Customer Journey Mapping – an art or a science? Part 1


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In this two part blog, we take a look at Customer Journey Mapping. In this first blog, we examine the origins and principles of journey mapping, with the follow on blog looking at different elements, approaches and methodologies.

CX (Customer experience) is the real deal. Organisations are now beginning to realise that CX is one of the very few ways in which they can truly differentiate themselves from their competitors. In fact, in a survey undertaken by Gartner in 2014, 89% of marketers stated that they expect to compete primarily on the basis of CX by the year 2016.

Is CX a completely new concept?

Although it has only really been taken seriously within the past 15 years, many of the aspects and practices found within CEM (Customer Experience Management) go back a lot, lot further. These include customer research, customer satisfaction and loyalty, to name but a few. In fact, anyone who has read my previous blogs will appreciate that, in my opinion, CEM is what marketing (or certainly strategic marketing) should always have been.


However there were always a few key concepts that the marketers missed. The most important of these is chronology. The concept of time – principally in the form of a journey map – is a central tenet of CEM. You could go as far as to argue that time is the most important aspect of all.

But if journey mapping is such an important element of CX, how come there isn’t one commonly understood way of mapping a customer journey? Search online for the term ‘Customer Journey Mapping’ and you will be presented with hundreds of different examples, all of which are subtly – and sometimes radically – different from each other. So, which approach is the right one to go with? Or at least which one is going to deliver the results you are looking for?

In this blog, we will be looking at some of the key considerations, discussing what a journey map is …and isn’t; key elements and the pros and cons of different approaches. Take a walk with me…

The origins of customer journey mapping

The roots of journey mapping probably began with the concept of the customer lifecycle, which to all intents and purposes, is the journey of the customer at the very highest level. Typically, the customer lifecycle represents the relationship between the customer and the brand throughout the customer’s life – from the very first time they hear about the brand, right through to their very last interaction, be that direct or indirect. If a brand is a promise of what is to come, then the brand is the expectation against which the real experience is measured.

The customer lifecycle goes beyond direct or transactional interactions. For example, I love Aston Martin cars. I have never driven or owned an Aston Martin and I may never do. However that doesn’t stop me admiring and talking about them. I am part of that groundswell of enthusiasm for the brand that keeps it in demand, exclusive and expensive. I still have a form of relationship with Aston Martin.

You could even argue that the customer lifecycle goes beyond the human lifecycle. Brands play an extremely important role in this. The example I always use to demonstrate this is Colgate toothpaste. My family & I use Colgate. Why? Well, I used Colgate as a child because that’s what my parents bought. They bought it because it was a brand they could trust and probably one that they used as children because their parents trusted it. And I wonder what brand of toothpaste my children will use with their children?…

So, the journey we take with a brand can begin before we are born and live on after we die. It can begin not only before we are conscious of the brand, but before we are conscious at all. Our experience can begin before we are capable of experiencing anything!

Experience at different ‘levels’

It is also important to remember that different people ‘experience’ in different ways. Some are less brand conscious than others. Some people make their judgement of a company or brand on the basis of a single interaction rather than their lifetime perception of the brand. And some people sit somewhere right in the middle.

For this reason, when we are undertaking a customer journey exercise, we need to consider the ‘level’ at which it is being done at. Do we look at the customer lifecycle (e.g. my relationship with Tesco supermarkets) or a single touchpoint (e.g. the Checkout Assistant’s attitude last Thursday)? Do we look at a series of interactions at a ‘process’ level (e.g. wandering through the chilled food section looking for fish fingers) or do we consider a series of ‘process-level’ experiences (e.g. the end-to-end shopping experience last Thursday, or even over the past few weeks)?

Breaking it down

Because of the complexity of customer experience, it can sometimes be easier from a journey mapping perspective to break down your customer base into a number of similar or like-minded individuals who are likely to experience your business in similar way and/ or at a similar ‘level’. There are two main ways in which this can be done. Firstly there is customer segmentation, which is a more scientific/ analytical way of segregating your base into similar groups.

Secondly, over the past few years organisations have been creating what they sometimes refer to as customer personas. Although not as scientific as segmentation, personas can be a very common-sense approach to defining the profiles of your most common groups or types of customer. It includes describing what type of person they are by age, gender, purchasing motivation, etc., however can also cover what they might think, feel and do when they are interacting with your business.

Establishing the right segments or personas enables you to establish the right ‘level’ of journey to be mapped for each.

What journey mapping isn’t

A journey map is not a process map. It can be a common misconception to believe that the two things are one and the same (including a leading motor manufacturer who showed me their internal marketing communications process flow maps, describing them as journey maps). We have spoken about process-level earlier in the blog, however being at process level is not necessarily the same thing as being a process.

Process maps and journey maps should, in practice, mirror each other and run in parallel. Whereas a process map describes a series of actions undertaken by the business when dealing with a customer, the journey map either describes the customer’s experience of being taken through that process at present (as-is or current-state), or describes what the ideal or improved experience would / should be like for the customer when being taken through that process (ideal or future-state).

Ultimately, it is the newly defined ideal or future-state experience that the business should be re-engineering its process(es) around.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Williams
A customer experience specialist who works with organisations that understand that by placing customer value at the heart of the business' operations, they not only deliver enhanced customer experiences; but also discover the secret to driving improved business profitability. Has worked with organisations such as TalkTalk, Prudential, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services & E.ON.


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