Customer journey mapping is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding and improving the customer experience. The purpose of this guide is to provide an overview of customer journey mapping and a simple starting point for anyone yet to map out their customer journeys.

Every new digital technology and channel creates new customer touchpoints. With new touchpoints come new expectations and customer behaviours.

Digital and internet technologies such as apps, search engines, customer review sites, price comparison engines, marketplaces, live chats and social media have revolutionised the customer journey. One of the contributors to this report spoke about working on a customer journey mapping project where the team identified more than 300 digital and physical customer touchpoints that they needed to map.

Overall, customer journey maps can help marketers understand what actions they need to take to help customers progress in the customer journey and what key messages they should be looking to deliver.

Though CRMs and loyalty specialists have long mapped out customer journeys, processes and customer lifecycles, these two disciplines tend to focus on an inside out view of the customer, rather than on elements of the customer journey before and after the conversion.

A rise in investment in enterprise level marketing automation highlights the importance of thinking and planning ‘in the customers’ shoes’ at all stages of the customer lifecycle, from acquisition to advocacy.

The rise of customer journey mapping

The exact origin of customer journey mapping and customer journey maps is a little unclear, but the concept of a business or organisation mapping business processes is not a new one.

Today, identifying and looking at customer ‘touchpoints’ is not revolutionary, but it was certainly talked about in a different way in the early 1980s by the then CEO of Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), Jan Gösta Carlzon.

Carlzon advocated a view of the airline’s customer experience that focused on ‘moments of truth’. These determined whether the airline succeeded or failed its customers. In his book Moments of Truth, published in 1987, Carlzon said:

“Last year, each of our 10 million customers came in contact with approximately five SAS employees, and this contact lasted an average of 15 seconds each time. Thus, SAS is ‘created’ 50 million times a year, 15 seconds at a time. These 50 million ‘moments of truth’ are the moments that ultimately determine whether SAS will succeed or fail as a company. They are the moments when we must prove to our customers that SAS is their best alternative.”

In his book and speeches, Carlzon never explicitly talked about creating a map of the customer journey, and was seemingly focused on people as touchpoints. This is some way from the multiple physical and digital channels, platforms and experiences that are built into customer journey mapping today.

The developing fields of customer experience management and customer value management in the mid-1990s started to focus on quality, pricing, communication and other aspects of the customer experience that drive customer value before and after purchase or conversion.

In an article appearing in Marketing Management in 1994, authors mention an “experience blueprint”, which they define as “a pictorial representation of the experience clues to be engineered, along with specification that describes them and their individual functions”.

In 2002, Colin Shaw, founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the first organisations dedicated to customer experience, drew upon Carlzon’s moments of truth and created a diagram called Moment Mapping™. This was a visual diagram that looked much like an archery arrow highlighting important elements and sub-elements at each stage of the customer experience.

The process was designed to help define customer expectations and to map what an organisation was doing at each point, from a physical and emotional perspective, that might affect the customer experience.

In 2005, Dr Janne Ohtonen, now Director of Customer Experience Technology at the world’s biggest integrated travel company, TUI, was asked to develop a customer experience strategy for a car manufacturer in Finland.

At the time, the term ‘customer journey maps’ was not used, but he recognised that he needed to reconfigure the organisation from the outside in and map out traditional business processes from an external customer perspective.

Ohtonen added KPIs and mapped the Six Sigma quality principles and techniques to these customer-focused maps to identify issues along the customer journey. The improvements made to the car factory and its processes, in a country where it is expensive to manufacture, allowed the company to expand the value chain. The factory still makes cars today.

Dr Ohtonen, who has since written the book The 5-Star Customer Experience, explains: “We did things in a very different way – aligning the customer perspective to business processes and operations. It wasn’t called customer journey mapping at the time – there was probably someone in the US using this terminology – but not in Finland.”

Customer journey mapping is a key driver of business success

Today, many organisations are focusing on ‘customer centricity’; customer experience as a point of brand differentiation and a driver of customer value and loyalty. Research suggests that good customer experience can improve the bottom line for businesses.

The need to break down the silos that can lead to poor customer experiences and reduced customer value has made it necessary for most organisations to look at the entire customer journey – from its catalyst all the way through to its conclusion – if they want to improve the customer experience.

Customer journey maps are one effective part of a broader toolkit for developing an understanding of the customer journey, identifying blind spots and improving and developing all customer touchpoints.

Adam Powers, Chief Experience Officer at Tribal Worldwide, describes why many more organisations are using more maps today than ever before: “It’s because of the increasingly complex landscape, and the increasingly complex relationship that brands have with their customers.

“There is a need to understand those customers more acutely and business is trying hard to articulate what they understand about their customers in ways that can be acted upon and be meaningful to the rest of the business.”

Acknowledgments

Econsultancy and the author would like to thank the following people for their contributions to this report:

  • Kelly Autenrieth, VP of Global Customer Experience, Brandwatch
  • Chris Donnelly, Founder and CEO, Verb Brands
  • Jake Hird, VP Strategy, Asia Pacific, Merkle
  • Karl Brown, Head of Customer Experience, Direct Line Group
  • Evi Malisianou, Head of User Experience Research, Brandwatch
  • Dr Janne Ohtonen, Group Director of Customer Experience Technology, TUI
  • Aliza Pollack, brand strategy and user research consultant
  • Adam Powers, Chief Experience Officer, Tribal Worldwide
  • Yana Sanko, CX Lead Consultant, UXPressia
  • Lucy Walker, Audience Director, eight&four
  • Matthew Webster, Senior Customer Experience Manager, Virgin Atlantic

Thanks also to the following experts who shared their customer journey mapping insights at Festival of Marketing 2019:

  • Jerry Daykin, EMEA Media Director, GSK
  • Jo Jackson, Chief Creative Officer, MADE.com
  • Louise Kristensen, EMEA Digital Commerce Lead, GSK

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