Building a Customer Journey Map: A Step-by-Step Guide for Customer Success

By Rachel Provan
01/14/2023
customer journey map lost customer

A Customer Journey Map is the foundation of your Customer Success Strategy. Yet most CS leaders skip it.

Why?

Because it’s damn near impossible to find a simple explanation online of WHAT it is and HOW to accurately map it out. That ends here.

This article will outline what the customer journey map is, why you need it, how to create one with a few fun workshops, and how it can power every part of your customer success strategy.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the length of this article. TLDR – You’re going to put post-its on a wall. Four times.

If you can handle that, you can do a customer journey map.

Prefer to watch instead of read? Here’s an overview:

Customer Journey Mapping and Customer Success

customer journey map

What is Customer Success

Far too many people don’t understand what customer success is, or the benefits. While most of those people are OUTSIDE CS, here’s a simple definition you can use to explain CS to the rest of your company:

A Customer buys a product because they have a problem (A) and want to fix it using your product (B).

Customer success helps take the customer from A to B as quickly and easily as possible.

When you do that they will:

1) Renew

2) Tell their friends (free marketing and new sales!)

3) Buy more from you – because you’ve proven you are trustworthy and can get ^%#* done.

What is a Customer Journey Map?

If Customer Success is getting the customer from A to B, the customer journey map is HOW they get there.

It’s a visual representation of every step both the customer and your company need to take in order for the customer to get from A to B.

In many ways, it’s similar to a Success Map. The difference here is that a Success Map is customer-facing, whereas a customer journey map is internal and also contains some additional strategic guidance.

Pre-Sale vs. Post-Sale Customer Journey

One of the reasons Customer Success Leaders have trouble finding information on the Customer Journey is because Customer Success is relatively new, at least compared to Sales and Marketing, who have been using a Customer Journey for the buyer’s journey. So a Google search is a lot more likely to pull up information on that version. Here’s how they differ:

Pre-sale

The Pre-sale Customer Journey Map includes:

Personas

User Actions

Emotions

Pain Points

Solutions

The Pre-sale customer journey map stages are:

Awareness – Customer becomes aware of their problem

Consideration – They discover there are solutions available and consider different providers

Decision – Customer lets the provider know they are interested in their product

Acquisition – Customer chooses provider and purchases the product

For a long time, most businesses thought that was the end of it. The customer wanted the product, they bought the product… why would there be an issue?

Well first of all, because these are humans and humans are not particularly logical. Second, products are almost never as intuitive as the provider thinks they are. Third, they give the customer too many choices.

The Post-Sale Customer Journey

post-sale customer journey map

The Post-Sale Customer Journey Map includes:

➡️ Every step the customer has to take on their end to achieve their desired outcome – and beyond

➡️ Every step the provider (aka your company) has to take on their end to ensure the customer achieves their desired outcome – and beyond

The Post-Sale customer journey map stages are:

Onboarding – Customer learns to use the product and is brought to first success milestone

Adoption – The product becomes part of their everyday life

*Achievement – Customer’s initial goal is achieved

Expansion – Customer’s goal expands to include additional products, services, or licenses

Renewal – What it sounds like…

Advocacy – Customer agrees to testimonials, referrals, social media posts, speaking engagements

While Achievement is not typically included in other articles I’ve read, I think it’s essential to know WHERE in the customer journey it occurs, since it’s, y’know, the whole point.

How they work together

These two journeys together define the customer experience. While it’s typical for Marketing and CS to develop them separately, it’s essential that they are combined to make sure the customer has a positive experience throughout – ESPECIALLY in the transitions between departments (marketing/sales/cs/support)

Customer Journey vs Customer Lifecycle

These can often be used interchangeably, but I like to think of it this way:

The customer journey is the customer’s perspective

The customer lifecycle is your company’s perspective. It’s a way to break up the journey to operationalize, analyze, and improve it.

Why is a Journey Map Important?

Far too many companies focus on themselves. What THEY have to do to drive business outcomes. That is, of course, important. Without that, nobody’s getting paid. (Don’t forget that!)

But by implementing a customer journey map focusing on what the customer is experiencing, and what they need to do internally, you are better able to guide them toward their goals.

It’s far too easy to miss the change management aspect of Customer Success. It’s not only the buyer who is going to use your product. You need to help them get buy-in from the end users. And without the guidance and enablement from CS, it’s 50-50 on whether that will ever happen. And if it doesn’t? An unused tool isn’t getting renewed.

You need more than one Customer Journey Map

too many maps

I know, I know. Just doing ONE was overwhelming enough. But if you have different use cases, and/or different segments of customers, it will take a different set of steps to get them from A to B.

Even if you think you only have one use case, look at something like Calendly. They have segments for Customer Success, Recruiting, and Education… They don’t talk about booking meetings – they talk about increasing retention, decreasing time to hire, and planning office hours. Even though these customers are all using the same tool, they will use the features differently to achieve those outcomes.

Customer Journey Maps can help you better understand how customers interact with your product. They help you identify the steps and touchpoints customers take in order to achieve their goals. By creating multiple Customer Journey Maps, you can identify how different customer segments interact with different features of your product and how you can tailor your product to meet their needs and achieve better outcomes. With Customer Journey Maps, you can plan out how you can best guide customers from one step to the next, creating an optimal user experience.

How to create a Customer Journey Map

Creating a customer journey map is a great way to gain a better understanding of how customers interact with your business, website, or product. It is a visual representation of a customer’s experience of interacting with your business and is used to identify areas of improvement, create a more personalized experience, and increase customer satisfaction. To create a customer journey map, you will need to collect customer data and feedback, identify touchpoints along the customer journey, and map out the journey itself. You should also identify areas for improvement, and develop strategies to optimize the customer experience. With a customer journey map in hand, you will be able to better understand the customer experience and make improvements that will increase customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Alright enough talk. Let’s get down to action. Here’s how to create a customer-focused journey map.

Important – Customer Journey Mapping is a team sport

Here’s the great news. You cannot and should not do this alone! The best way to create a customer journey map is with your CSMs. Including them in this part of the strategy will give you much more insight into what actually goes on day to day with your customers, even if you are a player-coach. It also improves employee engagement and development because they can see how their thoughts drive results for the whole company. It’s respectful and it’s motivating. And as an added bonus, it’s less work for you.

1. Run Workshops

This will be an interactive brainstorming session between you and the CSMs. (Add CS Ops if you’ve got them!)

You will map the four views of the customer journey below in separate workshops. One for the customer journey, one for your company’s journey, and one or two to list pain points and opportunities for your target audiences.

Don’t overthink it. Get some post-it notes (or a miro board) and have everyone start listing every touchpoint, resource, action, and communication.

List Out All The Action Steps – Internal and External

Workshop 1. Customer Actions

Starting with the customer perspective is essential. It’s the customer journey, not the company journey.

What is everything the customer needs to do internally to successfully:

  • Onboard – including reaching their first success milestone
  • Adopt – make it a part of their routine.
  • Achieve their goal using your product
  • Expand their use case – approvals etc.
  • Renew the product – contracts, legal, finance
  • Advocacy – have achieved impressive results using the product. May need to consult with legal

Have everyone create sticky notes for fifteen minutes, then put the stickies on a board and group them together. This will let you see where there is a repeated pattern of success and where customers act differently. Try to think about only SUCCESSFUL customers — those who have a good relationship with your company and either have renewed or have confirmed they will.

I prefer to split this session into two parts – 1) what they have to do to meet their original goal and 2) what has to happen for them to want to expand, renew, and tell their peers. If you don’t complete 1, you can’t get to 2…

*Bonus – Don’t only think of this in terms of the executive stakeholder. You have to consider the motivations of the end users as well.

Workshop 2. Your Company’s actions

Meet again with the same board you created the customer actions on. Then collaborate on the internal version – adding sticky notes in a DIFFERENT COLOR from the client actions.

What are all the internal steps and customer touchpoints your company has to take to ensure the customer meets their goals?

  • What other departments get involved and where? (Sale-CS handoff, Implementation team to CS etc)
  • Who are the key stakeholders?
  • What standard interactions do you have with the customer? (Welcome email, kickoff call, etc.)
  • What actions does the CSM take independently
  • What are our success milestones?

Workshop 3. Customer Obstacles & Pain Points

No one wants to have points of friction in the customer journey, but it’s better to acknowledge them (internally) and plan around them. Ostriches make terrible CSMs.

  • Where along this route have you found that customers complain or don’t complete the required actions?
  • How do you get them back on track?
  • Are there alternative routes to take if you know there’s going to be an issue?

4. Success Milestones & Opportunities

What are the milestones where the customer sees value? Where do they frequently comment that they liked something? These milestones can be great opportunities to ask for testimonials or prompt upsells (if their goal is within reach).

2. Let Data Be Your Guide

If you have data – USE IT. Data-driven customer journey maps are far more effective than relying on qualitative data. Here’s where you can learn how to use data to drive the customer journey)

The best bet is to use a three-pronged approach:

  • CSM Feedback
  • Customer Feedback
  • Validate and Fill in the Gaps with Data

3. Talk to Customers to Understand Their Journey.

This is the step that seems to stop people in their tracks. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Talk to customers who are doing well with your product. Offer them a Starbucks or Amazon gift card to give some user insights. It’s less about the money ($10-$20 is plenty) and more about the fact that you are acknowledging their time is valuable. You don’t need to beat around the bush.

What to Ask

Give them an excuse to brag. Tell them they have a great use case and they are a great example of a well-done product rollout. Then ask:

  • How did you start using the product?
  • How does that differ from how you use it now?
  • Change can be hard. What did you do internally to roll out the product?
  • How do you motivate your employees to use the product?
  • How does the product help you achieve your goals in your industry/niche
  • What makes you want to keep using the product?
  • Is there anything exciting enough about the product to make you recommend it to others?

Then track these on a Miro board (though sadly not with their customer journey template) over a quarter or two. Themes will start to emerge that you can then use to improve your first pass at the customer journey map.

Customer Journey Mapping Best Practices

1. Set a Goal for the Journey Map.

No matter what the project is, or how complex the technologies, you have to begin with the end in mind. Otherwise, there’s no point. If I want to drive from New York to Austin, Texas, I could either enter a specific GPS, or I could drive SouthWest. One is going to get me where I want to go. The other will take twice as long and be pretty much pointless.

2. Done is better than perfect

Perfectionism is the enemy here. While you’re busy trying to make it perfect, you’re neglecting your clients. Do the post-its and get a baseline.

3. Measure and Iterate

Your customer journey is never done. But on the bright side it usually just requires some minor tweaks along the way. See what’s working and what’s not. Twice a year see if anyone has thoughts on how you might improve the customer journey. See if there are steps you can automate without the customer feeling the difference.

Try not to change more than two things at a time though. If you have a positive change you want to know what caused it. The same is true for a negative change.

4. Make the Customer Journey Map Accessible to Cross-functional Teams.

Silos are almost unavoidable in SaaS companies, but you can still do your part to be transparent. Share the customer journey with other departments. Communicate where it will be housed and be open to feedback. Yes, they may have different motivations, but you are all working together for the benefit of your company – not only the customer. Look for win-win situations.

Encourage collaboration and allow team members to offer input. This will help ensure the customer journey is up to date and that everyone is on the same page. Make sure to document the customer journey, so it is easy for cross-functional teams to access and reference. Additionally, consider creating a customer journey repository to store all customer journey maps, so that everyone is aware of how crucial the customer journey is to the success of the company.

Next Steps

I’d love to say you’re done, but a customer journey map is pretty useless just sitting in Google Drive. The whole point is to operationalize it.

Create Playbooks

A playbook is simply a set of step-by-step instructions to achieve a result. Create a separate playbook for each phase of the customer lifecycle:

Onboarding

Adoption

Expansion

Renewal

Advocacy

Then create playbooks for

Risks

Expansion Opportunities

Advocacy Opportunities

Then add resources. This can be built as you go but will include things like email templates, slide presentations, calendar agendas, etc.

A final word

A Customer Journey Map is an incredibly powerful tool that allows organizations to understand and optimize the customer experience. It is a visual representation of every step a customer takes while interacting with an organization, from initial contact to post-purchase follow-up. By mapping out the journey and determining points of friction and areas for improvement, companies can create a more personal, and ultimately more successful, customer experience. Additionally, Customer Journey Maps can be used to identify opportunities for cross-selling and upselling, and they are the building blocks of what you will create in a CS tool. Utilizing a Customer Journey Map is an invaluable step in the customer success process and should be considered a priority for any business.

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