I originally wrote today’s post for CMSWire. It appeared on their site on August 18, 2022.

Journey mapping is one of the most powerful tools to help you understand the current customer experience and to design a new experience. But I always like to say, “Know the tool; embrace the process.” Journey mapping is both a tool and a process. If you simply think of it as a tool, you’ll be disappointed when the maps don’t become the catalyst for change that you were expecting them to be.

Important to that is ensuring that the maps you and your customers create are actionable. Done correctly and with actions and outcomes in mind, the maps will guide you to improve the experience, both today and in the future. When you think about making the maps actionable, you must keep the following 11 concepts in mind.

1. Get executive commitment

It’s great to be excited about mapping, but nothing is a downer and eliminates actionability like not having commitment from executives, i.e., commitment to undertake this work to understand the customer journey and commitment for the resources (financial, human, capital, etc.) to fix what’s broken. Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do our executives understand what we’re trying to do?
  • Have they put the customer at the heart of the business?
  • Will they provide the resources needed to create the maps?
  • Will they approve the resources needed to make changes and to transform the experience?

2. Have clear objectives for the map

Before you even begin mapping, it’s important to outline not only the objectives for the map – why you’re doing it and what the intended outcomes of creating a map will be – but also how the map findings will be used. Questions to ask yourself:

  • Why are we mapping?
  • What will we do differently as a result of what we uncover?
  • How will the findings be used?
  • Who will use the findings?

3. Define the map scope

We all hate scope creep, right? Well, there’s nothing worse when you’re mapping than having that occur and allowing the map to flow off into to many different directions that detract from the main journey or experience you’re mapping. As part of that, you also want to be sure to understand what customers are trying to achieve. Questions to ask yourself:

  • What’s the starting point and ending point of this journey?
  • How will we ensure that scope creep doesn’t happen?
  • What are the outcomes for the customer?
  • What is the customer trying to achieve in this experience?

4. Start with personas

Not every customer is alike. Not every customer has the same problems to solve or jobs to be done. Not every customer goes about the journey in the same way. It’s important to create customer personas (not buyer personas) that clearly outline who customers are, pain points, preferences, expectations, problems to solve, jobs to be done. The starting point for the map should be – and should be driven by – the persona. Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do we have customer (not buyer) personas?
  • Where are they?
  • When were they last updated?
  • For which persona(s) will we map?

5. Include customers in the workshop

You may think that you can just have a bunch of employees gather around and develop the maps, but you’re adding some extra steps because then you’ll have to validate with customers, anyway. So why not start the work with customers already in the room, telling you what they are doing, thinking, and feeling as they traverse through the experience. Questions to ask yourself:

  • Which customers should we include in the workshop? (Hint: they will be customers who represent the persona for which you’re mapping.)
  • How do we select the customers?
  • Who will invite them?
  • What incentives will we offer customers who participate?

6. Bring stakeholders into the workshop

Stakeholders, i.e., those who are most involved in and influential over the journey being mapped, should be involved in the workshop. Their primary role will be to observe, to listen. At some point after customer participants do a readout, stakeholders can ask questions for clarification. Bringing stakeholders creates understanding not only of the experience but also of cross-functional involvement to deliver the experience and helps to break down or connect silos. Questions to ask yourself:

  • Which stakeholders should join the workshop?
  • What will their role be?
  • Who will ask questions of the customer participants?
  • What will their roles be after the workshop?

7. Map at a detailed level

You can’t transform something that you don’t understand. You can’t understand the experience if the map is created at a high level without enough information to really clarify what was happening. I see a lot of journey mapping how-to posts that tell readers to map the touchpoints. That’s a different exercise. In journey mapping workshops, customers need to tell you what they are doing, thinking, and feeling as they travel from point A to point B. Questions to ask yourself:

  • Are we capturing what the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling?
  • Are we just capturing touchpoints?
  • What do we need to do to get at a deeper level of detail?
  • What other information can we ask customers to include in the maps?

8. Bring data into the maps

There are many reasons to bring data (e.g., feedback, metrics, behavioral data, operational metrics) into your maps, including to: bring the journey to life, bring in additional perspectives from other customers matching this persona, clarifying high points and pain points, measure and analyze the journey, make the maps actionable, add validity and credibility, and identify and prioritize moments of truth. Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do we have feedback about this experience?
  • What other data do we have that would help to create deeper understanding of the experience?
  • How can we get access to that data?
  • How will we incorporate it into the maps?

9. Conduct root cause analysis

To truly get to the heart of the matter, to what’s making or breaking the experience (i.e., moment of truth), you’ve got to take what you learn and conduct some root cause analysis. Without getting to the root of the issue, you will only be applying band-aids. Fixing the issues from whence they stem will ensure that they don’t recur. Questions to ask yourself:

  • What issues do we need to investigate further?
  • How will we prioritize pain points to ensure we focus first on what’s most important to customers?
  • Who will be involved in the analysis?
  • How will we share and act on the findings?

10. Create service blueprints

Helping to further visualize what you’ll like uncover in your root cause analysis is the service blueprint, which outlines the people, policies, tools, and systems that support and facilitate the customer experience, and a process map, which outlines the workflows that do the same, to correspond with the customer journey you’ve mapped. By linking the service blueprint to the customer’s journey, you’ve got that end-to-end picture of the journey plus the surface to core view, giving you the complete picture of what’s working and what’s not. Questions to ask yourself:

  • Why haven’t we done this before?!
  • How will we capture this journey from the inside?
  • Who will be involved in developing the service blueprint?
  • How will we share and act on the findings?

11. Lay out your plan

Fail to plan, plan to fail. This couldn’t ring more true that it does in this instance, where you’ve got to have a plan on how you’re going to act on the journey map learnings. You’ve conducted root cause analysis. You know what needs to be done. You’ve prioritized the issues and the fixes. Now you need an action plan (which will help you get the prioritization and resources that you need) and a project plan (which outlines next steps, owners, deadlines, etc.). Questions to ask yourself:

  • Who is going to prepare the plans?
  • Do we have enough detail to get the resources we need to begin this work?
  • Who will be involved? How will we identify owners and contributors?
  • How will we engage others in this work?

The last question is an important one. And that reminds me of one more thing to add: share the maps. Help all employees understand what the experience is today and why it needs to be improved. They’ve probably already got a pretty good sense of where things are broken.

Now you know how to ensure that your maps become the catalyst for change they are meant to be. Go forth and do great things!

Action is the foundational key to all success. ~Pablo Picasso

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is now available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

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