Seven common customer journey mapping mistakes to avoid


If customer journey mapping is poorly executed, the results can be at best a waste of time, and at worst highly misleading for your CX strategy. 

14th Feb 2020

Customer journey maps are an increasingly popular way for organisations to establish how they can drive customer experience improvements. However, the journey mapping process demands significant time and resources, and so if the project fails to deliver, it can be a costly mistake.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for customer journey maps to fall short of expectations. But this is not due to a fundamental problem with the journey mapping concept, rather it is due to any number of common problems that can beset the journey mapping process.

“From our perspective, the biggest mistake is in not using them at all – we and our clients have found them to be a remarkable tool, when created and used correctly,” says Michael Hinshaw, CX strategist and president of MCorpCX. “However, the sad truth is that there are many issues associated with the deployment of customer journey maps. Naturally, the effect of mistakes in any of these areas can be substantial, and usually negative.”

Let’s take a look at some of the most common problems that can be encountered, and how these can be avoided.

1. Building the map based on assumptions rather than research

If you’re building the map based on assumptions or guesswork about the customer’s journey, you will almost certainly end up with a document that is inaccurate.

As Bruce Temkin, managing partner at Temkin Group, warns: “Sometimes we fall into the trap of believing we know more about our customers than we actually do and we don’t do enough external research.”

The map should be based on hard data and this means interviewing customers, analysing data from CRM systems, performing web and mobile analytics, and examining other first and third-party sources of customer information. 

Experience design consultant Dea Kacorri, adds: “Don’t create a customer journey map without conducting customer research. Creating a customer journey map without user insight can lead to business decisions based on assumptions that are not validated by your customer. When compared to real customer insight, these assumptions can be surprisingly different.”

2. Not involving customers 

Customer journey mapping is a process that enables businesses to place the customer at the centre of the business and drive change based on customer need. So if you don’t place the customer at the centre of the mapping process, how can you expect to accurately represent their experiences?

“The biggest mistake a business can make is not directly involving customers in the process of evaluation, optimisation and redesign of a journey,” says Vicky Smith, co-founder of lens consulting. “The knock-on effect is ultimately the inability of a business to continuously improve and transform experiences in-line with customer expectations and needs.

“Whilst existing insight and data about the customer will work to support customer journey mapping, the value of primary customer involvement as part of the process brings about a depth of understanding that cannot be underestimated.

“Firstly, it provides a holistic view of the entire end-to-end journey, with any change to a part of the experience considerate of the potential impact it has on other stages of this journey. It also helps to identify the drivers of emotion across the journey and how the business can leverage this to differentiate. Measurement is also aided by primary customer involvement, helping to identify the right KPI’s in order to manage and drive change. Finally, this level of understanding also enables buy-in and investment for implementation of optimisation and redesign solutions.”

3. Using a single, generic buyer persona

Different customer segments have different goals, expectations, emotions and journeys. Trying to reflect all of your customer segments within a single generalised persona will mean that you miss valuable nuances, and important insights, and you will be unable to drive as many customer experience improvements as a result. As Gartner’s Augie Ray notes: “You cannot create a journey map that is all things to all people.”

Therefore, it is important to define who your most important customers and ensure that they are represented by design personas, against which individual journey maps can be built.

Gartner’s Brian Manusama notes: “If you embark on customer journey mapping, it’s important that you’ve mapped the journeys based on particular lenses. If you look through a certain lens, what persona is it that you’re actually looking for? If you’re pinpointing a certain older demographic, for instance, what processes do they currently take through your business and how is it different to, say, the younger customer demographic? What different tools, channels and information are they commonly looking for? You need to make different personas because it helps you understand how you can provide the best experience.”

4. Confusing a journey map with a touchpoint map

Whereas touchpoint maps detail all the interactions that a customer has with an organisation, a customer journey map outlines the entire pathway to purchase, including all the important steps that may not involve the business at all. This is an important distinction as it allows companies to discover pivotal points in the customer’s journey where they may presently have no presence but where they can add value in the future.

Jane Linton, client partner at SAS, says: “Touchpoint maps look at individual interactions or ‘touches’ with customers. The problem with this approach is that it often loses the broader context of how that touchpoint fits within the overall goal and objectives of the customer.”

5. Structuring the map according to company processes 

The customer journey map should be built around the different stages of your customer’s journey and their goals. This is the ‘outside-in’ view, focused on the customer. Don’t fall into the trap of structuring the map according to the company’s internal process steps, as this ‘inside-out’ approach will just leave you with an internal process diagram, rather than an insightful depiction of your customer’s journey. Internal processes, such as the sales process, can be detailed in the map at a later stage, once the customer-centric journey has been mapped out.

Gartner’s Augie Ray notes: “It’s tough for employees with demanding bosses and stretch goals created to deliver quarterly financial outcomes to be truly ‘outside in’, but journey maps that start with your company’s processes, organisational structure or systems cannot lead you to a customer-centric outcome.”

6. Failing to involve all stakeholders

“Developing a cohesive customer journey that addresses the issues caused by organisational silos, disconnected systems, and uncollaborative processes cannot be achieved by a siloed, disconnected, and uncollaborative team,” warns Augie Ray. 

Therefore, it is vital that the journey mapping team includes representatives from all of the parts of the organisation that influence the customer’s journey.

Andy Green, director of The Customer Framework, says: “The majority of issues organisations face when attempting to implement customer journey maps have their root in the way they are created. A core failing is an ‘Ivory Tower’ development, that presents a design as complete without involving the people responsible for delivery in its creation. How many times we have heard the phrase, ‘if only they had asked us, we would have told them what was needed’.”

7. Treating the map as the end rather than the means

No matter how rigorous the mapping procedure has been, customer journey maps are only as good as the actions they inform and the results their development and deployment drive.

“I believe the biggest mistake is approaching the mapping as a one-off project, where the purpose is a slick poster or deliverable,” says Jeannie Walters, CEO of Experience Investigators. “I really believe there is magic in the process of mapping. Getting everyone to really examine, evaluate and understand what is happening to the customer TODAY in the journey helps everyone feel empowered to improve it. If the journey map is all about something to frame on the wall, it's completely missing the point.” 

Therefore, it is essential that organisations ensure that the maps produce actionable information, and that action is subsequently carried out.

“This means taking action on results, using maps to drive responsibility and accountability, define and prioritise opportunities, and to do so over time,” emphasises Hinshaw. “At the end of the day, this means being able to prove ROI on any mapping initiative against business priorities and metrics.”

Augie Ray adds: “The aim of a journey mapping project is not a lovely diagram that gets pinned to cubicle walls; it is to find customer experience opportunities and problems and to drive action that improves customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.  A positive result starts with the right goals from the beginning. Set a goal of identifying problems and driving action, not producing a visual asset.”

Replies (1)

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By EJohn Morris
04th Oct 2016 08:57

Some great advice, thanks for sharing. the key from my perspective is item 4, journey v touch point, it is important that customer don't get lost, disillusioned or tempted away between touch points.

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