3 Reasons Customer Journey Maps Fail

Photograph of darts missing the dart board to illustrate a failed customer journey map.

Customer Journey Mapping is a critical tool for managing, measuring, and improving customer experiences. A successful customer journey map creates empathy for customers and sparks customer-centric change. It shows you where to invest your limited resources (time, people, and money) to change the customer experience. When those changes also improve business outcomes, your journey mapping initiative is a success.

Despite the growing popularity of customer journey mapping, many organizations struggle to benefit from the activity. Gartner reported in 2019 that 82% of organizations have created customer journey maps, but only 47% of those are using them effectively. In 2022, the Technology Services Industry Association revealed that only 29% of customer success teams who created a customer journey map actually used it.

Why are all these customer journey maps failing to show a return on investment?

1. Lack of Real Customer Insights

A successful customer journey map must be based on real customer insights, not imagination. Many of the top-ranking customer journey mapping resources tell you to “put yourself in the customer’s shoes” and imagine what thoughts and emotions they have. There is one problem with this approach—putting yourself in the customer’s shoes doesn’t work.

As humans, we all have ego-centric bias: the tendency to believe that other people think, feel, and act like we do. When we try to “put our customer hat on” and imagine ourselves as the customer, we make decisions based on our own needs, values, and preferences. This results in experiences that don’t resonate with other customer segments who have different needs, values, and expectations.

I worked with a B2B company who was considering adding a live chat channel in their contact center. The company’s leaders liked using chat in their personal lives, and believed their customers would prefer this as well. But, when we interviewed their customers about the service experience, the customers all responded that their problems were too complex for live chat. They preferred to communicate through email or by leaving comments on the support website, as it allowed the company to work on the issue while the customer moved on to other tasks.

There’s no substitute for real customer feedback, and the deepest insights come from qualitative research. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming you know what customers want without engaging them directly. This approach leads to a disconnect between what the map portrays and the actual customer experience.

2. Misalignment with Organizational Goals

It’s important for a customer journey mapping project to align with the company’s strategic goals. A detailed, beautiful map is useless if it doesn’t help achieve the company’s objectives.

The insights from customer journey maps should guide major business decisions and help shape the company’s strategies, but a common error is to create customer journey maps without considering the company’s strategic plans. For example, if a company aims to grow its market share in a certain area, then focus your journey mapping efforts there. An unrelated journey map won’t grab executive attention, and won’t drive any change.

The first step in customer journey mapping is to identify the problem you want to solve or the opportunity you want to pursue. Clearly defining your objective will guide all the other decisions you make. Decide which type of customer and which journey to map in order to support the company’s goals. You might map the end-to-end customer experience to find key stages that affect customer loyalty, or focus on a specific part of the journey that greatly impacts customer experience. Maximize your effectiveness by aligning with existing strategic priorities.

3. Lack of Actionable Insights

The third key requirement for an effective customer journey map is it must be actionable. It’s not enough to gather information and understand the customer journey—the real value comes from acting on these insights. As you conduct qualitative research in the journey mapping process, you will likely discover some very interesting themes. Beware: interesting does not mean actionable.

Focus on the insights about customer behaviors that improve business outcomes. For example, when we worked with a cable company, we found that one customer segment was tolerant of price increases as long as the service was reliable. But another customer segment, who lived on a fixed income or limited budget, simply couldn’t afford rising prices—they were always one bill increase away from cancelling.

Because the journey insights showed which moments drove customer behaviors, the company was in a position to take action. Providing different packages, discounts, and financial assistance programs based on these customers’ needs improved customer retention, and therefore company revenue.

Customer Journey Mapping Success

The customer journey map itself does not change anything. It simply provides insight into customer needs, values, and experiences.

Yes, you need a compelling visual that tells the customer story. Yes, you need a change management plan to create the awareness and desire for change. Yes, you need to prioritize, execute, and reinforce those changes. Yes, you need to measure the impact of your changes and implement listening posts to monitor and adjust based on customer feedback.

But none of that matters if you don’t conduct the research, align to the business plan, and produce insights that the company can act upon.

Read next: Create a Customer Journey Map with the DARMA™ MethodHere’s the exact process I use to create compelling customer journey maps that drive change.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top