This is the second of a two-part series on the various journeys we attribute to different constituents of our businesses. What are they? How do they differ? Why is it important to differentiate? And who needs to be involved and engaged when? That and more can be found in this series! (Find the first part here.)
In this second part, I take a look at user journeys and how they differ from customer journeys, churn journeys, why it’s important to understand the difference between all of the journeys discussed in this series, and where journey mapping and personas come into play.
According to ExperienceUX, a user journey is “a path a user may take to reach her goal when using a particular website. User journeys are used in designing websites to identify the different ways to enable the user to achieve their goal as quickly and easily as possible.”
I would add that it’s not just about using a website. The definition should include anyone that is on a path toward achieving some goal while using a mobile app, software, or any other product, for that matter. While it’s often thought of being associated with B2C brands, B2B brands also have users, e.g., Cast.app.
Ultimately, the user journey is the process that users go through while using a product or service, from the moment they first interact with the product or service, through ongoing use and engagement, to the point where they stop using the product or service.
Customer Journeys vs. User Journeys
So, that begs the question, what’s the difference between a customer journey and a user journey? The main difference is the focus.
The user journey is focused on the experience of an individual user while using a product or service, from initial discovery through disengagement or churn. The user journey is primarily concerned with understanding how users interact with a product or service, while the customer journey focuses on the relationship from purchase to renewal or repurchase to offboarding.
While there is some overlap between the user journey and the customer journey, the user journey is a subset of the customer journey that focuses on the experience of using the product or service. The customer journey also focuses on other interactions, including sales, marketing, customer service, and other touchpoints.
One final journey I’ve got to talk about is the churn journey. This is the experience that customers have when they decide to stop using the product or service. It’s an important process to understand, as reducing churn is a key goal for brands.
This journey starts when a customer is dissatisfied with the experience or has issues with a product or service. Once they become unhappy with their current provider, they start to research alternatives and explore other options. During this journey, brands try to retain customers by addressing concerns and providing incentives to stay.
A couple of things to note here.
- If you’re listening to customers and proactively designing a great customer experience, you will minimize the active participants in this journey!
- It’s true – people buy from people. And people build relationships with people. But, sometimes, employees who’ve built those relationships leave. Make sure the transition/handoff experience doesn’t break the relationship.
- Customers often churn for reasons outside of your control. Take note of the points in this next paragraph.
At the end of this journey, the customer decides to leave and goes through the process of canceling her subscription or account and potentially providing feedback or reasons for why she decided to leave. Know this: the offboarding process is an important part of the overall customer experience. If you make canceling easy, if you make the offboarding experience pleasant, then customers will leave with a positive last/lasting impression. If they are ever in need of similar products/services, your brand will remain in their consideration set. (This is what I was referring to in the opening paragraph of the first part of this series when I asked, “Does it really ever end?” You hope not.)
In the end, this journey is an important opportunity for brands to learn from their mistakes and make improvements to prevent future customer losses. Sadly, not all do.
What Does That All Mean?
That’s a lot to take in, but it’s important to know the differences because every journey represents a different stage in the overall customer experience. By understanding the needs, expectations, and behaviors of customers at each stage, brands can tailor their marketing, sales, customer success, and customer service strategies to best meet those needs and improve the overall customer experience.
When you understand the prospect journey, you are better able to create targeted marketing campaigns and content designed to educate and inform potential customers about your products or services and help them move toward the next stage of the journey.
Knowing your customers’ needs and expectations during the buyer journey allows you to create personalized experiences that are tailored to individual needs and preferences and provide them with the information and support they need to make informed purchase decisions.
And when you understand the customer journey, you’re able to identify opportunities to provide additional value and support to customers and build long-term relationships that lead to repeat business and customer loyalty.
Finally, for the churn journey, you’ll identify improvement opportunities for the experience overall and, as a result, reduce the churn rate.
In the end, differentiating between different journeys helps brands understand their customers and create more personalized, contextually relevant, timely, and effective marketing, sales, service, and customer success strategies that improve the customer experience and drive growth.
Why Does It Matter?
This is a long post to read, with a lot of details, but it’s important for both customer success and sales/revenue leaders to understand the different types of journeys in order to identify when and where they can best impact outcomes.
When customer success leaders understand both the customer journey and the subset churn journey, they can ensure that customers are successful in solving their problems, achieving their goals, and receiving value from the products or services they’ve purchased.
During the customer journey, customer success leaders can proactively engage with customers, provide personalized support, and identify potential challenges or issues before they become major problems. By understanding the churn journey, they are able to identify the reasons customers leave and develop strategies to prevent that from happening again in the future.
For sales leaders, taking the time to understand the prospect journey and the buyer journey is critical to success for them as they work to attract and convert prospects into customers.
Having a deep understanding of the prospect journey affords sales leaders the edge when working with marketing to develop effective marketing campaigns and content that resonates with potential customers and moves them toward the next stage of the buyer journey. By understanding the buyer journey, they can identify potential roadblocks or challenges that might prevent a customer from making a purchase and develop strategies to overcome those challenges.
When customer success and sales/revenue leaders understand not only their respective journeys but also each other’s, they can work together more effectively and efficiently to drive to the desired outcomes. They can also develop more effective strategies for acquiring, retaining, and growing customers and ensure that their customers are having the best possible experience.
I’d be remiss to talk about understanding the various journeys that customers embark on without talking about what you’ll need to do to understand them. I can’t talk about journeys without talking about journey mapping.
Journey mapping is a powerful customer understanding tool and process that provides a visual representation of the journey. A map is created with customers and captures what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling as they interact with the brand. Do the work. Identify improvement opportunities. You won’t regret it.
I’d also be remiss to talk about journeys and journey mapping without pointing out that different customers will take different steps or paths along these journeys. As such, it’s important to start developing your overall customer experience strategy by using personas. Each persona represents a key subset of your population that you’ll need to understand in order to design an experience that meets expectations and to develop lasting relationships.
Personas, another customer understanding tool, are a fictional representation of your ideal prospects and customers. To create them, you start by conducting interviews with your customers and combining those findings with existing customer data to develop groupings that represent the characteristics, behaviors, goals, and pain points of a specific subset of people that the business is trying to reach. Personas are typically given names, demographics, and even personalities to make them feel more human and relatable. Just like journey maps, they must be socialized and operationalized.
It’s important to note, as I mentioned earlier, that customer experience is the umbrella discipline across all of these journeys. The customer experience encompasses every stage of the customer lifecycle, from need to exit. Get the experience right – listen to customers, understand the problems they are trying to solve, and then innovate and design and deliver a better experience – and the job becomes much easier for everyone in the organization, especially for sales and for customer success.
Everybody has a different journey. Everybody has a different path, and you don’t really know what to expect. All you know is to just keep plugging away, and you hope something will come through and something will happen. ~ Grace Gealey
Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your EX and CX game.
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