Why Journey Mapping Wastes Time and Money

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If you've worked on any customer experience initiative in recent months (or even years), it's likely you're familiar with customer journey mapping. I am betting that you are, and also that you've read at least one of the many articles out there that exalt it as the next revolution in customer experience management.

At first, it sounds awesome—if we can learn what steps customers take to interact with us and plan and provision processes for those steps, we will deliver better experiences. Expectations met, customers satisfied, etc. All good in planning and on paper. However, once you start looking deeper, you find a few problems with customer journey mapping, and—if you take the time to do the proper research—you will see why you should avoid it.

First problem: It is still company-centric. Even though we do it under the guise of being more customer-centric, there is not a lot more focus on the customer if we create specific flows and processes that they must use to interact with the company. This is one of the biggest problems we found while doing interaction mappings (this was a precursor to customer journey mapping), and it is still not resolved.

Pretending to be customer-centric by saying "We study the customer and then we build a path for him to do the same each time" is not right. Being customer-centric implies a focus on the customer, and the customer is not likely to always do the same thing in the same way. The main concern here is not that the customer will not carry out action A the same way, but rather what happens when he doesn't.

Customers' expectations of a company are based on past interactions. When the organization delivers as expected, trust is built—but expectations are also reinforced. Missing out on those expectations not only destroys the trust built, but also results in the customer thinking the company does not get it. If you build a path (or even several) but miss the one the customer wants to use, you are missing out on meeting his or her expectations.

One of the biggest complaints we heard about customer service in the 1980s was that customers had to conform to the way organizations worked. They called for account management, it was one department. They called for billing, a different number and a different department. Customer journey mapping is the same concept. If the customer wants to find her balance while online, take path A. If the customer is on his mobile phone, take path B. If she is chatting with us, sorry, we did not think you'd want that, so we didn't design a path to get your balance via chat, but if you come via self-service or a mobile device, we can help you.

It may sound extreme, but that is the ultimate destination for customer journey mapping. As with business process re-engineering in the 1980s and 1990s, the only ones making money are the ones "selling picks and shovels" (i.e., mapping and documenting the processes).

The solution? Try a different approach.

Build a channel-agnostic solution that covers the information needs for each interaction. Don't look at the processes and try to optimize those; look at the data flows and optimize them. Make sure that all the data (not just what you think covers the simple transaction) needed to finalize an interaction and drill down and continue into the follow-up interaction is available to the customer via any channel and any interface at any time (think platform rather than solution).

Allow the customer to custom-build ad-hoc journeys as he moves along in his interactions with you and make sure he has all the information necessary available at all times to access and use.

That's customer centricity—and that requires no further optimization of processes. Your processes will change soon enough due to the ongoing business transformation paradigm shift we are undergoing. Don't you want to make sure you have the right information instead of the right process?

Esteban Kolsky is the principal and founder of ThinkJar, an advisory and research think tank focused on customer strategies. He has more than 25 years of experience in customer service and CRM consulting, research, and advisory services. He spent eight years at Gartner and has assisted Fortune 500 companies and Global 2000 organizations in all aspects of their CRM deployments.

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