How Do You Map Your Customer Journey? FORBES

Mapping customer journey?

By Emilia D’Anzica, Founder & Managing Partner at Growth Molecules.

What is a Customer Journey Map? 

The different steps and opportunities for growth or churn – in a customer’s journey with a platform or service. It starts before they buy, and continues through renewal and expansion.

The customer journey forms the foundation for your CS playbook – it’s the journey maps we build that are part of assessments and playbooks. This is the backbone for what your customer service team is going to do. 

Why is it valuable to invest in customer journey mapping?

To increase net revenue retention – you can identify where in the customer journey you can introduce more products, or seek to be introduced to other parts of the customer’s organization. 

To identify points of potential risk – to identify the part(s) of the journey where there’s churn likelihood. 

You need to enable your employees to enable your customers – often employees are taught how to use the platform, but not what it looks like from the customer’s perspective and the journey they go through. 

How should you review and map your customer journey?

Review the existing process – interview executives and team members, look at existing documentation and listen to call recordings to learn what the current process is. 

Schedule a 2-4 hour workshop – map out the customer journey with relevant stakeholders and have everyone give input. In breakout groups, talk about where you want the journey to go and how to address the current gaps. Bring everyone back together to discuss what to do.

A third party can provide an external viewpoint – an external facilitator can provide a bird’s eye view when you’re stuck in the weeds.

What are the typical stages in the customer success journey? 

Pre-sale decision-making (trial) – at this stage, the CSM is likely just making sure that the key moments are achieved during the trial to ensure that there is a purchase. There may be a light onboarding during the trial.

Seamless handoff – build out assets that guide the handoff process so that sales can’t close out a deal without passing the basics to the CS team. You want to think about the questions they have to answer so that the CSM isn’t asking the same questions down the road.


  • Kickoff – this could be a kickoff meeting (for higher-touch setups) or a video touchpoint (for lower-priced products). Whatever the medium, you need to explain what the customer needs to do, and what’s the customer’s responsibility versus yours. Layout the onboarding timeline.
  • Run your onboarding timeline – this will vary by company and product, but you’ve got to have a timeline. Lay it out for the customer during kickoff, and track it as you move through onboarding, making sure you have the right people available for all of the different phases. 
  • Finish with a survey – to measure the success of onboarding. You can do this using in-app tools or an emailed survey. This is a satisfaction survey where you are targeting a high NPS score for onboarding. 

Adoption – during adoption, you have opportunities for expansion and opportunities for churn. During this phase, more of the team (vs. the original users) might be adopting the product, and you might be exposing more advanced or additional functionality. You can’t shove all of your features at a client during onboarding, so adoption needs to continue over time.

Renewal – you’re thinking about retention all the time, but especially as you get to the renewal date.

  • For enterprise – meet at least 6 months before the executive business review, and identify and mediate issues. Then have another meeting 3 months before the executive business review to get verbal confirmation that they plan to renew. 
  • For self-service – you’ll be thinking about renewal on an ongoing basis, especially if it’s a monthly product. Your process will be digital, with all kinds of tools and automation.

Expansion – there’s no one moment for expansion, you’ll think about this all the time. You have to ask the right questions and have the right people in the room so that you can seize expansion opportunities when they arise. You need to understand what parts of the platform they’re not using and where they can improve their own business by leveraging your platform. 

There are 4 types of sales to existing customers:

  • Resell – you may have to resell if you lose your business champion.
  • Renewal – re-upping a contract at the end of a term.
  • Cross-sell – further penetrating the account, selling different products or to different parts of the organization.
  • Upsell – selling more licenses (or a great quantity of usage, data, etc) to the same buyer.

What are the steps to build a customer journey?

The P.A.T.H. Methodology by Growth Molecules™

P – Prepare – plan for journey mapping:

  • Who’s going to participate? – think about different functions that should join the customer journey mapping session. Who will facilitate? If you’re conducting the session remotely, what technology will you use to create the map (e.g. Zoom whiteboard, Mural, Lucid Chart)?
  • Which personas? – which personas are most important for your journey? If you don’t have the resources to map a journey for every single persona, which one will anchor the journey map?

A – Action plan – hold yourself accountable for not only creating the journey map but making a plan for what you’re going to do with it in the next 30-60 days. The worst thing is to spend time and money creating a PDF that no one looks at. The goal is to ensure everyone starts holding each other accountable for what’s supposed to happen in an ideal journey.

T – Timeline – at the end of your mapping, you may have built a fantastic customer journey–now how do you implement all the things you mapped? Create a timeline for what changes will be made (across functions) with owners for each step.

  • Sales process changes – do you need to streamline your marketing and sales funnel or set different expectations during the sales process?
  • Product changes – is there new product development that could improve the customer journey or enhancements that should be made to existing functionality?
  • CS changes – do you need to make changes to your onboarding process, or do you need to create knowledge base articles to reduce friction?

H – How – how will you lead the client on a successful journey with alignment and goals that can be achieved through the relationship and platform engagement? How will you show them it is measurable and action-oriented?

Should you build a journey for each persona, or a journey that includes multiple personas?

Define your personas before journey mapping – for each persona, identify standard titles and zero in on what they value. To create a useful journey map, it will be essential to understand what they do, what challenges they encounter in their job, and the value props your product offers them.

If you don’t have the resources to map the journey for each persona, build an “80/20” journey – start with the buyer and build the journey for the sale experience. Then, post-sale, think about the different user personas, and how your company and the buyer interact with them.

Build different journeys for different segments – for example, if you sell a self-serve product with a product-led motion, but also have an enterprise product, those customer journeys could be very different. If the way customers interact with your company and product is very different by segment, create different customer journeys for each segment.

How should sales and customer success work together to expand mature accounts?

I recommend a pod methodology – put sellers and CSMs into pods that collaborate to drive expansion among certain customers. Sales and CS leaders are incentivized together. 

If you only have 2 or 3 CSMs, keep sales doing upsells and renewals – if you’re in a young organization that only has two or three CSMs who do everything, those people won’t have the time (and likely won’t have the experience) to also run good sales processes. 

As you get bigger, CSMs can own upsells, but you need to take other things off their plate – you can’t have a CSM doing everything and do it well. But as you start to build out CS infrastructure like automated training and a digital platform self-help platform, you can free up CSM time for upselling. You also need to make sure they have the right sales training.

Build out a dedicated team once you get a critical mass of customers – at some scale, it makes sense to build a dedicated team for renewals, upsells, and cross-sells. Depending upon the company, this might be when you have around 750 large customers.

How should you track customers flowing through your customer journey?

Most companies will start with a CRM – start by building out the stages of your customer journey post-sale in the CRM you already use pre-sale.

Layer a customer success platform on top as you scale – customer success platforms can do automation of the customer journey. They enable deeper analysis, more proactive customer success, and more automation. 

What key metrics should you track?

Relevant activity metrics – to ensure that customers are using the product, measure activity metrics like logins, downloads, and reports run (choose the right metrics for your product).

Time to 3 key moments – to ensure that customers are getting value from your product, identify a few key moments for your product (e.g. the first time they run a key business process via your system). Measure how long it takes to get to those moments. 

Expansion metrics – to measure whether customers are growing their use of your product, measure things like adding licenses. 

What are signs that your company needs to spend time mapping its customer journey?

If teams aren’t aligned on selling and serving the same thing – ask sales what they’re selling, what product they’re building, and customer success what they’re delivering. If you’re not oriented on the same pain points across the journey, you’ve introduced risk into your customer journey.

If there’s finger-pointing between departments – if sales say that marketing isn’t generating enough MQLs, marketing says SDRs aren’t calling leads back fast enough. Customer success says that the product requires too much support, a customer journey mapping session can start a cross-functional conversation.

What is a “trough of disillusionment”, and how can you successfully pass through one?

Onboarding is a “honeymoon” period that can precede a crash – it’s like a marriage: the honeymoon can be fantastic, but then you get home and problems set in. If you don’t get the client through that “trough of disillusionment,” you will divorce the client.

There are lots of factors that can lead to a less-than-perfect experience, like:

  • Onboarding misalignment
  • Friction in the product
  • Technical/support issues
  • Low engagement
  • Competitor sales reps calling to say, “you’ve made a mistake.”

To avoid the trough, identify and mitigate the risks – the client doesn’t want to talk about any of these problems, so you to be honest with yourself about what risks exist and plan to bring them up and address them (even if it’s uncomfortable) when you see them arising with a client.

How should you handle customers who get “off track” (e.g. slow to activate, or showing churn risk)?

Build out cue cards for the issues that are common to the company – identify the areas where issues crop up, and build cue cards for CSMs so that it’s easy to see the common objections and replies. 

Educate and enable your CSMs to have difficult conversations – focus on all-around education. You have to educate and enable your CSM and have difficult conversations. 

How can you enable CSMs to be more efficient?  

Use technology – leverage technology to gain insights into customer actions through the journey and to focus CSM attention in the right places.

Invest in CS ops and CS enablement – both provide leverage to CSMs, but these are two different functions, rarely can you hire one person who can do both well.

  • CS ops enables your team with technology and to help execute processes at scale.
  • CS enablement helps build content for both your customers and to be used by CSMs.

What are the most important pieces to get right?

Get the handoff right – onboarding and handoffs are most important to get right because that is where the churn begins. 

Think about how to handle the churn situations, not just the upsell situations – companies always want to invest in things that will get them more revenue, and they rarely think the same way about retention. Retention is hugely important in recurring revenue business. 

What are the common pitfalls?

Not addressing root problems – too often companies would rather throw people at problems and keep masking them as opposed to leveraging technology to fix the root problems. 

Not investing in processes – you can’t consistently move customers through your journey without developing and documenting processes. You need to have playbooks. 

Not investing in tech systems – you need systems and get technology to scale. CS ops enables your team with technology.

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