5 common Customer Journey Mapping mistakes (you should avoid)

Customer journey maps can be a great tool to find actionable insights on how to improve the customer experience. But, not all maps are used to their full potential.

In this post I’m going to outline the five common mistakes I see people making when creating maps, and of course, how you can avoid them—allowing you to make more valuable maps, faster.

One of the most common tools in service design are customer journey maps. I’ve seen and created a lot of them in my career. And the truth is, not all of them are that useful. I think we’ve all seen them, the customer journey maps that end up just a pretty picture decorating the office walls.

So, what can you do to increase the chance your customer journey map will actually be used to create value for people? Well, if you can avoid these five common mistakes, you’ll be able to make better maps and save time in the end.

Mistake #1: You don’t define your customer, who has gone through the journey, or their needs and desires.

The problem with these anonymous maps is that it’s almost impossible to define actionable insights that improve the service experience from a customer perspective. Just think about a mom with two kids going to a grocery store compared to a student who just needs a quick snack. Although the journey might be the same, the experience will most likely be really different.

When you don’t define the customer, you’re basically creating a process or a system app, not a customer journey, and most likely you’re optimizing the process, not the experience. A better process might occasionally lead to a better experience! But, customer journey maps should have a different starting point.

Mistake #2: You start mapping the journey from the company or system perspective, not from the perspective of the customer activities.

The great thing about this mistake is that it’s really easy to spot. Imagine a map visualizing the journey of a hospital emergency room—but this map just describes formal steps, like filling in forms, and doesn’t describe common activities like waiting. It’s probably not based on actual customer activities.

The problem with these maps is that it’s very likely that you’ll miss moments of truth for your customer.

Waiting in the emergency room might be the moment that has the biggest influence on how a patient actually experiences the whole service. And, if the waiting experience is literally not on your map, you will likely miss out on this opportunity, because experiences aren’t just created in the formal interactions.

Mistake #3: You believe your customer journey starts with your company’s in-house processes.

Once, I was in a project where we had to think of ways to improve the visit to a museum. Really quickly, we discovered that every improvement that had been suggested up till now focused on things that happened inside of the walls of the museum. When we started to map the journey by shadowing museum visitors throughout the city, we found tons of opportunities to improve the experience of visiting the museum before the moment somebody actually entered the building.

This was a huge eye opener and completely changed the perspective on our project. So, make sure your journey starts when the real journey of your customer starts.

Mistake #4: Your map is limited to a single communications channel.

For instance, you’re creating a customer journey map and only take into account the interactions your customers have with your website. Now, of course, an important part of the Airbnb or Uber experience, for example, takes place online. But, think about how much the offline aspects influence the total experience. I’m not just talking about the moment that you actually visit the room you booked. I’m talking about the selection process and the associated conversations you will have with your boyfriend or girlfriend or wife or husband.

Maps limited to a single channel tend to ignore what actually happens in the real life of your customer. They look more like flow diagrams instead of customer journey maps. If that’s what you’re after, that’s fine! But, if you want to find opportunities to make an impact on your customers, embrace the complexity of real life, and don’t just limit yourself to a single channel.

Mistake #5: You base your journeys on assumptions rather than actual research.

There are occasions where I encourage people to visualize a map based on the knowledge that’s already inside of them—just quickly visualize what’s in their head. But, the next step is always to go out and collect data from your customers to support your assumptions (or to challenge them).

There are two big problems when you don’t have any research data to back up your journey. The first is that you are very likely to end up in endless discussions with people wherever different perspectives on the journey happen. Research data helps you to avoid these conversations, because it’s not about what you think the journey is, but what you actually know from research.

The second problem is that you might end up making bad decisions and losing time, resources and energy, if your assumptions are wrong. The solution here is to find ways to get at research data no matter what. Remember, a short and simple interview with a few customers is always more valuable than sitting inside your office debating with your team on whose perspective on the journey is the right one. All in all, there is no excuse for not doing research.

So, those were the five common mistakes I see people making when creating customer journey maps. I hope this post helps you avoid them, so you can make better maps, faster.

Let me know down below in the comments if you’re using custom journey maps, and what common mistakes you see people making.

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