Demystifying Customer Journey Mapping: Highlights From CX Leader Roundtable

A candid conversation with senior CX leaders reveals the top challenges and best practices for navigating customer journey maps.


Christine Rimer

October 8, 2020

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Ah, the customer journey map. It’s a critical component to your CX program, documenting and connecting every interaction your customers have with your organization. While it’s a simple concept, customer journey mapping can become incredibly complex fast, and there’s no one right way to do this. That’s why I can’t wait to share the insights from the latest installment of SurveyMonkey’s CX Leader Roundtable program which digs deep into the challenges, opportunities, and best practices around customer journey mapping.  

When I asked dozens of senior CX leaders to vote on our October roundtable topic so they could get benchmark data and peer input, they put customer journey mapping at the top of their list.  As customer experience gets more executive visibility since COVID-19, many CX leaders are kicking off or refreshing their organization’s customer journey maps and they want benchmark data, practical advice and candid conversations on questions like:

  • Do you have a documented customer journey map?

  • How often do you update it? 

  • How many touchpoints? How valuable is the map for executives and cross-functional teams? 

  • What’s most beneficial? 

  • What’s most challenging and what advice do you have for someone getting started?  

We had a phenomenal 70% response rate from the customer journey mapping survey from the 80 senior CX leaders. Here are six highlights from the data and the discussion:  

1. Build a shared vocabulary

There are indefinite approaches to customer journey mapping and we quickly realized we don’t have a universal vocabulary. I co-wrote the customer journey map survey with several CX leader friends to assure we were asking questions in a way that would provide clear, practical and relevant benchmark data. Yet when we reviewed the answers, discussions ensued over the definition of “updating” your journey map (is it a minor tweak or a total rehaul?), as well as how to interpret the term “touchpoint”.  Was a journey map with 10 touch points complex, simple or both?  When we articulated “action plan” as a benefit, was cross-functional alignment or building organizational customer empathy an action?  We realized we all use these terms and yet we have very different definitions of the most basic terminology. 

Key takeaway: Aligning leadership and cross-functional partners on what success looks like is critical to driving business impact with journey maps—and that starts with building a shared vocabulary.  

2. Consider the objective of your journey maps in context of your company culture

Our survey revealed that the biggest benefit of a journey map is developing customer empathy (49%), followed by aligning cross-functional teams (37%), identifying opportunities (15%) and having an E2E visual artifact (15%).  In addition, 28% said journey maps are very or extremely valuable to executive decision making while 44% said they are valuable for cross-functional teams to prioritize action. As CX leaders debated the meaning of the results, we wondered how company culture could impact the primary objective and benefit of the exercise. If your leadership is 100% committed to the business benefit of investing in your customers’ experience, journey maps become critical to decision making and prioritizing cross-functional action during quarterly and annual planning.  However, if your organization still struggles to operationalize their customer-centric value or consistently integrate customer feedback into decisions, then customer journey maps are more likely to be used to develop customer empathy and drive cross-functional alignment.  

Key takeaway: Be purposeful with what you’re trying to achieve with your customer journey maps. Consider that goal in the context of where your organization’s leadership sits in the continuum of a customer-centric culture. 

3. Prioritize cross-functional alignment

Eighty-nine percent of CX leaders create and validate their customer journey maps with their cross-functional partners in success, support, product, design marketing, IT and operations.  37% said cross-functional alignment on the customer’s experience and outcomes is the top benefit of customer journey mapping.  Yet, 25% also pointed out getting cross-functional alignment on priorities, KPIs and prioritizing action is their top challenge.  

Key takeaway: Customer experience is a team sport which requires a collaborative, cross-functional leadership style. See top skills to be an effective CX leader.

2020 CX Research: Learn how to leverage agile, collaborative CX to boost your company's recovery post-COVID-19
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4. Integrate the voice of your customer into validation

Given the top benefit of customer journey mapping is understanding your customer’s perspective, it’s critical you are building and validating your journey maps with your customers. 78% said they orient their customer journey maps by customer persona vs. 53% by product.  58% said they integrate customer feedback through interviews and focus groups.  One CX leader said the most important part of the map is recognizing the “listening post” to address the question “how do you know?”

Key takeaway: At the end of the day, the goal of your journey mapping is to listen and improve the experience for your customers. That’s why it’s critical to include your customers throughout the process. 

5. Drive past customer empathy to action for impact

Fifteen percent of CX leaders said driving action was the top benefit of a customer journey map and 13% said it was the top challenge.  The conversation at the roundtable acknowledged that most of us thought of an action plan as a cross-functional workstream but CX leaders can only get there if they’ve achieved a certain level of customer empathy and cross-functional alignment. This emphasizes once again the importance of being thoughtful and focused with what you are solving for.

Key takeaway: Driving action in service of your customers requires a cross-functional effort, but it’s not enough to just drive awareness and empathy of your customers’ experience—to make a difference, you’ve got to drive real, meaningful change. 

6. Start simple

When asked what advice they had for someone about to kick off their customer journey mapping, 49% of CX leaders said to start simple.  When asked what is challenging about customer journey mapping, 25% said it was keeping the process and the maps simple enough to manage, keep up to date, socialize results and drive action.  While 75% of CX leaders had documented customer journey maps, only 56% said they were up-to-date, current, living documents.  60% of CX leaders had 10 or more touchpoints on their journey map, which led to the debate of whether that was simple or complex.  10 touchpoints is certainly high-level for many mid-market organizations and yet, if you map user outcomes, desired experience, emotions, pain points and opportunities, it gets complicated and crowded quickly.  When CX leaders shared their samples, some with fewer than 10 touch points commented that while it was high-level enough to socialize with executives, it ended up being so generic as to not be insightful or actionable. 

Key takeaway: When it comes to the complexity paradox, it’s all about striking the right balance. The more complex the customer journey map, the harder it becomes to regularly update it based on new information. However, a customer journey map that’s too simple won’t be actionable. 

What has your experience been with customer journey mapping? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

To get started on your own customer journey map program, check out this free guide

Curious about the SurveyMonkey CX Leader Roundtable program?

I couldn’t be more grateful for the SurveyMonkey CX Leader Community for taking the time to invest in their peers. By providing such great benchmark data and joining regular roundtables to discuss the results, these leaders are helping us all get better together—showing up for our customers.  If you or someone you know would be interested in joining the SurveyMonkey CX Leader Roundtable program, please take our Sign Up Survey.

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