Customer Journey Mapping, while having been around for quite some time, has certainly seen an increase in interest in the last few years. There are many great articles and content on what they are and how to do them.

The purpose of the Customer Journey Map is to deeply understand what your customer is trying to achieve, how they go about reaching this goal, and how each interaction they have with your company impacts them.

From leading many experience mapping sessions with clients across a variety of industries – here are some things we have found particularly important to consider.

This isn’t just a document listed on a checklist or a project plan:

To generate value, the information included needs to be utilized throughout the business. It is a good idea to identify how you want to use your map, e.g. ensure everyone understands the customer and their role in the experience, or identify areas and responsibilities for various work efforts impacting the experience, or look to see where you need more customer input etc. While it might aid understanding, just creating a map will not garner any true value if it is not properly put to use and is just treated as a document that gets created and then checked off.

One great way we have seen the Customer Journey Map used is as a guide to check-pointing various experience initiatives. This way you can come to your experience metrics and look to see where the impact has occurred, enabling more informed decisions and spending on these initiatives to make sure you get your return on them. In other words, where is your biggest bang for the buck? Where should you invest your efforts to create the best overall experience?

Include all the necessary people:

We have seen companies task someone with creating the experience map, who will then share it with others and get feedback. Or, sometimes a certain group of leaders will get together and create it, then share it and ask for feedback on the “finished” item.

While getting feedback is good, a group discussion from the start can work much better. It is in the actual moments during creation that a lot of value can be unlocked, as various conversations and questions will arise, therefore it is important to have the right people there to provide this input. The power can also be found in the discussions that go on during a map’s formation and seen in the ideas generated, which can provide innovative thoughts that may never have come up otherwise.

Stakeholders that own various parts of the experience, be they Marketing, Support or Product etc., as well as people that are executing on the tactical efforts, e.g. a support agent or customer service rep on the floor, can provide invaluable input during the mapping session as well – each bringing their business savvy for how their area impacts the customer as well as deep insight into customer behavior.

Bringing these contributors together for creation not only joins them in an aligned vision. It enables them to truly understand their impact on the whole experience, as well as making them feel a level of ownership and responsibility for the efforts that go into trying to improve the experience that follow.

We find that facilitated work sessions work best, where the participants are identified to ensure representation and the map is not created in a vacuum.

Get input – don’t guess:

When companies or organizations are just starting to use tools of this nature, we have often seen participants make outright guesses at how customers feel or what they need or how they behave. This is something to be wary of; if your results are a complete guess then you may need to collect additional customer insights from system data, anecdotal stories from real customers or other observations. It is okay to be “spotty” on your map, get more information and then complete it. But it is important to be aware of how much is guesswork – don’t just make a guess or assumption and then make decisions based on that.

Before mapping sessions, we often spend some time doing due diligence and analysis – looking at what data we have (both system generated insights at various touchpoints in the data ecosystem and direct from the customer), the experience of the participants and where any potential gaps could be. Starting with what you already have is more efficient than just capturing data again. It may even allow you to see where you need to capture data to fill in any gaps you have before the sessions.

Customers do not care who owns what:

Your customers really do not care who in your company owns what part of the experience. When they interact with your company – be that with a product, service, process or person, it is all your company to them. We have seen customers differentiate as per their functional or organizational set up – but at the end of the day the customer really doesn’t care, as to them it is all just one brand.

This is why having the right participants is key – to provide a truly great total experience you will need a common alignment on what exactly that is, even if various organizations and people are responsible for the different parts. For example, if someone owns the phone and web chat support channels while someone else owns self-help, both these people will need to understand what the expected experience is for the company’s brand (as well as the support experience as a whole) and how their parts play a role within this when a customer is interacting with them, and how their parts interact with the other functions and channels within the business to deliver a commonly aligned experience.

Look at how the interactions occur on and between your channels:

Designing between actions and interactions is the key to providing a cohesive experience. Nowadays you need to ensure that you are designing an experience for each channel, taking into account the various nuances, but also designing the experience between them.

For example, customers could navigate between the web, an app and a store to research, then purchase something. Mapping is a great way to understand how all your channels play a role in various actions and phases for the customer.

Think through indirect impacts:

Sometimes we see companies fully focused on their own areas of control – be that their own product or parts of a process.

That said, it is often incredibly useful to look at the areas and parts that you do not control – even as far as something that another organization in the company may own, as well as those parts that are completely external but still affect the experience.

In this way, you can understand the impact of these indirect influences and see what you can deal with under your piece. Sometimes an indirect, external impact may need you to consider it within your part of the experience. For example, the Customer Experience Lead may not own the support experience, but the support experience plays a large role in the overall customer experience. Or, an airline company may not be able to control traffic or weather delays, but how they deal with the situation within their customer service will impact the customer experience.

Don’t forget the physical world:

Just because the digital world grew, it does not mean that the physical world went away. A huge trend we see lately is extreme focus on the digital experience.

Don’t get me wrong, the digital experience takes thought and purposeful readiness. However, we find that it is better to consider the experience as a whole – look at both digital and physical experiences and, most importantly, how they interact together. This could be, for example, how a physical store and an App play together to provide an experience. Or, in a workplace, how the digital elements brought into a space by employees affect the physical requirements of the space.

As the two collide more and more and the lines get blurrier and blurrier, it will be important to focus on designing the experience for the customer, then seeing how both digital and physical play a part in their journey together. So, while working on digital gives you a place to start and focus on (since experience as a whole can seem daunting), it is wise to understand how the physical world factors play a role, even if your target is the digital experience.

Understand the impact of emotions:

Emotions are at the core of experience because people strongly remember how an experience made them feel. We find it incredibly useful to consider the emotional journey while looking at the experience map. This enables the team to understand their customers through empathy and see how the various interaction points impact the customer’s emotional journey. Providing positive experiences begins with understanding what makes a person feel positive about your company, product and people. Through this you will build trust and belief in your brand.

It is a living document:

Sometimes people forget to keep using the map. They create it, then continue on with their defined efforts. With the rate of change today it is worthwhile continuing to use your map, add to it, edit it and adapt it to keep your understanding and insights current, so as to continue to reap value from the tool.

You do not need to map every route:

While it can seem daunting to map the experience, with all its channels and interactions, you should start by keeping your map simple; perhaps map it just for a particular scenario or situation. This will allow you to stay focused on the customer and their needs as well as keeping it easy to see and digest. The understanding obtained can be used across other scenarios and, of course, to dive deeper still or to explore an area further, you can do various maps for different situations and scenarios. We have found that by mapping a couple of scenarios, clients have identified patterns in experience which impact across their various channels.

Experience Ecosystems:

With CX still a differentiator for brands, it is imperative that companies understand how experience design can help their CX efforts. To this end, we find it helpful to focus on building experience ecosystems with our clients.

Experience ecosystems look at the people, artifacts, processes, interfaces and content involved in creating meaningful experiences for the audience. They look at direct line and indirect (behind the scenes) impacts on the experience, as well as how various elements affect the experience at different stages, and the emotional impact of these. We also look at a 3D view for 1) the customer and their process of interactions, 2) for a user (keeping in mind that sometimes customer and user can be one and the same) and 3) for delivery/support personnel and their interactions. We have found the key is to understand the moments that matter, the relationships between moments, and the key elemental metrics that enable you to act on the data and feedback gather.

Looking at this wider perspective allows a focus on the holistic experience, uncovering how different pieces all come together – an understanding that leads to a much better, more cohesive experience design effort.