interaction with your product.
Existing product
Making a CJM helps you analyze the compliance of the current solution with the customer needs and expectations.
Customer churn
Identify the reasons for poor performance, find growth points and ways to solve the problem.
There is no universal and unified way of creating a customer journey map. But, usually it includes the following items for each step of a customer journey:

  • touchpoints (a point of interaction between a customer and a brand);
  • customer actions (what the customer does at each step, for example, enter password, call to the customer service, etc.);
  • pain points;
  • customer goals and needs;
  • emotions (what customers feel during the interaction with a product or brand);
  • problem-solving hypotheses (what we can do to solve the customer’s problem).
Example
We did a redesign of an insurance fund website. The task was to make it modern, relevant and convenient. To complete the task, our team used the CJM method.

Our team considered various situations that trigger to visit the website and converted them into user scenarios (a user scenario is a story about a user achieving their goals through your product).
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Here are some positive effects of the compiled CJM and how they were useful in our particular case.

  • We were able to stand out from the competitors, as we found out which parameters are important for our target audience, and applied them on the website.
  • We understood what information future customers are looking for, and how to present it correctly. For example, part of the audience would like to invest in their future pension, so on the website we show how to calculate it using a calculator and how to start investing. Others were looking for a way to help their elderly relatives, and on the website we tell them how this can be done.
  • Based on the compiled CJMs, we determined the client path, simplifying user journeys as much as possible. We got rid of unnecessary pages that confused the user, added Call-To-Action at all stages of the funnel, which ultimately led to a 3.5-fold increase in conversion.
A customer journey map is a tool for regular use. It is important to keep updating the map, as changes may occur, such as implementation of new features, improvements, or changes in metrics.
The map allows us to analyze the customer experience from the client’s perspective, fix problems, eliminate emerging barriers, and find solutions for improving the product. This is a must-have tool if you strive to satisfy customers with your product.

Customer experience

Customer experience is customer perception of interaction with your product or brand along the entire customer journey. It’s about matching customer expectations with their experience. CX includes all phases from awareness of your brand to post-sale service, from product design to customer support. This perception can be physical, emotional, or psychological and affects customer behavior and their loyalty. The impact on customer experience can be direct (using the product) and indirect (advertising, product reviews). It’s all about their impression about your product and brand in general.
Customer experience can be managed and optimized, that’s why you should always think about improving it as a strategic investment. Every customer wants to feel valued, so the personalization of the customer interaction has to be your goal. Also, don’t forget about the competitive environment, there are products or brands that can offer something similar or better to your customer.

Improving the customer experience can benefit your business by growth of brand awareness and customer loyalty. Word of mouth marketing has a huge impact on driving purchase decisions, so positive customer experience can help encourage your customers to talk about your brand and recommend it to others. Making customer journey maps, finding a way to forge a good relationship between your product and the customer, will lead you to the goal.
Example
Our client was an airline company. They came with the task to explore the customer experience of buying airline tickets. We did research, using system usability scale (SUS). Our focus was on exploring customer satisfaction during the process of buying tickets on the website. After extensive research, we have identified various problems customers face.
For example:

  • unclear wording;
  • complicated registration on the website;
  • difficult access to the information about a loyalty program;
  • missing topics in the website menu;
  • etc.
We compiled a list of recommendations on how to eliminate the problems.
Recommendations:

  • сhange the wording from “online check-in” to “check-in for a flight”;
  • reduce the number of registration steps: for the initial registration, it is enough to request a full name, email, and password;
  • move important information about fares, baggage rules, ticket refunds from Q&A to the main menu;
  • move the information about the loyalty program to the main page. Change the wording in the menu to “Loyalty Program”.
After six months, we could see an increase in NPS (by 12%) and retention rate (by 8%).

Summary

The customer journey is an approach that describes customer interactions with a product or a brand. Identifying every touchpoint a customer ever has with your company allows you to find pain points and opportunities for improving your customer experience.
Customer experience is about relations between your brand and a customer in all the steps they go through (from consideration to advocacy). To provide a good customer experience, you need to be aware of their customer journey.

If you want customers to become advocates of your brand, you should always keep in mind that customer experience and customer journey are vital elements. Making your customers satisfied throughout their journey will increase their loyalty and retention.

Leave a comment if you have any thoughts to share on the topic!

imaga analyst Dmitry Gubarev is the author of the article, here is his contact.

You are welcome@imaga.co if you have a project in mind!
  • Dmitry Gubarev

    UX-researcher

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