Knowing that both the user journey and customer journey can co-exist can help frame conversations. “Are we talking about the user journey or the customer journey?” This will help you focus. It will also help you identify where you may wish to spend time focusing in the future if a particular journey doesn’t have your focus today.
The steps of the journey are going to be roughly the same for both customers and users, but you’ll describe them differently depending on the differences between your users and your customers. Consider the following basic journey stages: Awareness, Conversion, Onboarding, Success, and Advocacy.
Look at Trello’s user journey. New users become aware of Trello primarily by being invited to a board by a collaborator on a project, but sometimes also via content marketing. Conversion could be as simple as signing up and logging in. For Trello, onboarding can happen via drip marketing, but it can also happen rather organically as users train other users via collaboration within the product. The success phase will look at whether users continue to use and get value out of the product over time. Advocacy looks at how users share their experience with others. Trello’s most natural form of advocacy is inviting new users to collaborate. One user’s advocacy is another user’s awareness, thus creating Trello’s natural growth engine.
Now let’s look at Trello’s customer journey². The first thing you might observe is that Trello has three different tiers of paid products: Gold
(individuals), Business Class
(teams), and Enterprise
(large businesses). Because the products are tiered by customer type, they’ll each have their own customer journey. Let’s look at Enterprise, since that will provide the greatest contrast to the user journey.
Awareness at the enterprise level looks something like this: an IT manager at a large organization will discover a bunch of rogue employees with Trello boards and so they’ll reach out to the Trello sales team and say, “We have a lot of employees using your platform, but we have a policy that requires us to be on paid terms and on our paper [meaning, our standard master services agreement] for any software we use.” And then Trello says, “Oh my, a policy, why yes, I do believe we can help with that.” At this point, Trello will likely make available certain pre-sales “features” to help drive the prospect toward the conversion phase of the journey, things like “legal review”, “security review”, and “negotiation with procurement.” These features are very unlikely to make their way into the main Trello product, but they’re nonetheless valuable to large businesses as part of their journey.
Onboarding, for a large enough company, might include personalized training and implementation from a Trello customer success manager. The Success phase of the customer journey will likely include overviews of the individual user journeys for the people within that organization (here you’ll find another “feature”, a report an IT manager can use to prove that people are utilizing the software). Advocacy, for Trello, is still primarily going to happen via user advocacy, but there’s still opportunity to create advocates among decision makers and key stakeholders in a way that’s unique to them as customers vs their experience as users. Some of these steps in the enterprise customer journey may become “productized” and visible when a user logs into the app, but many will still remain out of the product.
Hopefully by now you see that the distinction between a user journey and a customer journey is helpful not just for free products that don’t have customers yet, but for pretty much any business where the customer isn’t necessarily the same as the user. For product companies with a strong foundation in engineering and design, there will be usually be a natural emphasis on the user journey. Knowing that there is a customer journey that is distinct from the user journey—and that not all steps of the customer journey will necessarily take place within the product—can provide a framework for ensuring you’re considering the needs of both your users and your customers at critical touch points in their respective journeys.