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Human insights: The key to a richer customer journey map

Ki Arnould  |  December 19, 2017

When it comes to building a Customer Experience (CX) strategy, one of the most foundational elements is undoubtedly the customer journey map. Building a customer journey map is an amazing exercise to help your team:

  1. Break down the phases of customer engagement
  2. Spot your customers’ pain points and empathize with them
  3. Determine together, as a company, what can and should be done to minimize any bumps in the customer’s journey

I recently went through an enlightening exercise at a customer journey mapping workshop hosted by Macquarium here in Atlanta. A small group of us pretended to work for Uptown Critter Wranglers, a fictitious pest control company, and we mapped out the journey of a professional mother of two who glimpsed a rat skittering under her oven. About halfway through mapping out her journey, we had a “wrench” thrown at us: what she thought was a rat was actually an opossum, and the technician wasn’t equipped to handle the situation. I appreciated the wrench because I definitely noticed our team veering toward the “best case scenario” as we mapped out the customer journey. It was important to bring us back to reality. But as a longtime researcher, I also thought: why am I creating a journey based on a half-page persona and my own biases? Shouldn’t I just talk to a real customer and map that experience instead? For example, if you work for an auto manufacturer, you can screen for folks who bought a new car in the last few months and have them just talk about the experience. What did they research online? What brands did they favor and why? What dealerships did the visit? What was the ultimate deciding factors in their purchase? It’s very likely that even non-digital touchpoints impacted their journey, like the friendliness of the sales agent at a dealership or the way that an advertisement grated on their nerves. Your customer journey map can and should account for all of these touchpoints, and team members across the organization—in product, marketing, and sales ops—should have a hand in optimizing future customers’ experience. This got me thinking about how gathering human insights can help inform a richer, more representative persona for journey mapping.

When to include customer insights for your journey mapping

So when, exactly, should you get input from customers to inform your journey maps? We recommend early and often, but here are a few examples to get you started:

Before journey mapping

Is your company trying this out for the first time? Or refreshing an older model? Kick things off with a tasty meal and a viewing party of a real person explaining their journey (either a recording or by observing a live customer interview). Then dive right into mapping out the story the customer just described. Empathy will be high and the impulse to create a “best case scenario” will be low.

During journey mapping

Some companies include customers in the actual process of mapping the journey—literally giving them a seat at the table. This can be risky if your team is new to the process, so tread carefully. But it’s a great benefit to turn and ask questions like, “Hey, are we on the right track here? Was this issue really so severe?” This is when one-on-one live interviews can be especially beneficial.

After journey mapping

If it’s impractical to include customers in the actual mapping process, it still doesn’t hurt to show customers the end result and get a gut-check on it. This is easier to accomplish through remote studies with a platform like UserTesting and may reveal interesting insights into how different personas interact with your brand. It’s also important to keep journey maps from getting stale. Every quarter or so, run your basic journey map past a few customers. Do they bring up any seasonal changes? Any current events that affect brand perception like an industry scandal or shutdown that made headlines?

Human insights = a more human journey map

No matter how you go about building your customer journey map, it’s important to include real human stories in the process. While there are customer satisfaction scores, analytics, and other quantitative data that’s handy and can help inform your process, there’s nothing like a real customer’s story to bring your customer journey to life for your team. Learning about when a “wrench” gets thrown into the customer’s way will help the team empathize more closely with the customer and come together about how to create great experiences—not just as a team, but as a company.

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About the author:

Ki is a CX and user research enthusiast, low-carb queen, minimalist, media nerd, and happy hour maven