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Customer Success

A Quick Guide to Customer Journey Mapping

Best Practices and Practical Steps to Building a Journey Map

6 min read
By Stephen Fulkerson

The customer success organization is responsible for delivering your company’s promise. Sales and marketing have promised your customers value. Product teams have developed a product/service that can provide value. It’s customer success’ job to guide the customer on their journey to realize the value your company promises.

Think that’s a tall order? You’re absolutely right. So, how do you tackle this challenge?

Enter customer journey mapping: a process and framework that defines every step of the customer’s journey to demonstrate value, enabling adoption and creating a smooth, predictable customer experience.

Today, 57% of customer success organizations have taken the time to create a journey map according to our recent benchmark polls. And 28% of those who have, have done nothing with it. For them, customer journey mapping was just a lengthy exercise that resulted in a pretty map.

However, the 29% who turned their journey map into actionable items had higher renewal rates with lower costs.

In this blog, we’re going to show you how to create a real, actionable map, answering the questions:

What Is Customer Journey Mapping?

A customer journey map is a way to visualize the customer experience by outlining every engagement a customer has with your company. It is used to guide your internal team and customers through the customer life cycle toward your ultimate goal: repeatable customer outcomes.

When executed properly, a customer journey map lays out how to take your customers from perceiving the value you offer to receiving that value.

Landmarks of the Customer Journey = Moments That Matter

When you’re using a map to navigate to a destination, the first step is to identify the  landmarks along the way. In a customer journey map, this means knowing where the points of engagement are.

We call these moments that matter—touchpoints when you engage with your customer to effectively address a business challenge, thereby promoting adoption.

This could be as simple as answering a technical support question, reminding them of an upcoming renewal date, or fulfilling a request for a new feature. These are all touchpoints that should populate the map and act as landmarks.

Why Is a Customer Journey Map Important?

Building out a customer journey map is a long process that involves a wide range of stakeholders. So why take the time to do it?

In the industry, 57% of organizations have built out a journey map, but only 29% have acted on it. Though 28% do nothing with their journey maps, those that take action around them create scalable engagements that yield higher renewal rates with lower costs. There are three key benefits that make journey mapping a customer success best practice.

It can help:

1. Streamline your operational efficiency.

Operational efficiency is a common business challenge for technology providers. Customer journey mapping helps you turn individual engagements into repeatable steps that you can use to streamline processes for future customers.

Mapping out the moments that matter establishes structures that make sure you have the right people in the right place at the right time. This eliminates duplicative contact, unnecessary steps, and holes in communications, while executing a clear game plan for how and when an engagement occurs.

Journey mapping helps you to drive customers to predictable outcomes in cost-effective ways. This increase in efficiency leads to an increase in profit margins. With a streamlined process in place, journey mapping will help you run customer success in a way that is manageable and scalable.

2. Understand your customer experience.

As a supplier, you might guess where and how the customer gets value from your solution. But do you know?

With customer journey mapping, you can stop guessing and move forward with confidence.

As the tech provider, it’s imperative for you to identify common problems customers have—why some moments that matter may be falling flat. It’s equally important to understand where in the journey customers achieve their outcomes and how that touchpoint became influential in bringing about success.

By gaining an understanding of your current customer experience, you’re able to execute a vision of what you want the customer experience to be.

3. Focus on customer satisfaction.

It can be easy to forget that the ultimate goal is not just renewal or expansion—it’s to help the customer. Customer journey maps serve as a constant reminder to your team that they operate in service of customer success.

As you’re working through the stages of the customer life cycle, ask yourself: 

What is the outcome they hope to achieve through this specific engagement? What is the value the customer is looking for in your technology overall?

What Does a Customer Journey Map Look Like? 

So, what does an effective customer journey map look like?

There are two points of view you have to think about with journey mapping: your teams’ and the customer’s. These points of view correspond to two different types of journey maps, with two distinct purposes.

1. Align your team with an internal journey map.

An internal journey map is created by the technology supplier for use inside the organization so internal resources know how to guide a customer through the journey.

This lets stakeholders know how to guide customers throughout their journey to get them from Point A to Point B. This form of mapping is very prescriptive and outlines:

  1. What is the company going to do?
  2. Who’s going to engage?
  3. When are they going to engage?
  4. How are they going to engage?

An internal journey map might use a customer engagement model as a way to visualize the customer journey from the supplier’s perspective. Our LAER (Land, Adopt, Expand, Renew) model, seen below, consists of four customer life-cycle phases and marks critical milestone objectives.


Using it as an outline, you can track the customer’s journey from the sales cycle to renewal. During each phase, new resources are introduced to the customer. When thinking about each phase, stakeholders must understand:

  • Who is engaged and the resources involved.
  • The activities in each phase. 
  • What the transition to the next phase looks like.

The key is understanding which personas are engaged, and ensuring they have the information and/or resources they need for a positive outcome in their role.

2. Set the customer’s expectations with a customer-facing map.

The customer’s point of view looks different. Don’t forget: Their end goal is not the same as yours. The only thing they really care about is achieving their business outcomes.

Stages of Journey Mapping

A customer-facing journey map defines the journey from the customer's perspective. It sets customer expectations for how they’re going to be taken through the life cycle, and how and when you will engage with the customer and guide them to their outcomes.

This form of customer journey mapping requires you to walk a mile in your customer’s shoes. You must have a solid understanding of the customer’s needs, pain points, and the way in which they interact with your product or service.

Customer Journey: Interlocking Experience
Customer Journey: Interlocking Experience

In the age of self-service, it can be beneficial to create a digital customer journey map template. For customers who prefer digital engagements, map out a digital journey where they can self-serve using technology. There is a wealth of technology you can utilize to help customers get the digital engagement they are looking for (chatbot, knowledgebase, etc.).

Don’t Limit Your Map

It is often advantageous to design more than one map. For example, design an internal map for your team and two maps for the customer; one human-focused and one digital-focused. On the other hand, many companies’ journey maps incorporate both sides (the supplier and the customer) to get a full picture of what goes into your customer experience. Incorporating personas into the journey maps also helps your internal team to be focused and concise in who and how they engage based on the position and role.

However, these are just examples of what a customer journey map can look like. Using these examples, you can add touchpoints and create a visual representation that best reflects your customer experience narrative.

Why You Need an Adoption Framework

Building an adoption framework is step zero to creating an effective customer journey map. This framework isn’t something that can be thrown in as an afterthought; it needs to be set up in advance so you know where on their journey the customer should receive value.

The adoption framework utilizes customer telemetry (descriptive, predictive, and outcome analytics) to tie specific moments or attributes to high or low adoption.

Stop Playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey

Why you need an adoption framework
Why You Need an Adoption Framework
When you use an adoption framework, you gain access to data on where in the customer journey customers perform certain actions. This allows you to create a more valuable customer journey map based on data instead of speculation. Without an adoption framework, the customer journey map becomes more like pinning the tail on the donkey. Without the visibility that data provides, you’re left blindly making assumptions about the customer journey.

Using an adoption framework turns journey mapping from an art to a science, backing your engagement plays with hard data.
TSIA Adoption Framework
TSIA Adoption Framework

TSIA’s adoption framework provides six example attributes that can be tracked with specific metrics. With these metrics, you can analyze why certain engagements were successful and other engagements missed the mark.

Currently, only about 33% of the industry uses predictive analytics. However, analytics provide clear, consistent data to set up touchpoints in a way that yields the highest adoption and outcome achievement.

How to Create a Customer Journey Map 

Now that you have an idea of what a journey map can look like, here are five steps to creating your own customer journey template:

Steps to Creating a Customer Journey Map
Steps to Creating a Customer Journey Map

Step 1: Outline Your Objectives

When you’re starting your customer journey map, make sure you outline and understand the objectives and goals of the program. Think about the big picture and make sure your team is on board with the vision for the customer experience.

The first thing to do is build an adoption framework, which will help you hone in on specific objectives and define how to measure success for both you and your customer.

Step 2: Create a Draft 

The next step is to map out all of the customer’s interactions with your organization.

Using your perception of how the current journey works, build out a first draft of your map. In order to do this, you will need to spend time researching every touchpoint the customer has with your company. It can start off as a simple checklist for your customer success team and evolve into a program that includes all of the customer-facing organizations.

At first, you can try an inside-out approach: a map based on what you as the supplier think the customer journey is. This is more of a “best-guess” map, a good place to start as you gauge the scope of your customer journey.

Customer Journey Map Example - Smaply
Customer Journey Map Example - Smaply

Step 3: Get Feedback

Once you have a draft of what the current map looks like, get feedback from each customer-facing department inside of your company. This allows you to get a full understanding of the customer experience and bring in all stakeholders to contribute to the process.

Though often overlooked, it’s crucial to invite customers and outside partners into these discussions.

Although it might seem like “too many cooks in the kitchen,” this is a great way for other teams to hear customer feedback firsthand. It ensures invaluable information is efficiently disseminated across different departments, instead of being solely housed by the customer success team.

Step 4: Design the New Experience 

Feedback from other teams and outside entities will allow you to identify gaps in the current experience and make changes to fill them. As a team, you can come up with solutions to customer pain points and validate new processes that address them.

After stacking hands on an improved journey map, it’s time to update and design your new customer experience. Loop in any stakeholders who play a part in the customer journey and make the tangible changes you’ve decided on.

Step 5: Validate (Again) and Go Live

It’s time to put your new approach into practice. Make sure you update any internal documents and communicate the changes to your customers.

Steps to Build a Customer Journey Map
Steps to Build a Customer Journey Map

But remember, journey mapping is not static and you might go through many iterations.

There’s no such thing as a perfect customer journey map. 

Plan a review-and-refresh cycle so you can adjust the map on an ongoing basis.

Best Practices for Successful Journey Mapping

Though we’ve touched on many best practices, these are the top takeaways you can apply to your journey mapping today:

Focus on business outcomes.

Despite the looming renewal goals you might be striving to hit, remember that your ultimate goal is helping the customer to achieve their desired outcomes. While this isn’t necessarily a destination, it is the goal of your journey map. When the customer achieves their outcomes, the rest (adoption, renewal, expansion) will follow.

Understand the moments that matter.

Identify engagement touchpoints across the customer life cycle and develop a repeatable process to create positive engagements for other customers. “Rinse and repeat” processes can streamline your business operations and turn cost into profit.

Map with them, not for them. 

When mapping is done with firsthand customer input, it shows. Find customers that are standouts in your roster and invite them into the process. The sooner you can get them involved, the better! Get feedback to see what’s consistent across your customer base. This information helps you standardize points in the journey that can be applied to multiple customer segments.

Align success plans and playbooks with the journey map. 

Too often, organizations build plans that don't align to their journey maps. Make sure your plans and playbook (“if/then” situations for customer success managers and other members of the team) are in sync, which creates a consistent customer experience. Your customer shouldn’t need to navigate through any conflicting information.

Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. 

Don’t build one journey map for one type of situation for one segment of customers and then apply it to all of your customers. Journey maps have to reflect how the customer wants to engage with you. Review the customer’s specific desired outcomes and then strategically place touchpoints.

Perfection is the enemy of good. 

The truth is, you’ll never be “done” journey mapping. There is no such thing as a perfect journey map. Every customer segment will go through many edits and iterations. For instance, what worked last quarter might not be the most efficient process to use next quarter. Keep an open mind and ensure other teams know that this will be an ongoing effort.

Though it can be daunting to create a journey map, the results are worth it. When you help your customers achieve their goals, they will be happy to expand and renew.

No matter the size of your company, start with what’s feasible right now and iterate as you go. If you incorporate the best practices in this blog, you are well on your way to a great customer journey.

 December 8, 2022

Stephen Fulkerson

About Author Stephen Fulkerson

Stephen Fulkerson is the vice president of customer success research for TSIA. Prior to joining TSIA, he served as the vice president of customer success at both Upland Software and Alert Logic. Stephen has over 25+ years of experience working in technology companies and has been a leader in professional services, technical account management, and business development for APAC and LATAM operations. Stephen started his career in Customer Success in 2004 and he has spent the bulk of his technical career-building Customer Success organizations and finds this work the most rewarding for both serving the customer and the company.