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From Discovery to Action: How Do You Operationalize Customer Journey Maps?

6 minute read
Mark Smith avatar
Instead of mapping your customer journey and then figuring out what to do with it, begin the mapping process with specific operational goals in mind.

Journey mapping is no longer a new practice. For years, companies have been rolling out mapping initiatives — some sophisticated and data-driven, others no more complicated than some sketches on a whiteboard. There's a widespread understanding of the importance of visualizing the real or potential paths your customers and prospects take with your brand.

According to Gartner, 82% of organizations have taken the time to establish journey maps, a figure that suggests a level of widespread journey management maturity. The trouble is, many of these journey initiatives stall out. Only 47% of organizations are actually using maps effectively, Gartner found.

The problem we often see is that journey mapping is viewed as an end in itself, as if, once the customer journey were visualized, improvements to customer experience (CX) would naturally follow. In other words, companies often undertake journey mapping without a clear next step, expecting a path forward will be suggested by the mapping exercise itself. 

In our experience, this rarely happens. For this reason, we recommend that, instead of mapping your customer journey and then figuring out what to do with it after the fact, you actually begin the mapping process with specific operational goals in mind.

Related Article: Customer Journey Mapping: Navigating a Course to Better Customer Relations

Start Customer Journey Mapping With Operational Goals and a Use Case

Here are the operational goals that can guide your journey mapping efforts:

Engagement and Retention

It’s cheaper to keep a customer than earn a new one, which is why so many companies focus on creating loyalty programs and personalizing the customer experience. Approaching the customer journey with an eye to customer retention sets you up to use automation and a smart data framework to drive greater brand loyalty. For example, a restaurant chain might be interested in what leads a diner to become a repeat customer. It might discover that, on the one hand, this behavior is driven by a combination of meal quality and service quality. But it might also find that how the restaurant deals with customer service issues also plays a role. 

Based on these insights, a restaurant using tablets at the table to allow customers to record their satisfaction with the meal in real-time could build functionality into the tablet allowing it to respond to both low and high scores in real-time as well (with promotions, credits and so forth). The restaurant could also use this tablet data to suppress customers from receiving promotions immediately after a visit, or to send quick follow-up inquiries if the patron had a bad experience.

Related Article: Want to Excel at Personalization? Be Like Seth

Acquisition and Lead Management

Buying processes are growing increasingly complex, so initial lead acquisition is more important than ever. A prospect might interact with you over various channels, and might qualify for multiple products or offers. Implementing journey management with acquisition in mind enables you to coordinate efforts, not duplicate them, serving the right nurture messages at the right time. 

Learning Opportunities

A tech retailer, for example, might have a prospect that has browsed its website, tweeted at the brand account with a question about a specific laptop, clicked an ad for a different laptop, and finally visited the store in person. Building in the functionality to connect that data through journey management allows the brand to see a united view of that customer, ensuring that in-store associates are plugged into customer histories in real-time. With journey management, a sales associate could see, for example, that one of the ads that customer clicked had a low price that isn’t reflected in-store. By having that information handy, the associate can proactively offer the lower price and thus provide the customer with a unified experience. By automating nurture touchpoints at key journey steps and personalizing experiences from end-to-end, you stand to create a cleaner lead flow and drive higher conversions. 

Related Article: Creating and Future-Proofing Your Customer Journey Map

Personalized Sales Interactions

Sales teams can have a difficult time breaking through the noise in today’s crowded marketplace. Customer journey management allows sales teams to listen and react to customer behavior at every touchpoint, offering personalized experiences that stand out. Take the example of a car dealer that allows visitors to design their dream car online. It follows that the dealer would push ads and messaging for that specific car to that customer, but customer preferences can change, and, aside from preferences stated through the website customization tool, the dealer is unable to capture changing customer desires. What happens when the customer visits the dealership and ends up liking another car more than the one they designed online? By tying together in-store and online experiences, the dealer could request ad suppression for the previous car preference and personalize messaging featuring the newly preferred vehicle across all channels. As a result, the prospect gets white-glove treatment in every interaction, giving an added edge to sales teams.

Related Article: Stitching Together Online and Offline Customer Data

Customer Service Efficiencies

Customer service is where customers turn when something goes wrong. As a result, customer service teams handle some of the most sensitive interactions and do some of the most critical work in terms of fostering loyalty and retention. Right or wrong, customers often expect call centers to know the reason for their call ahead of time. Without journey information at their fingertips, service agents head into calls blind. Implementing journey management with customer service in mind can help customer service teams identify problems before they occur. Take the example of a bank that receives a message indicating a customer tried to withdraw funds from an ATM but was unsuccessful. If a call center agent has that information on-screen when the customer calls, the agent can quickly resolve the issue, instead of sending the customer around to different departments. By arming call center agents with real-time data across channels, resolutions can be found quickly and service teams can preempt issues.

Scale and Mature Your Journey Optimization

Once you’ve undertaken your initial journey management use case, you’re on the way to holistic orchestration. The more you scale orchestration, the better experiences you can serve at each and every touchpoint for your business. The use cases above are just jumping-off points. You know your business best, so take the time to figure out what goals are best for you before embarking on journey mapping initiatives. Finally, treat journey optimization as a never-ending initiative. Reevaluate your journey maps often — you’ll find new use cases and areas for improvement, as well as high-performing journey steps that can be further leveraged or replicated.

About the author

Mark Smith

As vice president of digital engagement at CSG, a leader in innovative customer engagement, revenue management and payments solutions, Mark Smith helps businesses make ordinary customer experiences extraordinary. Smith is an industry pioneer regarding the analytics of customer behavior and orchestration of customer journeys.

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