The CX Files: Seven dos & don’ts of journey mapping

By May 8, 2018 June 10th, 2018 No Comments

by Julia Ahlfeldt (@JuliaAhlfeldtFor many businesses, journey mapping is their first foray into customer-centric thinking and, if leaders don’t find the customer journey map outputs useful, they might be put off for good. Here’s how to make sure you make the most of it.

Journey mapping is a big buzzword right now and it’s wonderful to see so many companies diving deeper into this customer-focused exercise. It offers a great opportunity for marketing teams and their agency partners to help businesses engage with (and learn about) customers and start working together to improve customer engagement management. However, it also comes with the responsibility to do it right and make the exercise meaningful.

1. Establish what the end use will be

The scope of journey mapping is almost unlimited and there is no one-size-fits-all approach for any business. Once you get started, it may be easy to get sidetracked by the details of every customer’s every possible interaction. But the journey map is not meant to track every possible path a customer might follow; rather, it should be a visual representation of a typical customer route.

To keep your process on track, it’s important to have a clear idea of what your objective is before you begin. While the underlying content might be the same, a map that’s intended to boost employee engagement, for example, would have a different look and feel from one that’s intended to influence strategic business decisions. Be clear on what you want your map to achieve and keep returning to your objectives as the process unfolds.

2. Don’t forget the customer

One of the most-common pitfalls I see is journey mapping that takes place in a business vacuum, without bringing in the customer’s perspective. What you end up with is a process map, rather than a customer journey map.

Customer research, focus groups, mystery shopping etc are all good preparation for journey mapping and will allow you to bring relevant customer insights into the process. Journey maps should help people understand the thoughts, desires, emotions and frustrations of customers as they fulfill a specific need in their consumer life.

If your journey map doesn’t bring this context to life, you need to rethink your approach.

3. Look beyond your brand

Most businesses only think about the customer’s journey from the moment they are interacting with their brand, but the customer’s journey usually begins long before that. Understanding where the customer begins the process (before brand selection has taken place) may unlock valuable opportunities and will improve your understanding of the broader need or desire the customer is looking to fulfill.

4. Don’t use business jargon

Commit to using customer language — rather than business language — throughout your journey-mapping process. Every team I’ve worked with has had to resist the inclination to slip back to a business-centric (rather than customer-centric) point of view, and I find that this one simple rule may help keep your journey map on track.

A good rule of thumb is that the end map should be easy to understand for the average customer; if they don’t understand it, your map has failed.

5. Decide how to use your map

When you’re done with the journey mapping process, and while it’s still fresh in everyone’s minds, make a plan for how you’re going to put it to use. Too often, businesses will produce a fantastic customer-journey map but then just leave it at that. What’s the point? Journey maps may be powerful tools for driving customer-centric change but only if they are integrated into the business.

An obvious “quick win” for your journey map is use it to build broader employee engagement. You may have a marketing team, or even a customer-experience (CX) team, that is very familiar with the customer’s journey with your brand. But what about the engine room of your business — the product-development team, IT, human resources? Usually these employees are a few degrees removed from the customer, with little understanding of their experiences.

The journey map will remind people what they are doing, why they are doing it, and who they are doing it for.

6. Don’t forget to keep it current

Journey maps are living documents, so don’t think of this as a once-off exercise. Our world is constantly evolving, products are improving, and customer needs are ever changing. Journey maps need to be updated continually to reflect changes affecting your business and your customers.

7. Do your homework on service providers

If you Google “journey mapping”, you’ll find a huge amount of information online, and many service providers claiming to have all the answers. Tread carefully before engaging anyone to lead this process for you.

Ask providers to walk you through their process to make sure it includes all the points raised above. A credible provider should take the time to understand your needs and craft an appropriate approach.

No two journey maps are alike, and the steps for creating and using a map as a CX tool should be equally customised.

Quick ways to spot a failed journey map

  • You know the map has gone wrong when it looks like a process map; customers don’t (and shouldn’t) care about what happens behind the scenes.
  • It’s not a useful tool if it’s too complex for the majority of people in your business to understand
  • The final output doesn’t fit on a single page; large page formats are fine but maps that require an entire boardroom wall are not

If it doesn’t illustrate the experience from the customer’s perspective, it’s not a customer-journey map.

This article was originally posted on in May 2018. It was the second thought piece for my regular column, The CX Files. For more information about my business advisory services, including journey mapping, click here.

Julia Ahlfeldt

Author Julia Ahlfeldt

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