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Ten Mistakes to Avoid in Journey Mapping

Dave Fish
September 20, 2016 |
Journey Mapping Mistakes

Journey mapping is a critical tool in aligning organizational focus on the customer. The goal is to gain an understanding of the customer journey from the catalyst for purchasing (or using) a product or service to the termination/disposal stage. In understanding the journey companies usually then use it to do three things:

  1. Align the organization around a central vision so every member understands how they contribute to helping the customer.
  2. Understand where the risks and opportunities in today’s journey lay and what can be done to improve them.
  3. Set the lattice work for other processes to be overlaid, such as metrics, customer handling, and others.

While journey mapping is ubiquitous, I have bore witness to cases where it can derail in a spectacularly bad fashion.  Here are the top 10 mistakes I have seen in practice today.

1.  Don’t talk to customers

Believe or not this happens. Some will put together a journey map based on an internal perspective only or believe their own experiences are, in some way, representative of the customer journey. It is mandatory to include the customer perspective in journey mapping unless you want a hyper-biased view of what is really happening. Usually, organizations have multiple customer groups or personas that need to be investigated. While starting with an inside-out view is a good start, if you stop there you have not done a journey map.

2.  Confuse process mapping with journey mapping

Merely documenting what happens when screen-by-screen and step-by-step is not journey mapping.  That is a process audit from the organization’s perspective.  What we need to understand in journey mapping is what people think, feel, and do step-by-step in the journey. We also need to understand what they want. This may (and usually is) independent of any technology or physical limitation.

3.  Only considering “what is”

Some organizations will only consider the status quo.  In journey mapping, it is important to first look at today’s journey, but then take it a step further and get an understanding of what the ideal journey looks like.  In working with customers, you should work to understand pain points and opportunities. However, your customers should not be tasked with designing your experience. That’s your job. Let me know if you need help!

4.  Believe the customer journey is linear and non-recursive

The funnel died at-least three years ago as a way of understanding how customers buy.  Once upon a time, people got up on a Saturday morning, drove to the supermarket, selected their groceries, and drove home.  For most customers, that no longer happens.  The journey is not linear with frequent looping back.  Steps are oftentimes compressed like an accordion or skipped altogether.  People are making very quick decisions about how and when to buy (what Google calls micro-moments) and are rapidly moving between retail and product consideration and awareness.  Of course, every possible pathway does not have to be documented. That would be overwhelming. Which leads me to my next point.

5.  Overcomplicating things

In order for journey mapping to be effective, it must be comprehensive but simple enough to understand to be useful.  This can be a tall order.  The trick is not to overcomplicate it.  Select the most common paths and only worry about unique “spurs” if they are significant drivers of dissatisfaction or opportunity.  You may also want multiple maps that drill down into particular areas. For large organizations, there is a “master map” and then ones that document different journeys but roll back up into the master.

6.  Stopping at purchase

Some purveyors of journey mapping, especially the software CRM types, tend to focus heavily on awareness to purchase. Then, like good traditional marketers, customers disappear into the unsavory abyss of “retention”.  This approach is antiquated and ill-advised. How long have we been talking the multiplier of acquisition cost vs. retention, yet the orientation persists. Admittedly, some of the predilection has to do with where one sits in the organization, but it is important to keep in mind that journey mapping is created to bring the organization together to focus on the customer journey, not to slice up the journey into functional pieces for the organization.

7.  Taking a qualitatively-only approach

All is not lost if you stop at qualitative.  You will know the journey for multiple personas and  the risks and opportunities.  However, you will not know the relevant impact of those in driving outcomes.  If you have $100,000 to spend to improve the customer experience, where is it best spent?  Onboarding?  Warranty?  Call Center?  Without some quantitative evidence and a good driver model, you are left guessing. As Deming said, “without data you are just another person with an opinion.

8.  Not communicating it well

I have seen amazing work being shown to executives who respond with blank stares. Menacing complex chart scare off the average corporate Joe and Jane.  While the activity of journey mapping is critical, reporting it out will make or break the adoption of it in the organization. Have a communication plan. Spend a few bucks to work with a creative director and graphic designer to get it right. The polish makes a huge difference in adoption and usage.

9.  Not doing something with it

Journey mapping is just that.  A map to get you somewhere.  Getting there is up to you. The best way to do that, in my experience, is to adopt an Agile CX℠ approach.  First, look at those things that are most important, (see point #7), most feasible (easiest to do), and the highest coverage (e.g., all customers, some etc).  Those things that are high in importance, relatively easy, with high coverage, are the ones to go after first.

10.  Stopping at an idea

Great, so you identified your triaged opportunity areas but now what? Many organizations stop here scratching their heads or get mired in “boil the ocean” initiative.  A way around this trap is using Agile CX℠  to get out there and do some testing.  Nothing fancy.  Use your CX tracker and other metrics to track the results of your experiments.  Change a little thing here.  A little thing there.  Don’t overcomplicate it.  Pick a few retail outlets or a portion of e-commerce and change things up.  Make sure you use your learning as a guide and that you have a control group.  This is the stage where you really monetize your investment.  Therefore, make sure you make it over the finish line.

Any questions, get in touch.

About Dave Fish, Ph.D.

daveDave is the founder of CuriosityCX, a customer experience blog.  For over 20 years Dave has worked with global 50 companies helping them untangle why customers do what they do and how to make experiences better for them.  A curious guy who likes to build stuff, he has extensive experience in product, advertising, social trend, and CX research and consulting services. He regularly writes and presents on those topics at conferences and professional publications.  Recently he served as VP Behavioral Sciences at The Mars Agency, then several executive positions with MaritzCX, Maritz Research, J.D. Power and Associates, Toyota Motor Sales, and American Savings Bank.  He resides in Northwest Arkansas with his wife, two children, and a squirrel named chip.

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