Jul 6, 2023

Read Time 5 min

Lost in the maze? Simplify your customer journey map with these five tips


As a customer success leader, I’ve seen time and time again companies over-engineer or altogether skip the most foundational step in building a great customer experience—and that is mapping the customer journey.

In one of many similar instances, I was helping a SaaS company get to the root of its high customer churn. They’d get a deal done and somewhere along the way, the customer would turn over before the first annual renewal.

I suggested they map out the journey their customers’ experience from the moment they sign a contract. This map documented all the steps the customer took from the point of acquisition through implementation, adoption and renewal.

Once they went through this exercise, the problem became obvious. The company was suffering from a failure to launch. Their implementation phase placed too much of a burden on the customer. While the company provided training and videos, it left the customer to figure out how to put it all into practice. And they weren’t.

The company mustered its team and began working to improve the customer experience along its journey. They identified clear changes that helped customers throughout the implementation and adoption phases. In turn, their renewal rate improved.

>> Download our Journey Workbook. Get everything you need to map your customer journey.

What is a customer journey?

A customer journey is how you want your customer to think, experience and feel as they progress through their relationship with your product and company. This means identifying all the touchpoints that customers will have and diligently creating the best experience for them.

For example, what should a customer experience after purchasing your product? Do you automatically email them a prompt to register for account access? Do you set that account access up for them? Do they receive a personalized video from the CEO welcoming them to the community?

Each of those options creates a different experience for the customer. The right one is up to your team to decide—and that should be driven by the customer experience.

Sample digital-first customer journey mapClick on the image to enlarge.

Why should you map the customer journey?

A good customer experience is going to lead to a healthy customer. Healthy customers use your product successfully, renew annually, and often spend more with your company. Mapping the touchpoints and milestones allows you to see the phases that are successful and those that might be festering issues.

Putting this in writing also helps to synchronize the roles and responsibilities of all involved. The customer journey is bigger than just the customer success team, so you want to be sure you aren’t inundating a customer at any given point, or duplicating efforts.

In essence, a customer journey map is your plan for your customers’ experience—and plans work best when they are in writing.

5 tips to simplify your customer journey map

You might be surprised to hear this, but I don’t believe mapping the customer journey is the sole responsibility of the customer success team. This is because the journey cuts across multiple departments in a business, including customer success. However, customer success will gain credibility and deliver value to both customers and the business by leading the charge.

Here are a few lessons on journey mapping that I’ve learned.

1. Focus on the experience, not the tasks you want to complete

Too many SaaS businesses start their maps by listing out the tasks they need to fulfill. This is completely backward. Customer success leaders should flip this on its head and think about it from the customer’s perspective. The entire exercise should be centered on answering this question: What is it you want customers to think, experience and feel at each stage in their relationship with your company?

2. Put your concept of a customer journey map on paper

The best way to get started is to simply begin documenting your concept of a customer journey map. It won’t be perfect and that’s to be expected. This is only the starting point, which serves two key purposes.

First, people tend to find it easier to react to a document than to start with a blank page. As soon as you show people an outline, they’ll have all kinds of ideas, additions and suggested changes.

Second, a document will keep subsequent conversations focused. Without it, you’ll wind up in a meeting talking through something else, such as the customer acquisition process. While that’s an important process too, and it’s connected, from the customer success perspective the customer journey starts the moment a prospect converts to a customer.

Strive to keep your map of the customer journey to one page—clear and concise. I have seen some complicated diagrams with 700 different steps, many of which have little to do with the customer. It’s too much and the team won’t use it.

3. Gather the right stakeholders from around the business

Once you have an outline in hand, the customer success leadership should gather the right stakeholders together to build out the map. This should include the leaders of any function that interacts with a customer, such as anyone involved in:

  • Onboarding and implementation;
  • Training, consulting and professional services;
  • Solution engineers; and
  • Product support.

4. Take a crawl-walk-run approach to training and information

Sometimes SaaS businesses inundate their customers with information all at once. As soon as an agreement is signed, the automation kicks in and starts firing off emails.

The business has good intentions here—it wants to be sure its new customer has access to all the resources they need. However, it’s too much information for anyone to absorb and customers often feel overwhelmed. This can slow or even halt adoption.

The crawl-walk-run approach is a training philosophy that eases customers into things. The crawl stage is very slow, and as the customers get comfortable with the subject matter, you gradually pick the pace up to a walk, and later a run.

For example, in the crawl stage, training should be limited to the top one to two features a customer needs to use to see value in your product. While it’s tempting to show more, don’t. If you make using every feature a priority, nothing will be a priority. Once a customer has consistent usage of those high-value, sticky features, it’s time to move on to walking. In this phase, introduce your customer to secondary features, such as reporting, that assist them in tracking and achieving their goals. After they have a good understanding of your product’s overall functionality, they can finally start running. In this stage, focus on helping the customer further optimize their most-used features with advanced configurations, shortcuts, and tips.

5. Consider outside consultants for help

Outside consultants can be a big help in developing a customer journey map. They’ll bring lots of experience, so you don’t miss a key step. They also serve as a neutral third party for facilitating internal discussions—which is invaluable. While it depends on the needs and complexity, a ballpark budget estimate for such a project is $5,000 to $10,000.

A few consulting firms that I recommend include The Success League, ESG Success, and Infinite Renewals.

Continuously refine and improve the customer journey

When you have the customer journey mapped out, what happens next? Start following the map. As you do, be sure to step back to observe what’s working, what isn’t, and be prepared to adjust.

A journey map isn’t completed once and filed away. It’s a living document that should be continuously improved. Companies grow, they add new features, build new products, attract different customer segments, and so the business processes evolve. As that happens you have to revisit your map and refine it to match those changes.

To help you jumpstart the building process, download our customer journeys workbook. This guide will help you avoid common mistakes when mapping a journey, identify the key journey components, and build a journey using a systematic approach.


Subscribe to the newsletter   

Empowering your customer success team through community

Has your customer community lost its spark? Teams are often eager to launch this new initiative, however, sustaining that same enthusiasm in the months ahead can be a challenge. “It's one thing to create excitement and another to keep people’s attention,” says Shauna...