Have you ever experienced bad GPS directions that took you to the wrong place? I remember a case several years ago where erroneous GPS instructions stranded an unprepared driver in the hot desert. I can imagine that event caused some people to buy paper maps for backup.
Similar to an unreliable GPS experience, inaccurate, incomplete, or biased user journey mapping will make business users question the map’s usefulness or, worse, take the business in the wrong direction.
Knowing customers, anticipating their needs, and meeting their expectations is the key to meeting business objectives in today's experience economy. Consistently superior customer experience (CX) can be a competitive differentiator that keeps customers satisfied and loyal.
Given this consumer preference for great CX, businesses need a structured approach for managing CX, including the experiences customers encounter on their journey to accomplish a goal with a company. User journey mapping is a vital exercise for ensuring customers walk a path that's pleasant and friction-free.
What is user journey mapping?
User journey mapping, also called customer journey mapping, is the process of creating user journey maps. User journey maps are visual representations of the different paths customers take when interacting with a business. They're created with the following objectives in mind:
- Gain a better understanding of customers
- Understand what customers experience by walking in their shoes
- Identify pain points and moments of delight
- Optimize CX throughout the end-to-end journey
Organizations typically map the most common or valuable journeys, such as purchase journeys and support journeys, both of which have become more complex due to digital technology. More digital communication options create more paths customers can follow. For example, one customer that needs help might begin his support journey by searching the company's website. When he doesn’t find the information he needs, he initiates a chat session with an agent and then switches to phone support with a different agent. Another customer might interact with a bot on Facebook Messenger.
The user journey mapping process should sort out which, if either, of these journeys to map out based on the goals of the exercise. For example, if the goal is to determine the quality of the business’s omnichannel experiences, they might map the first example. But if they want to better understand self-service paths, they might map the second example. And if the goal of the user journey mapping process is to determine how to convert more web users, the mapping team might not map either one.
What is on user journey maps?
The outcome of user journey mapping should be useful maps that clearly illustrate insights about customer journeys. To do this, maps should have the following elements.
A touchpoint is a moment during a journey when a customer interacts with a brand. Examples of touchpoints include:
- Company websites
- Contact center interactions
- Store fronts and offices
- Self-service solutions
- Social media pages and posts
- Promotional emails
- And more
Businesses should try to optimize all touchpoints throughout the customer journey, but focusing only on touchpoints isn't enough, as we'll discuss in the next section.
Journeys typically include multiple touchpoints, and handoffs are what customers experience when they move from one touchpoint to the next. Handoffs are often sources of friction, so it's important to include information about them on user journey maps.
Referring back to the example of the support journey where the customer started out by looking for information on the website, then started a chat session, and then transferred to phone support, organizations should include information on the map that helps them identify sources of friction in the handoffs. For example, did the customer ever have to repeat himself when he switched channels? Being required to repeat information is a source of customer frustration, which brings us to our next topic.
Customer thoughts, feelings, opinions, and goals
User journey mapping needs to be approached from the customer's perspective, therefore maps should include information such as:
- Customer goals
- What customers are thinking and feeling at each phase and as they encounter different touchpoints and handoffs
- What actions customers take
- Customer survey scores such satisfaction scores, Net Promoter Scores, and customer effort scores
- Other relevant customer input from focus groups, interviews, etc.
It may not be possible to include all this data on a map, so mapping teams may need to choose the information that provides the most insights.
Operational data can also help draw a more complete map. For example, if creating a support journey map, operational data such as average speed to answer (ASA), first contact resolution rates, and self-service success rates can help map users better understand what customers experience when they seek help.
How to make user journey maps useful and used
Just because a business creates journey maps doesn't mean they're useful. User journey mapping needs to create insights that drive meaningful improvements to CX. Anything less is just wasted effort.
1. Include enough detail on your maps
If you were planning a trip from Kansas City, MO to St. Louis, MO, the above map wouldn't be useful at all. This only tells us that the image is of Missouri and that the state has an unusual shape. It's lacking useful details such as road networks and the locations of Kansas City and St. Louis. This map doesn't allow you to make decisions about the best route to take or where to stop along the way.
Similarly, user journey maps that are too high level don't provide the details needed to make informed decisions, rendering them useless. These days, many businesses take a "less is more" approach to communication, preferring key points to be boiled down to a few bullet points on a PowerPoint slide.
That approach won't work for user journey mapping. A map should contain enough detail that anyone looking at it can quickly understand the journey and pick out good and bad moments. Refer to the previous section for examples of information that can provide map users with this type of experience.
However, avoid including so many details that your map looks like this:
This is only a slice of the end-to-end journey and doesn't allow map users to see the big picture.
2. Update user journey maps regularly
Have you ever come across a 30-year-old road atlas that didn't have all the new road systems or neighborhood streets on it? You might have found it interesting to see how an area has developed over the years, but you probably wouldn't have used the atlas to navigate a trip. An outdated map isn't very useful.
User journey maps, just like road atlases, are only useful when they're kept current, otherwise people won't use them.
Maps should be maintained as living documents rather than static resources that collect dust on a shared drive. New products, channels, website functionality, and other significant changes create a need to update journey maps. Additionally, as CX begins to improve, the customer data on the maps should be updated to reflect the improvements.
3. Ensure maps are accurate
Outdated information is only one way maps become inaccurate and unusable. If a map user detects inaccurate data on newly created user journey maps, they'll likely write them off as useless. For example, if a contact center manager sees an inflated ASA on a map, she might think everything else on the map is wrong.
Maps are only useful if users trust the data. To ensure information is accurate from the very beginning, user journey mapping should be done by cross-functional teams. This will help ensure data is accurate and that all touchpoints and handoffs are appropriately represented.
4. Use a cross-functional user journey mapping team so people don’t think maps belong to just one business group
In addition to ensuring data accuracy, using a cross-functional team for user journey mapping will help secure enterprise-wide buy-in. If the marketing team emerges from a closed-door conference room and proudly declares, "Behold the maps!" those maps have just been tagged as a marketing tool to be used by the marketing team.
Managing and improving user journeys requires organizational teamwork. Customers can encounter touchpoints and handoffs that are "owned" by marketing, retail, web, product, and contact center teams, among others. Therefore, these teams should be included in user journey mapping exercises. This will not only help produce better and more usable maps; it will help ensure teams across the business use the maps to understand and optimize user journeys.
5. Create user journey maps from the customer's perspective so they provide insights
You never want to produce a user journey map and hear feedback like, "You did a nice job documenting our current process." Journey maps aren't process flows. While there might be a process component to them, journey maps are also full of customer emotions, reactions and opinions. These are the elements that provide the most insights and create "aha" moments.
To ensure maps are truly based on customer perspectives and not assumptions, some businesses go beyond using survey data or analytics by extensively interviewing customers or even including them in the user journey mapping process. These techniques can help organizations develop maps that are more accurate, insightful, and useful.
But organizations shouldn't limit research only to customers, especially if a goal of user journey mapping is to figure out how to convert more prospects. People who abandoned shopping carts or business prospects that suddenly started ghosting salespeople should be interviewed to determine if there are barriers to converting.
6. Achieve and communicate some quick wins
Despite your best efforts to get everyone on board by creating useful journey maps with cross-functional teams, there will be some skeptics who don't believe in the value of user journey mapping. Maps are more useful when everyone adopts them and uses them to improve customer journeys, so it's important to get these skeptics on board.
Quick wins are an effective way to demonstrate the value of user journey maps and turn naysayers into fans. Look for low hanging fruit that can yield swift, tangible results. For example, the maps might reveal that customers are confused about product specifications and that's causing them to terminate their purchasing journeys. Improving content and adding a chatbot on product pages could lead to a meaningful bump in conversion rates that could be attributed to user journey mapping.
The moment you secure a quick win is not the right time to be humble. Every time a journey map drives a positive result should be broadcasted widely and loudly to reinforce the value of the tool.
Is user journey mapping worth the effort?
User journey mapping is worth the effort if it's done correctly and produces useful maps that drive positive change. In fact, Gartner found that "organizations that have and use customer journey maps are twice as likely to outperform competitors than those that don’t."
Following these six tips will help businesses create widely used maps that work.
Want more information about user journey mapping?
Creating useful journey maps requires deep knowledge of the mapping process.
Additionally, contact center leaders might be interested in watching our on-demand webinar, "How to Map Your Contact Center Customer Experiences."
 Salesforce: 4th Edition State of the Connected Customer (2020)
 Gartner: Creating a High-Impact Customer Experience Strategy (2019)
 Gartner: Customer Journey Maps That Deliver Results
 Gartner: Create Customer Journey Maps That People Will Use (2020)