Customer Journey

The Basics of Customer Journey Mapping

The idea of customer journey mapping is getting mentioned more frequently these days, but what does this actually refer to? What is a customer journey map?

When you look at it, a customer journey map documents the lifecycle of a customer’s experience with you from their very first interaction to the end of their time being a customer with you. Ideally, they are a customer for life; it’s a journey that never ends.

However, every customer’s interaction is different. Therefore, a customer’s journey is a collection of smaller journeys, which include different steps and touchpoints, whether the journeys are integration and activation, onboarding, or support.

When you examine each of these individual journeys to discover the touchpoints, tasks, and experiences within, you will see a larger customer journey map. Creating a customer journey is not an inconsequential feat. Customer journey mapping can be expansive, especially when working in large enterprises. Essentially, you are looking at the experience of the customer navigating the organization as they try to get from Point A to Point B.

We often think about how to make a process better for our customers within one department or with one team, but we don’t always ask ourselves what the experience is like for customers interacting with the brand as a whole.  And that’s where customer journey mapping comes into play; to smooth the gaps between these departments for a single, productive, positive customer journey. 

Without focusing on this singular experience, customers start in one spot within your organization and bounce into each of those individual functional silos delivering a part of the journey, but with no sense of consistency; no throughline. When you string all of these interactions together, it can sometimes feel disjointed; customers feel passed around, or they don’t know what is coming next or where they are in the process.

A big part of customer journey mapping is looking at the bigger picture to ensure the larger collective journey feels cohesive, productive, efficient, and positive for customers. It means asking what it is like for the customer to engage with your organization, traversing each of these departments as they go from discovery and awareness to choosing your product or service and loving the way it is implemented.

Your customer journey map answers the question of what it’s like for a customer to go through a journey across your entire organization. Customer journey mapping gives you a better understanding of this experience and a clear path forward to improve it. 

The goal of customer journey mapping is to find the optimal experience for customers by getting internal teams out of an inside-out focus, driven by their functional silos. Instead, the benefit of mapping the customer journey in detail is that organizations can see a comprehensive picture of what it’s like for customers to engage with your organization as they move between different departments, teams and third-parties to get from point A to point B. It's effective in uncovering friction and opportunity, whether in a buying, onboarding or activation journey or in the support or servicing of their product or service.” 

Why Journey Mapping Is Important

Customer journey mapping helps you create a sense of consistency throughout your company. In many organizations, there may be autonomy or solutioning over vertically-organized teams, but no real throughline from one team to the next, which can make the customer experience feel disjointed. 

Some of this lack of connectivity may be a result of the rapid advancement in digital transformation. Over the last few decades, there has been a massive shift in technology adoption and third-party solutions to empower businesses to do more. The result? The reach of many enterprises is so widespread that things don’t always feel as cohesive. Because of how quickly this has happened, the customer journey has been quite fragmented, and the way a customer interacts with one department versus another can feel like they are interacting with two entirely different companies.

Customer journey mapping helps smooth out these differences and eases the journey along the way.

There are many organizations today that have already tried to change their business, have partnered with tech experts and consulted with the best tech providers, and digitized so much of their process. This is great, but it still doesn’t always form a singular, cohesive experience.

Without a consistent, holistic thread, the customer experience can feel confusing. This is where the customer journey map comes into play; it answers a lot of questions. A journey map consists of:

  • Who the customer is
  • What team are they working with at each step of their journey
  • What communications channels they are working through

These questions serve as a starting point to improve the journey as a whole. After all, digitization doesn’t fix everything; it’s only one part of the process. Answering these questions helps pull these considerations together vertically within each team, and then gives organizations a more clear throughline to thread the journey together horizontally from step to step.

Think of it like ordering food for delivery. It used to be that you would get an approximate delivery time and nothing else. Now, customers know exactly where they are in that process—they often can even track the delivery car en route! Customer journey mapping does the same thing; it helps customers know where they are in the process, what’s coming next, who will be working with them during the next phase, and what their timeline looks like. This manages expectations and drives visibility even when working with different people--it’s a fairly simple thing for customers to see but it is often forgotten even though it makes a world of difference.

Journey mapping shows organizations what it is like for customers and clients to move through a process when all of the different stages have been pieced together without visibility for the customers or for you as the organization.

It almost always provides organizations with an “Aha” moment. It unearths issues like a 10-day gap in communication or other breakdowns in the process for customers. It helps address pre-activation churn or a poor experience during onboarding before customers ever get onboarded with the product to ensure a much more pleasant experience.

The benefits include having people from different teams and levels within the organization break down what is actually happening for customers (and how it could be more unified) for better outcomes. Customer journey mapping offers a path forward to make quick changes that can have big ripple effects.

The Five Elements of the Customer Journey 

When looking at the customer journey, it helps to know where your customers and clients are and what phase of the journey they are in. So, what is the overarching journey for your customers?

It can start with multiple smaller journeys that build into the larger journey as a whole. From the top down, the customer journey can be broken into a series of smaller journeys that are each made up of:

  1. Stages
  2. Interactions
  3. Events
  4. Tasks

Teams often look at these interactions from the bottom up, evaluating each individual team and how they tackle tasks. However, if you are looking only at events and tasks, you start to lose the big picture. But when you start looking at the customer experience from the top, you can optimize the overall journey: Is it a buying journey? An onboarding journey? A service journey? Depending on the type of journey it is, you can start to look at what each of the stages is. Did the customer just sign up? Did they just receive hardware or a log-in?

As we progress, then we can look at which teams are responsible for each action, and who is responsible for each event and task. Throughout their interactions with your organization, customers progress through five different phases of the customer journey:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Decision-Making and Purchase
  4. Retention and Onboarding
  5. Advocacy

Progressing through this customer journey, you get a true picture, an accurate representation of every single stage in a given journey. And then you can optimize it as a whole from the customer’s perspective, rather than just a single task or interaction that’s part of the journey.

It’s natural for an organization that’s focused on delivering enterprise solutions to think about optimizing the cost and efficiency of delivery for clients. But when you begin to think about it in that way, you focus on delivery to a client from the bottom up.  You then begin optimizing for yourself, falling into focusing on functional expertise and efficiency, not on creating a positive experience for the client. When you think about the system you’re using, the tasks you’re trying to complete, and the engagement channels you’re using, the bigger picture can get lost.

The challenge? Customers will traverse horizontally through each phase of their journey, and while things have been optimized vertically, they have not been unified horizontally resulting in the whole process feeling incredibly disjointed. Without this unification, processes can feel completely unrelated from one team to the next—and visibility inside these teams suffers. Teams don’t know who is helping customers next, and you have to work much harder (and less accurately) to connect the dots for the customers. 

Customer journey mapping offers horizontal visibility of your vertically-organized company—it’s a lot like coming up with a game in a playbook.  You have to consider who has the ball, who’s up next, and what’s coming down the line so there is a broader picture and a better understanding. 

But customer journey mapping and strategy doesn’t mean you have to throw out your entire playbook and start over. You don’t need to reorganize your entire company or even your tech stack to improve the customer journey; you just need to re-architect the way the customer travels through it. So much of what OvationCXM does with customer journey mapping consulting is to uncover  the experience from a customer’s vantage point for the enterprises we work with. What is it like to move horizontally through a vertically-organized system? It can be a big eye-opener.

What Do You Need to Get Started on Journey Mapping?

What does it take to get started on the road to journey mapping? The answer is to involve team members from different functions and all levels of your organization to get a true, in-depth and accurate look at the current customer journey. It calls for having everyone present and focused on the same goal: diving into each phase of the customer experience and each journey that customers go on. When you have employees of all different teams and different levels (both customer-facing and not, including those who work in technology and on the development side), everyone is focused on building tools and systems for the customer, and you end up with an intentional customer journey created with the customer in mind.

Customer journey mapping can happen anywhere; you just need a central location to collaborate, either physically or virtually, in the same room or across the globe. Whether using digital tools to diagram that customer journey map remotely or writing on a board with markers and sticky notes, customer journey mapping is possible no matter how you work—as long as the focus is on looking at communication channels (email, chat, and even on-site visits), what frustrations drive customers, what systems and platforms are you using to share information, and how you communicate with customers. 

  • Your Client-Facing Team: You need team members of all levels, including those who interact with customers, all present, attentive, and eager to investigate what’s going on. Then, you can look at what’s happening on stage: What does the customer see? What are they trying to accomplish? What team are they interacting with? What systems is that team using? How are they interacting—are they relying on calls, emails, etc?
  • Your Backstage and Operational Team Members: But don’t forget to engage the “backstage” people, too. Now is the time to consider the solutions you are using and the system you have in place: How is this information being delivered? How are we making sure that information is shared with the customers? What team is doing the work to make sure the customer is getting what they need—and what is it like for them?
  • Your Ecosystem Partners: Your employees aren’t the only ones who serve your customers. Customer journey mapping can help you look at what the experience is like for your customer, as well as the experience for the people who work within your organization to get things done for your customers. Often, this uncovers major insights, about the process of partnering with third-party technology platforms and other enterprise solutions. When you get these people in the room, too, you can start to understand what these partners and vendors are doing and how they can work together with your team to eliminate fracture points and customer frustrations. It means you can start to deliver a better, more holistic experience for clients and customers. 
  • Team Members Who Are Present: Remember, a big part of this process is facilitating conversations about what is hard for your customers, then showing this to decision-makers. This means turning off phones and paying full attention to what is going on when customers interact with your brand so that collectively, you can all dig into what’s hard for your customers, what’s working, and what needs adjustment. There is immense value in working together; in discovering as an organization what the impact can be for customers when you take the time to address these pain points.

Five Essential Customer Journey Truths 

The overall journey consists of smaller journeys that are often team-specific, but ultimately, your organization’s end-to-end customer experience is your responsibility—it must always be a priority, and it starts from the top. Here are five truths we have learned over the years about how you can craft a truly meaningful, positive, and efficient customer journey:

  • Keep it customer-centric and customer-facing. At any given time, your customer is engaging with a specific team. Ask yourself what each team is trying to accomplish for the customer as well as how the customer knows the team is working toward this.?
  • Look at the bigger picture. Looking at these smaller journeys from a bird’s eye view offers new insights. Where are the breakdowns in communication? A team may be working furiously to prepare a solution for their customer, but unless the customer knows this, all they experience is a gap in communication.
  • Focus on communication. If the customer doesn’t see or know about all the things that are in motion, in their eyes, nothing is happening. 
  • Stay transparent. Creating a great customer journey means providing visibility and transparency. The customer journey, ideally, should never end—you are always deepening and strengthening the customer journey, and making your work more transparent than ever.
  • Never stop improving. Actively managing how a customer experiences your organization should always be your top priority. Keep examining, keep working, and keep moving forward to make your customer journey the best it can be.

Customer journeys are complex, especially when dealing with multiple vendors, and should be optimized for visibility, communication, and collaboration. 

We know visibility is critical. One of the biggest challenges is keeping the customer apprised of what is happening for them. Simply getting cross-enterprise, ecosystem-wide visibility helps keep the customer in the loop, and teams too! 

Organizations that are good at this are constantly providing information to the customer. Sometimes, a great customer experience with plenty of visibility is as simple as outlining this information for the customer, either digitally or through a quick call or email about where they are in their journey and what’s coming next. It means sharing information as simple as: 

“Here’s where you are. There are five steps in our process, and you’re currently on Step #2. We will get back to you in 2 days with an update once this task is completed. When we get to Step 4, we will need this information from you.”

We all like to be clued into what’s happening. That’s why setting customer expectations upfront is a huge factor for success. When everyone is on the same page about where customers are, your customers don’t have to feel like they are repeating themselves. The internal teams already know where everyone is in the process—they know where the customer is coming from, where they are headed, and what’s happening sequentially. Everyone is in the loop. 

This is where you can utilize a customer journey mapping solution to help. You can use real-time to keep customers in the know. This is key to retention and satisfaction. 

How Do You Understand Your Customer Journey’s Current State and Discover Your Ideal State? 

So, how do you figure out what your customer journey actually looks like? It starts by asking some big questions:

  • What are the negative internal and external experiences (like with your partners and vendors, etc.)
  • What are the positive experiences customers are having? How can we double down on these?
  • What are the channels of communication and what are the messages that are being shared?
  • What systems are being used to deliver these experiences and catalog these experiences along each stage?

When we track these things, we can begin to carve out the ideal state of the customer journey map including the changes you are making to ensure consistency, relevancy, clarity, and personalization across every interaction customers have with your organization throughout their lifecycle as your customer.

But, the real question here is, “How do you get to an ideal state?” Often the issues you find across your journey map are similar throughout. For example, lack of communication and poor visibility are common themes seen from team to team and can be addressed enterprise-wide with a few simple adjustments. Additionally, self-service options to the customer so they don‘t have to rely on you or wait around for answers are simple solutions to begin to improve the customer experience. Simple solutions to begin to improve the customer experience.

How Do You Decide Which Customer Journey to Start With?

When you start the process of customer journey mapping, where do you even begin? You can look at all the ways a customer interacts with your organization, but that is daunting.  

However, if you break it down by solution set or problem set, that provides several journeys a customer may be on when interacting with your organization, while also giving you a jumping-off point to map customer journeys.

There are three basic customer journeys:

So where should you start? While it varies from organization to organization, it’s valuable to start with the onboarding/Go-live phase to ensure customers are benefitting from your work and that you are delivering the business outcomes they need.

Why is this? There are so many people involved in this stage or process, especially if you work with third-party partners or vendors. During this phase, hand-offs can be fragmented and organizational visibility can be low. Far too often, customers feel like they are getting passed around and repeating themselves, and they don’t know when the process ends. When this happens, it’s not a positive journey for the customer. In our research, we discovered that 76% of businesses had, at one time or another, abandoned an onboarding process because it was too complicated or confusing.  After fighting so hard to win a customer, you can lose them before they even use your product or service if you get onboarding wrong. 

For that reason, this tends to be where many sales forecasts don’t materialize into revenue—because when the customer journey suffers, customers back out. You can provide a much better experience when the customer knows exactly what is happening, what the timeline is, and who they will be working with.

Journey mapping onboarding processes sometimes highlight a problem with another journey, like sales, by uncovering if customer has been sold a product that is mismatched to their needs.  You can use this information to address missteps in the sales process to keep this from happening. 

The Five Best Practices for Customer Journey Mapping

The journey mapping solution is designed to provide you with maximum visibility; to see what’s really going on when your organization interacts with customers and find ways to make each of those interactions better. But how can you ensure you’re getting the best possible results? Here are the five best practices for customer journey mapping:

  • Focus on client-centricity: Your processes should be entirely client-focused because a happy client is a more profitable client.
  • Take an outside-in view: Look at things from the customer’s perspective, from the client experience, and optimize your operations around that.
  • Focus on first impressions: You only have one chance to make a first impression and you want all of your teams to be present and ready to provide a transparent, positive customer experience.
  • Be truthful and honest: Customer journey mapping is the time to get the problems out in the room so that they can be addressed and solved.  Create a culture of authenticity in which contributors’ input is welcomed and honesty is the rule.  There is zero value in not spelling out the truth as you diagram a current customer journey. After all, you can only solve the problems that you know exist.
  • Be bold. There is no wrong answer: The key to crafting a great customer journey is thinking big; thinking outside the box. Once you map your organization’s pain points and gain points, you can create a more positive experience and focus on the customer.

Ultimately, making things go better for the customer and the team that serves the customer is the true object of the exercise—that is the beauty of the journey mapping solution.

Discover how OvationCXM can guide you through the process of creating a customer journey map and honing your CX with a team of leaders and a suite of tools designed to revolutionize the customer experience