Mapping the customer journey is not exactly a science.

It can be, but more often that not it's a collaborative exercise that draws on some data and some qualitative and anecdotal insight from customers and staff.

The objective is to encourage customer-led and design-led thinking in a group, using the results to prioritise challenges and opportunities.

2016 research by Econsultancy in APAC suggested 'understanding of the customer journey' is poor. 

However, it can be argued that the options that respondents were given in our survey framed the idea of 'understanding the customer journey' as being able to track individuals across channels - an understanding of every customer journey, if you like.

customer journey mapping

Jeff Rajeck asks in his blog post, 'Why is mapping the customer journey so hard?', but actually I'd argue it's not that difficult. Yes, implementing algorithmic attribution might be, but getting everyone round a table to focus on the customer shouldn't be.

There are plenty of articles on the internet about mapping the customer journey, but here's my own edit.

How to map the customer journey

Decide on who will be taking part in the exercise (Marketers? Architects? Customer-facing staff? Senior management?) and define the specific customer journey you will be describing.

There are obviously many different customers and many possible customer journeys. Journey maps may eventually include the majority of communications and sales channels but, first off, pick one customer story to tell, much as you would do during persona development.

Use a matrix such as the one below, created by Econsultancy contributor and UX consultant Paul Boag (see Paul's own article on mapping the customer journey).

The customer journey is split into five parts, 'discovery', 'research', 'purchase', 'delivery' and 'after sales', with five 'whats' for each:

  1. What task is the customer trying to complete?
  2. What questions do they have?
  3. What touchpoints do they encounter?
  4. What emotions are they feeling?
  5. What weaknesses are there in the brand's ability to help?

As Paul advocates, those taking part in the exercise can split into groups, with each column given to a group to brainstorm.

boag cx matrix

Other pertinent information that may be considered when filling in this matrix includes:

  • time frames for each stage or interaction
  • data, where readily available, to support each supposition (from your analytics packages, CRM software, user testing, call logs, social listening etc.)
  • positive interactions that are particularly notable / stand out (often called 'moments of truth')
  • gaps between devices, departments or channels
  • other people that may impact on the customer journey (in B2B this may be colleagues, in B2C it could be peers)

Once the exercise is complete and the results are refined and validated, the customer journey can be represented diagramatically and shared more broadly around the organisation.

Tips on mapping the customer journey 

  • Get customer-facing teams involved, such as customer service and sales.
  • Involve senior management if possible, particularly those whose understanding of the customer journey is not strong.
  • Examine each brand interaction through the lens of the brand promise.
  • Customer data and user feedback are important, but as in product development, they are not always 'gospel'. Data doesn't always tell you the root of a problem (the 'why?'), and user feedback can vary wildly.
  • Journey mapping exercises may benefit from the group brainstorming using particular words that represent key customer concerns, e.g. 'quality', 'security', 'speed'.
  • Remember the goal of a consistent 'feel' across different channels and interactions.
  • Data analysis may be further involved when validating the final map. 

How to use a customer journey map

A journey map's principle use is to help decide what to prioritise on the product roadmap - often where customer frustration is most evident, and where customer expectations can be quickly matched with business requirements.

Though a company may already have a list of product ideas and fixes needed, alongside a strategy of prioritising the easiest and most impactful changes, this list may not be complete (or it may look too far ahead). A journey map can help a business understand where to add further resource e.g. is live chat understaffed?

Some customer experience theories posit that improving the later parts of the customer journey will leave a more lasting impression on the customer, but this can be a red herring if there are major frustrations in customer acquisition.

A realistic journey map can be used to create an idealised customer experience, which may be useful for internal advocacy. However, it's worthwhile remembering the words of Marcus Casey, VP of CX at Lufthansa, who said:

The tech stack is sometimes old and not flexible. We were not born in an agile world. How do you deal with non-agile processes?

Pick small things, change these, demonstrate impact and work on core capabilities.

For more on this topic, check out Econsultancy's range of Customer Experience Training Courses.

Ben Davis

Published 16 January, 2017 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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