How many funnels have you made over the years? A dozen? Two dozen? More?! Same here. Funnels are what we do as marketers. You create funnels and you calculate your conversion rates from step to step, and there you have it. But what if I told you that funnels were the models of yesteryear? What if I told you…funnels just don’t cut it anymore?

BAM! Enter customer journey mapping. Fully-equipped with real customer data, behavioral stages, touch-points for interaction, cross-team resourcing, sentiment, and more. No more guessing what motivates customers to grow with your brand. Instead, uncover exact moments that help customers succeed, and allocate your efforts to encourage more of them.

Sound too good to be true? We think not! This quick guide to customer journey mapping with cover a number of important topics as it relates to providing the best customer experience. We’ll cover why they are important, what dimensions you should be exploring, the different visualization options, show off some examples, and then leave you with common challenges and how to overcome them. It’s a lot, so let’s get moving and jump right in!

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a framework that enables you to improve your customer experience. It documents the customer experience through their perspective, helping you best understand how customers are interacting with you now and helps you identify areas for improvement moving forward. Great customer journey maps are rooted in data-driven research, and visually represent the different phases your customers experience based on a variety of dimensions such as sentiment, goals, touch points, and more.

customer journey map definition

Instead of a traditional marketing funnel, many customer journey maps are not, in fact, linear. A customer can jump from one phase to another based on a number of factors. They will interact with some touch-points and miss others entirely. A marketer’s job is to understand the different moments of impact a customer could have when engaging with your brand and products, and then set those customers up to succeed through education, communication, and discovery.

This new approach to customer research is helping marketers everywhere better see the world through the customer’s eyes, which helps us serve them better. At BigDoor, we think this customer-centric approach to business is at the heart of reciprocal loyalty, and we are loving our adventures in customer journey mapping. Want to learn more? Here we go…

What is a customer journey map?

As mentioned above, traditional funnels tend to be very linear in nature. Because of that, they often feel very templated. We marketers have often inherited funnels when we take new jobs or new projects on. These funnels come with a number of assumptions about our customers, their needs, goals, and more. You know what is scary about that?

Every freaking thing. Truth.

A customer journey map is rooted in research and provides us the freedom to explore new “truths” about our customers. Since there is no “template,” they have to fit into they provide a great deal of freedom for us to explore. A customer journey map ultimately exists to improve the customer experience and these days that requires creativity. We need to revisit what we think we know, and really understand every touch point a customer has with our brands. This is at the heart of creating a better customer experience. But that’s not all customer journey maps are good for, here are a few others;

Customer journey maps help us develop the best product roadmap.
One of the biggest challenges a company faces is deciding what to build next. Most companies have lists of feature requests, bugs, new product ideas, new service opportunities, and more. Where do you invest? What gets bumped to the top? This is hard stuff.

tacks and map

When you map out how your customers explore your products, it becomes very evident where they are hung up and what they are missing. You literally start to see what they see, and from there you see the holes. It’s these “ah-ha” moments that should steer your product roadmaps. Don’t just build for the new ten thousand customers you hope to acquire, and don’t forget to build for your customers today. After all, 80% of your company’s future revenues come from just 20% of your current customers. To succeed in the future, you need to make educated next moves, and mapping the journey like this can help take out the guesswork.

Customer journey maps help us prioritize competing deliverables.
Similarly, these maps can help a company decide what should be the main business goal right now. Maybe it’s product enhancements? Maybe it’s improving your customer service team? Maybe it’s doubling down on documentation and education material? It’s through the mapping exercise that we can most clearly see the points of friction that face customers. This is low hanging fruit like you’ve never seen.

Rather than relying solely on your business intuition, you can navigate these tough prioritization decisions with real customer data, testimonials, feedback, and more. We’ve all been in those meetings where every team’s need is a P0 (aka “the most important thing ever), and the truth is that without the customer voice weighing in…that is actually the truth. But when you take the time to map our your customers’ hurdles, you can easily communicate cross team about what the business needs to be focusing on. It’s a win-win.

Who wouldn't prioritize rubber ducks?

Who wouldn’t prioritize rubber ducks?

Customer journey maps help us plan for hiring and team expansion.
This is a great additional benefit that many of us forget about. Once you know where your main points of friction are and you’ve prioritized the projects that will have the greatest impact, you can hire and expand teams accordingly. Too many organizations let resource bottlenecks alone determine what positions to open up, but what if you are investing in the wrong area? What if your limited resources are going to the wrong team to have the biggest impact on your customers — the very people keeping you in business in the first place!

Terrifying, right?! A great customer journey map will require a great deal of investigation into what is working, what isn’t working and what needs to happen to keep your customers engaged and invested in your brand. What better information than this to help steer you on how to grow your company to best serve them? Not much. It’s like customer data gold…if customer data gold existed.

Customer journey maps help us bring different teams together for a common goal: the customer experience.
It seems like an obvious one, but man is this hard. Like, really hard. We’ve all been there. We get caught up in the day to day. We have our own team goals – increase that count, hit that metric, drive that margin, and so on and so forth. But hold up; what about the customer experience? Wouldn’t is be great if the entire company has something to point to as the beacon of customer experience conversation?

The customer should be the #1 priority of everyone at your company.

The customer should be the #1 priority of everyone at your company.

It sure would, and that’s where the customer journey map comes in. These documents should be at the nucleus not of just one team, but the entire organization. They are as important and cross-team relevant as your company revenue goals and your customer personas. Everyone should be well-versed on what your customer is asking, what they need, how they feel at different points of the journey, and most importantly, what the company can be doing to deliver an exceptional experience. Putting these documents at the heart of the conversation helps every team work toward a common goal — and the best goal at that — the customer’s happiness.

What does a customer journey map include?

Let’s get into the nitty gritty of it all. As a reminder, there is no official template to point to based on your company’s goals the specific stages and dimensions of those stages may differ, but there are some best practices to look at when mapping out your customer’s journey. All in all, the visualization is less important than the information you include (although the more clearly you layout the info the better, obviously).

Here are some of our best practices when it comes to exploring customer dimensions in your customer journey map.

#1: Nail down your personas: Oh, personas. You’re so fun and so important. If you haven’t yet taken the time to identify your customer personas, you should start there. Here at BigDoor, we’re hoping to create a guide soon on how to tackle this important feat, but for now, here is a great resource to help you get started. Once you have personas built out, you can jump into mapping each persona’s own journey.

#2: Create customer stages: This is probably the most important piece for you to decide: what are the behavioral stages your customers go through when getting to know your product, service, and brand? What is the step-by-step experience for a customer? You can also include a non-customer stage in here if you’d like (which can be very useful in helping you move them into the customer bucket).

Some common customer stages include: discovery, research, explore, choose, purchase, and advocate. Don’t over-think these. Start simple. You will collect lots of data moving forward to help you refine these phases. Here is an example of what it could look like and also an example of what we use here at BigDoor.

customer behavior phases

Here at BigDoor we see our customers as having to discover us, then we usually see them move on to comparing us (both to competitors and to building internally) and then they move on to the sales cycle where they get to know the ins and outs of our products. During this consideration phases they move on to a commitment (contract signed), and from there our team of loyalty experts works to expand and build out partnerships that last. By outlining those phases we can begin to understand what customers need as they move through this journey.

#3: Know your customers’ goals: Although it may seem backwards, this customer journey map isn’t about your company’s goals; it’s about your customers’. Your map should identify these clearly by customer phase, and then you’re able to see what touch-points are needed to help support customers in reaching those goals. If they are seeking education about a product and you fail to have a education resource touchpoint, that is a mismatch. Your customer goals should be laid out clearly, because you can only accomplish your goals if your customers complete theirs.

Here, you can see the questions our customers have at each phase and how we back those out to a customer goal for each phase. This helps us better answer their needs with our touch-points.

customer goals by phase customer journey mapping

#4: Identify touch-points: During the stages, have you identified what are the different moments of interaction you have available to connect and engage your customers as they try to reach their goals? Think of this as your customer “needs” as they try to accomplish what they are hoping to accomplish. This includes moments that happen off site, onsite, through marketing, in person, and over the phone. Some of these touch-points are more critical than others (often called “moments of truth”) and the goal is to map these out and then work to create them more often in your favor.

Below, you see some examples of our customer touch-points we use at BigDoor, and you get a sense of just how many opportunities we have to reach our customers and help them succeed, no matter what phase they are in:

touchpoints for customer behavior phases

#5: Leverage data and time frames when possible: As mentioned above, a customer journey map is founded on real customer data. You should be surveying your customers, pulling from your customer analytics, and leveraging as much data as you can to identify your phases, touch-points, customer sentiment, etc. Another great thing to include when possible is the time frame; how long does each phase usually last? How long do some touch-points take to be effective ones (e.g. how long are your most successful customer calls)? The more specific you can get when mapping out the landscape, the more successful this data will be for you when making business decisions.

#6: List what teams are involves and how much effort is required: For each different phase, you will see gaps in what your customer needs are and what you have available for them. This will begin to highlight what you need to work on as a company. It is sometimes helpful to list out what teams are best suited to resolve these gaps and also what level of effort is required to resolve each gap. By doing this right in the journey map, your teammates can easily understand why you might prioritize action items over others moving forward.

Hopefully the above steps give you an idea of where to jump in when kicking off your first customer journey map. Remember – not all journey maps are the same. They will differ significantly based on your business model, your company structure, and your approach to it all.

The important part is to add as much real information as you can to best understand; what do customers need? How can you help them succeed? And where should you be investing more to provide a better customer experience? From there, the rest will fall into place as you get into it.

What challenges will you face?

Like any big cross-team project, customer journey maps will likely create a few challenges for you. Doing something for your company that is as important as customer journey mapping or personas or roadmaps always bring with them their own bag of challenges.

gloves

Let’s run through some of the common ones we’ve seen and address some tips for facing and overcoming those challenges.

This is not linear. No matter how much you want it to be, things won’t be as black and white, or as tidy as the funnels of yesteryear. So embrace the “all over the place” nature of a customer journey map, because that is where the magic happens.

Focus less on how pretty it is, and more on how valuable it is. Inevitably, someone from design will see this project and want to jump up in there. Suddenly, the conversation will turn to legends, color codes, formatting, and more. Avoid the rabbit whole that is visualizations and bring it back to the data. If you have valuable data, the visualization is just a vehicle for the valuable story.

Position your map as a living document, not one that’s set in stone. Don’t get caught up in making it perfect or exhaustive in nature. Start primitive and build from there. This is not meant to be something you do and never touch again. You will update as you collect more information and as your business grows. Position it as such and you’ll see much more buy in from other teams looking to weigh in as it evolves.

Lets wrap this party up

So there you have it – a quick guide to customer journey mapping. I know we covered a lot today, but hopefully this gives you a place to get started. The truth is, a project like this can be very intimating. I remember avoiding maps and personas for the longest time as past companies — afraid I wasn’t qualified or that I’d screw up and ruin our business in the meantime. But tackling these big internal resources can be the most important work we do as marketers and product marketers.

guy walking across the line

In addition to the steps and suggestions above, I thought it would be great to include some of our favorite customer journey mapping resources here so you can check them out. If you have others, feel free to leave them in the comments.

10 Tips for Creating a Customer Journey Map – CMO.com
Improving UX with Customer Journey Mapping – SixRevisions.com
CX Journey Mapping Toolkit – DesigningCX.com

Good luck with your mapping, and let us know how it goes. *high five* #yougotthis