If you’re trying to better understand your customers, better align your internal team and build better products that sell, understand customer journey mapping. Jochem Van der Veer from TheyDo explains how to create and use customer journey maps in the right way.
TheyDo is a modern Customer Journey Management Platform that centralizes your journeys in an easy to manage system, where everyone has access to a single source of truth of the customer experience. It’s like a CMS for journeys.
Welcome to Product Stories where we explore how founders build successful software products. This is a podcast about product management, development, remote work and anything else, non-technical as well as technical founders need to know to launch and scale software products. Today’s guest is Jochem Van der Veer, co-founder of TheyDo, and together, we’ll dive into the secrets of understanding the customer journey, which starts way before your signup page and decides whether customers choose you when they have a problem. Jochem, welcome to the show.
Thanks. Glad to be here.
Awesome. Why don’t you tell us just a little tiny bit about your background and what brought you to building a SaaS.
So I have a background in design, user experience design and the whole field was rapidly evolving, like, what is it more than a decade ago and eventually it turned out to be service design. What was my calling, and I lead an agency together with two other guys for a while, a service design agency where we focused on helping our clients work more customer-centric, not only do these type of projects but also build the processes and systems to sustain that way of working and that led us to getting into journey mapping and using customer journeys as the core of how businesses operate. We call it a journey management. So what we found was that everyone was doing it so differently, journeys were all over the place, nothing was consistent, nothing was standardized.
So how can you get an overview? How can you prioritize what to do next and know exactly what, so scratching our own edge, we were designing software to serve as our clients and that ultimately led into creating a whole product organization around the core of what they do– today is– We don’t do consulting any more, except for implementation and we’re now a full SaaS business.
Cool, and who’s your main target audience with this product?
So we target enterprise companies, we’re based in Amsterdam- Well, technically, we’re not based anywhere, we are a remote company. But we are founded in the Netherlands. So we are now focusing on large corporations here that have a lot of different departments, different silos, a lot of miscommunication and walls– or virtual walls in the office. So large companies with service design or in-house UX teams that want to work customer-centric, that’s basically our target audience. So a bit more specific than just Fortune 500.
Of course, awesome– Of course, customer service design isn’t just something that the Fortune 500 or the enterprises should be doing, even though probably they’re lacking it the most. I guess many startup founders are sort of doing it, they know a lot of tools that go into user journey mapping, but maybe you don’t necessarily understand that there’s really a very good inset process and something that can be explained and implemented. So what in your definition is a customer journey?
Yeah, that’s a very good one actually. Just make it very simple. It is visualizing, or at least when we talk about customer journey maps, it’s about visualizing the experience people have when completing a goal, or achieving some target or meeting some deadline that they have for themselves. What I mean by that is basically, customer journeys are not Click on the sign up– Click here, do this– do that, get some value from the product, share it with your friends, buy a subscription, and then later on churn. All those are part of the customer journey.
When we look at customer journeys from a business perspective, it is usually trying to understand all the way from first thought– when the first thought arises from “Hey, there must be something wrong with the way I’m doing it” or you know, “I need a solution for my problem” or “I have an itch to scratch” all the way to fixing it, finishing it, doing it and all the steps and the forces of progress or the things that hold us back combines that makeup for the customer journey and as you might expect, a product like we satisfy or building is somewhere in the journey, but definitely not the start and also not the end, it is somewhere in the customer journey, one of the decisions is I’m going to go for product X, I’m going to go for product Y, to scratch my itch or to solve my problem and then maybe going to start onboarding or if I have already done it, it will be a little bit earlier in the journey.
But the whole customer journey is often way broader. Now we as businesses like to believe, because what we can measure is within the realm of our products, and what is outside that stuff, that we can figure out based on data is very crazy, our hearts to follow– our hearts to understand if you don’t have a customer journey in place and it’s based on real data or figuring out what people do.
So, how do I create and visualize that? Is there a standard format? Is there something that I can do or draw or sketch or— Which obviously, is always not as good as TheyDo? I presume, but how would I get started very simply?
Good question. So journeys to create, to visualize, you can google customer journey mapping or customer journey mapping tool, and they probably will find us in some monitors and some methods and some templates and some sketches and some layouts. That’s not a real problem. That’s easy to do. Anyone can draw customer journeys. But the best customer journeys we see are based on real customer interviews.
So talking to your customers, and really understanding what was the decision making process– like literally the decision making process in their head, up until the moment that they chose your product, if they are your customer, you can ask them up until they bought your service. What was all the things the steps in their mind that they went through, and the best way to obtain that is by talking to them– Virtually, physically, calling them up, being together with them, even though current times did not allow that. But building an understanding of what they actually did step by step by step, what they thought, what they felt, what they experienced, why they were doing, what they did, is ultimately the best way to get started mapping a journey.
So doing customer interviews, is a great way and then using the data to structure it back into customer journey, literally showing progress people make, is actually the best way to create a customer journey map and then the next step would be Hey, where do our solutions, whether that’s a marketing campaign, or a landing page, or actually an onboarding flow, or basically some feature in your product, help our customer in that journey to make progress.
That brings me to another question, because obviously, some of our listeners are very early stage. Some are mature SaaS companies with a lot of customers. When is the right time to do this? Because some people might not have a lot of customers to talk to yet they just have a hypothesis. Does it already make sense to throw that spaghetti at the wall and create a hypothetical user journey or is that way too early?
Yes. So that is a way to start. The downside is that if you believe that you have found the truth, and your journey is great, it’s hard to let that go when you learn new facts that are counterintuitive, or disconfirm your initial thoughts. You know, we want to be right, and we want to build a business that works. So if people tell you your journey is wrong, it’s very hard to change that. So you can do that to start. But it’s more interesting to look at what the definition of customer is, because customer journey mapping is a term that we use across the industry for this, but we see customer as someone who is ultimately the end-user.
So there’s also a stage where that same person is not a customer yet. So looking at that part is interesting as well and if you’re a startup founder, as we were, when we started the product, we didn’t have many customers, we didn’t have access to our target audience, to really understand what are the people that we seek to serve and we started talking to them and based on what we have observed, we could create different profiles of them. We call them personas and basically they represent a need-based profile of what we see as our ideal customers are the people that we want to serve and splitting up those interviews into some basic need profiles is a really useful exercise to start with, to understand what is the needs of a group of people that is similar. Ultimately my product or my vision of my product is going to address and how do they actually do what they– what my product or services currently aiming to fix what do they do right now, and what is holding them back to change. So those are the first things to look for when you don’t have customers, but you know who you are going to– or want to serve in the future.
Actually, that’s a great point. But I haven’t even thought about yet. But of course, what holds you back from creating a customer journey of the competitive alternative they’re currently using? And exactly figuring out where the pain points are on this journey– not even creating the map for your product, but for up until where it would be necessary to understand your customers, right?
Yeah, I can give you a more lively example, if you want from our product. So how you structure a journey map, before COVID was done, big whiteboard session, or brown paper session posted some smart people in the room, hopefully, with customers– usually without customers. Anyway, that’s how it got done. Now, that whole space moved online and to the digital whiteboard spaces, which are great tools to do these kinds of workshops, to do this initial discovery mapping, and we use them as well. But then what happens is that your journeys grow through a gap like a current and a future state, you have sub journeys, and you have different parts of your product that you want to map.
So what we figured out for our customer journeys was the moments that you start, you go away from discovery, and you start to coordinate, prioritize, start working with your journeys. That is the moment that these digital whiteboards break down or the physical white points breakdown, that’s the moment when they do is great. So we say when you want to go from all over the place to one place, these were literally the words that we heard people say, that is where you want to have a solution like data. So we use it in a marketing, those kind of words in the journey on that particular step. Obviously, our solutions a little bit bigger than that. But that’s one of the findings that we’ve observed by talking to people and looking at how they are currently doing it, without data.
And that makes a lot of sense. This is cool and you already mentioned it that before COVID, you started with having people in a room and a whiteboard, hopefully with customers and now who should ideally be involved in this and I already know since it should be customers, even though oftentimes they’re not. Who else should be there? Who else should really attend this session?
So customers can also can only be included if you know what you’re doing. Because if you just have a bunch of customers in a workshop, and you’re going to talk about journey maps, the outcome will be very much biased, and based on groupthink. So that’s why I help my customers or my potential customers to set it up based on interviews, one-on-ones, because it’s more valuable, where you get real insights and then later, you can confirm the customers.
But if you do a session with your team, or let’s say, you’re just SaaS, a company that want to start with journey maps, then at least you need someone who later on is able to continue building on this journey. Because journey mapping is not a poster exercise that you do once, create a nice visual, you get some insights, and you go back to business. Journeys basically represent your product and how you address the solutions– addressing problems in that journey is done with our solutions or features. So if you are ready for this step, then having the core team, especially when you’re a startup founder, having your core team be present is very essential.
So at least your exact team will be your CTO, someone who leads the development, or the engineering team, listed designer, or someone who is literate in user experience research or talking to customers and knowing what to ask to get some information. So he can also she can also create a brief afterwards.
So those are some of the people that I would involve. But journeys are a very visual tool and that’s why it’s so powerful because you can have everyone involved, or let’s not say everyone, but any role in your company can be involved because every person can bring something to such a session that you might not have thought of before and because it’s a simple way to visualize things and to map things out that anyone can understand. It’s not something that is too complicated.
Most people will not be seeing any video but is there — can you describe a sample, a customer journey, something with not too many steps so that people can visualize what that could look like for a sample product, maybe even yours.
Yes, sure. So there are two ways to look at it. You have the big picture, like maybe let’s start there and the big picture is broad stroke journey. So it goes all the way from that first thought, that I just mentioned and then maybe at the end, — and I’ll walk you through the steps in a sec at the end to like churning or renewing the SaaS business, but from the first thought, the moment people realize they might have a problem, or not doing something right, or doing something that they want to do better or prove. All the way to– I’m going to onboard or I’m going to sign up is already too far away from that first thought.
So the big picture would consist of let’s say, I have this first thought, then I start passive looking– the first thought is there and I’m passive looking, what am I doing a few steps in that process, then at some point, something happens can be small thing can be a big event doesn’t matter. It can be something someone says to you, or you find this ad online and then you go into active looking– and active looking, the third phase of this journey, where you actually start to figure out what are the options and you’ll start browsing around collecting a few pages and making a pre-selection is also the phase where you would start to make a shortlist of solutions can be digital solutions.
That’s what we SaaS founders like, I can also be, you know, things that you do in the real world. After this active looking phase, there is I’m going to decide can be like a split second or can be a meeting or can be something that you do with your team or, you know, your customer does collectively or there’s many steps involved and then comes a moment in time that you say, “Okay, I’m going to try this, I’m going to onboard”. And, again, these two stages can be reversed because some products offer free trials like we do and offer something that you can explore already. So the onboarding part is before that.
So then the decision is after the onboarding, — after the decision, there is going to be the either the implementation or the first use. So as you can see, what I’m trying to do here is I’m walking you through the broad strokes, stages. But onboarding– let’s just take onboarding because we all know onboarding, is already a journey on its own. Because there are many entry points. Usually, it’s not like click the signup button. But someone can refer you to getting onboarding started, or you are doing it together with your potential customer because you help them or someone just got a share link from your application and just onboard through there.
So different entry points and then there are different steps involved to onboard. You have a simple product might be a flow with a few steps to set you up, have a complex product, or maybe entering a configuration flow and in between all these steps that you do–Basically, in your mind, you’re also thinking, what should I do? Am I doing this right? Maybe I just browse the health section to figure out if I am doing it right, or I’m going to ask a friend.
So there’s also some steps that we are not measuring and we cannot see that are happening at the same time and this is the information that you want to structure in your journey so that you get a big picture, and a small, detailed version of the big picture, you see, hey, this is what holding what is holding people back. This is what helping them to make progress and all these little elements together might shape what we call opportunities for you to improve either in your communication, your onboarding flow if we take the onboarding journey, but it will allow you to capture opportunities based on what people do, and not only on what your data tells them they do– Or they did. Is that helpful or you want to dig deeper into a journey, how you structure it?
That is very helpful. I think that’s fine. I think everybody can relay that onto their own business right now and is probably already thinking of, how can they improve or where do my customers actually come from? When they sign up? I think even that mindset shift, this is super helpful. But now, let’s say, I have my journey, and what do I do with the result best because you already said, “You shouldn’t be like, Okay, cool. I have this now. I’ll just post it in slack for everyone to see. It’s a super nice graphic”. What should I do? How should I distribute it? What’s the best thing to do with it?
Very good question. Because different journeys have different purposes, especially in the early days of your company, your journey can serve as a way to figure out the ideal customer experience– right of the part that you can influence. But in the later stage of your company, you might have already a bunch of journeys, figuring out different parts of your products, even before you become a customer, and while you’re a customer, and you have all these different types of journeys. So the first basic place to start is trying to map the current situation and if you don’t have customers, you map out for the different need based profiles you have. So for the different personas, the most important journeys of the goals they tried to complete, which your product later on will fix or address. So that is the current journey. However, they’re doing it right now. if you do have customers try to map it with your product. So how is the big picture journey coming together? And where does your product starts to make that journey easier for your customers?
Now, the goal of the current journey is to get a shared understanding with your team of what’s going on, what is the customer experience? Why do people do what they do? And that will result hopefully, in some observations that, you know, are true, but also some points of friction, some pain points in that journey. But it also leads you to find opportunities. If you have to talk to 10 customers already and structured into journey, you can already see some patterns that might not be specific to one step in that journey, or two steps in that journey. But might be specific to a part of the journey consisting of some evidence from different steps and this is where you can take your journey to the next level and say like, we’re going to use this journey to document opportunities to capture the evidence that we have obtained and say, that’s obviously something we do, and they put a layer on top of your journey. So like, Hey, we have a list of opportunities. The first opportunity we want to address is XYZ and you can find some evidence in these steps.
So then you turn your current journey, creating the shared understanding into a little bit more interactive platform for capturing opportunities and prioritizing these against your company goals and figuring out together with your team, like, “Hey, we have a bunch of opportunities, we want to address, we’re a small team, can’t do everything. What can we do first? And what is the most important one”? And this is also a great place to have a good discussion.
But if you use OKR’s are another strategic goal mapping methodology. How did these opportunities stack against our company goals? And then you can really start working customer centric, we want to — I don’t know— improve our activation metric to x. All right. Our customers have told us that these are the things that they want to focus on or they have problems with? Can we find some synergies between them? What is the most important thing to address right now, that is the key of working customer centric, and you can use journeys to start working this way, if they are the source of your truth.
I guess on top of that, because you already mentioned that mostly enterprises have this problem of creating silos– Marketing is working on its own, product is working on its own, everybody’s working on their own. But to be frank, within startups, once you have a team of five or more, you’re also fighting against silo creation and you have again, marketing, again have product. So probably this one shared understanding or the truth helps every department to do a better job and be better aligned with the rest.
Yes, definitely and there’s also one more thing that you can do with your journeys, if there are in a digital format, like the journeys that we structure in TheyDo, is that they become like the container for all your insights. So you don’t need to do like this big picture opportunities all the time. If you have a little insight– very little insight, like hey, it would be great if this button would activate a different kind of menu than the model you right now have, or will be great to have an overview of this or that type of database you have in your system.
If you get those kinds of insights from your customer and there are focusing a very particular step in your journey. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just slot it in right there in the journey whether it’s your customer success manager or someone from sales or someone from UX research or your product team that obtain this insight, and he or she can then just put it in the journey directly. That’s at least how we do it in Theydo.
So all the small, little insights that are not like these big picture things, get into the right place with the journey. So everyone’s still understands what’s going on.
That is really helpful and now, when do I revisit my customer journey?
Yes, that has to do with the product cycle. If you work into experience or bigger, longer-term planning, you can do the big picture of things, usually quarterly, that’s at least for– I don’t know, for a lot of SaaS founders, at least that’s also how we operate. The best horizon to look at when it comes to like the bigger picture, epics or the opportunities, as we call them, you want to focus on building a product. But we revisit our journeys every day. So we get new information all the time, through our different support channels, through the chest through the conversations we have with our customers. So my day almost always starts with going into day two, and figuring out if there’s something new to see, or going to have a look at the journey.
Now, that’s obviously because journeys are my thing. This is very useful to start your weekly meeting with having a look at the journey or having a look at your opportunity prioritization or having a look at what are the new insights that we have gathered or obtained– kind of depends on how deep you want to go. But you can also make it into a team effort to once every now and then– Have a session, where you go through the whole journey together and figure out if it’s still the right journey, if it’s still the right steps, right opportunities you’re focusing on to do a little cleanup. So it really becomes your center of gravity, rather than your data dashboards or your product backlogs, which is focusing on only one part of your business,
When should I create multiple journeys, when is one not enough.
So the best way to start is like make one big picture journey, especially in early days of your company, don’t have to manage journeys, and you have to manage a lot of different places just [phonetic 27:13] you start big. But then you start seeing some patterns and then you figure out, hey, onboarding, is something that we are not doing right, or we can improve. That is usually the time when you uncover an opportunity somewhere in the big picture journey that you want to go deeper.
So, let’s dig it. Let’s talk to some more customers. Let’s find some more data. Let’s figure out what we currently do, how that journey looks like and make a smaller journey that fits into that bigger picture. That is where we see a lot of startup and founders make smaller journeys. If your company is a little bit more mature already, then you might want to look at what we call journey hierarchy where you say, we take the big customer experience and start slicing it up into smaller journeys that all add up to the big picture. Let’s take Uber as an example.
Not saying that it’s a little scalar. But it’s one of the biggest but maybe an easier one to use an example. If you get a ride, all the way from Okay, I need one, going to open the app, I’m going to get one, I’m going to have the ride, I’m going to rate my ride driver, and I’m going to be at my destination– that is a micro churn and then there might be like this whole lot of space between the next interaction we’re going to have with that breath. Now looking at it from Ubers perspective, the micro journey of some Victor persona. Let’s make some assumptions about who he represents. But the Victor persona journey of getting an Uber is some micro journey in the big picture, ecosystem of customer experience at Uber.
So you can imagine there are some journeys before and after and some other journeys, maybe you’re going to have different apps from Uber, like Uber Eats as well installed, so it’s all connected. So as your company grows, it makes sense to have smaller journeys based on what your customers do, and not based on some segmentation and that is a very important lesson we have learned along the many years that we are now working in this field. Try to start from your customers’ perspective, and not from your business perspective.
That is 100% valuable and how can they do help in this process? How can I use your software?
Yes, and this is also the place where you go from all over the place to one place. We see. if you have a simple consistent way of documenting your journey mapping your journeys and also have a system that you can use your Journey says like Lego blocks to create a bigger picture, with a few journeys show what customer experiences like in a bigger scheme of things, then you can solve these puzzles and that is what our software actually does.
So making journeys is very flexible. You can make your journeys exactly the way once using the different layers of content, you want to build it and having different phases and different steps and different personas, adding the different opportunities and solutions to your journeys and making these great tools for align. But then, small journeys together can also be created in one overview. So we provide some tools to create these hierarchies and to show you how you can quickly organize a few journeys together, get valuable insights and work as a business using journeys as an overview of the customer experience.
Wonderful and so we’re what I sign up, and what’s the pricing for startups.
Yeah, so go to data.io/register if you want, or just click the Register button. Especially for startups, it’s great. Because what we see when you get started with journey maps, you need to get your bearings, right, you need to do some, you know, customer interviews and to structure things. So data is free. Up until three journeys, you can join with your whole team. We have life collaboration built-in, of course, and up until three journeys, you can do everything you want and after the fourth, it’s 25 euros per contributor, so people can create, edit, and make journeys, and it’s five euros per viewer. So you might want to have some, you know, people in your organization be able to view everything without tampering with your valuably created journeys.
Wow, that’s awesome. Oh, I’ll just add that this is the current pricing. So obviously, we don’t know if it’s going to be free forever. I’m definitely going to sign up. Can you recommend any books or courses or maybe just even good in-depth blog articles on customer journey mapping? If anybody wants to learn more?
Yeah, sure. You know, what I will recommend if you just go to Amazon or Google or bull.com whatever platform you use to buy your books, and just find “journey mapping”, you can find some resources, I don’t think that’s going to be the one that people get some value from some basic theory and you’re going to be great. Maybe you can check out “Demand Side Sales” by Bob Moesta. I don’t know if you heard about the book. He’s one of the guys that together with Clayton Christensen came up with the “jobs to be done” framework and he is showing the journey as a way how people make purchase decisions, buy things or basically Demand Side Sales, as he call it.
I think that book with so rich, vivid examples– will give you a better understanding of what journey mapping can do for you and the other thing I recommend is one of the things on our website we call “Journey Excellence“, which basically lays out a simple blog article and approach to customer experience management, where you use journeys and personas to structure insights, which allows you to create hierarchy in these different journeys you have and then lets you prioritize opportunities across these journeys and that workflow. What you can do to go from insight to implementation, is definitely something if you have that in mind— when starting with your journey maps it will help you tremendously in navigating the complex business goals that you want to achieve
That’s really helpful. I will definitely link that up. As a last note, where can we find more about you and TheyDo.
So besides our website, I think LinkedIn is the best place to connect with us. So you can find me it’s Jochem Van der Ver. It’s Dutch, but I’m sure you can link to it, Victor and our company is at LinkedIn as well TheyDo.io. Or you can just search for TheyDo delightful CX management. I mean, we want to be the easiest to use. So we put delightful in our supplier sub-tech on LinkedIn.
Awesome. It was such a pleasure and this was really insightful. Thank you so much for joining us.
Thanks for having me. It was my pleasure.