So You Want to Make a Journey Map


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HP2P95KQGX - 1In just the last year we have seen a dramatic increase in journey mapping’s popularity, as more and more organizations realize what an effective tool it can be. But as more and more journey maps are getting made by more and more people, two critical questions arise—who and what to map. These are the first two questions we ask when we work with prospective clients.

First, which journeys to map? This may sound like an easy question, but it seldom is. Quite often organizations wish to map every journey. Which sounds like a great idea at first. Unfortunately, you can’t map every journey. Not only does this become prohibitively expensive, there is also the question of the organization’s ability to act against the results of multiple journey maps at once. We typically recommend starting with one journey, creating action, then moving to another.

You may ask yourself: Why focus on such a small subset of customer journeys? Won’t that limit the usefulness of your results? As it turns out—no. Bruce Temkin has created a great visual for helping determine what approach to use for each of their maps. Your most important journeys require research, to understand exactly what your customers need, and their true pain points and moments of truth. But the next tier down are best served with a workshop, and some do not even warrant a full-day workshop – journey thinking is the right approach for that.

Use this graphic to help you prioritize – those most critical items warrant research. Then, within this set, prioritize those which your organization most needs to focus on. How do you do this?

This is where your existing strategy and operational data come into play. My typical advice is, go find your organization’s biggest business problem – that’s where you want to focus. I tell clients that you need to generate $10 in new revenue or $1 in annual cost savings for every dollar we charge you. If we’re doing a sales-related journey mapping project for $150,000, we’ll need to find $1.5 million in new revenue. That quickly helps them determine which are the most critical journeys.

A related question to ask is whether you are mapping a specific journey, or the overall experience of a customer. The second option is also valuable—but it’s an experience map, rather than a journey map. While experience maps are by nature broader, journey maps are contained enough to get specific direction to your organization—key to the Temkin pyramid model. (Look here for other key distinctions between journey maps and experience maps.)

The second question is: which customers (or customer personas) are useful to track as they experience this journey? The specific journey will often help us determine where we should focus. If there are existing personas or segments, we’ll use those. But regardless, we generally recommend a cross-section of your most loyal and most at-risk customers, as well as a broad swath of sizes within the population of interest. For example, when we worked with a B2B client on a pre-sales journey, we narrowed it down to one tier of customers. But within that we interviewed half who were recent customers and half who selected a competitor. Similarly, when we worked with a financial services institution, we talked to customers who used them for many products, customers with only one product (but who used competitors for others), and those who had recently left them.

We find that including both loyal and non-loyal customers gives us a full spectrum of the issues. Talking with only disloyal customers can raise false positives. If all of the disloyal customers complain about your website, but so do loyal customers, we can remove that as a prime consideration, and dig for something deeper.

Journey mapping is a crucial tool to really understand how your customers view working with you, and shine a bright light on what it’s like to be your customer. But you need to deliberately select which journey to map, and who to map in it, in order to get your biggest return.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jim Tincher
Jim sees the world in a special way: through the eyes of customers. This lifelong passion for CX, and a thirst for knowledge, led him to found his customer experience consulting firm, Heart of the Customer (HoC). HoC sets the bar for best practices and are emulated throughout the industry. He is the author of Do B2B Better and co-author of How Hard Is It to Be Your Customer?, and he also writes Heart of the Customer’s popular CX blog.


  1. Yes, there has been an increased focus on journey mapping. Companies have come to believe that journey mapping is an important component of the overall customer experience, and its components, because it applies a systematic approach to documenting typically unstructured product/service value delivery. At the highest level, the customer journey map allows organizations to understand when, where, and with whom interactions occur. Unfortunately, we’ve seen major challenges, including a) an overfocus on the tangible and rational elements of the experience, rather than on both the emotional and functional, b) a strong tendency to look at the experience only from an inside process management perspective, and c) substituting the mapping exercise and product for an audit of the experience and culture, and objective application of qual and quant customer behavior research.

  2. I would like to build on Michael’s comment. I have seen companies perform facilitated CJM’s and wind up with benefits like having the internal teams have ah-ah moments when they realize how they are treating customers. They even change their behavior for the specific actions identified during the mapping exercise. But no-one looks at the CJM outcomes and decides that work needs to be done to improve the overall corporate culture that allows and even encourages this unacceptable behavior to thrive.

    Local CJM exercises should impact corporate culture in many cases!

  3. Journey maps are tools for service trackers and explorers to understand the path of customers through a service encounter. Journey mapping is often ballyhooed as a new concept. However, the late Ron Zemke was writing about it in his best-selling book Service America (1985) as well as a book he and I wrote entitled, Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service (1992). Some of our early research in the ’80’s was inspired by Lynn Shostack’s June, 1984 HRB article called “Designing Service That Delivers.”

    We used the term “chunking” in our book Service Magic (2003) to describe the process of weighting service processes with an eye toward ascertaining the highest priority to begin journey mapping (Ron and I called journey mapping “Cycles of Service”). We even crafted a drill down methodology called “Moment of Truth Impact Analysis” that enabled customer expectations and emotions around a particular moment of truth to provide guidance that would directly inform service standards and metrics…even SLA’s between units with influence on the same moment of truth.

    After many years of journey mapping with major clients around the world, we concluded that without the active QC participation of customers and without the perspective of a cultural anthropologist (what Michael referenced as the emotional aspect of the customer’s journey), you risk ending up with a blueprint used to craft or improve an experience that is only partly related to what real customers actually experience. Looking inside out is always visually impaired by what you know and assume!

    Journey maps are not tools for understanding your processes; they are tools for understanding how your customers experience your processes. And, like most survey research, they are always rear view mirror tools. Customers are constantly changing. My experience with your process this week might be quite different than my experience with the same process a month ago. Not because your process has changed that much; but because I have. We must never forget journey mapping is an iterative, best guess effort and not an exact science.

  4. Michael, Sam and Chip,

    I wholeheartedly agree. And I hope this article didn’t come across as supporting journey mapping workshops. A journey mapping workshop by itself should never be used for a critical journey – hence Bruce’s triangle. The biggest problem with workshops is that they’re entirely internal. The thinking that caused the customer experience problem won’t solve the problem!

    Instead, journey mapping workshops tend to cement inside-out thinking as “truth.” No, critical journeys require strong qualitative research – and the most important require deliberate quantitative follow-up.

    While we do use journey mapping workshops on the front end, that’s to uncover our client’s hypotheses. And that’s all they are – hypotheses. The real magic comes only through the qualitative research, which shows how customers actually view your journey. And, as Michael argues, understanding the emotions involved in your journey is the most important outcome of journey mapping.

  5. Hi Jim – I very much agree with you. The additional thing I would add is the continuing need to educate many organisations as to WHAT TO DO with the journey maps when they have been created. I still encounter too many people who are yet to turn this valuable exercise into real action that delivers demonstrable improvement. Journey mapping is not about creating pretty pictures that sit on walls gathering dust!!

  6. Hi Jim

    Journey mapping has become the must use tool for projects of all shapes and sizes. As Chips reminds us, journey mapping is not new. Shostack, Kingman-Brundage and Bitner were writing about service blueprinting long before contemporary journey mapping was created. In 1998, John Sherry edited a collection of articles about blueprinting in a classic American Marketing Association book on ‘Servicescapes: The Concept of Place in Contemporary Markets’.

    Today, there are as many different approaches to journey mapping as there are days in the week. If you want to see what I mean, search using ‘journey mapping’ on Pinterest and it will return dozens of different ones for you to look at. Some, as Michael suggests are grounded in an empathetic approach to mapping. Service designers trained at D-School are probably the leading lights in this approach. Others with a background in customer service, online or branding take a different approach. There is no overwhelmingly right or wrong approach. You simply pay your money and take your pick.

    That doesn’t mean that all approaches are equally effective. As both a designer of services and a buyer of service design services (for my large banking, telecoms, automotive and airline clients), I would always take a service designer trained at D-School, such as Nile and LiveWork in the UK, rather than one of the alternatives. I find their approach much better at understanding customers, their goals and their resulting behaviours. Perhaps that is because they insist on basing their journey maps on real customers and their journeys rather than on the experience of front-line staff or worse, the inexperience of managers.

    Graham Hill


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