The Major Flaws of Customer Journey Mapping

Customer journey mapping is a popular exercise that many marketing executives consider an essential tool for understanding customer buying behavior. In the era of the “enlightened customer” how relevant are theses maps in understanding and building a customer centric organization? In this two part series on journey mapping, I’ll look at the 7 basic flaws and then provide 6 tips to make them more relevant.

Why customer journey maps make me cringe

Often when organizations or people talk about customer journey maps, I cringe. My reaction isn’t a fundamental dislike for journey maps, but instead is caused by the common use of a problematic approach in trying to “map” the journey, and outputs that consistently miss the mark. Customer journey mapping emerged as companies tried to become more customer centric, and at least in concept, could prove extremely valuable. The problem I think, is in the way that the maps are developed and used in many companies. The customer journey map should be an underpinning for a complete customer experience (CX) strategy, but unfortunately there are enough issues with most of the ones I’ve seen lately that I just don’t think they are effective for most companies.

What’s wrong with customer journey mapping exercises and outputs?

There are some basic flaws in the base assumptions, process and outputs that need to be addressed. Here are a few of the issues:

1. Information

The Internet and it’s broad availability has created new information channels, including social networks of trusted people that can serve as information sources. In the early days of the Internet, companies provided a web site that contained what the company wanted the prospect to know about their products and brand. That was fine as long as the prospects went there (or to ads, TV commercials, or sales people) for information and advice. Once new sources became available people trusted them over company provided information (in many cases anyway). The company can participate in providing content but it must do so in a way that builds and respects a trust relationship. Because of the availability of information, content and the connections to trusted advisors outside the control of the company, the entire sales model is in flux.

2. Limited view

The role of marketing is changing. The traditional outbound view / approach is outdated and way too limiting in a connected business environment. Outbound does not create conversations with customers, it does not build relationships, and it is only half of a marketing strategy at best. Inbound marketing, or tools like social media monitoring and response, community platforms, blogs, public social networks, etc., are all playing an increasingly important role in a complete marketing strategy. The outbound only view is about shouting until a prospect notices you (if they don’t just ignore you) and inbound is about providing valuable content that draws attention and provides useful information.

3. Projecting

Projecting is a psychological term that describes the phenomenon of mistaking your own personal view as that of someone else. In this context, it’s about employees assuming that customers want the same things that they do, that their needs and preferences are aligned. In general this is not often true and in customer interactions, it’s likely to be misaligned.

4. Identification

Identifying your customers, this sounds simple but is it? Does everyone across the company know how to identify the target customers for each product line?  The answer is three part, 1. data, data, data, 2. analysis, and 3. education and training.

5. Organizational Silos

There’s a lot of talk about collaboration, particularly employee collaboration, but unfortunately many companies have not been successful (yet) at breaking down organizational silos. Interdepartmental competition persist, while self interest and incorrect incentives discourage collaboration. To build a CX strategy and a customer journey map, you need to work across the entire company to gain the complete view of customer interactions. If the company is still locked in its organizational silos the effort is likely to fail. Politics is a part of this issue as well, egos, the unwillingness to share or cooperate, perceived loss of control or power…all of these are barriers to successfully mapping touch points and processes.

6. Ownership

Who “owns” the customer, or at least who owns the CX strategy? This isn’t that easy to answer in most companies; marketing, sales, and customer service all feel ownership. Now that may not be a bad thing if the departments work together and focus on understanding the view from outside in. In some unfortunate circumstances though, the competitive nature between the departments leads to friction and even out and out war. In these situations the customer loses in the short term, but the company loses in the long term.

7. Journey

Is the customer’s set of interactions with your company a journey? Really? Maybe in the strictest sense, there is some starting point (chosen by the customer by the way) and there are some (or many) possible end points but the path from start to “finish” is not straight nor is it one that the company controls. Because of new information channels and the empowered, self educating customer, the customer rarely interacts with a company in a rigid, predefined way. Adaptability and flexibility of process is the key, and honestly, in the past processes were designed with the opposite trait in mind, we built rigid systems and the system maps reflected that. We spent our time defining interactions (by our definition, not the customers) versus defining opportunities to interact.

Look for part two of the series, where I’ll explore six tips for making the customer journey mapping exercise more effective and relevant to today’s marketing needs.