2 How to design a customer journey

Think about all the moments that customers bump into your brand.

It happens when they browse your website, search your help center, open your emails, chat with your support team, and of course—when they use your product.

Customer experience is the impression that’s left from all those moments. So the big job of customer success: to proactively craft those engagements to keep customers coming back for more.

And the journey’s got a lot more touchpoints than it used to.

From funnel to cycle:
the new customer journey

The traditional sales approach was akin to a hunt. A sales team armed with a stacked rolodex scoped their prey and chased leads down the sales funnel. Then any customer that popped out of the bottom was handed over to the customer service team—a reactive team that sat perched to ease post-sale problems.

A customer success team takes post-sales touchpoints and interactions a lot more seriously.

Why? Because in a subscription business, the real money comes after the sale. And we’re not talking about a 15% tip tacked on to the end of your dinner bill. We’re talking an expected lifetime value around 10 times the initial sale price. SaaS companies take note.

Basically, the entire process has been transformed from a funnel to a cycle—from “get them coming in” to “prevent them from leaving.”

In his book, Farm, Don’t Hunt, Guy Nirpaz likens customer success to a farming paradigm.

He continues:

And you do this by proactively crafting touchpoints to nurture your customer through the different stages of their journey.

Let’s take a trip down customer lane…


Onboard like it’s your first date

You don’t need instructions for a bar of chocolate—unwrap, put in mouth, enjoy. Products like Netflix and Spotify are also pretty intuitive—find something to consume, press play, relax.

SaaS products are more complex than your average consumer product. So it takes some get-to-know-you time after the sale is made.

This honeymoon period is called onboarding.

Your goal during onboarding is to get them to that “Wow!”, “Aha!” moment—when users see the value of your product, and can start using it on their own. Optimize your onboarding to speed up your user’s time-to-value.

Looking for a better way to onboard?
Here’s how one company reduced product training time by 70% with videos, a quiz, and zero programming.

There are lots of ways to onboard, so make sure you pick the one best suited to your users and goals. For some products, smartly designed in-app prompts will do. But more complicated products may take some serious hand-holding.

Here’s a summary of essentials to keep in mind:

Greet them with a welcome message.

“Hey, we’re so happy to see you. And we look forward to knowing you better.” Or whatever feels right for you.

Find out who they are and what they want.

Customers are using your product to get something done. Make sure you have a clear picture of their persona and job-to-be-done. This way, you focus on their needs, not your product.

Use in-app prompts to guide them to the most relevant features.

Not using video yet? Here’s your big opportunity.

Send targeted messaging based on events or milestones.

Has a user just logged in for the first time, or successfully used a new feature? Reach out to make sure they got what they wanted.

Don’t show them everything at once.

Just help them get their project off the ground. Sure, you’re proud of all your product features. But for now, only focus on the customer’s goals and what they need to know to get where they want to go.

Or as Tyler Wanlass, product designer at Respond by Buffer, says:

Send a post-onboarding customer satisfaction survey.

This gauges the effectiveness of your process, and provides insight into what can be tweaked for next time.


Nurture them proactively

They’re up and running. Now what? Nurture them.

It goes beyond reactive support to anticipating user needs, wants, and pains. You basically do this in two ways:

  1. Monitor customer health signals
  2. Reach out with value-added messaging and support

How? By tracking ticket trends in your help center, user behavior on your platform, or through feedback surveys. The clues are everywhere. The trick is to use those signals to add unexpected value.

Here are some quick things you can do:

Observe product usage trends.

Has it been a couple weeks since your customers last logged in? Send a friendly email to see if they need some help.

Keep an eye on feature use.

Are customers not taking advantage of useful features? Are they manually performing routine tasks that could be automated with a Zapier integration? I bet they’d be thrilled to know things like this.

Communicate weekly usage reports to show users value.

For example, I use SwiftKey on my phone to draw through letters on the keyboard rather than tapping them all out. SwiftKey periodically sends me a message showing how many words it’s predicted, and how many keystrokes I’ve saved. It’s a lot. And it reminds me of how much value I get from their product.

Take their temperature through periodic surveys.

Feedback surveys, satisfactions, surveys, NPS surveys—there’s one for every occasion. If you want to know how someone feels, the best thing to do is ask.

Reach out with value-added ideas.

Even if it doesn’t directly add value to your bottom-line? Yes. Remember, you’re not just providing a product, you’re providing a solution to problems.

Tip: To save tons of time, automate these processes with event-triggered emails. Using a platform like Intercom, you can easily monitor user behavior and automatically shoot off personalized communications.

How often should you check in with customers? Aim to be proactive without pestering.


Upsell through inspiration

There are basically three ways to grow:

  1. Get more customers.
  2. Charge more for the same stuff.
  3. Sell new stuff to the same people.

These levers used to be sales and marketing turf. But in a recurring revenue business, the line between marketing, sales, and support is blurred. Especially when it comes to upsells.

A recent survey by Pacific Crest Securities showed that upsells account for three times the annual contract value for the fastest growing SaaS companies. The point? More opportunity.

Here’s how to upsell through added value:

Identify customers with upsell potential.

Do you have a customer who’s almost maxed out their plan? Reach out to mention that more seats are available.

Show your full portfolio.

Are your customers aware of all your advanced features, complementary products, and shared workspace plans? Because it’s hard to sell invisible products.

Give trial periods or discounts.

Freemium models let you try before you buy. The same tactic can work with bigger plans. Are potential customers unsure? Let ‘em give it a test run.

Don’t be afraid to ask.

If you see that a customer can get more benefit from a bigger plan, don’t be shy. Not asking is the biggest reason upsells don’t happen!

Need some tips for every stage of the journey?
17 customer success experts share their experience.

Again, remember that even when upselling, the point is to bring additional value to the customer. Don’t push, don’t offer things they don’t need, and don’t be salesy.

And guess what: all of these interactions contribute to your customers’ experience, and their success with your product.

By smartly designing every touchpoint, you add value beyond the product itself—and this sets you apart from the competition.