Visualization of a journey map hierarchy with three zoom levels and dedicated journey map managers.

What is Customer Journey Management and how to get started?

November 3, 2022

Effective customer journey management is vital for businesses to remain competitive and relevant in today's market. It helps to optimize every step of the customer journey and thus ensuring customer satisfaction, building brand loyalty, and driving revenue growth. In this article, you learn the basics of customer journey management: What is customer journey management? Why is it so important? What are the tasks and skills of a customer journey manager? And what are essential tools for customer journey management?

Overview

What is customer journey management?

Let's start with a definition:

Customer journey management is the process of designing, optimizing, and managing the end-to-end customer experience across all touchpoints and channels, to create a seamless and consistent customer journey.

Journey management involves understanding the customer's needs, preferences, and behaviors at each stage of their journey, and using this information to improve the customer experience and drive customer loyalty and satisfaction.  

The goal of customer journey management is customer excellence: the authentic fulfillment or exceeding of customers' concrete and emotional key expectations, wherever and whenever they come into contact with the company. This requires to continuously improve the customer experience, remove pain points, understand potential moments of service recovery, and allow for a satisfying customer experience along the entire service. 

Customer journey management framework with three levels

What is the difference between customer journey mapping and customer journey management?

Customer journey mapping is a key tool used in the customer journey management process. A customer journey map is a visual representation of the customer journey, illustrating the different touchpoints, channels, and interactions a customer has with a company or brand throughout their journey. It helps businesses to understand customer behavior, identify pain points, and areas of improvement to enhance the customer experience and build stronger customer relationships.

More often than not, people don't only want to visualize journey maps, but take actions from the maps they create. This is where customer journey management comes into the game.

Customer journey management is a broader process that encompasses customer journey mapping as a key component. It involves not only mapping the customer journey, but also taking action and continuously optimizing the entire customer experience. Customer journey mapping is just one of the many tools and techniques used in the broader journey management process.

Sometimes people refer to journey management also as customer journey orchestration. The terms are actually describing the same idea.

Also, people talk about journey map operations; customer journey map management has a more strategic connotation, whereas journey map operations is rather about day-to-day business – more on the difference further down the article.

Why is customer journey management important?

Only if organizations focus on their customers’ needs, people will become and stay customers. To achieve this, organizations need to build their products and service around their intended customer journey.

Customer journey management is important because it can positively impact a company's long-term success and help to meet strategic goals, e.g. through:

  • Positive customer experience at every step of the customer journey and overall experience
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Higher customer loyalty and engagement
  • Better relationships with customers
  • Improved brand reputation
  • Optimized processes through journey analytics
  • Increased customer's lifetime value
  • Increased revenue
  • It empowers you to ensure that your products provide real value to your customers and turn them into your ambassadors.
  • Journey management can also serve as an information system connecting organizational silos: It helps to align different stakeholders around a common vision for customer experience.

Furthermore, customer journey management is important because it implies a range of operational benefits:

  • You get an overview of ongoing and planned CX projects
  • You can coordinate all projects in your organization that have impact on CX/EX
  • It results in a repository of previous CX projects and research data hub which is enormously useful when you want to start new projects based on existing data
  • Keep a hierarchy of journey maps maps and keep them up-to-date
  • It forces you to define clear ownership of CX initiatives, allowing for synergies and preventing redundancies
  • Organizations that consciously do journey management actively build bridges between organizational silos/departments; the customers' experience can become anorganization-wide information and communication system
  • It allows you to find overlaps and contradictions between projects early on, thus saving time and money.

Customer satisfaction does not come from single wow-moments. It needs to be built in a coherent, long-term and cross-silo way. Thus, having an eye on all moments and facets of the customer journey is essential for sustainable customer satisfaction.

What is customer journey governance?

Journey governance involves establishing a basic guideline on how an organization wants to collaborate, including a journey framework and decision-making processes, to ensure the effective management and execution of business strategies. This includes defining objectives, setting milestones, allocating resources, monitoring progress, and making strategic decisions to steer the journey towards its desired outcome.

What's the difference between customer journey governance vs. management vs. operations?

Journey governance, journey management and journey operations are strongly interconnected, however have distinct roles in an organization:

Customer journey governance focuses on setting a guideline how an organization is run, providing direction, leadership and control. It's ensuring accountability and compliance, respresenting stakeholder interests, prioritizing long-term sustainability, and making high-level decisions. Governance has a broad, long-term perspective and provides oversight. It als implies agreeing on a customer journey framework – a set of tools and methods that are used along the process.

Customer journey management is responsible for implementing strategies, overseeing day-to-day activities, achieving operational objectives, and making operational decisions. Journey management is more focused on operational efficiency and achieving specific goals, allocating resources and overseeing high-level processes.

Customer journey operations refer to the day-to-day activities and processes that enable an organization to deliver its products or services, trying to optimize these processes and deliver products and services in a timely and cost-effective manner. Learn more about on journey operations

What is a customer journey manager?

The customer journey manager is responsible for coordination of the current-state journey, as well as developing it towards the future-state journey. The person is an evangelist for journey mapping as part of strategic business planning: what’s the status of the product or service, what’s the vision and how to align customer goals with business goals?.

The job of the customer journey managers comes in all forms, with many different titles and skill sets. You might also read about customer journey coordinators, customer experience managers, journey owners, and many more.

The tasks a customer journey manager takes care of are multitude:

  • Helping to shape the product vision along future-state journey maps
  • Researching customer needs and adapting the current-state journeys accordingly
  • Managing stakeholders 
  • Managing the current-state journey, keeping in mind and approaching the future state
  • Managing and facilitating interactive sessions, like co-creative workshops, or research and prototyping sessions

Common customer journey manager skills to be found in job descriptions are:

  • A strong understanding of service design, including the methods and techniques like journey mapping and systems thinking
  • Customer-focused 
  • Strong analytical skills
  • Strong social competences that help with collaboration
  • Strong presentation skills
  • An academic background, or specific education appears to be a nice-to-have, more than a strict requirement

Looking at job portals, you will see that the described skill set of the customer journey manager’s job is everything but streamlined.

What are the stages of customer journey management?

Customer journey management is not set up in a day or two; it’s a process that takes weeks, months, sometimes years. It depends very much on the organizational conditions like size or industry, but also team conditions like mindset and skills, as well as the maturity of journey mapping in the organization and how many maps in which quality and format already exist.

In general we can distinguish between two main phases of customer journey management:

  • Embedding journey management: in this phase, you create a customer-centered mindset. Applying customer-centered tools and methods to certain tasks and projects, the team starts to understand the importance and value of CJ management. Usually at this stage, journey management is done within one or two teams, but not used across various teams, departments, or organizational silos.
  • Scaling journey management: this stage is about changing perspective, moving from a task- and project-focused mindset to a long-term strategy. This is when you start breaking up organizational silos and have to deal with organizational bureaucracy politics. At this stage, journey management starts serving as an information system connecting different teams across the organization.

Is there a difference between customer journey management in B2C vs B2B?

Customer journey management in business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) environments does differ significantly from one another. The setting, level of complexity, and particular tactics used can change even though the fundamental concepts of journey management stay the same.

Here are some common differences:

  • B2B purchases typically involve more stakeholders, B2C has faster decision making processes
  • B2B customer journeys focus on building long-term relationships, B2C immediate satisfaction
  • B2B transactions are often more complex, B2C journeys tend to be more straightforward
  • B2B often relies on sharply targeted marketing efforts, B2C journeys often leverage mass marketing
  • B2B primary goals are often performance metrics like a higher return on investment (ROI), B2C may focus on factors like price, brand loyalty, or customer satisfaction

How to manage customer journeys, step by step

So how to manage an effective customer journey mapping process?

For this chapter, we assume that you have created one or more journey maps and now would like to take your work to the next level by transferring it to a customer-centered management tool.

1. Gather the relevant journey maps in a repository

First, conduct a customer journey audit. A customer journey audit is the process of gathering and reviewing all journey maps that you created in the past.

In a customer journey audit, you ask yourself questions like:

  • What do you already know about the customer journey?
  • How many maps do you have?
  • What is their focus?
  • In what different formats do they appear today (PowerPoint, spreadsheets, printed, digital tools, etc.)?
  • Are they still up to date?
  • Are they credible, i.e. based on research?
  • Which zoom level do they show?
  • Which data do they include?

Once you have decided which of these customer journey maps you want to keep, add them to a journey map repository.

For this you need to decide about a customer journey management tool – we'll discuss this in detail in the next chapter.

2. Organize your journey maps in hierarchies

Now start structuring your customer journey maps.

First, take (or create) a high-level map (usually, the customer life cycle) that describes your entire customer journey in 10-20 steps.

Then connect/link the high-level map with more detailed maps that further describe a specific step in more detail.

3. Define a journey management taxonomy for your organization

Define how many zoom levels you’ll need; at which step from the high-level map do you want to maintain sub-level maps and in how many levels of detail. Which data do you want to represent in these maps: customer pain points, employee pain points, projects, KPIs, insights, research data, opportunities, alternative journeys, scenarios, CX vision, links to project maps, etc.? What do you want to call everything? Don’t use any given approach from a textbook or agency, but build on what you already have in your organization.

You can also use this service design glossary as a starting point for these decisions.

4. Assign responsibilities

Responsibilities are important in journey management because they help ensure that each aspect of the customer journey is given the attention and resources it needs to be successful. Assigning responsibilities can help ensure that no crucial elements of the customer journey are overlooked, and can also help to streamline processes and improve communication within the team.

Therefor, each customer journey (or stage, or sub-journey) should be clearly assigned to one person, eventually supported by a dedicated team. These folks take care that the data on their customer journeys is accurate and up-to-date.

If possible, they also have a team and budget to focus on iteratively improving their part of the journey and all linked alternative scenarios as well as coordinating potential sub-level journeys. Also plan for cross-level work sessions: give the customer journey managers the chance to align their journeys to another. 

Many customer journey managers and teams contribute to the high-level journey

5. Consciously prioritize your CX projects

Probably it turns out that there’s quite some work to do. Starting with research gaps – moments where you just lack knowledge about the current experience – but also knowing about certain pain points and flaws of higher or lower seriousness as well as opportunities. The task will be to evaluate and prioritize all the project ideas that are likely to come up. How much work will it be to improve a certain experience? How much effect will it have on the overall satisfaction? Who is in charge of which issues and opportunities?

6. Agree on important KPIs

To prove the value of your work, it’s useful to define sets of KPIs per journey. When thinking of KPIs, people usually come up with business-related numbers, like:

  • Return on investment (ROI)
  • Number of support tickets
  • Sales / registrations / bookings
  • Church / retention / revenue

However, if you really want to align the needs of your business with customer needs, you should add customer-centered analytics to your analysis. Your customers do not care about your ROI, they have other priorities.

  • Customer satisfaction score
  • Time to value 
  • Savings
  • Brand trust rating
  • Ease of use feedback
  • Error rate

For sustainable journey management, you will need both.

What are customer journey management tools and methods?

In customer journey management you need a broad range of tools and methods, for example:

Call to action: Start managing the customer journey!

What is the best software for customer journey management?

You can easily visualize a journey map with pen and paper. However, once you start using journey maps as a visual journey management tool, dedicated software will be indispensable for a structured approach to analysis and journey optimization.

Types of customer journey management software

Nowadays people working in the field use customer journey management software from different categories, for example:

  • Dedicated CJ management software, for example Smaply
  • Classic project & product management tools, for example Monday.com
  • Specified CX tools for each phase of the project, for example Miro for prototyping
  • Customer journey automation software, for example Mailchimp

How to choose the best customer journey management software for your use case

To help you pick the best software for your use case, consider the software's capabilities in the following areas:

1. Standardizing customer experience documentations

Flexibility is great, however it does not always lead you to structure insights finding, documenting and sharing. Imagine you would draw your journey map on a simple blackboard where you have full flexibility – how easy do you think it is to understand for others? Especially after you have created dozens of sub-journeys, each of them with their own focus? Standardizing the software you’re using allows you to establish a common taxonomy around customer journey mapping. You can link maps into each other and progress your repository into a hierarchy of maps that helps you to navigate customer experience across organizational silos.

2. Discussing and commenting

Customer journey maps should never be static. Thus, you need to keep talking about them, work on them, and update your most-used maps regularly. Your journey mapping software should allow you to work asynchronously on a map by inviting others to comment on the map. Think about including a panel of users commenting on the future customer experience you’re planning, a group of experts having asynchronous discussions on future trends and technical feasibility of your ideas, think about researchers adding insights and data as comments to your map, or your colleagues estimating the development time of various features or user stories you’ve included on your map.

3. Presenting professional journey maps

It does not matter if in front of your own team or in front of a client, you will run into moments when you need to present a journey map. Customer journey presentations help you bring everybody on the same page and thus foster buy-in – however only if the format and content of your presentation is adapted to the audience. 

Being able to present the journey map in different ways – without first manually recreating it with another software like InDesign or Figma – will help you get the point across. Think about hiding certain lanes and data that would overwhelm an audience, or being able to export the same journey map in different formats, like PDF, Excel, PPT, HTML, for different occasions.

4. Scaling customer journey management across organizational silos

Customer journey management should always aim at finding its way into every department of your company, every team, every silo. Thus we recommend you to pay special attention to scalable solutions. Part of this is for example user roles: The more stakeholders (team members, clients, customers, …) you expect to participate and the more varied their backgrounds (techie or not, service design background or not), the more you should check for access rights and restrictive sharing modes.

5. Data security and safety

There are uncountable customer journey tools out there; some of them top-nodge solutions that really bring value; some however might not be maintained well, are outdated or just hosted in countries with loose data security policies. Make sure you go for a solution that comes with a data security framework that you trust and that matches your own organizational policy. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time during procurement and risk assessment. 

Summary

Customer journey management helps to build a customer-centric mindset and thus is crucial for a company's success in a customer-driven market. Skilled managers who know how to use tools to map and optimize the journey are essential and will provide actionable insights on how to meet important business goals. Choosing the right tools, and customer journey management software & framework is vital and should consider a good balance between journey mapping and journey management.

Feeling ready for the next step?

Start managing your own customer journey with Smaply! The tool will guide you through the process of journey map creation and assist you in making them manageable.

Start managing the customer journey with Smaply!