The following is a modified excerpt from my book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business), available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.


Several years ago, Esteban Kolsky did some research on journey mapping and uncovered that only 34 percent of companies used journey mapping. Of that 34 percent . . .

  • 2% of companies reported success
  • 13% said it worked for them, and
  • 72% said it missed their needs.

Seventy-two percent said it missed their needs! Wow. What’s going on there? (By the way, he’s not the only one to come to this conclusion; for a while, this—or some variation of this—was the darling headline: “Journey Maps are a Waste of Time.”)


I’ll tell you what’s going on: they’re doing it all wrong. They’re not really mapping. When you do it right, you can effect real change. Ask (cautiously) the CEO of Macy’s about that. Recall that he’s the one who publicly acknowledged that customer journey mapping was the foundation of the Macy’s turnaround.

I’m often asked to speak about journey mapping or with journey mapping as a piece of the talk, and I’ve learned, or rather confirmed, a lot. Namely, you might think you’re journey mapping; you call it journey mapping; but it’s not really journey mapping.

Here’s what happens.

I start by asking the audience if they’re journey mapping, and a bunch of hands in the room go up. A lot of hands, as a matter of fact.

Then I proceed to explain what journey mapping is, why you must map, how maps are used in a variety of ways, and what the journey mapping process is.

I then ask the question again. “How many of you are journey mapping?” No—or very few—hands go up this second time around. What gives?

One of the things I talk about after I ask the question the first time is that if your map has Need, Awareness, Consideration, Selection, etc. as the column headings, and within each column you’ve specified relevant or corresponding touch points or channels, then you’re not journey mapping; you’re mapping lifecycle stages, and you’re touch point mapping. (This is typically where the difference in hands up is rooted.)


Journey maps are defined as “walking in your customer’s shoes to understand her experience.” That means you go step by step by step to depict the journey, to capture the customer’s story of the experience, to depict the timeline of steps she took to go from Point A to Point B. If you don’t have what the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling in your map, then you’re not journey mapping.

If you’ve got lifecycle stages and touch points mapped, then you are definitely not . . .

  • Viewing things from the customer’s perspective
  • Capturing any kind of detail about the experience
  • Able to tell where things go right or wrong
  • Able to develop the corresponding service blueprint to fix what’s happening inside to support the experience
  • Understanding what the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling throughout the experience

As a matter of fact, the customer isn’t even in those maps.


The second likely culprit of the gap in hands between the first time I ask and the second time is that folks are creating assumptive maps, which are maps visualized by well-meaning stakeholders who believe they understand the experience; they assume they know. And when people create assumptive maps (which aren’t wrong but typically aren’t done right), a couple of things happen:

  • There’s a lot of inside-out thinking; in other words, the map is not created from the customer’s perspective.
  • It’s likely that they’ve actually created a process map.
  • The map doesn’t get validated with customers.
  • The map gets rolled up, stashed under a desk, and goes nowhere from there.

The first scenario (lifecycle/touch point mapping) is the one I hear most often. Neither scenario is good. Don’t get me wrong; touch point mapping is an important exercise. But just know that this is not journey mapping, and this will not help you improve the experience. It’s a first step, but it’s not the only step. You should inventory and catalog all of your touch points along the customer lifecycle—there are more than you can imagine, and unfortunately, too many of them are overlooked when it comes to the customer experience. You must know them all. And then you must move on to mapping the customer experience (of which those touch points are a part).

That doesn’t explain all of the 72 percent who said journey mapping missed their needs. In the book, I wrote about thirteen other reasons I believe maps will fail you. But I’ll just add one critical thing here. Journey mapping is a process. Yes, it is a tool, but it’s also a process. I like to say, “Know the tool. Embrace the process.” That’s how the maps become the catalyst for change they are meant to be.

Maps are essential. Planning a journey without a map is like building a house without drawings. ~ Mark Jenkins

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 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 EX and CX game.

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