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The rise of the customer journey map

Gartner analyst Olive Huang explores how businesses can use customer journey mapping to better understand the customer and enrich their experience…

Customer-mappingGartner’s 2015 CEO survey identified customer experience management as the top priority for technology investments over the next five years. Customer journey mapping is a common approach used today to discover the gaps between customers’ expectations and their perceptions of the actual experience. Gartner believes that 60 percent of large organisations will develop in-house customer journey mapping capabilities by 2018.

By understanding the behaviours, preferences, media consumption habits, technology adoption patterns and detailed day-in-the-life routines of customers, organisations can design a journey map that becomes the backbone of their customer experience strategy. A wide range of styles and tools are used in building journey maps.

In the past, organisations used customer journey maps to describe how they wanted the ideal customer journey to be and the emotions they wanted customers to feel on that journey. But they made limited use of data from sources like customer surveys, focus groups and user groups to understand the journeys that customers actually took. The customer journey maps were often created in workshops and roundtable sessions with flip charts, whiteboards and post-it notes – a very manual approach.

Tools that can help
In the last few years, customer journey modelling and visualisation tools have started to become popular, often used as part of a consulting service from boutique digital agencies.

Only recently have a number of technology vendors started to invest in this space and release software with data gathering, connecting, visualising and acting capabilities to operationalise the customer journey, covering multiple channels and touchpoints.

Today, all three approaches – manual customer journey mapping, customer journey modelling and visualisation tools, and customer journey operationalisation – co-exist in the market. Some large organisations are using all three of them in combination.

Large organisations often begin their first foray into customer journey mapping by engaging digital agencies in a customer experience discovery and design exercise. At this stage, digital agencies are delivering customer journey mapping using a pencil-and-post-it manual approach, but also sometimes via customer journey modelling and visualisation tools.

After the first project, many organisations will start building these journey mapping skills and toolsets in-house using their own resources so that they can be reused on other customer experience projects.

A critical skill that needs to be developed is building customer personas to better understand the variety of experiences that different customers might encounter. It is an outside-in design approach that requires putting yourself in the shoes of a potential customer to understand what his or her experience is when engaging, or not engaging, with organisations.

Only a small number of organisations get to the third step of using technology to automate – and map, track and influence via real-time data – the customer journey.

Technology adoption will increase
Gartner foresees that the maturity level of organisations’ use of customer journey mapping technologies will increase over time. Once they have gone through the initial modelling and design process manually or by using a visualisation tool, the next natural step is to operationalise customer journeys.

In these organisations, customer journey mapping will no longer be limited to a design and discovery exercise, followed by a reporting exercise. It will result in the implementation of an operational technology that delivers a customer experience that is planned and designed, then monitors and triggers responses by the organisation.

Organisations that build customer journey analytics and journey mapping capabilities in-house require a combination of data analytics skills and user experience design skills. These skills exist today in many organisations but in different departments – it’s just a matter of getting them to work together. These resources may be in a central customer experience management team, or in marketing, customer service, operations, sales or the business process competency centre.

The challenge Gartner sees is not obtaining these skills, but the lack of an intuitive and discovery-thinking culture that will make use of the skills.

How to get started
To help an organisation build these capabilities, IT leaders should:

  • Seek out anyone in the organisation who has internal customer journey mapping skills, then investigate which third parties are doing customer journey mapping on behalf of the organisation.
  • Discuss with heads of marketing, customer service, operations, sales and business process management to decide which department(s) these resources should belong to.
  • Start building expertise in customer journey mapping in the IT organisation to match the skills in the enterprise as a whole. Be aware that you may not be able to train these resources from within; instead, you will need to hire at least some from external markets.
  • Research the appropriate technologies that can be used to operationalise customer journeys and encourage the use of these technologies by those doing customer journey mapping.


Olive Huang is a research director at Gartner. She is part of the CRM software research team and focuses on customer service and support, contact centres, CRM vendors and service providers, as well as CRM strategy and best practices in Asia Pacific. Olive will be presenting at the Gartner Business Transformation and Process Management Summit in Sydney, 21-22 June 2016.