Customer journey mapping, the process of visualizing a brand’s customer experience through the eye of the customer, has become a widely adopted methodology by companies who strive toward customer-centric operations. Customer journey maps provide a view of customer experience that may not come naturally from within the walls of a corporation, allowing marketers to more effectively address customer needs and solve for the objectives of the organization.

The benefits of a well-researched and well-designed customer journey map are numerous, most commonly used to:

  • Uncover opportunities for product differentiation
  • Identify friction in the customer experience
  • Ensure marketing tactics influence customers during their decision-making process

Yet companies can be led astray if the mapping exercise is not conducted effectively, producing maps that miss the mark in the attempt to uncover the customer experience.

There are three most common pitfalls when customer journey mapping:

  1. Selecting the wrong journey mapping framework
  2. Applying an organizational view vs. a customer perspective
  3. Assuming there is one common journey for all customers

Companies who avoid these common pitfalls are better positioned to deliver value to modern economy customers, and reduce any friction within the customer experience. Customer journey mapping must remain a foundational part of the strategy and development process, and if these pitfalls can be avoided, your brand will be well on its way.

Pitfall #1: Selecting the Wrong Journey Mapping Framework

The Problem
A foundational component of Customer Journey Mapping is the map itself-the framework developed to capture the outputs of the mapping process. The framework defines scope and orientation of the mapping exercise, and can encourage or limit certain types of insights from being explored. There are a multitude of Customer Journey Mapping frameworks—quantitative decision modeling to service blueprints—yet not all approaches are suitable for addressing a given business challenge. Or worse, some frameworks can be misleading.

The problem is that not all frameworks are created equal, and key considerations are not evaluated when assessing frameworks. For example, is it important to uncover and document competitor offerings and resulting influence on your own customers’ journey? How important is it to have deep channel experiences identified (online, in-store, etc.)? Is your customers’ lifecycle with your brand linear (subscription businesses), or is it more circular (retail)? These are key considerations when defining the boundaries of your journey mapping exercise, and can either help you chart an effective course or lead you astray.

The Solution
The key to selecting the right Customer Journey Mapping framework is to start with your end-goal. This means, begin the journey mapping process by:

  • Articulating the business decisions the Journey Map will be used to inform
  • Outlining key questions the company hopes to answer through the mapping process
  • Choosing a framework that fits the objective, and whose design (scope, boundaries, etc.) will capture required insights
  • Ensuring that all coordinates and points on the Journey Map contribute to the objective, and don’t distract from your end-goal

Pitfall #2: Applying an Organizational View vs. a Customer Perspective

The Problem
Effective Customer Journey Maps are built upon research and analysis undertaken from the customer’s perspective. However, companies often fall in the trap of approaching the customer journey from the perspective of institutional touch points (retail store experiences, websites, customer service calls, etc.) rather than looking at customers’ holistic experiences with the brand directly from the customer lens. This is a common and easy trap, as departmental teams are internally organized around corporate functions that own a piece (but not the whole) of the customer experience. This is a problem because people tend to orient toward what they know deeply, producing an “inside-out” bias that fails to achieve the goal of a customer-centric view of the journey.

A customer journey begins long before customers actually interact directly with a company, and their journey involves decisions and emotions that go beyond an experience or touch point with a company. Not incorporating these insights devalues what a Customer Journey Map can provide in net new organizational perspectives and appreciation for customer needs.

The Solution
To avoid the potential pitfall of confining the map to an “inside-out” view, an effective journey mapping exercise will incorporate deep customer insights through primary research and/or analytics. These robust consumer insights should be used to:

  • Uncover the human-journey life events, life stages, social dynamics, etc.
  • Capture customers’ motivations, needs, and goals before, during, and after they interact with the product or service
  • Analyze influences surrounding the customer, including those outside the brand’s control
  • Represent customers’ perceptual journeys as effectively as their behavioral journeys

Pitfall #3: Assuming a Common Journey

The Problem

Any marketer worth their salt understands that there is always diversity within a customer base, and that understanding and serving the diverse customer is a strategic imperative for the brand. Yet marketers still fall into the trap of assuming the customer journey itself is not diverse, and that customers follow a common path. Often, this error follows from a marketing department’s assumption that they know their customers very well, and that they have no “blind spots” regarding the customer journey.  Yet other times, the error stems from a simple lack of appreciation for the nuances of the journey’s twists and turns. Regardless of the root cause, assuming a common journey can be the downfall of a journey mapping effort, as it fails to generate a perspective that is an accurate depiction of the customer experience. Each customer will move through the journey in their own way, and the challenge for marketers is to determine the minimum viable number of journeys that are required to sufficiently represent the varied journeys that take place.

The Solution
An effective journey map that solves for diverse journeys within the base will:

  • Identify representative journeys for specific sets of target customers (aligned in behavior, motivations, attitude and product use)
  • Show general patterns in the decision-making and purchase paths
  • Illustrate key forks in the road, detours, road blocks, etc. that effect different groups of customers in different ways
  • Find the balance between developing numerous, segmented views that are representative of diverse customer journeys, while not over complicating the process and making the output less actionable

Not all Maps are Created Equal

As the examples above illustrate, many maps fail to reveal the full terrain surrounding customers as they navigate their decision-making and purchase journeys, thus leaving too many questions unanswered. By avoiding the pitfalls laid out in this article, your map will be a strong tool for representing your customers’ experiences, and ultimately for driving organizational strategy.

For a deep-dive on how to improve the customer experience through customer journey mapping, download Customer Journey Mapping: 5 Steps to Improving Customer Loyalty in an Omnichannel Environment.

Originally published on and re-printed with permission.