Share this content

Customer journey mapping vs process design: Do you know the difference?

15th Mar 2017
Share this content

Why are customer journey mapping and process design so important to the customer experience - and how do they differ? Andy Green explains.

Customer journey mapping (CJM) is a people-centric tool for designing optimal customer experiences. There are 3 fundamental differences between CJM and Process Design. CJM is characterised by:
  • Starting from the customer's start point, motivations and desired outcomes rather than the company's.
  • The inclusion of emotion in the design.
  • A framework and set of guiding principles rather than a rigid and inflexible process.
In this article, we will address each of these differences, why they are important and introduce approaches to implement them effectively.
The importance of customer experience
The majority of organisations recognise that providing their customer's with an excellent experience is a strategic necessity, but over half of all organisations state that they cannot effectively manage it. The issue is compounded as more customer interactions move beyond a single channel, or linear sequence of hand-offs.
The perception a customer has of the experience an organisation provides impacts each of the four ways companies can create sustainable incremental profitability from its customer management:
These stated intents and behaviours also translate into real value as shown in the plot of lagged customer satisfaction against consumer spending growth.
Hence, the effective design of the customer experience should be considered a business imperative for most organisations. However, less than one-third believe their company exhibits the required customer experience management (CEM) competencies:
  • Quality of interactions with target customers is closely monitored.
  • Employees across the company are recognised and rewarded for improving the experience.
  • Decision-making processes systematically incorporate the needs of target customers.
  • Employees across the company share a consistent and vivid image of target customers and the experience the company wishes them to receive.
The key CEM challenges organisations cite for their difficulties with managing the customer experience are functional alignment of business processes, executive sponsorship, measurement agreement issues, and execution. CJM addresses the first of these challenges head on, provides compelling input to an argument to address the second and a robust framework within which to design and deliver against the final two.
Starting in the right place
Effective CJM needs to start from the place the customer starts and to understand what they consider a successful outcome. A classic example of this is when Virgin Atlantic re-defined the premium class long-haul travel experience.
[Click to enlarge]
Until that point, airlines had only concerned themselves with the parts of the journey they actually delivered. That is, the typical approach was to start designing the process from the time the passenger arrived at the check-in counter. Omit the part where they made their way through security and the airport to the lounge. Pick it up again from the lounge, through boarding and the flight, then ignore everything on arrival unless their baggage had been lost!
By thinking about the entire journey from leaving home, hotel or office, to arriving at the ultimate destination (home / office / hotel), Virgin identified a customer need - removing the stress and hassle of getting to the airport. So the chauffer pick-up and drop off service was born.
Using the CJM approach to continually review the journey has led to the introduction, where possible, of dedicated security areas leading straight into the airline's lounge.
The implication of this story is that, in most cases, the product or service is actually just a 'means to an end' and that companies need to understand the real motivations and desired outcomes that their customers have.
  • I don't want to 'buy a laser printer'. I want to produce quality documents for my business.
  • I don't want to 'book a repair for my vacuum cleaner'. I want a clean floor.
  • I don't want to 'apply for a loan'. I want whatever it is I intend to spend the money on.
Process design tends to ignore the real start point and motivation and focus, instead, on the point at which the customer first actually touches the organisation. There is an implicit assumption that the customer sees the world the way the company does.
In the above example, a printer manufacturer may assume my journey starts once I've chosen to buy their printer - thus starting the design at the point I first contact them and make an enquiry. They may assume the journey actually starts at the point I've decided to buy a printer. Hence, the first step they consider would probably be about promoting the USPs of their product over other printer makes. However, as a customer my options also include renting, outsourcing, buying it as a service. Thinking from this start point and considering my actual need would probably lead to a different design process and first step and may well uncover opportunities to attract my business before competitors thinking in traditional ways.
There is a similar story around the vacuum cleaner. Starting to design the 'book a repair' process overlooks that I may take the opportunity to replace it rather than repair it - a potential missed sales opportunity.
Continuing with the vacuum cleaner journey. Assuming it was to be repaired; process design would tend to work within the constraint of the organisation design, with each function designing its own part of the overall experience to its own operating norms. When fitted together the resulting 'journey' is likely to take longer than I expect (and probably longer than it actually needs to be) and have endless opportunities for frustration (mine and theirs') when the customer facing part of the organisation doesn't know where it is or when it will be back but have me in front of them demanding answers.
A good tip to ensure opportunities aren't overlooked is to spend time getting the right title for the journey. For example; rather than the "Buy a Printer journey", consider it as the "Solve my printing needs journey".
Designing in the emotion
Since Gallup first quantified the impact of emotional engagement in 2003, it has been increasingly recognised that real 'loyalty' (as opposed to bribed frequency and repeat purchase) is about customers forming an emotional attachment with the company, brand or product This leads us to the conclusion that, in addition to customer's functional needs that the organisation must satisfy, there are also emotional needs that have to be recognised and addressed.
In the Research International diagram here, we see the relative levels of retention, cross and up-sell achieved when only functional needs are met (bottom right) compared to a baseline where there is poor functional and poor emotional satisfaction (bottom left) and the uplift achieved when in addition to satisfying functional needs, emotional needs are also met (top right).
This is biggest single difference between process design and CJM. Process design is highly functional and describes functional steps that need to happen in order to produce the outcome.
CJM needs to build on this functional approach and bring emotion into the conversation. This is most easily achieved by starting with the question, "What do we want the customer to think, feel and say at the end of this journey?". Once the overall emotional outcome has is understood, the next step is to break each step of the journey into functional and emotional inputs and define its functional output. Answering the questions:
  • What is the customer's mindset as they enter this step? (i.e. their desires, concerns and hopes)
  • What's the outcome the customer needs/expects from this step? (taking care to check if the emotional outcome at each step is any different from the overall emotional outcome)
  • How easy is it now for the customer to achieve this outcome?
  • What are the top 3 things that would make it easier to achieve a better outcome?
  • What are the 3 worst things that could happen to the customer?
Considering these questions makes it possible to identify what the customer truly values and what they expect, but wouldn't notice until they weren't there - the 'opportunities to delight' and 'hygiene factors' respectively. A simple 'high', 'medium', 'low' designation for each is often sufficient.
This completes the scene setting and provides all the inputs necessary to identify the opportunities to provide something 'different'. The aim is to end up with no more than 3 things that the organisation could do to make the step a success. It may be doing something to delight the customer, it may simply be improving a hygiene factor.

Consider the journey scenario below for a credit/charge/debit card provider. 

[Click to enlarge]

Journey scenario

Based on the above, there are both emotional and functional things to solve for the customer and an expectation that it won't be easy. This represents a significant opportunity to delight the customer (it's certainly not a hygiene factor).
The resulting brainstorm and prioritisation would probably come up with:
  1. "We'll deal with the hotel for you. Including getting them to pay the taxi and provide a small cash advance, and put it on the bill, which will be on your next statement."
  2. "We'll call ahead and sort things out with your hotel in the next destination, so you can check in without a card."
  3. "We'll provide a telephone service for you to validate any other payments you need to make on your 'missing' card until we can get a replacement to you."
A framework for flexibility
The third core difference between a process and a customer journey is the degree of detail and the rigidity of the outcome. CJM should not attempt to design for every customer type/segment or every interaction at every touch-point. A good rule of thumb is to focus on the interactions that represent 80% of the customer interactions.
As Dwight D Eisenhower said, "Planning is everything, the plan is nothing." This is a good way of viewing CJM. Involving people from all the functions that impact on the journey in its design, together with the process of thinking things through from a customer perspective and challenging the in too out traditional views of the organisation begin to build a culture of trust and adaptability internally. This is the key step to sustainability of customer centric behaviour in the organisation.
The level of detail in a CJM is sufficient to describe what's happening and, critically, why. However, it's sufficiently high level not to constrain individuals and functions from adapting to differences in customer types, motivations and needs. In fact, the CJM development, should provide a framework for functions to work within in order to deliver the customer experience.
By contrast, processes tend to be rigid and need to consider the vast majority of foreseeable exceptions. The underlying purpose is often one of cost control. As such they become constraints to doing what's right for the customer. Particularly in hierarchical organisations, they become something to hide behind and an excuse for doing things by the book. That said, they still have a role to play:
  • They enable standardisation that makes processes (and experiences) replicable.
  • Everyone knows what they are meant to do and when (until the customer gets in the way).
  • Training is much easier.
  • Measurement is made easy.
  • Ownership of tasks is clear.
However, that role should be as a follow-up. Once CJM has set the context and provided the framework and guiding principles, detailed process design can follow.

Andy Green is the director of The Customer Framework. The Customer Framework helps large organisations and brands engage, win, keep and develop the right customers, influencers and advocates, cost effectively, by integrating traditional customer management with evolving social business techniques. 

Replies (10)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

Shaun Smith
By Shaun Smith
02nd Feb 2012 12:06


Your article neatly sums up some of the key features of customer journey mapping but it is a shame that you don't bring any new thinking to the debate. The points you make and examples you use, have been around for some time now and have been written about extensively. What we need is some fresh thinking, particularly how these principles apply to new channels like social media and mobile.

Shaun Smith

Thanks (0)
By paulblunden
03rd Feb 2012 12:20

INteresting piece, nicely set out. However, I can't help thinking it is a bit like askiing whether people understand the difference between research and design. Different things for different jobs at different times.

Thanks (0)
By Andy Green
07th Feb 2012 16:12

Many thanks for your comments Sean - I hadn't previously thought about drawing out the implications of new channels like social & mobile on the design, as I've always seen consideration of all touchpoints an integral part of the mapping exercise. As a result, from the various mapping assignments we've recently been involved in, I'm compiling a commentary into the implications of new channels on Journey Mapping - aiming to publish end February.  In the meantime, here are the headlines....

The implications on each of the  4 stages of Customer Journey Mapping: 1. The overall ecosystem - new channels are, more often than not, unlikely to give rise to entirely new journey's. Possible exceptions would include things like SMART Metering in the Utility Sector (but is this a result of new channels, or new technology/products?). 2. Steps of a Journey - occasionally new channels may result in additional steps (like peer-to-peer assistance), or the consolidation of steps as steps in the purchase or service journey's converge. More often, rewording existing steps to recognise changed priorities is likely. 3. Customer Needs & Expectations along each journey - the influence of new channels on latency and accessibility will significantly impact on both customer's attitude & mindset as they enter a journey step and on the outcomes they expect. 4. The final step, translating this knowledge and insight into a customer experience design for each touch point has become much complex with each new channel. An increased number of touch points to think about, and the need to enable customers to move seamlessly across and between them.  Overall, the biggest implication of new channels on Customer Journey Mapping is prioritisation. Does it impact enough value (not just customers, but also their influence) and is it important enough to do something about? In short, it's become less about what we can do and more about what we should do!

Thanks (0)
By Touchpoint Dashboard
15th Feb 2012 19:51

Andy, I like your thoughts on the implications that new channels have on customer journey mapping.  I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, “it becomes less about what we can do and more about what we should do!” I’ve been researching the topic of integrating social and mobile into the overall business and customer experience strategy.  I’ve outlined some of the results of recent studies I’ve read on how consumers use mobile and social on the blog (  Perhaps you’ll find this information helpful if you haven’t already seen it elsewhere yourself.  

The results of these studies clearly show that that consumers are using mobile and social, they want to use them more and they have high expectations.  But, does that mean that all companies should start investing in expensive apps?  Probably not.  It depends on what their core customers want and need and how it will impact other areas of the business.  And this is where I see the value of using a touchpoint map -- it can help a company see where new channels and all the associated touchpoints fit into the big picture strategy, and how these channels can and should be leveraged to enhance the customer experience and ultimately make the business more profitable.  It’s interesting stuff! 

Thanks again for sharing your insight and expertise.  I look forward to seeing your next post on this topic! 

Jennifer Kramp

Thanks (0)
By Mark Tamis
24th Feb 2012 09:57

Hi Andy,

You have done a very good job of explaining the relevance of CJM on customer experience, I would just like to add that the customer journey itself not only a physical journey and experience (leave home, take flight, arrive at the destination) but also should look at the Customer Decision Journey which aims to look at the factors that lead the customer to choose your service in the first place (where do you fit into their job-to-be-done and how touchpoint interactions with you or with other customers, on- and off-line, pre and post-sales influence the decision).



-- @MarkTamis

Thanks (0)
By Wills777
12th Jun 2016 12:10

All the image links in the article are broken. Please fix it.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Wills777:
By Neil Davey
13th Jun 2016 08:22

Hi, many apologies for this. It appears the images have been stripped out of this piece during our recent site migration. I'll seek them out and add them to this piece again. Apologies again for any inconvenience in the meantime.

Thanks (0)
By hellefoens
16th Mar 2017 12:31

very interesting article - however the diagrams/figures are not visible to me; does it require a specifik access or browser? I would especially like to see the Research International diagram

Thanks (0)
By hellefoens
16th Mar 2017 12:34

very interesting article! - however the diagrams/figures are not visible to me - does it require a speciel access or browser? I would especially like to see the Research International diagram

Thanks (0)
Replying to hellefoens:
By Neil Davey
16th Mar 2017 17:00

Hi Helle, apologies for this - it appears the images are broken. I'll try to fix this ASAP.

Thanks (0)