Hurdles, obstacles and dead ends - map your customer journey to identify yours

Is your business losing potential customers because something stops them on the path to making a purchase?


One of the many benefits of mapping your customer journey and listening to what your customers are saying is the opportunity to identify the hurdles that your customers come across when they’re trying to do business with you. Customers want easy and quick, they don’t want and don’t expect to go to much effort.

Ideally your customer journey should be a smooth path that provides a positive experience – preferably enjoyable and memorable, definitely quick and easy.

Imagine a newly laid pavement or trail around a lake or along the seashore.
Whether you’re walking along it, running, cycling, pushing a pram or in a wheelchair, you’re able to focus on what’s around you and who you’re with because you’re not having to keep an eye out for cracks in the pavement, uneven ground, huge puddles, slippery mud, unexpected steps and overgrown plants taking up half the path.

Hurdles come in many shapes and sizes.

What might be a small bump in the road to some, could be an insurmountable barrier to others. Picture an obstacle course – you’re waiting to start the course with a crowd of people of all ages and abilities. You all want to get to the end but how many people will make it?

The course starts off on a perfectly tarmacked surface, then changes to cobble stones followed by deep gravel and sand – you lose a few people from the crowd here.
Example: what’s being looked for by the prospective customer can’t be found in the few seconds they’re willing to look, so they go!
Make finding things easy! Use signposting, clear labels, and the information you have (e.g. the search term used) to send your prospects to where they’ll find what they’re looking for quickly.

Next you have to get up some steps, the higher you go the bigger the steps you have to make – it’s only a staircase, but it’s more effort than some are willing to exert and some just can’t manage stairs, so you lose a few more people.
Example: the prospective customer is 95% certain they want to buy – but getting that 1 piece of information that will seal the deal is next to impossible; they know a competitor does mostly what they want and presented this valuable information straight away, so decide to save time and effort and buy from them.
Understand what information your prospects need to make their mind up whether to buy from you. Put it in front of them and remove any effort on their part.

Then you have to jump over some hurdles. They’re knee height and they’ll topple if you knock them. Suddenly some people are being told they can’t continue because they knocked some down – they weren’t told this would happen and they feel they’ve wasted the effort and time they spent getting this far. They’re justifiably annoyed, frustrated and potentially downright angry!
Example: the ‘create a password’ field doesn’t show the password creation rules (e.g. 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number, 1 special character) until after the first attempt at creating one – how irritating?! Or just as someone is about to purchase, some restrictions are introduced, like age limits, credit status, system requirements and so on; this may stop the sale dead and create a detractor.
Any rules or restrictions should be presented to the customer as early as possible in the purchase journey. Don’t waste their time – or yours.

The last step is a 6 foot brick wall. Can you run and jump, pull yourself up and throw yourself over the other side? There are just a handful of the original crowd left.
Example: To buy what they want, the prospective customer has to talk to a member of staff. There are several around, but they’re all busy with customers, doing admin tasks or talking to each other; not one of them acknowledges the prospect’s presence, even to say “I’ll be with you in a moment” –  how long would you wait before leaving and going elsewhere?
If you know that something has to happen for someone to buy from you, make every effort to make that ‘thing’ happen. Make sure everyone knows and understands how important this is. If you’re not 100% convinced that this ‘thing’ really needs to happen, find a way to remove it or give an alternative.

The value of the reward influences what we’re willing to do.

All this time on the obstacle course you’ve been able to see the end of the course and the prize waiting for you.

That prize might be something fairly mundane, selling at a great price that you know you can get from a 100 different providers
Or it could be something you have to have that doesn’t really interest you (you know, like a new electricity supplier that’ll provide you with green energy and a bit of a cost saving)
Or it could be something you’ve had your eye on for ages, you’re really excited about and you finally saved up enough to get it – perhaps that dream holiday

How far down that obstacle course would you go for each of those prizes?

Ultimately you can apply the principle that the reward must equal or exceed the effort taken to get it.

And value is in the eye of the beholder!

Find your customer journey’s hurdles, obstacles and dead ends and eliminate them as quickly as possible to increase your conversion rate. Mapping your customer journey and analysing your customers’ feedback, alongside other business data, will help you identify what hurdles exist and how much impact they have.