From Customer Journey Map to an Optimal Customer Journey Road Map


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In last week’s blog, I talked about how customer journey mapping has gained widespread acceptance and how to get maximum value out of efforts to depict perceptions of customers across interactions with your brand. I also noted four elements necessary to effectively guide your customer experience design efforts and suggested that the following four considerations build on themselves:

  • Validate the Map
  • Activate the Map
  • Think Map(s) not Map
  • Create a Transformational Map to Go Beyond Incremental Improvements

In that blog, I took on the first two elements from the list above (Validate the Map and Activate the Map) suggesting that if a customer journey map is not validated by the input of customers it is little more than a hypothetical draft of the customer journey.

Additionally, I suggest that maps are only good if people know how to read and use them. Team members must be trained on the elements of a customer journey map and guided on how to recommend solutions inspired by the map so that those suggestions can be considered for implementation.

This week I will take on the last two components from the list above – Think Map(s) not Map and Create a Transformational Map to Go Beyond Incremental Improvements.

Map(s) not Map

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone wore a size seven shoe or if every student learned in exactly the same way? Well, maybe it would be if you were a shoe manufacturer or someone who develops educational materials but, from my perspective, it is the diversity of human needs that makes business both rewarding and daunting.

When it comes to customer journey mapping, one size certainly doesn’t fit all. 

Conversely, you can’t map every individual nuance of every customer and expect to garner actionable insights. The art of this process comes in creating a core journey map with a sufficient yet manageable set of segmented variations.

The Pareto Principle (frequently referred to as the 80/20 rule) is often applied to business. It states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. While not perfectly applied to every business situation the Pareto Principle would imply 80% of business revenue comes from 20% of customers. Your business may or may not fit this rule, but it is likely that certain customer segments generate a disproportionate amount of your revenue, while other segments make marginal contributions. 

Effective mapping involves having enough variations to address the need states of key customer segments. 

For example, it would be foolish for a hotel to only map the journey of leisure travelers if it derives sizable revenue from business travelers as well. Moreover, of all the business traveler types (e.g., people on corporate accounts, budget buyers, high volume users, luxury executive travelers, etc.) there may be only one or two sub-segments for which journey mapping variations are warranted.

Transformational Maps

As is often the case, any strength can also manifest as a weakness. A strength of customer journey mapping is how this approach shifts perspective on existing interactions from the company’s vantage point to the perspective of the customer. A weakness of the process is that most recommended improvements represent incremental advancements as opposed to disruptive breakthroughs.

If a decade or so ago Blockbuster Video would have mapped their customer journey, leaders might have addressed ways to reduce late fees but likely would not have seen the need to liquidate real estate assets to fund technologies for an optimal future state where movies would be delivered digitally.

At the risk of tritely quoting the legendary hockey player Wayne Gretzky (when he shared, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”) traditional customer journey mapping processes often focus on where a business has been as opposed to how customers will want to receive services in the future.

To supplement, customer journey mapping, we help our clients through a process we refer to as Future Customer Experience visioning.

This visioning approach looks at where customers are moving and how customers will likely want to experience future journeys with your brand.

However, you pursue customer journey mapping it is important to remember that it is but one tool in a toolbox of competencies needed to achieve customer-centric success. Like all tools and skills, customer journey mapping and future customer experience visioning processes strengthen competencies with practice and time.

Wherever you are on your journey, we’re glad to assist you with next steps. For a complimentary consultation, please contact Patti and she will set-up a time for us to talk.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D.
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and the chief experience officer of The Michelli Experience, authored The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the best-selling The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.


  1. Hi Joseph: I agree that it’s valuable and important for companies to apply thought and planning rigor to how customers are likely to buy in the future. And I also agree that it’s not unusual at a company for a small proportion of customers to account for a disproportionately large percentage of overall revenue. In my experience, this is most often the case.

    But I differ on your assessment of incremental change, and the supposed desirability of transformational change (“A weakness of the process is that most recommended improvements represent incremental advancements as opposed to disruptive breakthroughs.”)

    Transformational change, such as what was foisted on the PC and electronics industries when Dell launched a radical new business model to book sales before component parts went into production and before finished goods were added to stock, happens rarely. And when it does happen, it’s because there’s a massive force – or forces – that drive draconian changes. In this example, the choices were stark for Dell’s competitors and suppliers: adapt, or die. There are other examples.

    But what about other industries that are low/slow growth? Little technological advancement? Commoditized? High investment in infrastructure? Products like Industrial pumps. Bulk soybeans. Printing ink. Brick and block masonry. Breakfast cereal. Floral supplies. Legal and accounting services. There’s a long list. Sure – these industries change, but so far, not in the way Dell’s revenue model upended their industry. I question whether transformation or self-inflicted disruption would serve them well.

    I think incremental change gets an undeserved bad rap. I’ve participated in projects designed to do just that for my employers and clients. And in many instances, the outcomes have been both positive and successful. Some companies need transformation. With others, it’s hard to make a case. Transformation demands great resources, and most problematic, requires executive and staff overhauls. Few companies have the financial heft or risk capacity to pull it off, which probably explains why the easiest examples to find are companies that are already staring over the precipice.

    A major reason I’m not sold on the attraction of disruptive breakthroughs and transformation is that the patterns of habitual buyers are discarded. Companies invest significant resources toward ensuring their product or service is a reflexive choice for buyers. Then, in pursuit of transformation, they dissolve the very habits they sought by getting – demanding, really – their customers to stop, pause, and think before buying. When you’re a marketer who spends every waking hour cementing buyer habits, I wouldn’t call that a positive outcome.

  2. Andrew, as usual you add value with a fresh perspective. I should have drawn a stronger line suggesting a need for both incremental and disruptive change. I agree that the predominance of all improvements should be iterative and should not be at the expense of core segment habits. I simply think some investments need to peek under the tent of the future. Certainly, all future investments need to be tempered by the likely not the possible! Again thank you Andrew for elevating the discourse. Joseph


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