Check you are Correctly using a Customer Journey Map

3 Ways to Check you are Correctly using a Customer Journey Map

Customers are at the heart of every business and customer journey mapping is the key to understanding them. However, we’ve been noticing a disturbing trend with customer journey maps lately. The customers are disappearing from them!

Increasingly, we’re seeing customer journey maps, especially from large consulting firms, which fail to reveal customers’ real needs. They don’t appear to map the customer's journey accurately, or how they want the customer experience to be.

What they do is a great job of recommending a large digital transformation project. What is lacking is any deep research and understanding of what the customers themselves want.

This deep customer understanding should be what is used to inform those digital transformation projects, not be used as an incidental means to an end.

What is a Customer Journey Map?

A customer journey map is a tool used by companies to visualise how their customers interact with their business across the various touchpoints in the customer lifecycle. Journey maps help businesses to identify areas where they can improve the customer experience, and make changes to their processes accordingly.

When used correctly, customer journey maps are an invaluable tool for businesses to understand their customers and create better experiences for them.

How businesses understand customer interactions

Customer Journey Mapping is becoming more popular. This is a good thing. Customer journey mapping allows companies to put themselves in the customer's shoes and understand how the average customer interacts with their business across the various customer touchpoints. These insights then get transformed into a visual representation, making it easy for the whole business to understand what the customer research reveals about the customer needs.

But as with most trends, the more popular something becomes, the more variations occur, often resulting in a product far removed from its original design or intention. The Customer Journey Maps we are seeing sprouting up all over the place are often mutant versions of what a Customer Journey Map started out as.

3 common issues with recent customer journey mapping examples

Customers are removed from the customer journey map

Customer journey mapping today lacks rigorous research and deep insights into pain points. This means they are lacking any real customer input.

They are sometimes created with a hidden agenda

Mapping the ideal experience of a customer should be about making the customer’s life better, with the confidence that when we do that, the business will drive stronger growth. It’s not about developing a shiny iPad app (how many apps do we all need?) or the implementation of a new digital stack. We know that digital solutions drive efficiency, and reduce cost and sometimes these can be powerful solutions to delivering what customers want. But when a digital transformation is not an option that’s available to organisations, you can still achieve significant improvements in CX by leveraging changes to people, policy and processes and setting clearer customer expectations, at a fraction of the cost and time. The ideal Customer Journey Map is about designing ways to touch and deliver to customers what they want, where they want it, regardless of how it might be delivered.

The little things matter

Most organisations undervalue the importance of delivering the “brilliant basics” for their customers. The small things that improve a customer's experience aren't as sexy as large-scale digital transformations or new apps and websites, so they’re often left off the map. The small things are, in our experience, the most important to customers. If you missed our last article you can read more about that here.

Why is this important?

This means that the way businesses understand customer interactions is flawed. Customer journeys are being estimated and digital transformations are being proposed without understanding what the customer wants. We’re seeing a lot of talk about customer centricity but not a lot of action.

This is a problem because when businesses don’t understand their customers, they can’t design products or services that appeal to them. They also can’t market or sell to them in a way that resonates. Most importantly, they can’t create the great experiences that customers crave and that keep them coming back for more.

People may say that missing the mark with your actual customers is not an issue if your idealised journey map is directed towards your 'target customers'. What we have found from our customer journey map research is that there is no way to understand customer needs without talking to actual customers. There is no point in reimagining your customer experience strategy to satisfy a fictitious customer persona.

What is an example of an unsuccessful customer journey map template?

The real value of a customer journey map is when they are created and dictated by deep and real customer understanding. We have been to clients where they have had previous examples of work presented to them mapping the end-to-end ‘customer’ journey spanning an 18-month period that was created based on as little as eight customer interviews.

I don't know about you, but I reckon if you invested six figures in a CX project you might be expecting insight from more than just eight people.

Of course, you can learn a lot from eight customer conversations. However, to ensure a conclusive, useful result, you need a sample of customers that considers all variables; captures the emotions and behavioural drivers from all groups and personas, and connects, empathises and communicates what is and isn’t working for your customers. That’s what a useful Customer Journey Map should do.

When this so-called journey map was presented to the business, unsurprisingly, the staff and stakeholders responded with “that’s not our customer and it’s certainly not the journey they go on.”

Case Study: Company X

The large consulting firm had created an “ideal” customer journey that incorporated large-scale digital solutions and a change management plan which required a whole lot more consulting help to be executed.

We asked them:

Company X was unable to answer these questions, or if they could, they had not considered the customer in their journey map.

Unsuccessful customer journey map templates create a customer journey, they do not seek to understand the customer's perspective. It is easier to start from scratch than to try and fix the problem, but that will not lead to an improved customer experience. Customers often see more value in having help paying their bill, someone returning their phone call, or having a promise fulfilled.

What a Customer Journey Map should really do and how to approach it

We believe the only way to truly understand your customers and give them what they value, is to undertake rigorous customer research. This research will deliver valuable, prioritised and actionable insights.To do this you need to go beyond the metrics and understand human behaviour. You need to:

  1. Focus on uncovering the underlying mindsets, emotions, motivations and desires your customers' experience when interacting with your service.
  2. Ensure your research methods are designed to elicit stories about experiences by responding to what participants say and allowing the conversation to go in unexpected directions. It becomes more like facilitated storytelling than surveying.
  3. Use these insights to build a detailed customer journey that gives your business an actionable plan to give your customers – and your business - more value.

Let me know if you want to check whether your current Customer Journey Maps are really telling your customers’ story. I’d be happy to meet, online or in person. You can reach me via phone: +61 418 494 489 or email

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