Customer Journey Mapping: The Crucial Touchpoints Missing from Your Strategy

Forward-thinking CEOs and CMOs have used customer journey maps as a crucial mechanism to inform and define all aspects of the customer experience: product development, in-store experiences, website development, and marketing efforts.

Customer journey maps define every touchpoint of the customers' experience from the very first interaction with the brand. Companies deploy them in order to gain a better understanding of where customers are experiencing pain points and making decisions to abandon the process, as well as identify opportunities for additional revenue. Most mapping activities start with soliciting feedback via customer surveys, employee feedback, and other C-suite ideas, then delve into different hypotheses. For example, retail stores deploy "retail shoppers' whose goal is to anonymously review the experience. Once that is in place, hypotheses are formed about how to remove those pain points, and then the process starts again. Every change requires constant iteration.

One problem: for some, they're not effective.

The Main Issues with Customer Journey Mapping

Poor research practices often lead to confirming what leadership already believes or the strategy that has already been discussed. Without a rigorous examination and scientifically validated process, bias and unvalidated inferences creep in.


  • Untrained researchers. Without a graduate-level degree and training in human factors research, the researcher lacks the proper skill set and background to create a scientific process. User research is just like any other science; while some valuable lessons may cross over (such as biology and chemistry), the fundamental approach and proposed solution will be different. We specifically focus on human factors research because it goes beyond human-computer interaction or other specialties to also encompass the user's environment. Too often, companies rely on their designers to become de facto researchers.
  • Confirmation bias. As mentioned above, the way that questions are phrased and the experiment is designed will often lead to the conclusions that are already in the mind of the researcher. Instead of asking if the user would use an app that had a certain feature, objective researchers will dive deeper into the problem itself to gain a complete picture.
  • Incomplete data. User surveys are not enough because users don't know what they really need. When you hear "I want this full system on my mobile device," what they really mean is that they want one or two data points that they need on-the-go. A combination of contextual inquiries, field research, user interviews, user surveys, and other tools will complete the story.
  • Unclear goals. What are the KPIs that you need to meet for customer experience? Improve customer retention and loyalty, lower the cost of new customer acquisition, decrease customer churn? Mapping out the entire customer experience without providing a specific focus will lead to a study that is too broad and create undefined results. Customer experience is a very broad term. Use your financials and overall strategy to inform which customers will be most valuable for your customer journey map and which product lines will see the most bottom-line or top-line impact from improving specific KPIs.

Why Your Customer Journey Map Needs More than One Customer Group

The truth is that every company should have multiple customer journey maps aligned to multiple "personas," or archetypes of their different customers organized by motivation.

Why have multiple personas? Consider this: a utilities "prosumer" or highly educated energy consumer wants to see every data point on the energy they are using and wants a utility company app to provide that information. A small business owner, on the other hand, is only focused on what can help them save more money. The data points may be of interest-- but only if they get him or her closer to their end goal of a lower utility bill.

You may think your customers are the same, or that you just need to market to your high-value customers. Customer journey mapping with all types of customers will reveal that there is some revenue left on the table with the smaller fish. Word to the wise: don't go in with your personas already ironed out in your head. Let the researcher perform the exercise and identify the consumer personas objectively. They may find that how you are grouping and defining your customers does not align with reality.

Consider how you group your customers, but then put yourself in the shoes of yourself as a customer. How are your motivations different when visiting your favorite retail store vs. someone else your same age or gender? For example, a male in their mid-50s may visit their retail store primarily to fill prescriptions for their ailing health, and just want to get in and get out. A different retail pharmacy customer may want specific recommendations to lose weight, and wants to spend more time speaking with someone who can help them plan out their meals and grocery shop. A third type of customer may be a caretaker; coming to the pharmacist for them means that they need to make sure they can repeat and remember that information for someone else, as well as an experience that will support them in a stressful position. Those are three types of customers with three different motivations and needs from their pharmacist.

Tools of the Data-Driven Customer Journey Mapping Trade

User researchers’ tactics include:

  • Interviews -User researchers ask questions to understand the user’s frame of mind, reasoning and needs. Although these provide clues to the user’s understanding of their own circumstance, researchers need to dig deeper to verify their statements.
  • Contextual Inquiries/Interviews - In contextual inquiries, researchers observe users out in the field. These provide a more in-depth look at users’ needs and frustrations and provide much needed context to the statements in their interviews. Most users have trouble explaining a process they perform every day. It’s so ingrained that it’s become second nature to them. Getting these processes out is where the value of these inquiries comes in.
  • Surveys - Give customers the opportunity to explain what they think they want. Even if you may not end up providing that, it can provide important clues to the pain point. For example, a consumer who says "I wish the sales people would stop bothering me during my purchase process" indicates that the consumer feels pressure to purchase from the sales people, and that sales people need to be more trained as to how to approach customers and how frequently.
  • Diary Studies - In a diary study, participants record their daily events, tasks, and perceptions around a subject to help the researcher learn their behavior and needs over time.
  • Click Path Analysis - For your current desktop or mobile solutions, how difficult is it to find information? How many systems does the user need to toggle between? This is a key question that click path analysis will answer. The research team creates a map of the different clicks/actions the user takes when finding a piece of information.
  • Eye tracking and click heat maps - These are useful for discovering how visually engaging a digital platform is. Find out what is drawing your customers' attention, and find better ways to maximize those decisions.

The end goal is a compelling and data-driven story about your consumers. Once there, the research team can compile the data that you have and identify some ROI estimates. For example, let's say during the busiest hour, five of the twenty customers perusing an Asian grocer's deli will abandon their purchase because the line is too long. If the average deli purchase is $11.50, implementing a more efficient layout, ordering process or a new POS system to capture those customers would generate an additional $57.50 in revenue per day, or $20,930 per year— without even factoring in the efficiency increases to decrease costs operations side.

Want to learn more about making a data-driven customer experience strategy? Download our latest report on how to use ROI to inform your business case.

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