The goal of every business is growth. The way to grow is through your clients.
Creating an enjoyable, ongoing relationship with your clients is important to the success of any business. A positive client experience creates loyalty, which makes it more likely for your clients to recommend your business, thus increasing your retention rate.
At Reaction, we believe that it’s never too early for a company to start understanding the client experience. Last year, we invested the time and resources to create a client journey map even before we acquired our first client. Our mapping exercise documents all the interactions a client has with a business over the course of their relationship. After all, the final purchase of a product is just one step in a long journey.
Our client journey map is something we continuously modify, update, and iterate on as our business model evolves—and as we learn more about our clients. Here are the 5 steps you should take to better understand the client experience:
Define your client profile
Multiple decision makers, such as the CEO, CTO, or VP of Marketing, are usually involved in an ecommerce platform implementation. Each person comes to the project with their own unique biases and decision-making experiences, so it’s important to define who your client is, and which role this person occupies. We chose to map out the journey for two key buyer personas: the technical decision-maker, and the business decision-maker.
While the journey of evaluating and selecting a new ecommerce solution may seem similar on the surface for these two personas, they have a different level of involvement with the project which affects their decision-making process. Understanding each of the items listed below when creating these profiles helps personalize the journey to address specific needs and concerns—which, if done correctly, creates a positive client experience.
When creating your client profiles, try to define the following items:
Identity: Who are they? What is important to them? The technical decision-maker, such as a Director/VP of Engineering or CTO, may be looking to modernize their company’s technology solution. On the other hand, a business decision-maker, a VP of Ecommerce or Digital, might pay more attention to their feature requirements.
Motivation: What are they trying to accomplish? It’s safe to say that either profile in our case is considering a change. They’re looking for an easier, better way sell online, but they’re running into limitations with their existing solutions. The technical persona may be looking for a tech stack that easily integrates with their existing custom or 3rd party systems, while the business persona may want to be able to quickly create content, run marketing campaigns, or sync their online and offline shopping experiences.
Outcome: What does success look like for them? Success in both cases allows the decision-maker to accomplish their goals above. They have a solution that is future-proof and flexible enough to update as the company’s business model evolves.
Map your client’s entire journey
When mapping out the stages of your client journey, the key is to understand the following:
- What are they doing? Document their actions and activities.
- What are they thinking? Anticipate some of the questions they might have.
- What is their motivation? Define your client’s pain points, their obstacles.
Each of the items above will likely invoke a feeling within the client. Map the feeling to the activity or action they are taking.
For example, a client who is investigating new ecommerce software options may be feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of options that are out there. As with any major decision-making process, it can be a stressful time for the client. The client’s emotions—and your response to their emotions—are powerful determiners of how they perceive your company: will they want to continue engaging with you, or leave?
We started off by mapping out a prospective client’s key decision-making stages, which helped us determine how to provide them with the most insight and service. In Reaction’s case, we chose the stages based off of a standard ecommerce project and outlined the actions of every stage:
||Determine the desired outcome and budget allocation
||Establish corporate strategy, set the business requirements, determine the budget, C-Level or board sign off
||Evaluate which solution and options are available
||Ask trusted network for referrals, research market options, look at trade publications
||Determine if a specific solution can meet the business/technical requirements
||Visit Reaction website/blog/docs, look for case studies, review features and integrations, request demo or more information
||Implementation, customization, and testing
||Establish in-house project team or hire external agency, determine MVP features, project discovery deep-dive, set implementation strategy, design mockups, active development, building integrations, usability and systems tests
||Continuous updates and upgrades
||Optimize for SEO, add in new integrations, performance testing
Identify key touchpoints
Perhaps the most important step is to identify key interactions you’ll have with the client during each of the decision-making stages. A touchpoint is any time a potential client or client comes in contact with your company–before, during, or after they purchase something from you. The goal, of course, is to ensure that your client leaves with a positive experience every step of the way. Some things to keep in mind:
- Not all touchpoints are created equal, especially for a small company. It’s just not possible to get everything done at once. In general, you should focus your resources on creating processes around the touchpoints that will have the most impact first.
- Identify which touchpoints are active and inactive to the client. Active touchpoints require a timely response or action from your team, whereas an inactive touchpoint may just need periodic maintenance. An example of an active touchpoint is the client submitting a “Get a demo” form, which will require a follow-up from your sales team. An inactive touchpoint may be the client seeing your company’s marketing ad or reading a blog post. You want to make sure the content is well-written, but it does not necessarily mean that there is an action you or your team needs to take at this time.
- Determine who is responsible for what touchpoint within your organization. This includes responding to active touchpoints, as well as creating and updating the content for inactive touchpoints.
Most of our team here comes from an ecommerce background, so it was important to get their eyes on what we came up with. Our engineers provided valuable feedback on best practices, as well as things to watch out for during the implementation phase. Sales recommended collateral that would positively impact the clients’ decision making process, while those who have been in operator roles recommended more ways to support the client.
Perhaps the most valuable thing that came out of sharing the client journey map was the beginning of a new mindset: we started to align ourselves as a client-first company.
Update and iterate
As I mentioned earlier, we started this exercise over a year ago, and we’re still not done. Improving the client experience is an ongoing process of understanding. We take each new client interaction as a learning experience, one that allows us to update our processes as we go.
Of course, the client journey map is just one step towards creating the best experience for your clients. While this exercise is valuable, the ultimate goal is to understand what your clients are going through in the hopes of helping, improving, and growing.