3 Superpowers of the Journey Map

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When I first started using the journey map in 2006 (even though it wasn’t called that at the time), I immediately felt its power in all its simplicity. Now, 17 years later, I still believe it is the central tool for organizational transformation.

The problem? I see many organizations that, due to the hype surrounding journey mapping, sometimes don’t (or no longer) know where its real power lies. They drown in too much data, wrong data, complex internal systems and processes, and/or months of qualitative journey research resulting in a thick report that ends up in a drawer.

Despite these challenges, I am still a fan of the power of the journey map, both for customers and employees. That’s why in this blog, I outline the 3 ‘superpowers’ of journey maps.

Looking for the Dutch version of this blog? Check out the blog on MarketingFacts!

1. Simplicity

In my opinion, simplicity is the greatest strength of the journey map. Most organizations are complex webs of internal processes and systems, with departments working in silos, so it’s easy to get lost in that complexity (which often happens).

The good news? In all the years I’ve been working with journey maps, I have never seen an overly complex journey map. From the perspective of the customer or employee, it is always very clear and straightforward: I receive the invoice, I pay the invoice (no matter how many internal process steps are required). So, take advantage of that simplicity to look at your own organization from the perspective of the customer or employee.

An example:

At an insurance company, the top complaint for years was that cancelling a life insurance policy took too long. The responsible director didn’t worry much about it because what are 100 complaints out of 100,000 customers? The cancellation process involved 8 departments, each with its own service level agreement (SLA) for processing time. All the SLAs were being met, so where was the problem?

In less than 1 hour (!) – yes, journey mapping can be done very quickly too – we went around these departments and discovered that the total processing time was 38 working days (almost 8 weeks). This wouldn’t have been a problem if the customer was aware of it. However, the website and customer service indicated that it would be resolved within 10 working days.

We summarized this journey map on 1 slide, including the processing times, and shared it with the director in question. This was new to him because they focus on KPIs and SLAs per department, like many other companies. It provided valuable insight that not only eliminated resistance but also made the added value clear because it became apparent at once where the improvement actions could be made.

Journey workshop tip:

When we conduct a journey workshop, we map a journey in 2.5 to 3 hours. There are no customers present, only employees. We ask ‘stupid’ questions about the exact steps the customers go through, when they notice something from the organization. What inevitably happens is that numerous exceptions are mentioned, and you end up drowning in that spaghetti again.

The best tip to prevent this: use the 80-20 rule. As soon as someone says “sometimes” or “what also occasionally happens,” you say, “Hang on, does this happen to 20% or 80% of the customers?” If it’s 20%, it’s out of scope. Many people have said after that workshop, “I’m going to use the 80-20 rule more often!”

Note: Sometimes, you may want to zoom in on that 5% or 10% where things go terribly wrong, which is perfectly fine. But then you make sure to specifically conduct a journey workshop for this group to understand why it goes wrong there

2. Objectivity

The second superpower is objectivity. The journey map describes the perspective from the customer or employee point of view, and that perspective is always true. This means that you can easily refute many personal biases or pet projects because it’s no longer about the interests of a specific department or individual, but rather about the overall experience of the customer or employee.

An example:

At a social service organization, a director was convinced that it was very inconvenient for customers to provide all the necessary documents to prove their eligibility for welfare benefits. Several policy documents had already been created with ideas on how to redesign this process to improve the customer experience while still ensuring proper eligibility. So, we mapped the journey of applying for welfare benefits and conducted a driver* analysis questionnaire. Guess what… the section in the journey about providing documents had NO impact on customer satisfaction. The journey and its corresponding drivers are valuable tools to debunk many assumptions. The result? You focus your energy on things that have the most impact on the customer or employee, leading to visible results, instead of working hard on topics that are less relevant or yield no measurable results.

* Want to be sure that your driver technique is actually a valid one? Check out this video where I explain the most common mistakes with journey mapping and finding the drivers.

Journey workshop tip:

Do you recognize this situation? You’ve mapped the journey(s) and started brainstorming valuable improvement actions. You have a list of 20 ideas, but then implementation stalls. Everyone is super busy, so how do you determine which of the 20 ideas are the best? Which ones will have the most impact?

When redesigning your journey, use the drivers you extracted from your customer or employee research as design principles, and assess the new ideas afterward to see how much they contribute to those drivers. This way, you avoid personal biases and ensure that you focus on improvement actions that have the most impact on the experience of customers and employees.

3. Connection

The third superpower of the journey map is creating connection. We have already touched upon silos and different departments within organizations. Despite good intentions, it often proves difficult to transcend those silos due to conflicting KPIs, different priorities, and so on. You could start thinking about changing the organizational structure, finding a different way of organizing, such as focusing on customer processes instead of departments. Organizations often attempt this every few years, only to end up with a matrix structure that still doesn’t work well.

Again, collaborating to improve the journey is a wonderful, simple, and impactful tool. Don’t spend too much time on different structures; simply choose one journey, gather a group of people from all relevant departments to work on that journey. Select a maximum of 3 external metrics (e.g., satisfaction and the two most important drivers) and a maximum of 3 internal metrics (e.g., application processing time, number of errors, etc.), and meet monthly to discuss the progress of the improvement actions on the journey.

This way, you learn and experiment along the way instead of engaging in lengthy, often theoretical discussions on how to reorganize the entire organization. If you do this for every journey until all journeys are covered, you will organically transform your entire organization to be more customer- and human-centric, and you will continuously be in control of optimizing the experience.

An example:

During an employee journey workshop where we were mapping the job application journey, one of the participants was explaining how the process unfolds. “After we’ve had the final interview and decided to proceed with signing the contract, the system automatically sends an email with documents to the new employee.” Then another participant in the group says, “Um, well, that automatic email… that’s actually me!”

Similarly, many people in the workshop don’t know the content of those (actually automated) emails sent to customers, such as confirmation emails. The simple solution? Make sure that as a journey team, you have all the automated emails that are sent to customers forwarded to yourselves at least once per quarter. In every workshop where we’ve done this, there are emails that come up and everyone thinks, “Ouch, are we really sending out those emails?”

Journey workshop tip:

Collaborating on a journey starts with mapping that same journey. In a journey workshop, ensure that all departments are represented. And yes, when I say all, I mean ALL. Too often, I see mainly marketing departments and front-office departments getting involved. But I also need that back-office, billing department, and perhaps even the IT department. And make sure that it’s people from the operations, employees, not managers. You see, you need the daily operational details and workflows, which managers usually aren’t familiar enough with.

The workshop itself is already a wonderful first intervention on the path to transformation because often people don’t know each other’s roles in that journey or even how the journey unfolds. There’s always a lot of energy in such a workshop. In short, the journey map is an extremely valuable, simple, yet powerful tool to vividly demonstrate and experience the customer and employee journey within your organization in a very concrete way, highlighting areas where improvements can be made.

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