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5 Steps To Plan A Successful Customer Journey Mapping

One common frustration about the process of customer journey mapping is the lack of know-how and steps you need to take for creation. What are the key steps of journey mapping, and in what order should they be completed?

Effective customer journey mapping follows five key steps:1. Aspiration and allies: Building a core team and defining the scope of the mapping initiative2. Internal investigation: Gathering existing customer data and research that exists throughout the organization 3. Assumption formulation: Formulating a hypothesis of the current state of the journey and planning additional customer research4. External research: Collecting new user data to validate (or invalidate) the proposed journey map 5. Narrative visualization: Combining existing insights and new research to create a visual narrative that depicts the customer journey in a sound way

Step 1: Aspiration and Allies

The first phase in a customer journey process starts well before any research or visualization has taken place. This step is easily the most critical, because, no matter how many insights a map reveals, a journey-mapping engagement without focus or buy-in will not be effective in optimizing experience.

A. Establish a team of allies

Throughout a journey-mapping endeavor, you must bring stakeholders and employees along. Without a doubt, journey mapping will reveal gaps and opportunities within the user experience that, organizationally, are beyond the authority of the UX professional driving the mapping project. You must have buy-in and engagement from your team, so that, when those issues and opportunities surface, stakeholders and employees are already convinced of the soundness of your method and apt to understand the importance of resolving the problems it found. Creating a team of allies is easier than you might think. Before you begin mapping, identify team members from multiple departments whose knowledge will be helpful along the way, and whose help you may need once execution begins. You’ll need to explain the value of journey mapping and what you hope to accomplish, and ask these team members to be sponsors for the project in their respective departments (e.g., marketing, R&D, business analytics, or other relevant areas). Acquiring allies may be a quick process or take a long time, depending on your situation: If you are working on a small project, it could simply be a 30-minute conversation with your team; conversely, it may be a long process if you work with a B2B client or engage in an enterprise-wide journey-mapping initiative.

B. Determine the scope

A scope, or point of view, for the map must also be established before the mapping begins. To create focus and clarity for the map, make sure you can answer these questions: “Whose experience will I map? What experience, or journey, will I depict?” Make sure that you and your core team (your allies) share a mutual understanding about the answers to those questions. Typically, the “who” is a critical item to pay attention to, and the “what” is a prioritized decision that has impact on ROI or long-term customer retention and relationships.

Step 2: Internal Investigation

Once your core team is established and your scope is determined, begin researching within your own organization. What does your company already know about the customer or user? Most organizations have bits and pieces of data spread throughout teams; this data can be useful when pieced together to create a defined understanding of the current state of the journey.

A. Send out a search party

You don’t have to conduct this entire search on your own. Put your core team of allies to work. Together, generate a list of questions that you would like to answer, then send your allies back to their respective teams or departments to search for any available documentation or data that can help begin to answer those questions. Good places to start include:Market-research surveysBrand auditsCall-center or customer-support logsSite surveys or VOC (voice of customer) feedbackOutputs from client advisory board (CAB) meetings

B. Perform stakeholder and employee interviews

With these first clues in hand, interview your stakeholders and employees to get additional insights. Use the internal data you have found to shape the interviews. For example: Did the market-research survey reveal that there is lack of trust? Maybe the front-end sales team has insight into why. Put together role-specific interview guides that can bring clarity to your findings. A typical list of roles to interview might be:Sales-team members, Marketing-team members, Management, Support-team members (e.g., technical-support representatives), R&D team members or product owners.Spread your research across typical organization silos, such as products, channels, or geographic regions. If you are short on time, conduct focus groups composed of 3–4 internal employees in similar positions.

Step 3: Assumption Formulation

By the time you finish phase 2, you will most likely have gathered enough insight to formulate a tentative hypothesis about how certain pieces of the customer journey look, and what pain points exist. Start laying out that hypothesis in a draft framework, called an assumption map or a hypothesis map.

A. Synthesize the internal research

First, bring the internal research together into a coherent story. Share insights with your core team, as well as with any other stakeholders who need to be involved. Conduct small research share-outs or informal lunch sessions.

B. Create a hypothesis map as a team

Once your team has a shared understanding of the insights gathered so far, bring them together for a collective mapping activity. It’s useful to hold a short meeting to map out the draft framework (or hypothesis map). You can even invite customers to this meeting so that their input shapes the early draft. Just remember: This is a draft, and it needs to be validated against external research.

Step 4: External Research

When the draft map is complete using data and insights from your internal investigation, the next step is to validate it with customer research to fill in gaps.

A. Use the hypothesis map to shape your user research

The hypothesis map will most likely reveal large gaps within the customer journey that you are unable to visualize because there is no existing data. These areas are critical to explore in customer research, so that, at the end of the process, there are no holes in understanding. Additionally, you’ll need to validate (or invalidate) the hypothesis map.

B. Use qualitative research methods to validate and fill in gaps

Choose research methods that put you in direct line of observation with your customers or users. Use a multiple approaches —select and combine multiple methods in order to reveal insights from different angles. Depending on the context of your project, some relevant methods for journey-mapping research include:Customer interviews, Direct observation, Contextual inquiry, or Diary studiesIf your budget or timeline is limited, a small sample size (6–8 research participants) is enough to get started. Remember to continue to involve your core team of stakeholders along the way by sharing research findings, so that they are not shell-shocked if something changes within the draft journey map that they have helped build.

Step 5: Narrative Visualization

The map itself is simply a tool that will help you share your research findings in an engaging way with others. At this point, you need to create a visual narrative that will communicate the journey and all the critical moments, pain points, and high points within it. A good method is to have another meeting with your core team. Having built context and common ground throughout your research process, bring them back together and evolve the hypothesis map based on your primary research findings. From here, you can determine what to do next. If you have a small, engaged team, this collectively produced (probably unpolished, sticky-note, or virtual-whiteboard) version might be enough to move forward. If you are working with a client, or need to share your insights out in a formal way, you might need to create a polished visual.


Following these five high-level steps will ensure that you produce an output based in user research, that you make use of available data, and that, most importantly, at the end of your mapping initiative, you have a team of allies that are engaged and ready to act on the insights revealed during the process.Learn more about creating successful customer journey maps in our full-day course at Houze Of PoP.


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