We all know there’s a big difference between wanting to deliver good customer experiences and actually taking steps to do it. But most companies haven’t crossed that divide. Executives consistently tell us that customer experience is important to their overall strategy, yet most also admit that their firms don’t have a clear understanding of target customers or systematically incorporate customer needs into their decisions. That leaves employees to design experiences based on things like personal opinions and internal politics. It’s no wonder customers aren’t impressed.

In Bruce Temkin’s and my latest research, we look at a key tool to move from ambition to action: customer journey mapping. We define customer journey maps as documents that visually illustrate customers’ processes, needs, and perceptions throughout their relationships with a company. The journey mapping process helps firms align around a shared vision of target customers, identify broken moments of truth, and get the insights they need to improve.

The customer journey mapping process involves five key steps:

  1. Collect internal insights
  2. Develop initial hypotheses
  3. Research customer processes, needs, and perceptions
  4. Analyze customer research
  5. Map the customer journey

Obviously, customer journey maps won’t provide much value if they’re not put to use. Our research uncovered three categories of best practices for effectively using journey maps: widely sharing customer journey maps, taking action on the insight, and sustaining the learnings over time.

While we talked to a bunch of companies about their journey mapping efforts as part of this research, we’d love to hear about your experiences. Have you mapped your customers’ journeys?