Last updated February 2, 2021
Customer interactions with brands can be complicated. Getting from point A to point of sale isn’t usually a straight line. To understand what your customers are thinking about as they interact with your brand you have to get inside their heads.
In this article, we’ll teach you the ins and outs of customer journey mapping, with step-by-step instructions to create one and templates to help you get started.
What is the definition of a homebuyer journey?
A homebuyer journey is the process customers go through to buy a home. It includes both the steps they take and the experience they have.
In general, a generic consumer buying journey consists of three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision-making. But homebuyers go through a longer process with additional stages and more touchpoints that builders need to acknowledge to understand their full experience.
Creating a visual representation of the homebuyer’s journey is one of the most effective ways to break it down. This is where a customer journey map comes in.
What is the definition of a customer journey map?
A customer journey map is a comprehensive visual that explains how a customer interacts with a business. It identifies significant events, pain-points, and what customers are thinking, feeling, and doing during each stage of their journey.
This information is organized, then transformed into an easily digestible format showcasing a customer’s average experience with a company – from first to final interaction.
Benefits of homebuyer journey mapping
While you may be in tune with your homebuyer’s needs and pain-points, you’re likely missing some key pieces of information you can’t get unless you evaluate each phase of the customer journey in detail. Journey maps break down the relationship your customers have with your business, which helps you evaluate business goals and restructure touchpoints to better serve their needs.
Let’s discuss the major benefits of customer journey mapping further:
1. You can focus on inbound marketing and attract more customers
If inbound marketing isn’t your sweet spot, it should be.
Inbound marketing is not only more cost-effective (61% cheaper per lead) but engages potential customers through creative content they’re interested in. It makes THEM come to YOU.
Inbound marketing is not only more cost-effective (61% cheaper per lead) but engages potential customers through creative content they’re interested in. It makes THEM come to YOU.
Outbound marketing (print ads, online ads, direct mailers, etc.) has its benefits for getting your brand in front of people, but it’s far less superior than inbound marketing. It’s more difficult to target a niche audience with outbound ads.
Customer journey mapping makes effective inbound marketing possible. You discover what your customers find helpful and interesting about your business, and what they need from you most, so you can create the right content to draw them in at the right time.
2. You can pin down your target market and customer persona
You may know the basic demographics of your homebuyers, but if you haven’t built out a customer journey map, you may not have a clear picture of their psychological traits like personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyle – all of which affect their decisions.
With a journey map, you can better understand your target audience’s wants, needs, and motivations, which means a better allocation of resources and more successful inbound marketing efforts.
3. You can turn your customer service from reactive to proactive
The problem with a customer-service only model is that it’s driven purely by reactions. A customer complains, you apologize and rectify the situation. They have a problem, you find a solution. They ask a question, you find an answer.
While good customer service helps improve customer satisfaction, customers want more than their issues resolved – they don’t want to experience them in the first place.
Customers want more than their issues resolved – they don’t want to experience them in the first place.
By mapping your customer journey, you can identify the exact moments when your homebuyers experience the least satisfaction, which is historically… most of the touchpoints post-occupancy. Knowing these lows ahead of time allows you to plan your customer service strategy to intervene at key moments in the buyer journey and address major pain-points.
With fewer pain points, you’ll have a better customer experience overall, and more happy homebuyers.
4. You can catch leads before they leave
Customer journey mapping is also very useful for finding patterns in leads that show interest than disappear. As you map, you’ll start seeing common actions lost leads take, so you can uncover exactly why they’re leaving and address those issues.
For example, you find almost all of your lost prospects had a bad experience trying to get in touch with your business from the start. You find out your response times for emails and website inquiries are 2+ days when the recommended response time is about an hour.
You find out your response times for emails and website inquiries are 2+ days when the recommended response time is about an hour.
It’s clear now, that many leads are moving on because they aren’t hearing back quickly enough. So you delegate an employee to pay closer attention to emails, or better yet, hire someone to specifically field customer inquiries through calls, emails, website forms, and social media interactions.
5. You can build a more customer-centric company
Having a detailed map to share with the whole organization helps support a customer-centric company culture. It shows how the goals of each department must work together to provide a seamless and positive experience for each homebuyer.
Customer journey maps walk through the entire experience from initial awareness and interest, to post-purchase communication and support. Because of this, it encompasses every department, not just customer service. Marketing and sales should also be concerned with the journey buyers are taking through their processes.
How to create a homebuyer journey map
The following nine steps will help you create a customer journey map that directs your marketing, customer service, and customer experience efforts in the right direction:
- Define your “average homebuyer” to map out first
- Complete homebuyer persona research
- Make a list of every touchpoint the target customer goes through
- Decide which customer journey elements you want to map
- Map out your points
- Note which resources you currently have access to and which you’ll need
- Go through the customer journey yourself
- Make the necessary changes
- Map a few more target homebuyer personas
Define your “average homebuyer” to map out first
Before you take on the task of creating a customer journey map, you need a defined goal for its purpose. As a homebuilder, you’re mapping your typical homebuyer and the experience they have with you – but who are they?
This is where identifying your buyer persona comes into play. Based on your customer data, you should be able to create a fictitious customer based on demographics, that represents your average homebuyer. From there, you can use the journey map to fully uncover their other characteristics that shape their decision-making process.
Complete homebuyer persona research
Once you have your average homebuyer persona identified, you’ll want to conduct some research. Ideally, you already have a customer experience management system in place like AvidCX, that systematically captures customer feedback and satisfaction survey scores to evaluate.
If not, you’ll have to get your hands a bit dirty and manually reach out for feedback from potential, current, and previous customers. Make sure you only contact those who have interacted with your business. Here are some questions you might want to ask:
- How did you hear about our company?
- What was your first impression of our company?
- What did you like about our website?
- If you chose to build a home with us, what was the deciding factor?
- Have you considered us as your homebuilder, but decided against it? What led to this decision?
- If you built a home with us, on a scale of 1 to 10 how was your overall experience? If below an 8, what affected your experience negatively?
- Have you interacted with our customer support? If yes, how would you rate your experience on a scale of 1 to 10?
The goal is to discover key areas you can pinpoint on your map for both high and low levels of customer satisfaction.
Make a list of every touchpoint the target customer goes through
After you’ve collected and evaluated customer data for your average homebuyer, it’s time to create the actual map! Here’s how:
List all of the initial touchpoints a lead hits during the inspiration and discovery phase
The inspiration and discovery phases are the very beginning of a customer journey when they’re just starting their online searching and finding out who you are.
List out all the ways you believe a potential customer should interact with your company and compare this to the paths they are taking. This comparison gives you insight into the behavior of your customers and how they’re using your communication channels.
You should be checking all the places traffic comes from such as:
- Your website
- Social channels
- Paid advertising
- Email marketing campaigns
- Review sites like Google and Yelp
You want to know exactly how leads are coming to you and what content is drawing them in. Narrow this list down to the most used pathways that usually lead to a direct-contact action like calling and emailing your company for more information.
List all the actions a lead takes during the decision, service, and support phases
Once a potential customer has learned more about you they enter the decision phase. Do they go ahead and sign a contract with you? If they do, they go through the service phase (everything that happens after the contract is finalized to move-in) and the support phase (the post-occupancy warranty service). There are a lot of touchpoints here. List every single one of them. Yes, it sounds lengthy. And it is. But the benefits of doing this once far outweigh the time spent.
These touchpoints include moments like:
- Visiting a model home
- Researching other builders
- Loan approval process
- Signing the building contract
- Picking out design selections
- Receiving construction updates
- Pre-delivery orientation
- Move-in day
- 30-day post-occupancy service
- 1-year post-occupancy service
- Receiving home maintenance tips
- Learning about/participating in a referral program
It’s important to acknowledge every step a homebuyer takes because they’re tied deeply to emotions and motivations that drive their choices.
List emotional drivers for every touchpoint – positive and negative
Every action a customer takes is motivated by the emotion they’re feeling at that particular part of their journey. To understand and enhance their journey you must recognize how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking as they go through the process.
Every action a customer takes is motivated by the emotion they’re feeling at that particular part of their journey.
For example, when homebuyers first sign their new-construction contract they’re excited, happy, dreaming about their new home. But when construction starts and their builder isn’t great at communicating updates, they’re satisfaction drops significantly because they’re anxious, worried, and stressed because they don’t feel in control of their investment.
Knowing the emotions tied to this dip allows you to formulate a plan to communicate construction updates more effectively, keeping buyers fully in the loop without having to ask. This can alleviate some of those worries and improve customer satisfaction at that particular touchpoint.
Take this same approach with each touchpoint and you start to raise those negative dips in the map and provide a better customer experience.
Identify obstacles that may be blocking leads from taking their desired action
Emotions and motivations fuel most actions, but sometimes there are obstacles like cost, loan approval, and lack of knowledge about the homebuilding process, that get in the way of closing a sale.
You may not be able to smooth out each one (like loan approval), but for things like process knowledge you can create content to address common questions people have about building a home like a step by step “how it works” cheat sheet or FAQ.
Decide which customer journey elements you want to map
There are four basic types of customer journey maps:
- Current experience: maps out the behaviors, thoughts, and emotions customers are experiencing in the present while interacting with your company. Most widely used and focus on continuous customer experience improvement.
- Future experience: maps out the behaviors, thoughts, and emotions you want your customers to have in the future, based on what they’re experiencing now. Best for visualizing customer experience goals.
- Day to day life: maps out the daily behaviors, thoughts, and emotions customers have during their day, whether it involves interactions with your company or not. Helps you see customer pain points beyond homebuying and address customer needs proactively.
- Service blueprint: expands on one of the journey maps listed above, by including the people, policies, processes, and technologies responsible for delivering experiences throughout each touchpoint. Helps you identify specific areas of your business where adjustments need to be made to improve the experience at low-performing spots.
As a first-time journey mapper, we suggest using the “current experience” model to get a good look at your homebuyers’ present thoughts, feelings, and actions surrounding your brand.
Map out your points
Once you listed out your touchpoints, it’s time to physically map them. We suggest some sort of line graph where you can easily see shifts in satisfaction from touchpoint to touchpoint.
Pick a number scale to present customer satisfaction levels – a 5-point or 10-point scale work best, with 5 and 10 representing a very positive experience, and 1 a very negative experience) and start plotting out the areas of your customer journey you want to showcase.
Using visual elements like color coding and starring defining moments helps tell the customer story more clearly. And headings breaking up the different phases of the journey add additional context. (see figure 1)
This map can get detailed and cluttered, so it might be most helpful to pick out the most critical points and map those. In our example map below (figure 2), we’ve mapped out 32 main touchpoints, even though our platform collects data for over 300 moments in a homebuyer’s journey.
Note which resources you currently have access to and which you’ll need
Customer journey mapping makes your business practices transparent. It might be an ego-check to see those problem areas, but a necessary one. All the resources you’re currently putting into your customer experience will be easy to identify, as will the resources you’re lacking. Use this opportunity to record them all, so you know exactly where you need to invest to make improvements.
Let’s go back to our customer churn example: Through mapping your homebuyer journey you learn you’re losing out many potential customers because your initial contact response time is too slow. Upon further research, you realize your team is spread a bit thin and you don’t have someone dedicated to customer service.
With the proof from your journey map, you can confidently ask management to hire a customer service representative and show them how this investment will positively impact the company’s bottom-line by reducing customer churn. Or if you’re the boss, you can give yourself validation that hiring someone is well worth it.
Go through the customer journey yourself
By far the most important step: take the journey and experience what your customers do. It’s likely your largest buyer persona is first-time homeowners. So pretend you’re them, looking to build a home and you have no idea where to start.
What do you search for online? Does your company website come up on the first page or two of Google? Is it showing up in local searches? What happens when you click on the website? Can you easily find FAQ and About Us pages? Is it clear how to get in contact with the business? How fast do you get a response when you fill out a form? All of these small pieces matter.
Though you won’t go through the process of actually building a home, you should approach every touchpoint like you’re a homebuyer from your target customer base – thinking and feeling how they do. If you notice a problem, it’s likely your homebuyers are experiencing it.
Make the necessary changes
The logical next step after you’ve built your map and followed it is to make adjustments to the touchpoints that need help. This could be as simple as updating your website to make it more user-friendly and accessible, to a full overhaul of your communication procedures throughout the entire buying process.
Every change makes an impact, and with the evidence to back it, you can confidently move forward with them. It’s also important to note that a customer journey map is ever-evolving. There are always better ways to do things, so revisiting your map each quarter will help you stay on top of gaps in your customer experience that need to be filled in.
Map a few more target homebuyer personas
You likely work with several homebuyer personas. First-time buyers, empty-nesters, families, singles, younger buyers, older buyers. Each group has unique thoughts, feelings, and actions, so their journey map will be different.
Before you get overwhelmed, you don’t need to map them all right away. Take the biggest groups first and focus on those before turning efforts to your smaller niches.
Homebuyer journey map example
Below is an example of how a homebuyer journey map may look, created with data from Avid Ratings’ homebuilder partners.
Homebuyer satisfaction data over numerous touchpoints was collected in our customer experience software platform, AvidCX. We took the most common ones and mapped them on a 5-point scale to show the changes in homebuyer satisfaction.
You can see in our example, how the journey map clearly shows customer satisfaction drops tremendously for homebuilders in areas of construction communication and most touchpoints post-occupancy during the warranty period.
With this information, our homebuilding partners can look at their customer satisfaction surveys post-move-in to learn why their homebuyers are so unsatisfied.
FREE customer journey map templates for homebuilders
Didn’t think we’d give you all this info and leave you hanging did you?
To help you get started, we’ve created four journey map templates to organize your customer data research for common touchpoints in each phase of the homebuyer journey: inspiration and discovery, decision making, service, and support.
FREE customer journey map templates for remodelers
Remodelers and renovators, we didn’t forget about you! Your customer journey from discovery to support is unique, so we created a set of journey mapping templates just for you.