CX maturity playbook: Customer journey mapping

Actionable insight to uplevel your use of customer journey maps and optimize the experience at every touchpoint.

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How to use this playbook

This playbook features one of the nine key elements that we measure in our customer experience maturity assessment: customer journey mapping

Here we provide an overview of the element’s five levels followed by actionable next steps to advance from one level to the next.  

If you have yet to assess your maturity, we suggest you take our assessment now, identify your current level of maturity for customer journey mapping and return to this playbook for how to move forward based on your score.

The insight provided is in partnership with Jeannie Walters, CX expert, CEO, and founder of Experience Investigators™.


Customer journey mapping

A customer journey map (CJM) is a visual representation of the holistic customer journey; It maps out touchpoints across all channels so you can understand your customers’ integrated experience with your organization. 

Though customer journey maps are a common tool for customer experience (CX) professionals—75% of CX leaders have used them—they are not often used to their full potential: Of that 75%, only 56% claimed their maps were up-to-date, living documents. 

When used properly, customer journey maps can result in many benefits, including: honing in on your customers’ wants and needs, identifying and fixing customer pain points, revealing key moments across the journey, creating a customer-centric culture, and measuring the overall success of your CX program.  

But none of this is possible if the customer journey map is viewed as a one-time project. A mature customer journey mapping program is continuous, with ongoing monitoring and improvements. It is a key function used throughout the organizations to not only act on customer insight but to innovate the customer experience. 

Such a state is achievable through strategic action, which you can start taking today with the help of this playbook. 

The five levels below are defined based on general processes, rules, and expectations of customer journey mapping. We recommend you start with the level that our assessment scored you as.


Level 1 to Level 5

Level 1   

What it looks like 

At this stage, your organization does not use a customer journey map. It may be that the term “customer journey map” is not even in the company’s vocabulary, and if it is, employees are unclear on its meaning or purpose. 

The concept of customer journey mapping feels like an unnecessary task, given that there is also a lack of interest in developing a customer experience strategy or a structured approach to measuring CX metrics. 

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

When a customer reaches out to me frustrated and confused about our software, I have no idea what they experienced up until that point. Without a clear picture of the issue, it makes it harder for me to solve their problem quickly and show empathy while doing it. — Customer Service Agent

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 1 to Level 2 is about educating leadership about the importance of customer journey mapping. This means transitioning the organization’s mindset from this tool being a “nice-to-have” to a necessity. To do this, you must also identify customer challenges that would benefit from a customer journey mapping exercise. 

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Leadership education

  • Customer challenges

How to take action

Step 1: Educate leaders on the benefits of a customer journey map

To get leadership on board with adopting customer journey mapping, you must first educate them on what this tool is and how it will help them succeed. 

Start by defining the customer journey map: It is a visual representation of the holistic customer journey; It maps out touchpoints across all channels so you can understand your customers’ integrated experience with your organization. It’s important to note this is not an internal process map. A customer journey map is from the customer’s experience.

In simpler terms, a customer journey map will help you identify the weaknesses and strengths in your customer experience. 

The next step is to explain why they should care. This is especially important for leadership to comprehend. At Level 1, customer-centricity is not the driving force for executive decisions. A customer journey map could be a solid starting point for shifting to a more customer-centric perspective.

Below are some benefits for your consideration:

  • Really get to know your customers: spotlight the pain points of your personas and clearly understand the goals they are trying to achieve with your product or service. 

  • Identify both the pain points and the key moments in your journey: locate the areas that need the most improvement. And find the areas that are working and learn why. This opens you to the opportunity of making good experiences even better and boosting customer loyalty and retention. 

  • Implement proactive customer support: Quickly identify touchpoints where customers face friction. Knowing these situations ahead of time allows you to plan your customer support strategy accordingly. 

  • Improve customer retention: Find and fix trouble areas across the journey. Thirty-three percent of customers will consider switching brands after just one poor experience. By decreasing pain points, fewer people will leave your brand for competitors. 

For more benefits, read our customer journey mapping guide

For this step, we recommend first focusing on your Customer Support and Customer Success teams; they are customer-facing, which means they’re typically more willing to adapt to improve the experience.

Step 2: Identify key customer challenges that could be resolved with a customer journey map 

Once you’ve captured leadership’s attention, it’s time to demonstrate to them the kind of impact a customer journey map can have. 

Reach out to leadership across departments to identify the biggest customer challenges within the organization. Then select one or two challenges that appear to have a high impact on the day-to-day of team success and/or significantly influence the customer experience. 

Consider choosing challenges from the most customer-facing teams, like Customer Support and Customer Success. Given the high amount of customer interaction within these teams, you should be able to demonstrate the impact of a customer journey map easier and faster. 

Then do the following: 

  1. Establish clear objective(s) for your map 

  2. Profile your buyer persona(s)

  3. List out the stages

  4. Identify your persona’s goals

  5. Plot the touchpoints

  6. Add other key contributing elements (like an emotional journey lane)

  7. Validate your journey map via CX metrics (like NPS®, CSAT, and CES) 

For detailed guidance on each of the steps above, read our free customer journey mapping guide

Level 2   

What it looks like 

At this stage, customer journey maps have been introduced to your organization as a tool for driving change and making improvements at the touchpoint level. 

Certain teams—typically Customer Support, Customer Success, and Marketing—are using journey maps to identify and solve pain points within the touchpoints relevant to their specific goals and priorities. 

Journey maps are used to understand the customer’s perspective. They include:  

  • Customer goals

  • What the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling

  • Channels and touchpoints for how the customer is interacting with the brand

For example, Customer Success could choose to map the onboarding experience for a customer persona. In doing so, the journey map can reveal that the customer isn’t receiving consistent welcome experiences, which in turn is influencing the team’s Customer Effort Score (CES) feedback. If that’s the case, the team could improve the welcome experience, creating consistent best practices as a result of the journey map.

It's important to remember that at this stage teams are still working in silos, making improvements at the touchpoint level, instead of collaborating to optimize the holistic journey. So journey maps are only focused on the teams’ individual relevant touchpoints.

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

Since we’ve started surveying our customers right after they complete the onboarding process, we’ve received valuable feedback on what is working and what needs to be changed. We created a customer journey map based on that feedback and what we know about the onboarding experience. Now we know exactly what we need to fix and how to track our progress. — Customer Success Manager

Priorities to advance to the next level  

To move from Level 2 to Level 3 there needs to be a shift from individual team efforts to cross-functional collaboration. This means teams collaborate to build a more end-to-end map, and as such, prioritize the customer’s holistic experience, instead of just the moments where they directly interact with customers. 

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Key touchpoints

  • Cross-functional coalition

How to take action

Step 1: Identify key touchpoints along the entire customer journey to begin implementing changes for the entire customer experience

Start to think beyond your team’s interactions with the customer. After all, customers go through a lot of different touchpoints before and after interacting with a specific part of the journey. 

Leverage the centralized customer feedback data available to focus on high-priority touchpoints. 

Invite leaders who influence parts of the journey before and after specific touchpoints to work together to build a broader customer journey map. This is when relying on centralized feedback data can also help inform the customer journey mapping process.

For example, a leader in Customer Support may identify a common customer complaint around a specific touchpoint in the product delivery phase of the journey. By reaching out to the Product Delivery team, they can work together to identify key touchpoints that require improvements and make changes for the bettering of the overall customer experience.

Leaders can view a common dashboard for customer feedback data. This visibility allows leaders to work cross-functionally and begin to put the customer at the center of all they do.

Step 2: Build coalitions with cross-functional leaders to improve the overall customer experience 

Journey maps are used to fix things that don’t work and identify and improve overall CX issues. This means leaders must begin to work together on not just identifying the touchpoints to improve, but to align efforts on larger initiatives for a more holistic approach to the journey.

For example, let’s say a Sales leader identified that customers often had different expectations about the product timeline. By identifying this issue on the customer journey map, the Sales leader can reach out to the Marketing team to explore how to better establish expectations together. The journey map becomes a tool to build coalitions with other leaders to work through challenges together. 

This type of cooperation means the journey map itself becomes more about the end-to-end experience, instead of focusing on siloed areas with only specific touchpoints. 

The coalition should also communicate about key customer-centric metrics that are associated with the overall customer experience throughout the organization, such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES). For more important metrics, see our CX metrics catalogue.

Level 3   

What it looks like 

Journey maps are used for journey-wide improvements and customer experience metrics are leveraged to measure across key touchpoints.

Journey mapping goals are aligned with the overall CX strategy and include a focus on business values and priorities. Feedback is also collected at key points along the journey, driven by journey mapping insights. 

Team leaders collaborate on journey improvements based on centralized customer feedback. And Voice of the Customer (VoC) data is layered into the map to provide better insight and drive smart decisions.  

Team leaders understand the importance of considering the customer’s perspective and leverage journey mapping techniques to keep the customer at the center of product and experience design. These maps are also used to demonstrate the customer’s experience to organization executives in order to gain buy-in and investment.

In Level 3, journey mapping, as a technique, becomes more commonplace, so leaders and teams are cooperating across silos to share insights and prioritize improvements based on overall CX governance frameworks.

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

It’s helpful to see how improvements to the customer journey impact VoC results. In our map we include customer quotes, showing the before and after impact from our improvements. This kind of storytelling helps us create cross-functional alignment.  — Customer Insights team member

Priorities to advance to the next level   

To move from Level 3 to Level 4 there must be even more collaboration from leaders and teams, as well as more in-depth data—both customer experience and operational metrics—to gain greater insights. 

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Operational data 

  • Regular cadence of review

How to take action

Step 1: Identify the operational data that would be useful to include in your customer journey maps

Review where your maps could benefit from richer data points for better, actionable insights. Reach beyond including in your journey map the major CX metrics, like NPS and CSAT; consider if there are operational metrics, like First Call Resolution (FCR) or conversion rates, that could add value and a more clear perspective of the customer experience. 

For example, a digital marketing company uses both digital transaction clickstream analytics and customer feedback metrics on journey maps to highlight where customers have challenges along the digital journey. By reviewing these metrics together, leaders can better understand and measure success. For instance, it becomes obvious that a customer who can’t find what they need and provides negative feedback at that moment, would be frustrated and less likely to move forward in their journey with the brand. These types of “Ah-ha” moments are shared via journey maps to gain traction for improvements. 

Combined data and visualizations also help the cross-functional coalition team make better decisions to align with the overall CX strategy and governance of the organization.

Step 2: Create a regular cadence of journey mapping review and updates to ensure the organization is always moving toward progress 

Journey maps are used as common reference points for leaders throughout the organization. This means one journey map may be used to socialize customer insights, communicate about strategy, celebrate success, and highlight the next actions.

It can be easy to treat the journey map as a static artifact, but the best organizations make reviewing and updating these maps a regular practice. If not, they’ll become less and less valuable and can be overlooked completely if they are stale and out of date.

Organizations can review and update maps based on internal timelines like company town halls, or team reviews, or time-bound schedules like quarterly or annual reviews. 

It’s important to do this even if the internal processes haven’t yet changed. That’s because the marketplace, your customer’s expectations, or other things could have changed. Consider how the customer journey map of just a few years ago would look compared to today’s version. The pace of technology changes and the introduction of new tools definitely has an impact on your customer’s journey. Be sure you are keeping customer journey maps updated accordingly.

Level 4   

What it looks like 

Customer journey mapping is a comfortable skill for most leaders throughout your organization. Overall journey maps are holistic and incorporate both customer data, like feedback metrics, and operational data, like average wait time for customers. 

With this level of understanding, leaders are able to drive organizational changes that deliver business value. For example, a Customer Success leader could use a journey map to understand key milestones in the customer’s onboarding journey, and as such, operationalize the ways Customer Success Managers proactively guide the customer through better product adoption. This process is visible to others in the organization, who are leveraging the map in end-to-end ways and cross-functionally supporting journey improvements. With this foundation in place, the customer has a more consistent experience. 

Also, experiences are more personalized based on automation. Journeys are designed with a detailed understanding of who the customer is, what actions they’ve taken, and what their next best action will be. And leaders are developing future-state customer journeys based on planned outcomes, like new product rollouts and customer events.

Thanks to this focus on overall journey improvements, teams regularly review and update their journey maps. The map is used as a tool rather than an artifact and is regularly updated to reflect changes. The CX team that leads governance efforts relies on the customer journey map to prioritize customer experience efforts and resources.

Customers are invited into the process earlier to validate and offer insights as they are documented. Their feedback is captured on the journey map not just through metrics but with their own words and suggestions.

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

Every quarter, we make changes to the customer journey. Our focus is on customer satisfaction, but everything we do also aligns with our business values and goals. For this review process, I work with other teams to make sure the journey is consistent and beneficial for the customer. — Customer Success Manager

Priorities to advance to the next level   

To move from Level 4 to Level 5, customer journey mapping must advance from serving as a tool to evaluate the overall customer experience, to helping innovate around CX. At Level 5, journey mapping becomes a way to co-create with customers and is leveraged throughout the organization.

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Innovation 

  • Predictions 

How to take action

Step 1: Use the customer journey map as a foundation to innovate for a better and unique customer experience 

At Level 4, journey mapping is used to design the ideal customer journey based on realistic goals around product rollouts, customer events, and updated processes. To move to the next and final level, think beyond the current realities of the customer experience and innovate around what could be next.

Instead of just thinking about what’s next based on what already exists, it’s time to think big. How would an industry disrupter tackle the customer experience? What if there weren’t current limitations around tools or “the way things have always been done” processes? This is where innovation can really happen.

Customer journey mapping allows leaders and teams to view things from the customer’s perspective. If the customer had a magic wand, what would they want? Shorter wait times? More transparent communications? Or a whole new way of doing business? These are great questions to ask to move toward new ideas, products, and outcomes.

Step 2: Use tools like artificial intelligence to better predict customer needs

Artificial intelligence (AI) can access and make sense of massive amounts of data in ways humans simply can’t; it allows for better predictions around customer needs, behaviors, and expectations. 

Tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML), can mine beyond just past customer purchases and personalized journeys—they can incorporate specific data around customer locations, environmental influences, and macro trends. 

Customer journey mapping can include this level of forecasting, too. Future behaviors are often predicted based solely on past behaviors, but with these tools at your disposal, you can look ahead and forecast new customer expectations.

Knowing what customers will expect tomorrow enables leaders to create journey maps that help them plan today. These forward-focused approaches help leaders establish how to build their teams and training programs in a way that’ll lead to delivering for the customer.

Level 5   

What it looks like 

You’ve reached the North Star. In your organization, customer journey mapping is a key function used not only to react to customer insight but to also innovate around the future of your customer experience strategy.

At Level 5, customer experience priorities are decided based on predicting customer expectations and co-creating experiences with customers directly. Customer journey maps are updated on a regular basis, and decisions are made based on the customer journey. 

Journey maps are used to support the entire ecosystem of the organization. Understanding the employee experience, as well as those of partners and suppliers, helps leaders stay ahead of the competition.

I feel like the customer is in the room with me as my team and I design our products. We are constantly evaluating —is this valuable to the customer today? Will it be tomorrow? What can we do to make it easier to work with us? — Product Designer

Where to go from here  

Customer journey mapping should be viewed as a customized business model to best support your organization. That means teams must remain empowered to use customer journey mapping to deliver great customer experiences and innovate for the future.

To look to the future:

  • Identify areas of the ecosystem that aren’t supported by customer journey mapping, but could be. Mapping the candidate experience for job candidates and the vendor journey can both support customer experience strategy and goals, for example.

  • Look for what’s most successful in mapping at your organization. What best practices are teams and leaders using to innovate and drive the business forward? Operationalize those best practices throughout the organization to get the most out of customer journey mapping.

  • Keep looking ahead and predict what customer journey maps are needed tomorrow. 

Customer journey maps help everyone in the organization feel closer to the customer’s actual experience. Knowing how to turn those visualizations into actions is the difference between those who map and those who act.


Closing thoughts

There is no end to a customer journey map program. Only through continuous monitoring and improvements will you be able to deliver the best customer experience. 

As you take action, retake our maturity assessment to track your progress. Remember, you shouldn’t expect to make all major improvements at once—this is a slow process, but each change will add up to positively impact the quality of your customer experience program.  

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