Customer Experience and Customer Journey Are Not the Same Thing

Customer experience and customer journey are the buzzwords-du jour as the business world (large and small) tackles the task of organization-wide digital transformation. In the last few years, other buzzwords like innovation, agile design, lean thinking, content marketing, and omni-channel marketing have made their way into the vernacular of nearly every entrepreneur and marketer.

And like all great buzzwords, there is an immediate dilution of the true understanding of what many of these terms truly mean. And “customer experience” and “customer journey” are no different, particularly as marketers and thought leaders pontificate about the terms to gain attention and keyword optimization.

With so much dilution, how do you align your organization around the true meaning so everyone on your team is working from the same picture as they think about what it means to deliver the outcome of great customer experiences, and all of the moving parts that add or dilute value from that outcome? For the purposes of this article, let’s use a simple analogy to set the record straight and center you on why customer experience is not the same as customer journey.

The customer journey is most simply the known path that a person in need of a solution travels as they endeavor to solve that need. For instance, if someone in Greater Phoenix was in need of “a weekend away to be free” there is a point at which they first become ‘aware’ that they have this need. At the point of awareness to the problem they have, they begin the customer journey, and begin to seek out and search for ways to solve it.

The customer journey is the physical visualization of the map of phases, decisions and pain points your customer or prospect travels along in making their decisions.

For example, in the awareness phase, the user might have the thought “My life is in a rut and I am bored.” This could come while at work or sitting in rush-hour traffic. In the evaluation phase, the user will begin assessing how to solve that problem. They might search online for ideas, shop for pricing on airfare, etc., using terms like “Staycation in Phoenix”, “Golf vacations Palm Springs”, “Flights to Vegas”, “Drive time Scottsdale to Palm Springs”.

As the user progresses into the consideration phase, they begin to weigh the cost and benefits of a few options. After they’ve moved through the purchase phase of their journey, they enter the anticipation phase, maybe pinning pictures of excursions, swimsuits, and fun things to do in town, and sharing on social media.

The next few phases might include:
Utilization phase: Checkin, food and beverage, hotel room cleanliness and staff, etc.
Issue phase: “Oh no. Something went wrong.”
Service phase: “I hope they will fix this.”
Review/loyalty phase: “Never again” or “I will be back”, etc.

In any customer journey map planning session these phases will yield insights into what your business considers to be “touch points” where the customer is interfacing with your brand and/or your direct competition and forming an informed and personal opinion through micro-moments and what are called “moments of truth”. At, and between, each of these touch points are pain points that they feel when the process is less efficient, ineffective, or more cumbersome than their expectation.

To further delineate the difference between customer experience and customer journey succinctly…

The “customer experience” is the cumulative net outcome of how your customer feels about your brand (and whether you even exist in their mind) as they go through the natural human exercise of solving their problems and filling their needs.

The “customer journey” is a very important (but tiny piece) that maps, impacts, and informs the organization on the current and future opportunities where it can endeavor to improve the overall customer experience and relationship they have with the customer.

You can read more about the Experience Marketing Framework and how to apply it to optimize the reliability and innovation around your company’s customer experience here and here in summary or in depth in the book Digital Sense (Wiley 2017).

Or join us March 1, 2017 for the live webinar “Future Proof Your Business for the Battleground of Customer Experience.” Register here, and be one of the five chosen at random to win a copy of Digital Sense.