“What is a customer journey map?” would seem to be a fairly self-explanatory question. It’s a diagram/infographic/flowchart that depicts the steps customers go through to engage with a company. The map can show the path to buying goods or services or gather information. Simple, right? Not so fast.

Sure, a customer journey map is a simple idea. But with myriad touchpoints to consider and influencers affecting the path, these journeys can become complicated. Then factor in whether you are trying to map one subsection of the journey or take more of a cradle-to-the-grave approach, looking at the entire path of the engagement, things can get very complicated. The deeper you dive into the mapping process, the more difficult it becomes. But the more complete the map, the more you will learn about the intricacies of the interactions and impacts the players (customer service, technology, channels, etc.) have on the journey. And then you can figure out how to optimize and orchestrate the journeys to provide the best possible customer experience.

To really understand your customers, you will want to map the entire journey, from initial contact (marketing) to post-sales analysis (follow-up survey). Any distinct point where the customer interacts with the organization should be mapped. To do this right, you will need customer data, web data, social data, marketing data, and sales data. This information on its own is interesting, but pull it together as part of a customer journey mapping effort, and it can prove to be incredibly insightful by revealing the frustrations and experiences of customers. That is the true value of a customer journey map.

Seems like a lot of work, you might be saying. Yes, it does take some work, but the tasks don’t have to be onerous. All you really need is some wall space, a bunch of Post-It notes (the name-brand ones work the best), some Sharpie markers, and a few colleagues who care about your customers, and you are ready to go. From there, you can go deeper and deeper still, depending on the available time and resources, as well as the goals for the journey maps.

You may be asking what you will get for your effort. Simply put: value. According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority. A study from NewVoiceMedia indicates that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. There isn’t an industry or company that can afford to not understand their customers and the experience being delivered to them.

So ask yourself if you do the following:

  • Understand all of your customer’s needs at both functional and emotional levels?
  • Know the impact to your business when you meet those needs?
  • Recognize what is getting in the way of delivering the best possible customer experience?
  • Realize that understanding customer journeys is not about getting better customer satisfaction scores; it is about driving revenue and operating income.

Customer journey mapping can give you and your organization the insights needed to take advantage of opportunities and address issues that translate to a positive impact on your customers’ experience. They can also empower and kickstart innovation for new products and services.

Some of the other benefits of customer journey mapping are the following:

  • Moving the organization from inside-out to outside-in thinking, which helps a company be more customer-centric
  • Removing silo mentalities, which can make companies more efficient and productive and helps create a common understanding of areas outside of their sphere of influence
  • Instilling big-picture thinking that, in turn, can help make a company more innovative
  • Fast-tracking efficiency issues and areas for improvement and, most importantly, new revenue possibilities

So what do you have to lose by not completely understanding your customers’ journeys? A lot.