Lost And Found: Why Journey Mapping Is Critical To Your Business

Customer journey mapping is not a new idea. In fact, the concept of “journeys” has become so pervasive and so well understood that brand makers often find themselves being a bit complacent about their use.  Nearly all evolved brand and product marketers utilize journey mapping as a part of their toolkit. Journey mapping is so pervasive that if you were to do a Google search on “customer journey maps” you’ll find quite a few definitions.

That means it’s probably time to shake the cobwebs off the traditional thinking and revisit not only just how much time and effort you’re investing in journey mapping, but also consider whether you need to tweak how you’re creating them so that they do provide a quality input into your marketing schemes.

Indeed! In a recent blog Forrester senior analyst and customer-experience guru Jonathan Browne put out this not-so-gentle reminder to take a step back when it comes to Journey Mapping: “Most of us would like to think that we’re more customer-centric than that individual. However, unless we check the self-centered tendencies of our organizations, we run the risk of being every bit as difficult to deal with — expecting customers to adapt to our language, practices, and policies. That won’t cut it anymore because customers have plenty of options. Companies that want to thrive today had better understand how to meet or exceed their customers’ expectations throughout their journeys.”


In theory an effective journey map highlights the actual flow of the customer experience—from initial awareness of a need to fulfillment of that need. They force a business to look at all of the components of the experience, not just the ones that are well understood, currently surveyed, or well-funded for innovation/process improvement. 

I agree with Bruce Temkin, managing partner and customer experience transformist at Temkin Group, who says that Journey Maps are “about the process, not the picture” and that “different customers go through different journeys. So the most effective Customer Journey Maps look at the paths of individual customer segments. Sometimes there are even different CJMs for individual customers in a single segment.” 

Each customer will take a different journey – just like snowflakes, no two are alike.  The key is to create an optimal set of potential experiences for them, whichever path they take.

With the embracement of social media and mobile, new channels have become integrated into customer journeys, requiring their own journey maps. In cases where products have a customer following that offer peer-to-peer help, a new product purchase journey for the social customer may include “feedback from community”, or elimination of “call hotline” replaced by “chat with helpdesk”, and so on.

The Social Customer has also come to expect a higher level of speed, efficiency and accessibility to brands (in certain industries, the new social channel journey has so altered the traditional or  existing journey that it may be better  mapped as a separate journey). 

But wait! The Social Customer also wants the flexibility to interact across both the new and traditional channels. As such it may be better to update an existing journey to reflect the new channels rather than create a new journey.

Again, it is industry, product, and service specific. That is the great news for marketers.  You need deep domain expertise, coupled with both curiosity and data analysis, to determine the optimal journey mapping and the associated customer experiences to create success.

One of the most significant implications of new channels for customer journey mapping is the need for everything to be ‘joined-up’ into a seamless set of experiences. The customer is dealing with one brand or product, not a set of silos/functions in a large enterprise.  The interaction needs to be on the customer’s terms and the marketer’s responsibility is to not force organizational and operational process onto the customer’s journey. Define what the ‘best outcome’ is for the customer and work-back from there, considering the multiple journey paths each customer segment may take. Look at the optimal experiences, what can go wrong along the way, and then mitigate the risks to ensure the best outcome and then mitigate the risks. 

With that in mind here is a five-point refresher course to snap some life back into those journey maps and get you on an even better path to customer satisfaction, loyalty, and brand advocates:

  1. Customer’s Perspective: You would never create a journey map from your internal process flow, your experience survey or interviews with your front line staff because this info would basically just reinforce your organizations conventional wisdom about your customer experience. The best journey maps are always created based on ethnographic research, contextual interviews, and increasingly analysis of social data. With the advent of social media, a dataset now exists upon which to conduct virtual ethnography; a process is much more accessible and cost-effective than ever before (as a side note: virtual or digital ethnographies are an amazing way to  map the customer journey, uncover moments of opportunity to engage and the key drivers of engagement for content creation).
  2. Easy for EVERYONE: We’ve all had the experience where we’ve been charged with “embedding” a process or measurement throughout the organization. Journey maps use the language of the customer mapped to interactions – a language that marketing, operations, senior management and the front line understand.
  3. Blind to Politics: Ultimately, a customer journey is made up of the experiences that you are creating with them.  Properly executed and measured, your journey map and associated customer feedback will highlight the barriers and the enablers in the journey. Each of these likely maps to a part of your organization. This allows you to address the area of your business that needs improvement – it may be awareness (marketing), out-of-the-box experience (product management), service and support, etc.  Your real customer pain points – the ones that are costing you share of wallet and new business will no doubt, be brought to light by measuring the journey and will highlight where you need to go to address the issue.
  4. All Interactions!: Businesses implement journey maps to understand a purchase experience or an account management experience.  However, journey maps are at their best when they are used to map all customer interactions across the journey to develop an understanding of common pain points and challenges across all the “moments of truth” in different experiences and across different customer personas.
  5. No single “customer journey”: A few marketers assert that you can control “the customer journey”. There are literally thousands of explanations of the customer journey. Nearly all include stages described as variants of Awareness, Research, Evaluation, Decision and Purchase. Many (including SDL’s Customer Commitment Framework™) add additional post-acquisition stages like Use, Support/Service and Long-term Commitment. If you are looking to drive long term commitment to buy and advocate, you need to address the post-purchase experiences that heavily affect a customer’s willingness to repurchase and evangelize for your brand.

The truth is that customer buying behavior is complex. And how customers create brand affinity is also complex.  There is no single path that every customer takes as they connect with products and brands.

Consider the early adopters — on the day the new Xbox One is available, they’ll be lined up around the block to buy one. Instead of going through research and evaluation stages, the shoppers go straight from Awareness to Purchase. On the other hand, think about cost-conscious consumers: They know they have a need

— maybe a simple one like buying laundry detergent. Research indicates that they are very adept at comparison shopping and product evaluations because they need each maximize each dollar.; They look to see what’s on sale, what coupons they have, or what the generic brand costs relative to name brands and make a very considered decision. 

The point is that different customers place a higher value on different experiences. Your job is to get to know them and deliver for them!


David Clark, VP of Marketing at SDL brings extensive experience executing business strategy for both emerging and enterprise software solutions. His specialties include creating commercialization and go-to-market strategies, product marketing, as well as key customer and partner acquisition.

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