Always ask this question before creating a Customer Journey Map

If you know why you want to create a customer journey map, or what the goal is of your customer journey map, then you can create better, much more effective maps in way less time.

I’m going to discuss a few common scenarios in which people create customer journey maps in the first place.

Understanding the customer journey is, of course, a key part of service design. I’ve been in a lot of workshops and sessions where people want to create a customer journey. They start sticking posters on brown paper in the hopes of getting a good customer journey map.

What usually happens in these sessions is that they go in all directions without a clear focus. They just plot customer activities, a high level customer journey map, or go into so much detail they get lost and never finish.

The problem here is that people forget to ask the most important question at the beginning of these workshops.

So, how do we prevent losing time or getting lost in the details?

Well, the answer is pretty simple. Before you start mapping anything, you need to ask yourself the following question:

Why am I making this map?

A map is always a tool. It’s always means to an end, and you need to define that end clearly at the beginning of your workshops.

Let’s go over a few common scenarios for creating customer journey maps, and what our potential goals and uses are.

Create an overview

A common scenario with customer journey maps is creating an overview to enable a shared understanding of the journey among stakeholders. Whether the user journey, customer journey, patient journey, etc., it’s about visualizing the journey and creating a shared understanding in that way.

Store research data

Another common scenario for using customer journey maps is to store research data. First, you go out, do interviews and observations, and collect a lot of user insights. Now, you need a place where you can link them to each other or the back-end systems. Your customer journey map is a good place to store research data (user insights and customer insights) in a structured, coherent way.

Employ as a research tool

You might want to use a customer journey map as a template to involve stakeholders in other departments in the service design project.

You can do that by creating the journey and leaving out irrelevant parts, like making a template. Then, go to different stakeholders in different departments and invite them to fill in those blanks. Engage and co-create with other stakeholders to complete the map.

This is a common scenario in which we use customer journey maps—not as a deliverable or end result, but a tool to do research.

Prioritize activities and investments

The last scenario I want to talk about is a customer journey map as a great tool for prioritizing activities and investments. It helps you understand where can you get the most benefit for the user and the company.

When you map the journey, emotional curve, and business value (the business KPIs), you quickly see where the most value is from improvements and investments. A customer journey map helps make conscious choices about where to start new improvement projects, or even do more research.

There’s one thing I really want to stress here—no matter the scenario or goal, why you create customer journey maps is equally important. It’s really up to you to decide which one is relevant for you.

Now, how do I know which one is relevant for me?

Well, it’s pretty simple. Just think about the next action you want to take—what you want to achieve next. Then reverse engineer, thinking about how the customer journey map is going to help. Do you want to create a shared understanding, or store data? It’s really up to you. If you know what the next step is, then this becomes really clear.

A customer journey map is never a final deliverable. It’s always a means to an end.

So what does this mean? This means that you always have to keep in mind that the map should be evolving. Once you create an initial version of your map, you always have to think, How will the map look next week? How are we going to update it? How are we going to iterate on this? How are we going to evolve this? Otherwise, you’ll end up with a big, pretty poster that impresses people the first week, but after, doesn’t have any impact anymore.

So, promise me the next time you start making a map, you’ll think about why we’re making the map and how it is going to evolve. How are you going to update it (before you start writing and sticking sticky notes on the wall)?

I’ve outlined just four common scenarios in which people create customer journey maps, but I’m sure this list is not complete. I’m really interested to learn from you guys. Why do you create customer journey maps? What is your common goal?

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