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By Donna Weber, author of Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers Into Loyal Champions

I see it happen all the time. Even though companies make great progress with customer onboarding and customer success, their customers are left to figure things out on their own. They don’t see a clear path ahead and don’t grasp the big picture. That’s because customer-facing teams are siloed. They often wait until customers have problems and then engage them in reactive and erratic ways—or not at all.

When it comes to increasing customer loyalty, consider customer journey mapping. A journey map is a visualization of a process people go through in order to accomplish defined goals. Without journey maps, customer-facing teams run the risk of leaving gaping holes and delivering overlapping and conflicting touchpoints. By creating and implementing journey maps, you’ll discover more loyal customers, higher customer engagement, and an increase in net retention. 

Why map customer journeys? 

Building a shared vision across customer-facing teams is a critical aim of journey mapping because, without it, agreement on how to improve the customer experience is not possible. 

While customer journey mapping is commonly used to map out the buyer’s journey, there is huge value in mapping out what happens after the sale. In the article From Touchpoints to Journeys, consulting giant McKinsey shares that even though customer-facing programs might be fabulous, customers still leave unsatisfied if they aren’t guided along a journey of best practices. Creating a customer journey map helps identify and then address areas where there are silos, bottlenecks, pain points, and gaps for both internal teams and customers. This is a great starting point to building a seamless experience for your customers.

How to map the customer journey 

A customer journey map defines how customers work with you to realize value in your product. Journey mapping creates a holistic view of the customer experience and addresses gaps and overlaps in customer engagement. It captures the key activities, touchpoints, and desired outcomes for each stage. 

When mapping the journey, include all the people and the roles involved in each stage, both at your company as well as on the customer side. If you have specific metrics and systems that you currently use or would like to use for each stage, then define those. It can be illuminating to map the mindsets and emotions of the different roles for each stage. Do customers quickly go from elation to despair? Are internal teams exhausted, frustrated, and overwhelmed? Do you celebrate key milestones? It’s great to uncover and gain a visual understanding of what’s happening when, where, and by whom along the journey. Use our guided template to begin creating your own customer journey map. 

Start with the current journey and then leverage what you learn to map the optimized journey. 

I regularly work with high-growth companies to map what happens after the deal closes, with the goal to quickly drive new customers to first value in their products. We explore what currently happens (or not) during onboarding and across the customer journey and then map out the optimized journey, including triggers, outcomes, milestones, deliverables, timelines, people, and collateral for each stage. I usually interview several customers to inform the mapping process from the customer perspective then review the draft map with those same customers to get their feedback and input to take the map to the next level. 

Organize your business around your customer 

Your new customer journey map is a great visual tool to communicate with internal teams and customers. Leverage it to obtain their feedback and get suggestions for improvement. But don’t stop there. The next steps are to define the processes, tools, resources, and content needed to deliver a proactive and seamless journey that increases customer loyalty and satisfaction. 

While customer journey mapping is invaluable, the real impact comes when you execute the changes revealed in the map. The aim is to create a common understanding, vision, and commitment across customer-facing teams to improve the customer experience—with a focus on the customers’ needs and not just your product. 

The purpose of customer journey mapping is not to produce an attractive journey map. What matters is not the map itself; it’s the process for creating the map, learning from customers, pulling teams together around a shared vision, and then taking the required action to increase customer value, loyalty, and retention.  

So, take that journey map and turn it into a project plan with priorities, owners, and timelines to make a real difference in everyone’s experience. You’ll find that you guide customers with best practices as opposed to being reactive problem solvers, that customers get to value and adoption in your product more quickly, and internal teams are aligned and working together for the customer.