Mapping The Journey

Journey mapping — formerly known as customer experience mapping — is one of the most fascinating and dizzying things you’ll ever attempt at a company.  You are focusing on one individual’s map, which can be representative across the board — versus every possible version of the experience for all customers.   

In my agency days, mapping the digital journey was so important for site heuristics, defining what interactions provided the push-pull dynamics needed to increase traffic and optimal funnel designs. It’s far more complicated today, with morphing channels and changes in generational uses. I did find that it was one of the most useful activities to help answer some hard questions that metrics and channel-specific views simply can’t.

Make no mistake, journey mapping is not easy. Let’s use buying soda from a vending machine as an example. Pretty simple process in theory, right?   But even the simplest of processes can get complex when things break down. How many branches will the map have if you don’t get a soda when you put in your money, or you get the wrong drink or pushed the wrong button, or the coin exchanger didn’t calculate right?



Let’s focus on why we’d even consider mapping this type of experience in the first place — or any experience, for that matter. In complex or even simpler organizations, these maps helps you:

-- Isolate the most “impactful” moments in the experience, forcing you to decide what is most important.

-- Focus on parts of the journey, versus all of the journey.  

-- Force you to make decisions on priorities, and the importance of different interactions in the journey

-- It is the visual story that helps connect channels with a common goal in mind.

While there are literally hundreds of articles on how to build these maps, here are a few points I consider core to the process:

Differentiate touchpoint intensity.  Think about a car-buying journey.   The test drive and the sales sit-down are important touchpoints, where sales are made and opinions are formed.   While the cleanliness of the parking lot and the process when the car is handed over are important, you have to define the intensity of these interactions. I don’t think any of us would disagree that these experiences likely make more impact than other experiences.

Focus on function, not form.  If you Google the term “journey maps,” you’ll see many variations in how they’re visualized — and no one is right or wrong.  Focus solely on the interactions, not how the map should look initially.

Focus on the questions you want answered first.  The goal of the exercise is not to know everything, it is to help you, at a point in time, answer some hard questions like: How can I make this quicker and easier? Can I remove parts of the process to make it easier?  Can I solve more issues in real time?

This is a tough exercise, but a useful one to do at critical points during the year, and then watch it evolve quarter-to-quarter, year-to-year.   This can be a simple exercise, a unifying exercise and a financial exercise depending on the end goal in mind.  Give it a shot, even if it ends up just being Post-It Notes on the wall in your office.

“Everyone has photographic memory — just not everyone has film.” (Unknown)

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