Defining the Stages of the Customer Journey Map: Awareness

May 24, 2023

Kate McBee

Category: Customer Experience, Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Maturity, Customer Success Strategy, Digital Customer Success, Monetizing Customer Success

A customer journey map is one of the first things you think of when you’re trying to improve the customer experience. It’s a roadmap of every interaction you have with your customer from the first moment they learn about your business to the moment they decide to renew (or not renew). It’s an important tool for operationalizing your Customer Success practice and helps to demonstrate where there are gaps in engagement or opportunities to deepen your relationship with your customers. In short, journey maps are pretty darn great.

While we’re all in agreement that customer journey maps are the cat’s pajamas, the industry doesn’t all agree on one single way to build them. Customer Success organizations use many different models and templates to develop these frameworks and then customize them to their specific lifecycles – long or short, with many stages or a quick, straightforward jump into usability. While the variety of models out there makes sense, it can be useful to take a step back and consider the universal foundations that exist beneath them all. If we examine the underlying structure of the customer journey, common patterns for each stage emerge. And by exploring these ubiquitous phases of the customer journey, we can better understand exactly what each phase needs to accomplish and what Customer Success’s role at each stage could (maybe even should) be.

To this end, we’re kicking off a blog series defining and fully examining each stage of the customer journey. We’re going to do a deep dive into every step a customer takes as they move through the lifecycle from start to renewal and beyond. Because we’ve assisted many of our clients in developing journey maps over the years, we have a generic model that covers each stage of the customer journey at a high level. So, any CS organization can leverage it to build or improve upon their own customer journey maps.

An all-purpose model for the customer journey

Not to be confused with a customer touchpoint map, the customer journey map charts front-facing customer engagement. As I said, there might be a million different ways you could do this. Luckily, some very smart people have already distilled down the layout of an all-purpose template. There are a variety of industry terms for each stage of the customer journey, but this universal framework offers a comprehensive view of the customer journey that you can customize to fit any business, product, service, and customer type out there.

When Customer Success first came onto the scene, we mainly lived in the Service stage of the customer journey. Implementation, onboarding, and adoption were where we shone the brightest. In more recent years, CS has been taking a more active role in revenue retention (as we should!) and, therefore, actively engaging in the Loyalty phase too. But we’re missing out on opportunities to provide support in the earlier phases. Customer Success leaders should think about how they can be more involved in Acquisition, but we have a part to play in Awareness and Consideration too.

Awareness – The beginning of a beautiful (value-based) friendship

If we’re looking at the entire customer journey, we have to start before you’ve ever even spoken to them. Before they are a customer. Before they are even a prospective customer. Yes, we begin in the first moments of realization, when they become aware of your existence. Strangely, Awareness can be both the longest and shortest stage of the customer journey. It’s that first glance, the curiosity, the, “Oh, who is this?” part of the courtship. A prospective customer might be eyeing your solution for years before they ever speak to you directly, let alone sign a contract.

Awareness is the point where your future customer realizes they have a problem. There is a pain point that needs fixing. Maybe they don’t like their current process or they’ve been told they need to find a solution for a digital transformation project. Maybe they heard another business talk about how much easier their life is with your product. No matter how it happens, they’ve seen what you do and want to learn more. This stage is pretty straightforward, and it ends when the customer gets in contact with you for more information or assistance.

Customer Success’s role in the Awareness stage of the customer journey

You might look at this first step on the road to becoming a customer and think that Customer Success has very little – if anything – to do here. You’d be wrong! In an ideal scenario, CS is involved in Awareness, but peripherally. Marketing is leading the charge here, but there are still a few things Customer Success can do to assist them in this stage.

First off, CS and Marketing should work together to develop deeper insights into your customers in general. If you’re not talking to Marketing already, you should be! In the Awareness stage specifically, the most proactive thing you can do is to learn everything you can about the problem your future customer needs to solve. Why do they need your solution? How big is their issue and what impact would your solution have on their business? To get a better sense of the scope of their need, CS can share other successful customer stories with Marketing. The two organizations should discuss what’s happening further into the customer journey to get ahead of any common roadblocks and improve the messaging prospects receive so it’s more personalized to their needs.

There is so much Customer Success can do to help customers beyond where we traditionally engage during the customer journey. We’ll continue exploring as we move through the stages of the customer journey in this series. Stay tuned.