To ‘map’ or not to ‘map’ the customer journey…

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Customer journey mapping has become a core element of the customer experience field.

Yet… there is still a huge challenge to truly add value for the organisation with journey mapping.

The last few weeks I notice a common theme in my keynotes and the conversations I have about customer experience.

And that’s the struggle I see and feel with customer journey mapping.

Hence this blog to share my perspective on the sense and nonsense of journey mapping.

By the way, all I’m going to write is identically applicable for the employee journeys!

Let’s start with the most important question: why should I even bother to map a journey?


As a regular reader of my blogs, you know that I don’t simply follow the hypes.

Even more so, I tend to de-hype them as soon as possible 😉

Although journey mapping still is considered a hype sometimes, there is definitely a lot of value in it, as long as you apply it correctly.

To me, these are the main advantages of journey mapping, advantages that I can not find as fast and impactful with other techniques:

  1. Awareness what it concretely means to think from the customer’s perspective.
  2. Realisation that departments have no idea who does what in the journeys.
  3. Gets you out of the complex internal thinking in departments, processes, instructions, etc.
  4. It’s much easier to place yourself in the shoes of the customer and their emotions.
  5. It’s the perfect structure to plot all your customer insights for data-driven prioritization.

An amazing example from an employee journey mapping workshop to illustrate point 2:

Colleague 1: “After I talk to the new employee, I enter all the info in the system and an email is automatically sent to the employee.”

Colleague 2: “Well uhm, that ‘automatic’ that is me!”

Colleague 1: “Oh really? So sorry, I had no idea.” (very apologetic, said sorry about 3 times to the colleague during the workshop 😉


This is where the most struggles are found, or rephrased the most potential to accelerate.

What are we actually talking about when we say “a customer journey map”?

In 2016 I wrote this blog “There is not ‘ONE’ customer journey”, which is still relevant.

I describe 5 types of journeys who all fall under the label ‘customer journey mapping’.

Below you find one overview of the different types of journeys and the sense and nonsense of each type.

So the first tip: make sure you are speaking the same language, that you know what you actually mean with customer journey mapping.

And second tip: discuss what you want to achieve, because that will define the relevant journey type.


In the how is the search for true added value, measurable impact to get the organisation moving and actually do something with the insights.

Does this sound familiar?

“We have mapped the journeys…

… but we are stuck with the next step.”

… but hardly anything had been done with the list of 20 improvements.”

… but we are not able to get the organisation moving.”

I select again a few assumptions that I like to counter or at least put in perspective.

“We need to talk to customers to map the journey.”

Many organisations plan workshops with customers of visit customers when they start their journey mapping project.

What’s lacking here, is the realization that even customers do not know their latent needs.

Let alone that customers can easily point out what really matters to them in their journey.

People are not rational beings with rational behaviors, while with these interviews, you are getting all rational answers to your questions.

Running the very real risk of improving the wrong things, which explains why so many journey mapping and customer experience projects fail to deliver the expected results.

Unless you are a very, very, very experienced service design expert (because it requires a lot of skill to find latent needs in qualitative research), I would not advice you to involve customers in mapping your journey.

You do involve customers when you send them your survey based on outcomes of the journey map.

“Qualitative insights are more valuable than quantitative insights.”

I often see that these two steps are implemented in the wrong order.

Qualitative research is definitely valuable, but not to find what is the most important for the customers (and thus not for prioritization).

For prioritization you use smart statistics with the survey data to find the true, latent drivers.

Qualitative research can be valuable to deepdive in to the drivers you have found, to understand what they mean to customers.

Let’s assume that your mean latent need is “Organisation X understands my situation”.

You could ask customer for specific examples when your organisation did or do not make them feel like you understood their situation.

But here again, I would not advice you to take this step, until you have brainstormed with your employees how they think this driver can be improved.

Trust me, 9 out of 10 times they have a list full of useful ideas and you don’t need to lose a lot of time on more analyses, you can just start DOING.


Because also 9 out of 10 times, the most important drivers are on the human side of the experience.

It’s not rocket science to discuss together how to give more personal attention or how to better understand their situation.

You just need to make sure, that these are the drivers that matter most to your customer in that specific journey.

“Journey mapping takes several weeks or months.”

The journey workshops I normally run (and you can run as well) take maximum 1 day (if we do several detailed journeys at once) or in a session of 2.5 hours.

I’ve been validating and finetuning this approach for over a decade across many sectors and even countries and every time the methodology proves itself

How can I be so sure?

Because each journey workshop leads to building a survey that is being sent to customers who have recently experienced that journey.

And the smart statistics that are then applied to find those true, latent drivers, always validate whether we have done a good job in our workshop in the eyes of the customer (and no, these are not correlations but cause and effect analyses!).

So it’s not something we think or feel, but it is validated through hard objective data that we collect for each journey, each organisation, each sector, each country.

By combining this journey mapping technique with finding the true, latent drivers, each department in your organisation says: “hey, but that’s something I want as well!” and there’s your pull strategy.

To summarize, these are the steps to take when creating journey mapping with impact.

  1. Organize a journey workshop to find the detailed journey(s).
  2. Make sure you have at least 1 employee for each involved department in the workshop.
  3. Go through the journey (transactional) and end with your brand experience (emotional).
  4. Translate the journey to a survey and send it to customers (recent experience).
  5. Use smart statistics to find the true, latent (!) drivers.


Oh, one more thing about customer journey mapping tooling

I also notice more and more customer journey mapping tools are entering the market and that many organisations are interested in such tools.

Here also make sure you know what you want to achieve with it.

Do you want all your (digital) productowners to have access to the journeys and data to design the right new features?

Then yes, there is definitely added value in using such tools.

Do you want to energize and impact all your employees in your operational departments to do something with the results?

Then such a tool is not adding value.

Employees are not going to login to a tool to review journeys and insights.

Exactly as they are not going to login to a CX dashboard to find the C-SAT scores and analyses.

In that case, it’s much more useful and sustainable to brainstorm with them what small steps or behaviors they can tweak in their existing, daily routines.

That’s when you get experience in the DNA of your organisation and that’s when CX will outgrow the marketing and/or CX department (which is the key measure for success of your transformation).

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