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5 questions to ask before you create a customer journey map

Katherine Barrow


Sprint Zero

5 questions to ask before you create a customer journey map

Are you considering creating a customer journey map for your business? If so, you’re not alone. The fact is that we’re living in a time of unprecedented innovation and change. With every new business model or ground-breaking digital product, customer expectations are rising and with them, the need for customer-centric strategies.

Enter the customer journey map. A long-standing weapon of the design thinking movement, journey maps have enjoyed a dramatic rise to popularity over the last 5 years. Seemingly overnight they have become the solution to all of your customer experience woes, or so it would seem. The truth is that they are incredibly valuable when applied with the correct mindset, to the correct problem, but they aren’t a silver bullet.

To ensure that you’re using journey maps for the right reasons and that you’re unlocking their full potential, ask yourself these five questions before you get started.

1. What outcome are you working towards?

Creating a useful and comprehensive journey map can take significant time and resource, so it’s important to understand why you are doing it.

Are you are the start of a new project, and looking to build a shared understanding of the user journey? Are you a CX team looking for a way to visualise and understand your customer experience before creating a CX strategy? Or are you part of an innovation team that’s looking for opportunities to create a new product?

Ask yourself what you want by the end of the customer journey mapping process. If your answer is “a customer journey map” then chances are you’re not doing this for the right reason. Remember, a journey map is not inherently valuable by itself. Instead, the value lies in the insights, opportunities and learnings uncovered. So what are you hoping to learn?

2. Is customer journey mapping the right tool?

Once you understand the outcome you’re looking for, the next question is whether journey mapping will achieve that outcome.

Customer journey maps create value in a variety of ways, including:

  • They provide a digestible, high-level view of your end-to-end customer journey. This is a valuable tool for communicating the journey to stakeholders, and putting it at the centre of your business.
  • They help identify pain points and areas for improvement in your customer journey, allowing you to refine and optimise your customer experience over time.
  • They help identify opportunities for innovation through new value creation, business model innovation or service design.
  • The process of creating a journey map creates alignment within your team, providing a shared understanding and point of reference for discussions around the customer experience.
  • Journey maps provide an important benchmark against which to measure changes in the customer journey. How does a new service or innovative product affect the customer’s journey? How are their expectations changing over time? Journey maps help visualise this.

If the outcome you’re looking for is on that list, then journey mapping is probably the right tool for you! If not, it may be worth looking at alternatives.

If you need to brainstorm ideas and validate them, consider a design sprint. If you need to identify assumptions related to a new idea or product, do a Lean UX Canvas. If you want to build a deeper understanding of who your customers are and what they value, look in to doing customer research and creating personas. Or, if you want to understand your full service processes and how to optimise them, consider doing a service blueprint.

3. What is the scope of your journey map?

The question I am asked most often, when it comes to customer journey mapping, is “which journey should we map?” Depending on the nature of your business, you may have a large number of journeys, covering a large number of channels, touch points and user segments. It’s important to be clear on the scope of your journey from the beginning, in order to create a clear, focussed map.

The answer lies in your response to Question 1 — why are you doing a journey map in the first place? The questions you want answered, and the outcomes you want achieved, will affect the scope of your map — if you want to create a CX strategy for an entire business, you’ll have to map a far wider reaching journey than is necessary for a website redesign for example.

4. How do you intend to use your journey map once it’s created?

This is one of the most important questions. If you don’t have an intended use for the journey map, or a plan on how to use the insights you gather, then you are not ready to start. A journey map is only a single tool that exists within a wider customer-centric workflow. In order to gather the most value possible from creating a journey map, be sure to have clear next steps in place for identifying, prioritising and actioning insights. Don’t leave it until after you’ve created your map to figure out what to do next. Having next steps in place sets clear expectations for everyone involved, ensures that you don’t lose momentum, and sets you up to achieve results.

Typical next steps after a customer journey map has been created include:

  • Prioritise the opportunities that are likely to have the greatest impact on the customer experience, and drive the most business value.
  • Conduct ideation activities to gather solution ideas which address those opportunities
  • Validate ideas by prototyping and testing with your customers.

It’s important to communicate these next steps clearly to stakeholders before you start your journey mapping exercise, and ensure that you have buy-in and resources available to make them happen.

5. Have you spoken to your customers?

Lastly, but extremely importantly, you need to gather actual customer insights. A customer journey map is ultimately a research synthesis tool. In other words, it’s a way of making sense of complex customer research and insight. For this reason, they should always be created based on actual customer insight, rather than assumptions, opinions and third-hand insights. Customer insights can be gathered from a range of sources including:

  • Customer interviews
  • Feedback surveys
  • Call centre / support tickets
  • Online reviews
  • Analytics and BI data

A journey map that does not have customer research at its heart is a red herring. If created in a vacuum, your journey map will simply confirm pre-existing opinions, reinforce generalisations and misconceptions about your customer, and provide very little value.

A customer journey map is an incredibly useful tool for providing perspective and helping to focus your customer experience strategy. Having a clear answer to each of these five questions will set you up for success and ensure that your customer journey map delivers value both immediately, and in the long term.

Katherine Barrow
Chief Strategy Officer - Pixel Fusion
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