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  • Writer's pictureFreda Smit

What Is A Customer Journey Map And Why Are They Important?

Discover the moments that matter with a customer journey map

We hear plenty of talk about breaking down organizational silos. And it’s a worthwhile goal. After all, your customers shouldn’t suffer a poor experience simply because of your organizational structure. However, to understand how to more meaningfully align with their customers, companies need to first create a customer journey map.

Just as many say “content marketing” will someday evolve to simply be called “marketing,” some say “customer experience” will soon become the way of doing business.

Anne Lewnes, EVP and CMO of Adobe, has suggested the term customer experience (CX) will be trivial in the coming years because every smart company will begin to think customer first. CX consulting firm Walker once declared that customer experience would overtake price and product quality as the key brand differentiator by 2020, and it feels like we’re seeing that prediction play out in our current environment.

No wonder Shiva Mirhosseini, Aetna's VP of marketing technology and digital experience, has said that she sees her role as simplifying customer experiences and enabling the outcomes and experiences those customers want. To do that, Aetna's marketing team has evolved from being “masters of the pipeline to becoming customer evangelists.”

By viewing the customer experience as a strategic initiative, you too can position your company for future success. But, while many companies grasp the strategic importance of CX, they struggle with how to effectively deliver an indispensable one. Enter the customer journey map, a core tool in your overall CX strategy.

What Is a Customer Journey Map?

The customer journey map is a tool to visualize the experience of interacting with your brand from the customer’s point of view. This map is critical because it forces you to look at how your customers actually experience your brand versus how you think they do. By better understanding your customers, you can better deliver on their expectations.

According to Blake Morgan, a customer experience futurist, “You must invest in becoming an experience-led business, which means optimizing every customer touchpoint. By understanding the customer journey, B2B companies can stay a step ahead of the customer to lead them on the path for a great experience and quality product or service.”

Benefits of Mapping Your Customer’s Journey

Understanding and empathizing with customers lays the groundwork for meaningful interactions and successful business outcomes. It also provides a tangible framework for CX initiatives.

Customer Journey Maps Enable Better Experiences

As you study all phases of a customer’s journey with your brand, you’ll be able to isolate where you aren’t meeting expectations or where you are outright alienating prospects and customers. CEB asked thousands of senior executives at companies around the world to describe the B2B purchase process in a single word. The responses included “hard,” “awful,” “painful,” “frustrating,” and “minefield.” In many cases, these horrible processes are the result of disjointed moments in time that lead to an inconsistent and frustrating customer experience.

By addressing these shortcomings, you can ensure better experiences that empower your prospects and customers to interact with and purchase from your company as they desire. That can translate into faster sales cycles, and more satisfied, loyal customers who make follow-on purchases.

Customer Journey Maps Pave the Way for Your Customers to Better Achieve Their Goals

It goes without saying that you want your customers to succeed. To do that, you need to understand their experience by mapping the customer journey. This provides insight into what is, and isn’t, working well for them. According to CEB:

“Customers encounter predictable

impediments at each buying stage. Suppliers

should anticipate and remove these…”

Though CEB is speaking specifically about the buying stages, the same philosophy holds true across the entire customer experience.

By understanding the customer experience, both as it is and as an ideal state, you can create, adjust, and enhance touchpoints to ensure the most effective, efficient buying and service process. As a result, your customers will be better able to achieve their goals, from their pre-purchase through their post-purchase experience, with your company.

Customer Journey Maps Give Your Company Much-Needed Context

Chances are, if you don’t understand the customer journey, you don’t know your customers well enough. If that’s the case, how can you be certain you’re even engaging the right people in the right companies with the right messages and offers? In an age when hyper-personalization reigns supreme, a shallow understanding of your customers doesn’t suffice.

By creating a customer journey map, you will gain an invaluable and essential view of your potential and existing customers. This more complete picture positions you to realize a better return on your marketing investments, and equips everyone in your company to better engage with prospects and customers.

Customer Journey Maps Position Your Company to Drive Better Results

A customer journey mapping report shows that 67% of customer experience professionals surveyed across the globe are using, or have used, customer journey mapping. Moreover, almost 90% of those using customer journey mapping said their program is delivering a positive impact, the most common one being an increase in customer satisfaction. Lower churn, fewer customer complaints, and higher NPS were also among the top impacts.

Common Missteps When Creating a Customer Journey Map

As your company embarks on creating a customer journey map, keep these common mistakes in mind:

Getting Stuck in the Inside-Out Perspective of the Customer Journey

CEB has found that conventional journey maps usually cover four main buyer steps: awareness, consideration, preference, and purchase. CEB calls this the “customer purchase-from-us journey” because it is grounded in a biased view that the buyer will purchase from the company.

Instead, CEB advises that companies think of the typical purchase journey across three phases: early, middle, and late. This approach forces you to understand the experience from the time the buyer is figuring out whether their issue needs to be solved and is then considering different ways to solve it. As CEB says, “Your goal is to uncover struggles that customers would have with any supplier,” not just your company.

Just remember: The customer journey should extend to include the experience with your company post-purchase.

Taking Too Narrow a View of the Customer Journey

Whether you are purpose-driven or profit-driven, your company has to be focused on how prospects and customers interact with the brand across five major touchpoints:

  1. Your website

  2. Your outbound marketing

  3. Your sales team

  4. Your customer support team

  5. Your major brand presence on owned channels like LinkedIn

As the Boston Consulting Group says, “Companies need to understand how customers are using digital and mobile channels for research in order to effectively guide their purchase journeys. Customers expect not only richer online engagement but also multimedia and interactive content. Companies need to invest in technology, data, and analytics to improve insights into customer buying behaviour and help provide more relevant, personalized experiences and content to buyers.”

At the same time, don’t try to create a customer journey map with input from one or just a few customers. You need input from enough sources so you can detect patterns. These patterns will guide your understanding of where customers are enjoying the least amount of friction in the journey and suffering through the most.

Overlooking all the participants in the customer journey

Today’s B2B buyers tend to purchase in teams averaging 6.8 participants according to CEB. But they aren’t all involved at the same time. It’s critical to account for each persona’s engagement during the journey, making sure you clearly understand who is involved and what they are doing when they are on the scene.

Whether you present it as a single customer journey featuring different players throughout, or you create unique journey maps for each stakeholder, you need to account for the various personas. If you don’t get this granular, your customer journey map will end up being a superficial tool that provides little value.

Know Your Customer: How to Research to Create a Journey Map

To understand the customer experience from the outside in, you need to talk to your customers. If you’ve already developed buyer personas, start with those. Done well, these should capture many of the details you want to translate into a customer journey map. However, if your personas are lightweight, you’ll need to conduct more research to fully understand the customer experience from end to end.

Remember to ask questions that help elicit responses providing a complete view of the journey, whether your company is involved or not. In other words, understand each step from the customer’s point of view, starting with the process before your company even enters their mind. While you can interview a combination of prospects and customers, be sure you are talking to people who fit your ideal customer profile so irrelevant input doesn’t warp your view.