Customer journey maps, as a concept, are nothing new, but they’re getting a lot of buzz today. There are a lot of guides about what a customer journey map is and how to make one, so let’s assume you’re coming here fully informed on the value and creation process behind them.

By now, then, you know that a customer journey map is a product of research. The question each organisation needs to answer, then, is what kind of research will yield the best results for creating an effective customer journey map.

Most guides recommend starting by mapping out a timeline: a series of scenarios your customer goes through across all different channels as they get to know your brand, go through the purchasing process, and start using your product or service. This requires you to think through all the interactions, motivations, emotions, reactions and obstacles your customers face along the way.

You probably already have a lot of information here. Google Analytics provides a ton of data on your customer’s path through your website. Your sales and customer services teams have a lot of information on what your customers experience. But if you have a long sales funnel across multiple channels, especially offline, it’s hard to get a full picture.

If the question is:

“Who has the best overview of the full customer journey?” the answer should be obvious: the customer!

Dr. Chip Bell, one of the original writers on the subject of customer journey mapping, put it this way in an interview: “The biggest mistake is the failure to actively involve the customer in verifying a journey map. Too many organizations think they know what their customers experience.”

So now we have a starting point for what kind of research to collect. We’ve already got the statistical data from our analytics platforms, so let’s focus on qualitative research: customer interviews and observational studies. This kind of research provides rich data and can uncover previously undiscovered areas for improvement or innovation.

We would argue that the exercise of creating a customer journey map has two main benefits: first, it forces you to see things from your customers perspective which, second, leads you to discover blind spots you may never have known you had in your customer acquisition and service processes.

And just like Dr Bell, we see too many companies going through this (very well-intentioned) customer journey mapping process with little or no customer involvement. This not only decreases the value of the result, but it actually makes the creation process more difficult.

Instead of laboring over historical data and filling in the gaps with assumptions, let your customer lead this mapping expedition.

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