Understanding Customer Journey Mapping Tools

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    A goal without a plan is just a wish. The growing demand for customized user experiences means that businesses now need to pay extra attention to customer journeys. User profiles vary in many ways (verticals, personal, geographical, etc.), which means that use cases are also multiplying. Generic user journeys won’t get you far on the retention and satisfaction fronts. Enter customer journey mapping tools. Let’s learn more about these growth enablers.

    What are Customer Journey Mapping Tools?

    Also known as user journey mapping tools, customer journey mapping tools help implement a data-driven approach when it comes to planning and creating journey maps. They help present data about usage patterns, engagement fluctuations, and insights from customer touchpoints. Advanced tools even help collect this data, create actionable insights, and even present real-time live maps.

    This is part of a series of articles about Customer Journey Management

    The main issue with most customer journey mapping tools today is that they focus on journey planning or product behavior. They are great in presenting static maps in a user-friendly way. While these types of tools still have a place in today’s space, they simply can’t address the challenges created by the complexity of new use cases, customer feedback and relationship management events. 

    The aforementioned customer journey usually involves what we want to say to the customer and the value we wish to present, but it struggles to include real customer feedback in every step of the customer journey. 

    The main challenges traditional customer journey mapping tools introduce include:

    • The Gaps – When defining a journey, how often does it go out of the static plan and face reality? What happens in reality is often miles away from what you have planned and defined. This is because customer relationships are hard to predict and fluctuate all the time. This can’t be rectified with generic customer journey mapping or without real-time data and insights. 
    • The Scope – It’s hard to find a tool that can cover the entire buyer journey  because most tools only focus on specific topics. For example, Google Analytics locks in on a very specific stage at the top of the marketing funnel, while product analytics tools focus only on usage patterns. Unfortunately, the customer journey includes all of these crucial stages and more.
    • The Limitations – With communications happening via so many channels today, businesses with traditional user journey mapping tools are missing customer feedback and events that impact churn and growth.

    Understanding where customers are coming from, what they initially wanted, their product/service experience, their verbal or written feedback, and their level of engagement requires modern and dynamic customer journey mapping tools. These solutions are now expected to create much more than bland generic journeys, work with complex segmentations, and address multiple use case requirements.

    Customer Journey Mapping Tools: 4 Main Approaches

    Here are 4 tools that represent 4 different approaches to journey mapping.

    Miro – The Simplistic Approach

    The most straightforward and simplistic approach can be enforced with the help of Miro, a user journey mapping tool that basically focuses on visualization of the journey map plan you wish to implement. This solution is great for startups and SMBs that are looking to set the foundations for growth and need to create seamless cross-department visibility for proper business alignment.

    Miro offers a blank canvas that can be customized as per the team’s specific needs. It also offers dozens of templates in a user-friendly format. This canvas can then be used to document brainstorming meetings, record in-house and external communications, and manage Agile workflows. This solution can also be used to create interactive and effective training sessions. The focus is on visualization.

    Founded: 2011

    Key Features: Dynamic Canvas, Templates, Developer Platform, Mobile Friendly 

    Pricing: Starter – $8/member, Business – $16/member, Enterprise – Contact Team for Details, A free version is available with limited functionality.

    Pros: Highly Customizable, User Friendly Interface, Flexible Pricing 

    Cons: Doesn’t Go Beyond Visualization, Iffy Support

    Related: Customer Journey SaaS

    Smaply – The Collaborative Approach

    Smaply helps take things one step further with an approach that helps promote collaboration and engagement within the organization. Despite being rather limited on many fronts, it highlights the fact that multiple factors are impacting the customer journey at any given time. Smaply helps collect customer journey data and allows businesses to make more educated decisions.

    The vendor’s primary offering is the user journey mapping tool, which helps unearth pain points. Smaply is also offering features like persona mapping and stakeholder mapping to create a better understanding of the use cases that need to be taken into consideration. The focus here is on visibility and boosting the collaboration within the organization.

    Founded: 2012

    Key Features: Journey Map Repository, Hierarchies, Customer Profiling

    Pricing: Basic Plan – 100 EUR (Up to 3 projects), Pro Plan – 200 EUR, Enterprise Plan – Contact Team for Details, A free version is available with limited functionality.

    Pros: Easy to Implement, Quick Onboarding, Good Documentation 

    Cons: Limited Scope, Not a Standalone Solution, Persona Mapping is Limited

    Staircase AI – The Automated Approach

    Staircase AI is an automated and live offering that goes beyond the traditional visualization and collaboration realms. This customer intelligence platform automates the harvesting of crucial customer journey data, analyzes information from customer interactions, and breaks down data from communications  (emails, product usage, Slack, tickets, and more) into unbiased relationship scores and churn risks insights. This information can give you the edge when it comes to customer journey mapping.

    The centerpiece of this AI-powered offering is the live customer map functionality. Unlike other customer journey mapping tools, this map displays all key data and information in real-time. This helps shorten response times and create a more informed approach to customer journeys. You can then compare what’s happening in reality to your ideal scenarios for effective churn analysis.

    Add in ongoing sentiment analysis and stakeholder relationship tracking – you’ve got a winning formula that goes beyond static maps and outdated information that has to be processed manually. It’s truly a proactive approach to things.

    Source: Staircase AI product

    Founded: 2021

    Key Features: Live Journey Maps, Sentiment Analysis, Stakeholder Tracking

    Pricing: Starter Plan – Free (up to 10 customers), Growth Plan – $500/month (up to 50 customers), Enterprise Plan – Custom

    Pros: Unique Live Map, Exceptional Support. Fully Automated

    Cons: Missing some Integrations, Relatively New 

    Thunderhead – The Sledgehammer Approach

    Acquired by Medallia in early 2022, Thunderhead is more or less the go-to option for big businesses and enterprises. It’s been in the market for the longest time and is considered a market leader. Its customer journey orchestration solution helps create engaging end-to-end experiences with demonstrated value all along the way.

    Thunderhead also offers Real Time Interaction Management (RTIM), which can be done via a centralized ONE Engagement Hub. RTIM takes the harvested data and merges it into the customer life-cycle for instant optimization. 

    Founded: 2001

    Key Features: User Journey Analytics, Real Time Interaction Management (RTIM)

    Pricing: Custom Quotes Only

    Pros: Multiple Data Insights, Strong Integration, Good Community, Documentation

    Cons: Expensive, Not Suitable for Startups and SMBs, Average Support

    Related: Customer Adoption

    Static Data’s Days are Numbered

    Traditional customer journey mapping tools will help you develop your ideas and visualize them (but brainstorming tools can do that too). Some may also collect specific user data for you, albeit with no real context or purpose. All of these actions are reactive in nature and can’t address the multiplying use cases that require your ongoing attention. You also need to process and digest this data.

    Analyzing these large amounts of siloed data in real-time is simply not possible manually. Looking at static maps and raw data is a step in the right direction, but only an automated and unbiased approach can help you reach the next level. You need to derive insights on an ongoing basis to finetune your customer journey and eliminate friction between the customer and the company. 

    This automated approach can make journey mapping more effective and empower post-sales teams. It also becomes easier to collaborate with product teams using real-time insights. CS and sales teams also benefit from the added visibility.