What is Customer Journey Management and how to get started?
Customer journey mapping is not only about putting colored sticky notes on walls. In recent years, organizations increasingly use this approach beyond design and innovation teams. In this article you learn about 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?
Disclaimer: all the following can also be applied to employee / user / citizen … management.
What is customer journey management?
Customer journey management is the sum of all activities that help to understand the current-state customer journey and optimize it towards a future-state journey. The goal of customer journey management is to continuously improve the customer experience, removing pain points, understanding potential moments of service recovery, and allowing for a satisfying customer experience along the entire service.
Journey maps developed from being used in workshops (“workshop maps”) to maps being used during projects for several months (“project maps”) into maps that are used indefinitely providing an overview for management (“management maps”).
Sometimes people refer to customer journey management also as journey map operations or journey orchestration. The terms are actually describing the same idea. However, the perception might be that customer journey map management has a more strategic connotation, whereas journey map operations is more hands-on. Others might understand Journey Map Ops as the missing information system for triple-track agile management, connecting Research Ops, Design Ops, and DevOps.
Why is customer journey management important?
Customer journey management is important because it implies a range of essential 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 customer journey management actively build bridges between organizational silos/departments; the customers' experience can become anorganization-wide information and communication system
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.
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.
The aim of customer journey management is to improve customer experience step by step (pain point by pain point, project by project).
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.
It allows you to find overlaps and contradictions between projects early on, thus saving time and money.
It empowers you to ensure that your products provide real value to your customers and turn them into your ambassadors.
When implemented correctly, journey management can help you to keep an in your organization, as well as a journey map repository of past projects, including previous journey maps and research data.
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
By the way, also the skill set of the customer journey manager’s job is everything but streamlined; looking at job portals, the description typically includes skills like:
- Having a strong understanding of service design, including the methods and techniques like journey mapping and systems thinking
- Being customer-focused
- Having strong analytical skills
- Having strong social competences that help with collaboration and presentation
- Academic background or specific education appears a nice-to-have, more than a strict requirement
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 customer 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 customer journey 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 customer 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.
How to get started with customer journey management
- Gather all your customer journey maps
First, do a customer journey audit: what do you already know about the customer journey? How many maps do you have, what is their focus? Which format do they have (PPT, EXS, PDF, Smaply, etc.)? How old are they? Are they credible, i.e. based on research? Which zoom level do they show? Which data do they include?
- Organize your customer 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 the high-level map with the detailed maps you have available: add links to sub-journeys that describe a specific step in more detail.
- Define a taxonomy for journey management 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.
- Establish management roles and assign responsibilities
Now the actual work starts. Each customer journey should be assigned to a certain person –the customer journey manager–, eventually supported by a certain 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.
- Prioritize 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?
- 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
- Brand trust rating
- Ease of use feedback
- Error rate
For sustainable customer 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. If you know journey mapping from the fields of research or visualization, you are likely to be familiar with most of them; you’ll encounter tools and methods from
- Customer experience research, like interviews, observations, or service safaris
- Customer journey visualization methods and tools, depending on the context they can potentially happen with small groups or large groups, with pen and paper or online
- Techniques from stakeholder mapping or system mapping that are used to understand the bigger picture in which a service or product is embedded
- But also more business-centered disciplines, like budget planning or leadership techniques that help with change management and other internal challenges of CX management
A crucial but often overlooked component of any management role is the importance of language. Thus we recommend that you set up your own organizational glossary for customer journey management, listing and defining the specific terms and language you want to use.
What is the best customer journey management software?
You can easily visualize a customer journey map with pen and paper. However, once you start using journey maps as a visual management tool, proper software will be indispensable for a structured approach to analysis and journey optimization.
However, there is nothing like the best customer journey management software. The right solution for you will depend on different factors, for example:
- What other digital tools do you have in place? Depending on the current setup, the customer journey management solution should fit into it well, prevent redundancies and rather close gaps.
- How many people will work with it? The more people are involved, the more guidance the tool should provide.
- How simple or sophisticated should the software be? The more possibilities you have, the more complex software tends to get.
A valuable customer journey software should offer you the following capabilities:
Centralizing your customer journey insights
First of all, the customer journey management tool needs to become a home for all your journey maps. Think about all the different formats that are used in your organization for journey maps: Paper, PowerPoint, Excel, PDF, InDesign, Figma, Miro, Mural, Lucid, to name but a few. It’s hard to build on top of each other since you cannot use maps from another format. And most probably, you won’t be able to find them right now. Using one software finally allows you to have all maps in one repository in one format. So, you can use existing work and start working on the shoulders of giants instead of reinventing the wheel with every new journey map.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Customer journey management is increasingly used in strategic planning and business management. The tasks that customer journey managers take over are colorful, just as the skillsets they bring to the team. The tools and methods of customer journey management are rooted in Research Ops, Design Ops, and DevOps with journey mapping tools serving as information systems funneling the backlogs, giving context to data for leadership, and becoming the operating system for CX management.