This article is based on a presentation given by Imrose Kumar at #GTM23. Catch up on this presentation, and others, with GTM OnDemand. For more exclusive content, visit your GTM Blueprint dashboard.

Hi there! I’m Imrose Kumar, a product manager at GE Aerospace. 

In my role, I’ve developed several IT products, lately focusing on ones involving customer experience (CX). The more I work on CX, the more passionate I become about it. I see the huge value an excellent customer experience can bring to both organizations and their customers. 

Today, I’ll share my three-step framework for mapping the customer journey so you can create a customer experience that delights your users and keeps them coming back for more. 

The power of great customer service

Before we get into our framework, let me tell you a personal story that brought home to me the power of a great customer experience. 

I was out shopping at the local wholesale store with my wife and two teenage sons. As we browsed, we came across a booth for a telecom company. The friendly-looking sales rep invited us to hear a great deal: if we switched to their service, we'd receive four new phones along with lower monthly charges than we were paying. 

It sounded great – my sons were thrilled at the prospect of new phones – so we went ahead with the deal. On our way home, we were so excited – we couldn't wait to unbox and fire up the phones. Over the coming weeks, I had some minor issues, but the support team resolved everything quickly. In short, we were really happy that we’d decided to sign up for this new cell phone plan.

A month passed, and the first bill arrived. To my surprise, it was much higher than expected. I called support and learned that the price I had been quoted was for the package with the most basic phones. Because we’d opted for the more advanced models, various fees had been added – I hadn't realized that would happen. 

Since I’d signed up at the wholesale store rather than in one of their stores, they couldn't help me. Frustratingly, when I returned to the store, the booth was gone. The wholesaler told me they simply provided the space and weren't responsible for the vendor's offerings. I had nowhere to turn and little bandwidth to fight it further.

I was filled with regret at having made such a poor, uninformed decision. How could I be so dumb? What would my kids think? Quietly, I decided to return to my previous carrier, paying their higher premiums so I could enjoy good service once more. 

The whole experience showed me the critical importance of managing customer experiences properly. Had the telecom company set proper expectations upfront about the fees, provided full support afterward, and ensured the retail experience met their standards, I'd likely still be a happy customer referring friends and family. Unfortunately, that didn't happen – much to their loss.

This experience brought home a statistic I read in Leading the Lean Enterprise Transformation by George Koenigsaecker. He cited a TARP study, which found that 90% of dissatisfied customers quietly walk away, never to return. Moreover, 100% of them tell at least nine other people about their negative experience – just as I'm telling you now (albeit without naming the company).

In short, it’s essential to get the customer experience right.

So, what is customer experience?

Before we go any further, let's take a second to define customer experience (CX). What exactly is it? 

CX encompasses everything an organization does for and to its customers and how it makes them feel about the brand and even about themselves. 

Learning about that power to influence self-perception was an "aha" moment for me. In my case, I felt the telecom provider lacked transparency. Worse, they made me feel foolish for making a poor decision. 

We often think of customer experience as interactions while using a product or contacting support. But in reality, it encompasses the entire journey – from creating an account on our site to resolving a warranty issue. 

The B2B customer journey map

The customer journey map is vital for helping you deeply understand users’ needs and build an outstanding customer experience. 

Let me walk you through the customer journey mapping exercise we’ve used at GE Aerospace to optimize our customer experience. Please note that there’s no single “right” way to map journeys – flexibility is key. However, this approach has been invaluable for my teams. 

Step one: Map the stages of the customer journey

The first step in creating your customer journey map is outlining all the steps that customers take as they do business with you. 

These steps will vary depending on your type of business and the persona you’re dealing with. For a restaurant, the journey might start with awareness, then continue with the customer dining with you, followed by repeat visits and advocacy. 

A B2B customer journey might look a little different. Here are the stages you would typically see:

  1. Awareness
  2. Selection and purchase
  3. Delivery
  4. Use 
  5. Renewal

For each of these stages, you need to outline your desired outcomes and every single touchpoint. That includes ads, products, requests for proposals (RFPs), emails, and any interactions your customers have with your brand. It’s essential to capture each and every one of these because just one bad touchpoint can ruin the entire customer experience.

B2B customer journey map

Step two: Gather customer feedback

Next, it’s time to gather direct customer feedback on each stage and touchpoint – front and backstage. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.

Frontstage feedback

Gathering frontstage feedback involves sitting with customers, asking open-ended questions about their interactions, and listening to what they have to say. You should ask about the factors driving their purchase decisions, their positive and negative interactions with your brand, and any reasons they might leave you for a competitor. In my experience, it’s best to avoid “why” questions, which can seem confrontational. 

In-person or phone conversations are best, but email questionnaires also work. Just make sure you document every precious piece of feedback your customers share. 

Backstage feedback

Once you’ve collected your frontstage feedback, it’s time to go backstage. Learn what happens behind the scenes to create customer experiences. As a B2B product manager, this has been hugely eye-opening for me. 

Let me give an example. A customer complains, “It takes three weeks just to open a new account on your portal!” You investigate backstage with IT teams supporting the portal. They explain there are five interconnected systems with manual handoffs required for approvals. Documenting these backend complexities is invaluable because now you know what you need to fix.

You can apply root cause analysis here too. Keep asking, “Why?” until you uncover the origins of customer points. From there, you can start creating systemic improvement.

Sentiment analysis

Next, gauge emotional responses at each stage – how happy or unhappy customers feel. Plot smiley or frowny faces above or below an “average” line. 

You can either assess this sentiment subjectively during customer interviews or use AI to help you. For instance, we’ve used machine learning models at GE to analyze historical CRM data and predict customer sentiment.

Even if you uncover only one frowny face, that needs to be addressed, as just one negative experience can poison the whole journey. This happened in my telecom story – everything was great until that final lack of transparency and support let me down and pushed me back to my previous provider.

That’s why mapping the complete experience to catch pain points is so vital. Eliminating those moments of friction paves the way for loyal advocates.

Step three: Identify action items

The final step is to identify your action items. You do this by spotting common themes in customer feedback to identify key pain points. Prioritize the biggest pain points, and then systematically eliminate them to create a seamless customer experience that will delight your users.

Why customer journey mapping is an essential part of GTM strategy

From a Go-to-Market perspective, customer journey mapping is critical for several reasons.

First, it forces you to consciously consider every step customers take to find, evaluate, and buy from you. Are there gaps between your offering and those of your competitors? What touchpoints could you add to bridge those gaps?

Next, you uncover exactly where customers struggle most in their journey. You can then give your teams the tools they need to address those pain points.

Customer journey mapping can even be invaluable for startups that haven’t yet launched a product. If you study what competitors offer and identify unsolved customer pain points, you can disrupt the market by directly addressing those needs – just like Uber did.

In my experience, customers really appreciate it when you care enough to ask about their experience. Some get quite enthusiastic sharing their stories in hopes you’ll improve things. This level of customer intimacy is powerful.

Essentially, journey mapping helps you develop extreme customer empathy, and the benefits cascade through the business. Marketing creates better messaging. Sales conversations get more productive. Support teams see recurring issues to tackle. Most importantly, customers get their needs met efficiently at every step. 

The end result is retaining happy, loyal accounts who drive growth through referrals – the ultimate prize.

That’s a wrap!

I’ll leave you with some closing thoughts on why, today more than ever, it’s so critical to deliver an outstanding customer experience.

Practically every company has a strong product these days – you can’t survive without one. That makes differentiating on the strength of your features difficult. In this climate, the experience you deliver can set you apart. As Delta’s CEO said, they’re no longer an airline – they’re an experience provider. 

Experience even trumps price for many customers – and the data backs this up. Companies prioritizing CX outperform their peers in stock price growth.

And, of course, good experiences drive word-of-mouth and referrals. This is key to success as studies show that people trust the word of their friends and family over ads. 

Finally, great customer experiences build true brand loyalty. In this age of constant competitor threats, a great experience makes it much more likely that customers will stay with you long-term. Even if they leave, they may boomerang back like I did after my telecom blunder. And it’s well known that retaining existing customers costs far less than acquiring new ones.

In closing, the classic four P’s of marketing (product, promotion, price, and place) remain important. However, in today's competitive markets, where customers hold the power, customer experience is the tool that should direct your Go-to-Market approach. It’s the compass that will lead you to success – if you have the courage to follow it.