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Think of the world’s best-known brands. Maybe you’re picturing Apple or Starbucks. Can you describe what it’s like to interact with that brand in stores? Online? In your inbox?

The world’s most admired brands are models of consistency across every customer touchpoint. No matter how you interact with Apple, you know you’ll get something that inspires you to think differently. You get more than coffee from Starbucks; you experience the “Third Place” — a feeling of comfort and belonging between work and home.

Customers trust companies that deliver on their brand promise at every interaction, from customer service to Instagram posts. So, how can your small business ensure your customers are getting the same experience across channels? It starts with a customer experience map.

What is a customer experience map?

A customer experience (CX) map is a visual representation of every touchpoint a customer has with your brand. It is a valuable tool used by businesses of all sizes and across industries to identify opportunities to improve the customer experience.

The customer experience map differs from another common tool, the customer journey map, in that a journey map is narrower in scope, showing the touchpoints a customer might encounter through a marketing funnel for a specific product or service. On the other hand, a CX map is a holistic approach to capturing every interaction between a customer and your brand, not limited to any one communication path, product or service.

Benefits of customer experience mapping

A CX map evaluates omnichannel experiences and internal workflows from the customer’s perspective, not the business stakeholders’ perspective. According to customer experience design company Tallwave, it can “illuminate who and what customers interact with, pain points that arise, and moments of truth that are ripe for innovation and improvement.”

Pinpointing and capitalizing on those opportunities to create the most delightful and seamless experience can carve out a special place for your business in the hearts and minds of your customers.

Stepping into your customers’ shoes through CX mapping can positively impact many different areas of your business from marketing and sales training to customer retention, onboarding and support.

Let’s look at how to start creating your own CX map.

How to create a customer experience map

Creating a CX map is time intensive but can make an enormous impact on your business. Take the time to immerse yourself and any stakeholders in these steps.

1. Define your goals

Before you learn about how your customers experience your brand, you first need to align on the goals: What do you hope to learn? What problems do you want to solve? How will you validate and share out the insights you uncover? Learn what assumptions your internal stakeholders are making.

Tallwave recommends discussing and mapping out what internal stakeholders believe the customer experience to be. Then, you can compare this hypothesis to what your findings show customers are actually experiencing.

2. Identify your audience personas

If you don’t already have buyer personas created, take some time to workshop who they are. A buyer persona is a detailed description of a fictional person who represents your target audience. Strong buyer personas help you identify your ideal customers based on specific segments and can include information such as age, gender, location, income and industry.

If your business has multiple target audiences, you may want to pick the most relevant persona to focus your efforts on (think 80/20 Rule).

3. Collect qualitative and quantitative customer data

Once you have determined which personas or target audiences to focus on, you can begin to gather qualitative data, such as survey responses or reviews from both satisfied and dissatisfied customers to layer over quantitative customer data you might already collect. For example, a direct customer quote about a negative experience can give more context to a low customer satisfaction score, revealing a previously unknown friction point.

To identify the paths customers are taking as they experience your brand, you can also review data on traffic through your website, digital ads and social media, and the flow of foot traffic through your in-store experience.   

4. Outline customer touchpoints

Taking all your assumptions from your internal stakeholder work session along with your customer survey findings, outline every interaction your customer might have with your brand.

Possible touchpoints to consider include (but certainly are not limited to) web searches, targeted emails, app downloads, chatbot interactions, help desk tickets, case study or white paper downloads, sales calls, social media direct messages, blog posts, referrals and in-store moments.

5. Create and populate your CX map

It’s finally time to outline and fill in your CX map. Remember, this is a living and breathing document and won’t be done in a day. Collaborate with your teams from marketing, sales and customer support to create your map outline.

Create a map outline that includes:

  • Stages of the customer journey
  • Steps within each stage
  • Touchpoints across each stage
  • Where individual departments play and overlap in those touchpoints

Finally, plot the contents of your outline on a visual map. There is no one way to visualize your data. Take a look at examples from industries from B2B to software to transportation. Or try this customer experience map template to get started.

6. Use your customer experience map to make improvements

Once you have created your CX map, layer in the qualitative and quantitative customer data you collected to identify opportunities for improvement, as well as successes and any knowledge gaps you still have. Compare this map to your assumptions from the preliminary internal mapping exercise and identify any differences. Review the map as a team and document specific actions you can take to improve the customer experience. 

Resources for small-business owners

As a small-business owner, there’s always something new on your plate. Whether you’re mapping your customer experience or mapping your route to a new business meeting, you don’t have time to worry about whether your business is protected. That’s where Nationwide can help. Visit our Business Solutions Center for more small-business resources.

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