You Aren’t Journey Mapping

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I hate to tell you this, but you’re just not.*

I’ve been doing a bit of speaking lately, either about journey mapping or with journey mapping as a piece of the talk, and I’ve learned a lot – or, rather, confirmed a lot. Namely, you might think you’re journey mapping; you call it journey mapping; but it’s not really journey mapping.

Here’s what happens.

I start by asking the audience if they’re mapping customer journeys, and a bunch of hands in the room go up. A lot of hands, as a matter of fact.



Then I proceed to explain what journey mapping is, why you must map, how maps are used in a variety of ways, and what the journey mapping process is.

I then ask the question again. “How many of you have mapped customer journeys?” No – or very few – hands go up this second time around. What gives?

One of the things I talk about after I ask the question the first time is that, if your map has Need, Awareness, Consideration, Selection, etc. as the column headings, and within each column you’ve specified relevant or corresponding touchpoints or channels, then you’re not journey mapping; you’re mapping lifecycle stages, and you’re touchpoint mapping. (This is typically where the difference in hands up is rooted.)

You see, journey maps are defined as “walking in your customer’s shoes to understand her experience.” That means you go step by step by step to depict the journey, to capture the customer’s story of the experience, to depict the timeline of steps she took to go from Point A to Point B.

If you’ve got lifecycle stages and touchpoints mapped, you are not…

  • viewing things from the customer’s perspective
  • capturing any kind of detail about the experience
  • able to tell where things go right or wrong
  • able to develop the corresponding service blueprint to fix what’s happening inside to support the experience 
  • understanding what the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling throughout the experience

As a matter of fact, the customer isn’t even in those maps.

The second likely culprit of the gap in hands between the first time I ask and the second time is that folks are creating assumptive maps, which are maps visualized by well-meaning stakeholders who believe they understand the experience; they assume they know. And when people create assumptive maps (which aren’t wrong but typically aren’t done right), a couple of things happen:

  • there’s a lot of inside-out thinking; in other words, the map is not created from the customer’s perspective
  • it’s likely that they’ve actually created a process map
  • the map doesn’t get validated with customers
  • the map gets rolled up, stashed under a desk, and goes nowhere from there

The first scenario (lifecycle/touchpoint mapping) is the one I hear most often. Neither scenario is good.



Take a look at what you’re doing today or what you’ve done. Revisit the six steps from maps to outcomes. And then tell me if you’ve actually created journey maps – or something else.

… what you think is right isn’t the same as knowing what is right. -E.A. Bucchianeri

*OK, some of you actually are. But just some of you.

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