Understanding the Customer Journey


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I will admit it.  I am old.

I remember a time when people carried pieces of paper in their car to help them get around.  We called those documents “maps” and we struggled to fold them back into place when we were finished using them.

Today maps have gone digital and satellites locate us and offer mellifluous voice prompts on a turn-by-turn basis.  If only we could use similar technology to hone and deliver the ultimate experience for our customers.

“Siri, make my customers love me, come back for more, and tell their friends.”

While GPS coordinates can’t be fixed on your optimal customer experience, there is hope in navigating in the direction of enviable customer interactions.  That hope comes in the form of an old fashioned “customer journey” map.

To understand the process for customer experience mapping, let’s use an example from Mercedes-Benz USA (not so coincidentally the focus of my recently released book Driven to Delight – Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way).  Here’s what every business (no matter how large or small) should do to understand, track, measure, and improve the experiences they provide to their customers.


  • Write down all contact points customers and prospects have with you (across channels and from pre-sale to post sale) 
  • Identify customer goals and needs at each point of contact
  • Look for gaps, pain points, or service challenges
  • Simplify the map so it is understandable to everyone in your organization
  • Expose everyone in the organization to the simplified map (Mercedes-Benz called the simplified version customer wheels)
  • Challenge every team member to offer solutions to remove pain points, reduce customer effort, and ease the transition of customers into the next stage of their journey
  • Develop the discipline of using customer feedback to inform individual and process based solutions and innovation
  • As pain points are removed, go beyond satisfaction to find ways to delight your customers at contact points throughout their journey with you.


Thomas Edison once said, “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”  Hopefully, a “light bulb” has come on for you regarding the importance of creating or revisiting your customer experience journey map.

As someone who helps leaders with the mapping process, I know the considerable time involved in looking at your business from the customer’s vantage point (and who has that kind of time when you are busily serving customers).  On the other hand, failing to satisfy and ultimately delight customers may give you and your business more time than you could ever want – since customers will likely churn to customer-engaging competition.

Invest time now – build/revise your customer journey map.

You won’t even have to try to fold your journey map to put it back in your glove compartment. Instead it should be a living, evolving document which is prominently displayed as a guide for everyone in your organization to help customers have a consistent, seamless, loyalty-building, and easy journey across their contacts with you.


Understanding the Customer Journey Infographic

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D.
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and the chief experience officer of The Michelli Experience, authored The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the best-selling The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.


  1. Joseph

    By starting with current contact points you automatically limit the scope of your customer experience programme to improving what is already there, rather than providing customers with the experience they always wanted (but nobody ever asked them about).

    Best practice today is not to start with current contact points but with the jobs customers are trying to do and the interactions they use to get them done. This provides a better fuzzy front-end to drive experience innovation.

    It is amazing how so subtle a change in emphasis can transform an programme providing incremental improvements to the customer experience to one providing the experience customers always wanted.

    Graham Hill

  2. I will review Sandel’s theory of justice but am partial to Rawls. Amen on the early myopia of CRM. As always, I am glad, a man a smart as you, is someone I can call “colleague.”

  3. Hi Joseph

    You are too kind.

    I recommend Sandel’s book on ‘Justice – What’s the Right Thing to Do?’. His lectures on Justice Theory at Harvard (viewable for free at http://www.justiceharvard.org) regularly attract more than 1,000 students. There is also a companion book, ‘Justice – A Reader’ that contains all of the sources referenced in Justice; from Aristotle, through Rawls, to Nozick.

    Sandel’s more recent book on ‘What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets’ is even more important than his Justice book. It challenges the prevalent notion that all problems, including customer related ones, can be solved by the liberal application of market thinking. If only life were so simple. Thankfully, it isn’t.

    Happy reading.

    Graham Hill

  4. Graham, I will go to Harvard for Sandel! I loved the theoretical aspects of academia….fortunately I love the challenges of applied science even more.


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