7 Steps to an Effective Current-State Customer Journey Mapping Process

Walk through 7 steps for developing an effective current-state journey map. Current-state journey maps describe the customer journey as it is in the present moment. Creating a current-state journey map provides a thorough understanding of your current customer experience—a critical first step before deciding on the best ways to make improvements.

New research claims that 84% of organizations are now embracing a customer-centric experience model. Meanwhile, journey mapping is on the rise among successful companies who want to understand how to beat the competition by providing better experiences for their customers. The reason for this momentum lies within the efficiency of journey maps to quickly communicate the success and fail points in a customer experience—at a glance.

Journey maps provide a visual representation of your customer’s experience, as they attempt to satisfy specific goals while interacting with your product or service. Maps can be used to communicate the alignment between a customer’s expectations and their actual experience at important touchpoints in their journey. They also help stakeholders understand how a complex set of processes and systems combine to create an overall experience, with good and bad elements.

In this blog post, I’m going to walk through 7 steps for developing an effective current-state journey map. Current-state journey maps describe the customer journey as it is in the present moment. Creating a current-state journey map provides a thorough understanding of your current customer experience—a critical first step before deciding on the best ways to make improvements.

The Current-State Customer Journey Mapping Process

1. Understand the objectives of the mapping initiative

Journey maps are single artifacts that can tell a fairly comprehensive story in a short period of time. You can learn a lot from a well-made journey map about what’s working, what’s not, and most importantly, what it’s like to be a customer.

An effective journey mapping initiative starts with a clear statement of its goals. One of the goals frequently cited by our clients is a desire to identify where their current customer experience is falling short, leading to negative impressions.

Stakeholders in journey mapping process

Involve business stakeholders early on as you set goals for creating your journey map.

To determine the goals for your initiative, first conduct a meeting with project or business line stakeholders to identify and agree upon the objectives of the journey mapping effort. Ask yourselves, “What kinds of things can we learn during this process that could help drive impact?”

This represents the beginning of the effort to identify which parts of the customer journey are likely to have the biggest impact on business drivers. To ensure your efforts align with business- and corporate-level strategies, you should also harvest existing strategy documentation from stakeholders that provide clear direction regarding business objectives.

2. Define the scope

After everyone agrees on a set of goals, the next step is to identify the scope of the journey to be mapped. Scope definition of the map is critical. It will determine what kind of research you will need to do, and the level of resolution and storytelling employed in the map.

In this step your team should determine the ideal scope to meet the goals previously agreed upon. For example, should the map focus on the customer onboarding process, nurturing a completely anonymous web visitor to becoming a customer of a service?” Or will the map target the ongoing customer experience post-acquisition?

Aiming for too broad of a journey scope can make the map difficult to ‘read’ at a glance. Viewers could gloss over important details of the experience that actually have more meaning in a tighter frame of reference.

3. Collect and evaluate existing customer data and research

Many organizations have built a treasure chest of pre-existing customer research. It is important to harvest as much insight as you can from pre-existing research as your prepare for your first journey mapping workshop. This will help the team understand who the target customers are and often provides multiple windows into the health of the current customer experience.

These types of assets can be:

  • Call center logs
  • Survey data and findings reports
  • Usability test results
  • Contextual inquiry observations and reports
  • Segmentation data
  • Personas
  • Customer satisfaction reports
  • Customer care reports
  • Market value studies

The first thing you need to decide is whose journey you are going to map. You can map the journey, for example, of a specific customer type (persona), a potential (target) customer, or a segment of customers, depending on the purpose of your journey mapping initiative.

Personas are archetypes of your customers that help your organization understand their needs, expectations, and behaviors. If no personas currently exist, for example, you will want to create baseline personas and bring these into your journey mapping workshop to ramp up participants about ‘who’ is on the customer journey. Later in the customer journey mapping process, with new customer interviews, you can validate and enhance these initial baseline personas.

4. Run a journey mapping workshop to create a hypothetical map

In this workshop, you will do the work to uncover and organize the content to build your first map of the journey. In order begin to build a shared understanding of the customer, you should invite as much of the full business, design and development team as is practical. You will want to bring in business process owners, and people who have a good understanding of the target customers. When possible, you should also include current customers to describe their experiences with different stages in the process first hand.

I like to start these workshops with an introduction to the target customers using the baseline personas I’ve made prior to the workshop or existing personas from the organization. I then introduce a model of the types of elements I want to capture for the map. Often I assign a Post-It color to each of these elements for use in the workshop.

Distinguish elements of journey map

Assign different colored Post-Its (or other demarcators) for the different elements you want to capture on the map.

Journey map content broadly falls into two categories: customer-oriented elements and frontstage/backstage elements. Customer-oriented elements are meant to capture aspects of the journey that are directly experienced through the eyes of the customer, like their goals, feelings, etc.

Frontstage/backstage elements refer to the people, systems, and processes that the customer works with to reach their goals. Some of these are on the ‘Front Stage’ and directly touch the customer, and some of these are in the ‘Back Stage’ where work is done to make sure the customer experience proceeds as smoothly as possible.

Customer-Oriented Components include:

  • Goals
  • Challenges
  • Activities
  • Thoughts
  • Feelings

Frontstage and Backstage Components include:

  • People who work to help the customer
  • Systems used by the customer
  • Systems used by company employees to help the customer
  • Third-party people and processes

In the workshop, set up activities to uncover customer goals and to place these in a logical sequence. Later on, this sequence will be used to provide structure to the map in the form of stages. Each stage has one or more customer goals associated with it. And once these have been identified in the workshop, participants can brainstorm and populate ‘Goal Sheets’ with the activities that customers undertake to reach their goals. A current-state journey map should identify how easy or difficult it is for customers to achieve these goals, and to identify current frustrations, anxieties, and unexpected positive surprises customers currently experience with that step in the process.

Once you have identified these elements across the identified stages in your customer journey, you have the basic ingredients for your hypothetical map. With customers and experts still in the room, you may want to spend some additional time capturing new opportunities to leapfrog the competition aligned with the goals you have identified in your customer journey mapping process.

Following this workshop, your journey mapping team, with the help of a visual designer who was ideally present at the workshop, will want to create your hypothetical customer journey mapping diagram.

5. Use primary customer research to test and update your hypothesis

With a good baseline understanding of the customer experience and your hypothetical map in hand, its now time to validate your assumptions with a round of primary customer research. We like to use an interview process called contextual inquiry, which emphasizes observing customers in the normal environments in which they use the product or service. Instead of asking customers a long list of questions, this process encourages customers to use the product or service as they normally would. This allows interviewers to record observations of customer behavior, occasionally prompt the customer to provide insight on why they are taking the action they are taking, and ask them how they feel about different aspects of the experience.

Sometimes, there are situations where direct customer observation is not possible or when you would like to augment contextual inquiry with additional data. In these cases, new surveys can be developed and conducted that are designed to gather the input you need to validate or refute the assumptions in your hypothetical maps.

Personas should be continuously updated and modified.

After you consolidate findings from new primary research, it’s time to bring the original workshop participants back together to review what you learned in the field and update the hypothetical maps together. In some cases, you may have uncovered new stages or goals or identified new sources of frustration that represent blind spots in the hypothetical effort.

6. Make your journey map visually compelling

With final map attributes in hand, this step allows you to tell the best story you can in a visually compelling format. Ideally, you should try to find a way to publish this map in the same context as the target customer personas, research data, and customer observations. Team members who are creating this final map should pull out all the stops for this version to make sure the story jumps off the page and that the most important messages come through clearly.

7. Socialize and Activate

It’s time to bring your customer journey map to a wider audience of stakeholders. If you are using a customer experience management platform, you can send invites to additional stakeholders to view your cloud hosted journey map and the research used to produce it. The identified activities and pain points can also be integrated directly into application development environments (ADEs) such as Rally, Version One, and Atlassian Jira.

You can also present your maps at team meetings to help structure the discussion toward improving parts of the experience that will be most appreciated by your customers. I hope this process walkthrough helps you reach your customer experience improvement goals, and keeps your efforts aligned with your business goals in a way that can be traced back to primary customer research.

Curious about how to use your journey mapping initiative to drive innovation? Click here for a complimentary Forrester Research Report, “Start Innovating with Future-State Journey Mapping” by Analyst Tony Costa.

Tired of struggling to keep a fileserver of journey maps up to date? Check out the UX360 customer experience management platform to create and share journey maps, personas, and more—all with one platform.

Image Credit: “Service Design Jam” by _dChris, licensed under CC 2.0; “Post-Its” by Improve It licensed under CC 2.0

Walk through 7 steps for developing an effective current-state journey map. Current-state journey maps describe the customer journey as it is in the present moment. Creating a current-state journey map provides a thorough understanding of your current customer experience—a critical first step before deciding on the best ways to make improvements.

New research claims that 84% of organizations are now embracing a customer-centric experience model. Meanwhile, journey mapping is on the rise among successful companies who want to understand how to beat the competition by providing better experiences for their customers. The reason for this momentum lies within the efficiency of journey maps to quickly communicate the success and fail points in a customer experience—at a glance.

Journey maps provide a visual representation of your customer’s experience, as they attempt to satisfy specific goals while interacting with your product or service. Maps can be used to communicate the alignment between a customer’s expectations and their actual experience at important touchpoints in their journey. They also help stakeholders understand how a complex set of processes and systems combine to create an overall experience, with good and bad elements.

In this blog post, I’m going to walk through 7 steps for developing an effective current-state journey map. Current-state journey maps describe the customer journey as it is in the present moment. Creating a current-state journey map provides a thorough understanding of your current customer experience—a critical first step before deciding on the best ways to make improvements.

The Current-State Customer Journey Mapping Process

1. Understand the objectives of the mapping initiative

Journey maps are single artifacts that can tell a fairly comprehensive story in a short period of time. You can learn a lot from a well-made journey map about what’s working, what’s not, and most importantly, what it’s like to be a customer.

An effective journey mapping initiative starts with a clear statement of its goals. One of the goals frequently cited by our clients is a desire to identify where their current customer experience is falling short, leading to negative impressions.

Stakeholders in journey mapping process

Involve business stakeholders early on as you set goals for creating your journey map.

To determine the goals for your initiative, first conduct a meeting with project or business line stakeholders to identify and agree upon the objectives of the journey mapping effort. Ask yourselves, “What kinds of things can we learn during this process that could help drive impact?”

This represents the beginning of the effort to identify which parts of the customer journey are likely to have the biggest impact on business drivers. To ensure your efforts align with business- and corporate-level strategies, you should also harvest existing strategy documentation from stakeholders that provide clear direction regarding business objectives.

2. Define the scope

After everyone agrees on a set of goals, the next step is to identify the scope of the journey to be mapped. Scope definition of the map is critical. It will determine what kind of research you will need to do, and the level of resolution and storytelling employed in the map.

In this step your team should determine the ideal scope to meet the goals previously agreed upon. For example, should the map focus on the customer onboarding process, nurturing a completely anonymous web visitor to becoming a customer of a service?” Or will the map target the ongoing customer experience post-acquisition?

Aiming for too broad of a journey scope can make the map difficult to ‘read’ at a glance. Viewers could gloss over important details of the experience that actually have more meaning in a tighter frame of reference.

3. Collect and evaluate existing customer data and research

Many organizations have built a treasure chest of pre-existing customer research. It is important to harvest as much insight as you can from pre-existing research as your prepare for your first journey mapping workshop. This will help the team understand who the target customers are and often provides multiple windows into the health of the current customer experience.

These types of assets can be:

  • Call center logs
  • Survey data and findings reports
  • Usability test results
  • Contextual inquiry observations and reports
  • Segmentation data
  • Personas
  • Customer satisfaction reports
  • Customer care reports
  • Market value studies

The first thing you need to decide is whose journey you are going to map. You can map the journey, for example, of a specific customer type (persona), a potential (target) customer, or a segment of customers, depending on the purpose of your journey mapping initiative.

Personas are archetypes of your customers that help your organization understand their needs, expectations, and behaviors. If no personas currently exist, for example, you will want to create baseline personas and bring these into your journey mapping workshop to ramp up participants about ‘who’ is on the customer journey. Later in the customer journey mapping process, with new customer interviews, you can validate and enhance these initial baseline personas.

4. Run a journey mapping workshop to create a hypothetical map

In this workshop, you will do the work to uncover and organize the content to build your first map of the journey. In order begin to build a shared understanding of the customer, you should invite as much of the full business, design and development team as is practical. You will want to bring in business process owners, and people who have a good understanding of the target customers. When possible, you should also include current customers to describe their experiences with different stages in the process first hand.

I like to start these workshops with an introduction to the target customers using the baseline personas I’ve made prior to the workshop or existing personas from the organization. I then introduce a model of the types of elements I want to capture for the map. Often I assign a Post-It color to each of these elements for use in the workshop.

Distinguish elements of journey map

Assign different colored Post-Its (or other demarcators) for the different elements you want to capture on the map.

Journey map content broadly falls into two categories: customer-oriented elements and frontstage/backstage elements. Customer-oriented elements are meant to capture aspects of the journey that are directly experienced through the eyes of the customer, like their goals, feelings, etc.

Frontstage/backstage elements refer to the people, systems, and processes that the customer works with to reach their goals. Some of these are on the ‘Front Stage’ and directly touch the customer, and some of these are in the ‘Back Stage’ where work is done to make sure the customer experience proceeds as smoothly as possible.

Customer-Oriented Components include:

  • Goals
  • Challenges
  • Activities
  • Thoughts
  • Feelings

Frontstage and Backstage Components include:

  • People who work to help the customer
  • Systems used by the customer
  • Systems used by company employees to help the customer
  • Third-party people and processes

In the workshop, set up activities to uncover customer goals and to place these in a logical sequence. Later on, this sequence will be used to provide structure to the map in the form of stages. Each stage has one or more customer goals associated with it. And once these have been identified in the workshop, participants can brainstorm and populate ‘Goal Sheets’ with the activities that customers undertake to reach their goals. A current-state journey map should identify how easy or difficult it is for customers to achieve these goals, and to identify current frustrations, anxieties, and unexpected positive surprises customers currently experience with that step in the process.

Once you have identified these elements across the identified stages in your customer journey, you have the basic ingredients for your hypothetical map. With customers and experts still in the room, you may want to spend some additional time capturing new opportunities to leapfrog the competition aligned with the goals you have identified in your customer journey mapping process.

Following this workshop, your journey mapping team, with the help of a visual designer who was ideally present at the workshop, will want to create your hypothetical customer journey mapping diagram.

5. Use primary customer research to test and update your hypothesis

With a good baseline understanding of the customer experience and your hypothetical map in hand, its now time to validate your assumptions with a round of primary customer research. We like to use an interview process called contextual inquiry, which emphasizes observing customers in the normal environments in which they use the product or service. Instead of asking customers a long list of questions, this process encourages customers to use the product or service as they normally would. This allows interviewers to record observations of customer behavior, occasionally prompt the customer to provide insight on why they are taking the action they are taking, and ask them how they feel about different aspects of the experience.

Sometimes, there are situations where direct customer observation is not possible or when you would like to augment contextual inquiry with additional data. In these cases, new surveys can be developed and conducted that are designed to gather the input you need to validate or refute the assumptions in your hypothetical maps.

Personas should be continuously updated and modified.

After you consolidate findings from new primary research, it’s time to bring the original workshop participants back together to review what you learned in the field and update the hypothetical maps together. In some cases, you may have uncovered new stages or goals or identified new sources of frustration that represent blind spots in the hypothetical effort.

6. Make your journey map visually compelling

With final map attributes in hand, this step allows you to tell the best story you can in a visually compelling format. Ideally, you should try to find a way to publish this map in the same context as the target customer personas, research data, and customer observations. Team members who are creating this final map should pull out all the stops for this version to make sure the story jumps off the page and that the most important messages come through clearly.

7. Socialize and Activate

It’s time to bring your customer journey map to a wider audience of stakeholders. If you are using a customer experience management platform, you can send invites to additional stakeholders to view your cloud hosted journey map and the research used to produce it. The identified activities and pain points can also be integrated directly into application development environments (ADEs) such as Rally, Version One, and Atlassian Jira.

You can also present your maps at team meetings to help structure the discussion toward improving parts of the experience that will be most appreciated by your customers. I hope this process walkthrough helps you reach your customer experience improvement goals, and keeps your efforts aligned with your business goals in a way that can be traced back to primary customer research.

Curious about how to use your journey mapping initiative to drive innovation? Click here for a complimentary Forrester Research Report, “Start Innovating with Future-State Journey Mapping” by Analyst Tony Costa.

Tired of struggling to keep a fileserver of journey maps up to date? Check out the UX360 customer experience management platform to create and share journey maps, personas, and more—all with one platform.

Image Credit: “Service Design Jam” by _dChris, licensed under CC 2.0; “Post-Its” by Improve It licensed under CC 2.0

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2018-04-21T10:40:56+00:00