Journey mapping leader

Who should lead your customer journey mapping practices?


Customer journey mapping is now commonplace. But who should take ownership of it at your organisation? And what are the costs of getting the choice wrong?

11th Nov 2021

When MyCustomer surveyed global businesses about their customer journey mapping exercises back in 2018, one of the big questions we asked was who led their mapping programme. 

The research revealed that over a third had their ‘head of customer experience’ (or equivalent role, such as chief customer officer) as the project leader.  

But there were plenty of others reported to run their programmes, including CMOs (10%), CEOs (8%) and heads of customer insight (6%).

Nearly a fifth (18%), meanwhile, revealed that they had multiple stakeholders leading their customer journey mapping.


Who should have ownership?

An interesting question in light of these findings is whether the results represent the ‘best’ approach, or simply what’s most conventional or functional.

This is where debate rages. In MyCustomer’s research, a correlation was made between ownership and the level of perceived success of the customer journey mapping programme, with heads of customer experience and even CEOs reporting high success rates.

If you happen to have a chief customer officer then, perhaps naturally, journey mapping would sit within their remit. But even though a growing number of organisations are appointing heads of CX, there are still many that don't have such a figure. And small to medum-sized organisations in particular are less likely to have a senior CX role. So what about those organisations that don't have one? At its highest level does leadership of journey mapping, by proxy, therefore sit with the CEO, COO or CMO?

One thing that is well known is that any customer experience initiative is doomed to fail without support coming from the top of the organisation, in the c-suite. This is because an effective customer experience strategy will require change in many parts of an organisation and it needs authority and support to make the necessary changes.  

Is multiple ownership the best option?

MyCustomer’s research highlights that the greatest journey mapping success occurs when more than one stakeholder takes ownership – 46% of respondents referencing multiple stakeholders described the impact of journey mapping as “extremely positive”.

This stands to reason - everyone in an organisation is responsible for the customer experience and what happens on customer journeys. Therefore, it should involve multiple stakeholders, but the question really is, within that framework, who should lead what and when?

All customer journey maps sit within the end-to-end customer lifecycle. By understanding the entire lifecycle we can gain a better perspective on who should lead which journeys and who else needs to be actively involved in the process. It can help organisations determine which business areas are involved in each specific stage of the lifecycle. This help to ensure that customer’s interactions are as easy, frictionless and pleasant as possible. 


So let’s break down the stages of the end-to-end customer lifecycle and the areas of the business that are responsible for them:   

Lifecycle Stage Business Area
Awareness & Consideration Marketing & Sales
Buy & Begin Sales, Operations & Marketing
Own & Use Operations, Sales & Marketing
Support & Change Operations, Sales & Marketing
Leave & Re-engage Operations, Sales & Marketing

Marketing plays a huge role in the awareness and consideration stage, creating demand for the products and services. We know marketing spends far more on customer acquisition than retention.

Therefore, its role is far smaller in purchase and post-purchase stages and sits mostly in ecommerce solutions, providing information to help customers use their products and services via their websites or with printed material and potentially with loyalty programmes to keep customers engaged with the brand.

Sales’ main role is in the buy and begin stage, especially in a retail or B2B environment. Like marketing they play a much smaller role in all other phases, but are going to be more actively involved when operating in a B2B environment, especially with customers who make large purchases and value their relationship with their account manager.

Operations actually have a huge and active role over most stages in the lifecycle, with the exception of awareness and consideration. In fact, operations can often take a leading role as they are usually responsible for inventory, logistics, customer service and field engineers.

So why is it that in many organisations, marketing ‘owns’ customer experience and therefore a sizeable chunk of customer journey mapping (10% in MyCustomer’s research), when operations plays the largest role in the purchase and post purchase stages and only seems to have ownership in 3% of organisations? 

According to the research by MyCustomer the extremely positive impact on customers is when the ownership sits with the CEO (69%), COO (50%) and multiple stakeholders (46%) not the CMO (31%), which suggests some organisations may need to recalibrate. 


Best option?

Perhaps, as mentioned earlier, organisations (especially mid-to-large ones) should really consider having a chief customer officer who has an overarching responsibility for the way marketing, sales and operations interact as a collective with customers. This is arguably the best person to take leadership and ownership of journey mapping as a whole.

In the absence of a CCO, you need to put together cross-functional teams with the three key business areas below. Who exactly sits on the team will depend on the type of journey being designed and could comprised the following job roles -

  • Marketing – customer insights, customer experience, product managers, digital teams & marketing communications.
  • Sales – retail staff, telesales, pre-sales, key account managers.
  • Operations - Customer support & contact centre, field staff, logistics, inventory control.

You may also want to include people from other areas of the business such as procurement, finance, QA and HR. Again it depends at which stage in the lifecycle the journey occurs.

The lead position for any journey is very dependent on the type of journey being designed. For example, a buying journey may be led by sales, a support journey led by operations and an awareness journey led by marketing.

I know of some organisations that have introduced the concept of ‘journey managers’ to replace product managers.

As an example, at Optus, an Australian telco operator, they have a journey manager for on-boarding customers, who has responsibility across all of their product areas – pre-paid, contract, consumer and business.

What is the danger of getting it wrong>

An organisation that is truly committed to prioritising customers takes an “outside in” perspective and then designs their culture, process and systems around their customers wants and needs.

The real hazards lie in organisations that have entrenched silos, each holding their own view of the customer and jockeying for power.  Unless you bust these silos down, freely share information and insights and foster a cross-functional approach ensuring strategies, messaging, processes and systems are aligned, it really doesn’t matter who does the customer journey mapping because it won’t work.

Instead you need to ensure whichever stakeholder takes the ownership of all or specific customer journey maps that they are supported at the highest level across the entire organisation, because their success is the organisation’s success.


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