Customer Experience

Customer journey mapping: A six step guide

Ben Goodey
March 28, 2021
customer journey mapping

Hello SentiSum followers, readers and newcomers!

We teamed up with an industry expert to create a video guide for customer journey mapping.

That expert is Ed Deason, the current UK Head of Customer Service at British high street chain, Pret A Manger (find him on LinkedIn here).

He's got a ton of experience behind him running customer experience and service teams.

And, customer journey mapping was actually one of the first things he did in his career.

Together, we wanted to make a truly actionable guide that would help both customer journey mapping newbies AND senior CX professionals navigate the process.

I suggest watching the full video lesson first, and then referring back to this shorter 'summary' blog post for a refresher.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us on LinkedIn.

(Follow us on LinkedIn for regular actionable content like this)

Watch the video here:

The customer journey mapping fundamentals

What is customer journey mapping?

Customer journey mapping is a way of creating a visual representation of the experience your customers go through when trying to achieve a goal with your brand, product or service.

It's a bit like graph, which you use to make data easier to understand and digest. Likewise, the customer journey map makes your customer's experience easy to understand and easy to digest for people across your company.

A 'customer journey map' is usually a step-by-step representation that outlines key events, motivations, customer satisfaction and experience scores at each touchpoint, which is ultimately presented as something that can be a resource for the wider organisation to use.

What is it used for? Who can use it and how do you use it?

They're probably three key reasons that your business might undertake customer journey mapping.

The first one is helping the wider organisation to understand the processes that your customers go through. This is helpful if you want to break down information silos and help teams see the bigger picture rather than just their own part of it.

Taking it down level, looking at it from your customer's point of view, the purpose of customer journey mapping is to identify points of friction for customers, perhaps unnecessary processes they go through or poor experiences they are having.

Taking it down another level, the purpose of customer journey mapping is to identify areas of waste and duplication within your internal processes. So where are there perhaps unnecessary handoffs between your teams that create delays that impact your customer.

Ultimately, reducing cost runs through a lot of customer journey mapping, because when go through customer journey mapping, what you're trying to do is identify problems and make things easier for your customers.

If you achieve that goal, you'll have fewer complaints, you'll have greater loyalty. You will have more sales.

It all comes down to improving the bottom line.

Who in a business would do this normally?

There isn't necessarily just one person who should do customer journey mapping.

Typically, it might sit with your customer experience team (if you have one).

So you might have a Customer Experience Manager or Chief Customer Officer and it may sit with them. But there's nothing really to stop any kind of customer facing team rom doing a customer journey map.

Whether you're working customer service, whether you work in sales, whether you work in operations, if you interact with customers, there's absolutely nothing to stop you from mapping out your customer journey.

In fact, it's useful to every team, customer facing or not, to stay closely in touch with how they impact the customer.

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The six steps to customer journey mapping

Let's jump right in and answer the question, 'how do we do customer journey mapping?'.

There's six steps that you want to go through when you're starting out in customer journey mapping. The first one and probably the most important is to define the objective. To find what it is that you want to do when you start out.

The next steps are to pick a single customer journey to start with (simplify things for yourself), choose a customer persona (we'll cover what they are later), select the mapping approach that you want to take (high level or really detailed), make sure the right people are in the room, and finally, you want to overlay real qualitative and empirical data.

Here are those steps in greater detail.

How to do customer journey mapping in six steps (a visualisation of these 6 steps)

1. Define your objective

This is the most important step in the process, it'll allow you to do your mapping exercise with a clear purpose.

There are typically three high level objectives:

  1. Helping the business understand the customer experience and breaking down silos between your teams.

This goal is about helping everyone in the organisation understand the overarching customer experience (a high level goal).

  1. Identifying areas of friction for your customers

This might be challenges with your returns process, for example it takes ages to contact you and reach a resolution.

  1. Identifying duplication and waste in your processes

This could be where you've got unnecessary handoffs between your teams that increase the time it takes to resolve what could be a simple resolution.

What objective you choose depends what role you're in. If you're a chief customer officer, perhaps what you want to do is actually help the business, understand the entire customer journey or the entire customer experience throughout the pre-purchase, purchase and after sales process.

Whereas if you're a department manager, you might want to be a lot more granular and look at where there are handoffs between your team and another team.

Could one customer journey map have multiple objectives?

In theory you could have a map that includes all three.

However, you would find that if you try to map out the very high level one, which is helping the business understand the customer experience, you will probably already have hundreds of potential touch points across 10 different departments.

So, if you tried to map that entire process at a customer friction level and to look at all the hand offs between teams, you would likely end up with a customer journey map that was so big as to be unusable.

With that in mind, I wouldn't suggest doing all three at once.

Potentially you can identify customer areas of friction and duplication and processes in one map. But I wouldn't then try and fold that into a high level, entire customer experience map.

Part of creating an actionable piece of work is picking something within reason. You've got to be pragmatic.

At the end of the day, the output has to be something that your teams can use, and if they have to scroll for 15 minutes just to find the bit of the map that's relevant to them, then they probably won't use it.

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2. Pick a single journey to start with

Particularly if this is your first time having a go at customer journey mapping, pick a single journey and even pick one that is simple and straightforward.

So a returns process for your customer, for example. Something that has a kind of really clearly defined start and end and that probably doesn't have too many steps in there. So if you're starting out, pick something quite simple.

The reason is to reduce the complexity of the project, so that you can learn the ropes and grow the skill before taking on a bigger project.

What is a customer 'journey'?

When we talk about a journey, the best way to think about it is a clearly defined a set of steps that your customer will go through. Whether that is the steps to purchase your product (high level) or the process of making a complaint (detailed level).

What if this isn't your first rodeo?

If you've got a bit more experience in producing customer journey maps, what I would say is try and identify your largest volume areas.

Largest volume can be identified by sales or transactions or it could the area you know generates the most friction for customers or internal teams.

Either way, start where you know you'll have the biggest impact.

For example, if 80% of your sales comes through a particular channel, use that channel. That's your first customer journey map.

If the customer journey mapping process is new to the business, this is the best way to demonstrate value upfront.

Pick a high volume customer journey, identify some challenges in it and feed it back into the organisation.

And then once you're comfortable doing it (experienced or not) you can start doing more and more of then across the company.

Only then should you start to combine them and start to demonstrate to the organisation where they fit together and how a customer might travel through each of these different experiences.

"I think probably the first customer journey map I did was as a customer service manager. I wanted to map out multiple ways a customer could contact us and the time it took from receipt of that email through to resolution with the customer."
"By mapping out kind of the multiple touch points and the time in between each touch point and gave me a real good sense of how our customers were feeling about the experience."

3. Choose a customer persona

What is a customer persona?

A customer's persona is where you take a representation or maybe the key traits of your audience in order to generalise your view of them.

So for example, I work for Pret, so let's say one of our key customers is a busy professional. So she might be 35 to 45. She might live in the city and she might be prepared to pay more to save time and effort for herself. So that might be a customer persona and you'd give them a name.

It's best practice to choose a customer persona that's most valuable to the customer, one that spends the most with your brand or one that is experiencing a lot of friction at the moment.

Most companies have personas already. However, if you don't have existing customer personas, you still probably have a good sense of the kind of customers that purchase your products.

What you want to do is put yourself in that person's shoes. Get a sense of what the individual is looking for and how they will trabvel through your journey.

So you might want to ask yourself what: channels would they use? Are they more likely to call or are they might more likely to use online channels?

What times of day will they perhaps interact with you? And what is it that they need at each step?

Match the persona to your chosen journey

Once you chose your persona, what you would then do is think about how that customer persona would travel through the journey that you've just identified as the one that you want to focus on.

4. Select the right mapping approach for your goals

Which customer journey mapping template should I choose?

Each of the core objectives discussed in point (1) come into play here. You can use a slightly different map to fit your objective.

  1. Helping the business understand the customer experience and breaking down silos between your teams.

With this objective, you don't want to dive into masses of detail in your customer journey map. You want to stick to specific moments in the journey.

So that might be, awareness of your product, consideration, information gathering, purchase, and post-purchase behavior.

Split it into a few specific columns, but give a general sense of how a customer travels through that decision process of becoming aware of your organisation through to purchase and post-purchase experience (pictured below).

A high level customer journey mapping template
  1. Identifying areas of friction for your customers

If you want to identify customer friction points, you should use a swim lane chart or a swim lane journey map. A basic swim lane splits the customer experience into two parts.

The top will be what the customer sees and underneath will be what the organisation sees.

You might have just a couple of points in the customer bit. For example, if we look at a customer service department, they swim lane points might just be 'send email' and then 'receive response' in the customer side of things. However, in the organisation side of things, you might have a number of steps in between for investigation, for writing a response, for actioning a check or a bank transfer for the customer.

A basic swim lane for customer journey mapping
  1. Identifying duplication and waste in your processes

The third map is like a more detailed version of the last point. It is another swim lane chart, but this one includes a lane for each department.

This is the map you want to use when you want to understand when there are handoffs and potentially duplication of work.

This one is where it's probably most useful to identify waste and duplication between your teams. You might turn out that you've got a handoff between your operations team and your customer service team three or four times when it could be once.

And that's something that if you take it out, it's going to make it quicker for your customer and easier for those two teams.

A swim lane customer journey map example, nicely illustrated

For example, if you look at the customer service team, a common issue is that you ask someone to confirm something for you and it's likely that they will come back with half the information you need. At which point you'll then have to write back to them for clarity and they'll comeback to you again.

That can happen three or four times.

So if you map this out then you identify that, if this happens frequently, there is an unnecessary point of friction.

"It's important to map what actually happens in the journey, not what should happen in theory. In reality, processes don't work like they should because of human error or something else."

5. Get the right people in the room

You must make sure the right stakeholders are in the room when you kick off this process. Why?

Because they will help you identify the 'real' customer journey—especially frontline staff

If you're asking yourself, 'how would I know that 50% of the time a particular process doesn't work?' then the answer is clear: you must get people who know the area of the business you're mapping to help.

"Don't map your customer journey on your own. You're never going to cover all of the touchpoints or all of the possible permutations. You're not going to have a full view of your customer's experience without a team there to help."

Frontline staff are particularly important. They often have the best insights.

Your customer service team will be able to instantly tell you three, four, five top issues that are frustrating your customer every single day.

That data is invaluable for your map.

Your executives may have a bit of a rose-tinted view of how your customers experience your journey, but your sales team and your customer service team can certainly talk them through issues and explain why that's perhaps not how it works. Include channel owners as well. Include your web team, your sales team, your guys that run the phone system or run your booking tool, make sure they're part of the process as well.

Executives are also important. Especially because they enable access and encourage action to take place.

It's tempting to miss people out, but you want all key stakeholders in the kick off meeting so you can identify core areas of focus.

Because people who are involved early on, are likely to be more cooperative when action is needed

Make sure those in charge of action at the end of the entire exercise are bought in early.

They should understand what you're trying to achieve, be clear on objectives and be able to influence those objectives, too.

"If you don't feel part of the origin story, it's easy to dismiss the output. You need to bring people along on the journey you're trying to achieve."

6. Overlay your data

Once you've chosen your persona, journey and map type, you need to start overlaying the data that you already have.

This data might be:

Overlay these data points onto the points within your map to breath life into the diagram you've created.

The more granular data you have the better. You should also be aware of bias so that you can trust the data to be actionable.

If you know a particular area is a challenge, but don't have much data on it, then you might want to start collecting data on that area about friction points—you'll find it within support tickets, survey results or other online feedback. You'

The Pareto principle dictates that 20% of your customer journey steps cause 80% of friction. So you'll soon start seeing where needs your attention most.

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