7 Tips to Create Customer Journey Maps That Don’t Suck

Create maps that stand the test of time—and are actually used rather than just looking pretty on the walls

Published in: Journey Mapping / Last update: July 2020

7 Tips to Create Customer Journey Maps That Don't Suck

Sure, customer journey mapping looks pretty simple on the surface. That's what makes it so appealing to such a large group.

The major problem is that most people don't bother to master the journey mapping process and, as a result, create quite superficial maps.

I call that customer journey mapping 1.0.

The reality is that journey mapping on a professional level requires a lot of deliberation and effort.

Yes, anyone can create a journey map.

But it's the professional who creates journey maps that truly impact business and customers.

So, here are seven pro tips that will help you create customer journey maps that don't suck.

1. Start with the business objectives in mind.

Why are you creating a customer journey map? No really, why are you creating it?

It has to be because you either want to fix something that's not working in your business or that you want to develop new offerings.

Customer journey maps are first and foremost a tool to help organizations think and act in a more customer-centric way.

But it's crucial that you tie this customer-centric ambition back to a business objective.

Is your goal to increase sales? Do you want to reduce the number of complaints? Or, are you aiming for stronger word-of-mouth promotion?

Why is it so important to connect customer experience with business objectives?

This is the best way to show the relevance of what you're doing and why it's important to invest in.

When customer journey mapping is set aside as “nice to have,” it's most likely because stakeholders don't see the business benefits.

And many people who are starting out their journey mapping efforts eventually learn this the hard way.

There are more valid reasons to create a journey map. Just make sure you always start with the business objectives.

2. Share the map as soon as possible.

Building a more customer-centric organization is always a collaborative effort.

The people who get this understand that the journey mapping process is much more important than the actual map.

So, don't focus on producing the best possible journey map. Focus on getting the people around you engaged in the process.

And the way to get people engaged is by sharing the journey map you're working on as early as possible.

Don't be afraid to share early first drafts of your journey map.

If people don't agree with what you've created, you want that feedback sooner rather than later.

You might feel that sharing the map early could slow you down. And yes, it sometimes will.

But if you skip this part and at some point appear out of nowhere to present a "final" journey map, you're bound to run into the not invented here syndrome.

And fixing that will probably take you much longer.

So if you want to be successful, share your maps early and often!

3. Don't wait until you have enough research data.

Without a doubt, doing user research is one of the smartest investments of your time and resources.

Your goal should always be to base your journey maps on data that is grounded in research.

But there's a catch regarding user research: You're never going to have enough research data. Everything you learn about your customers and their needs and desires leads to more new questions.

Before you know it, you'll get trapped in research paralysis and nothing happens.

The only way to get over this is by taking a pragmatic approach toward customer journey mapping.

Work with the user research data that you have and strive to get more.

Yes, you're going to make assumptions about many aspects of the customer journey, but that's okay.

Assumption-based maps can even be a very effective way for you to understand where more user research needs to be done, enabling you to focus your resources on the things that matter most.

So again, take a pragmatic approach toward journey mapping and realize that you can create a map even if you've just got 30 minutes.

4. Don't go too wide or too narrow.

When people start journey mapping, one of the first questions that they ask is: Where should my journey map start and end?

If your journey map starts at the moment a customer starts interacting with your service, you've likely missed some quite important steps.

The truth is that the journey from the customer perspective probably starts much earlier than you think.

So, when defining the starting point of your journey map, consider when the need arises with your customer. When do they start to think about finding a solution for that need?

But you also don't want to go to the other extreme and start your journey map at the moment someone is born. That's probably a bit too broad.

Mapping moments in the customer journey before a customer interacts with your service is quite important. These moments give you crucial insights about the context and considerations in which a customer decides to engage with your service...or not.

The endpoint of your journey should be the moment in which, from the customer perspective, they have achieved their goal.

Again, it's open for debate how far you want to go as an organization or how much responsibility you want to take.

If you're an airline, you could say that the customer journey ends the moment a passenger arrives at the destination airport.

But you could also extend the journey and say that it ends when your passenger has enjoyed their holiday.

This doesn't mean that you have to do everything at the end of the journey. It just helps you think about opportunities for how you could positively influence the experience.

5. Don't be too detailed.

Let's think of a customer journey map as a movie script for a moment. When you set out to create the script, there are different detail levels on which you can do that.

Are you going to just state the main chapters in the script? Or, are you going to go down to the level of individual lines that the actors will say?

When we apply this analogy to a journey map, the question becomes: How detailed should your journey map be?

The simple answer is that your journey map needs to be detailed enough for you to achieve your goal.

Okay, but what does this mean in practice?

In most journey maps, you can distinguish four detail levels, from very high-level stages in the journey to an almost step-by-step flowchart.

When you are not quite sure yet how detailed your map needs to be, that’s usually a sign that detail level 2 is sufficient for now.

Using a level 2 journey map will enable you to identify the areas of the journey where you need to be more specific.

This way, you won't waste your time mapping parts of the journey that aren't relevant for the goal you're trying to achieve.

So, be pragmatic and only go deep in the map where you really need to.

6. Don't map touchpoints.

Map customer activities and situations instead. This might sound like a subtle difference, but it has major consequences.

A touchpoint is a moment in which a customer directly interacts with your organization.

These are things like when someone orders a coffee at the counter, looks for information on your website, or calls you with a question.

The problem is that when your customer journey is based on touchpoints, you're going to completely miss the customer’s perspective.

In this case, you're basically mapping your internal process and the channels through which you interact with customers. Although that can be very useful information, it's not what a customer journey map is about.

If you want to truly understand what your customer is going through, you'll need to base your journey map on customer activities and situations.

This way, you'll get insights into moments that are important to your customer but where they are not (yet) interacting with your organization.

For instance, what happens at the dinner table when someone is considering signing up for new health insurance? Or, how does your customer feel while waiting for order confirmation?

Understanding that these moments are there and that they influence the customer journey is key to creating a better overall experience.

Sure, it might feel easier to map touchpoints because you have the data. You know when customers interact with your organization. But don't give in to this temptation.

Always base your journey map on what your customer experiences.

7. Use a professional journey mapping tool.

To create your first customer journey map, a pen and paper are all the tools you need.

Which is great, as this makes it very easy for anyone to get started with the practice.

But as you progress and recognize that journey mapping is a key part of your job as a customer experience professional, you'll want to take advantage of more advanced tools.

Of course, you can get by with Excel, PowerPoint or InDesign. But why should you when there are true professional journey mapping tools out there?

These professional customer journey mapping tools help you work faster, deliver higher quality work, and be more consistent.

They allow you to spend more of your time on delivering a better customer experience rather than creating journey maps.

Which professional tools are right for you depends on your specific needs and situation. To help you make the right choice, I've reviewed Custellence and Smaply.

I promise you that once you try these tools, the only regret you'll have is that you didn't start using them sooner. 😉

What's next?

These tips will definitely get you a long way toward creating customer journey maps that don't suck.

But if you want to take your journey mapping skills to the next level, make sure to sign up for the Customer Journey Mapping Essentials Masterclass.