Why Research Could Make or Break Your Journey Mapping Effort

Companies are embracing Customer Journey Maps as a CX tool to help drive customer engagement and loyalty. However, many of these journey maps are not delivering on their intended promise. A primary reason journey maps underperform is that they are hypothesis journey maps rather than customer journey maps.

Hypothesis journey maps are created using existing insights and internal knowledge about customers. Customer journey maps may leverage existing insights but don’t rely on this data. Instead, customer journey maps are created using customer insights collected by conducting journey research.

While leveraging existing insights and internal knowledge as part of a journey mapping initiative is recommended, it’s important to understand the common limitations of these insights, and how to best incorporate them.

Companies typically collect data – behavioral, performance, and attitudinal – for specific touchpoints or channels. The data for each touchpoint is collected in isolation from other touchpoints. And optimization efforts are typically focused on customer touchpoints in isolation to each other.

But customers don’t experience these touchpoints in isolation from each other. Rather, customers experience touchpoints in relationship to each other as they interact with your brand with specific goals and expectations in mind. A core value proposition of creating customer journey maps lies in understanding the relationships between interaction touchpoints from your customers’ point of view.

If you want to truly capture your customers’ journey, and leverage the intended value of a journey mapping initiative, you need to conduct journey research. In this article, we outline the key attributes of journey research and discuss why qualitative research techniques are the most effective form of Journey Research. We also discuss how quantitative research can – and should – be integrated into your journey maps to identify trends and gaps, validate and provide on-going governance of your customers’ journey.

Amy Tse, TandemSeven

By Amy Tse

What is Journey Research?

Journey Research is specifically designed to:

Explore your customers’ journey holistically, across touch points and over time
Frame customers’ experiences in terms of their overriding goals and objectives
Capture customer emotions throughout the journey

Explore your customers’ journey holistically, across touch points and over time

Most companies collect on-going customer feedback using quantitative and structured data methods, like NPS and customer satisfaction surveys, and behavioral and performance analytics. This data is typically collected for each of the key customer touchpoints (often corresponding to specific channels). While this data provides value, it is designed to provide customer feedback on a specific touchpoint independent of the role that touchpoint plays within the broader customer journey.

But customers experience these touchpoints in relation to each other across their journey. What they experience at one touchpoint within their journey, impacts their expectations for their experiences at other touchpoints. Capturing those cross-touchpoint expectations and how well your customer experience is delivering on those expectations is like the secret sauce of customer journey maps.

The limitation of optimizing touchpoints in isolation from each other has been a key driver in the adoption of customer journey maps. But some companies mistakenly think that they can create a customer journey map by taking their existing insights for key touchpoints and stringing them together into a journey framework with customer phases, and customer doing, thinking and feeling. The output of this type of effort looks like a journey map, but it is missing the secret sauce – the holistic, relational elements of your customer journey that help drive meaningful change for your customers and your brand.

It is also logical, and common, for companies to think that they can effectively leverage employee knowledge of customers and their experiences. But this knowledge is almost always limited. Most employees interact with customers, and evaluate and deliver customer experiences at specific touchpoints. Their insights have the same limitations as the common structured and unstructured data companies typically collect – they lack the holistic, relational context of a customer experience journey across touchpoints and over time.

Aside from the limitations of collecting touchpoint data in isolation to other touchpoints, NPS, customer satisfaction surveys, and most quantitative surveys are not ideal for discovering your customer journey because they are structured. Being structured means that you make assumptions about your customers’ experience framework in order to ask them about it. You only learn about what you ask. In contrast, journey research is unstructured. It doesn’t need to make assumptions about your customers’ experience framework. Instead, it discovers what that framework is.

Journey research repeatedly shows that the meaningful experience categories companies use to design and operationalize their customer experience are often not experienced as separate experience elements by customers. Your customers are on a journey to accomplish their goals and all the experience elements involved in their interactions with your brand function holistically to either support or hinder their goals. These experience elements function in relation to each other. Journey research brings to light the dynamics between, and relevance of, experience elements, from your customers, human experience point of view.

The most effective way to discover and capture experiences holistically is to conduct contextual, observational qualitative research. We provide an overview of different journey research techniques later in this blog.

Frame customers’ experiences in terms of their overarching journey goals and objectives

Journey research helps you discover what is important to your customer. It will reveal your customers’ overarching goals, or objectives, throughout the journey. And in doing so, it will reveal what experience elements are needed in order for your customers to feel engaged with your brand and to generate customer loyalty.

Journey maps that incorporate customers’ over-arching experience goals as a framing device for the detailed journey map insights help stakeholders easily grasp the essential human elements of the customer journey. The customer goals put all the details of the map into perspective and help to make the journey story cohesive and human-centered. And the overarching goals are helpful and easy takeaways from the journey map that can be leveraged in decision-making contexts throughout your organization.

On its own, simply asking your customers what is important to them and what their goals are, surprisingly, is not the most reliable and effective way to understand your customer’s overarching goals. Listening to and observing your customers as they actually experience their journey is the key to understanding your customers’ goals and objectives. Again, contextual, observational qualitative research is your best bet.

For example, let’s imagine a retail shopping experience for some particular retail category. You might want to ask your study participants up front, what is important to them in their retail experience. Then you might:

Ask them where they typically shop and why
Observe them shopping and capture their experiences as they shop
Ask them what would make their experience even better and why

The answers to the “why” part of the questions above, and the highs and lows that emerge in your customers actual shopping experiences will most likely tell you more about your customers’ experience goals than their answers to the original “what’s important to them” question. We suggest including the original question and using that as one data point in conjunction with the qualitative insights from your Journey Research.

Capture customer emotions throughout the journey

Generating positive emotions throughout the customer journey drives customer loyalty. Journey research helps you understand your customers’ emotions throughout the journey and where the most important opportunities are to create or intensify positive emotions. Again, qualitative research is the best way to observe and understand the emotional aspect of your customers’ journey.

The over-arching customer goals we just discussed, almost always include at least one emotional goal like being comfortable, appreciated, confident, etc. And customer goals will also help to explain customers’ emotional reactions to their experiences with your brand. For example, if an over-arching customer goal is to get in and out of your retail store as fast as possible, anything that slows them down will generate negative emotions.

Qualitative research helps you understand your customers’ emotions by placing their reactions to their experiences in the context of their over-arching goals, and by organically capturing positive and negative emotions in their interactions with your brand as they arise. This way you discover which elements of the experience matter.

In contrast, quantitative research requires that you first pre-determine what elements of your customers’ experience you think might matter and then ask them to rate or describe their emotional reaction to the experience element. These types of surveys often ask customers to rate frequency of use and importance as well. The important point here is to see that qualitative research allows you to organically discover what matters to customers by capturing their emotional reactions as they occur, whereas quantitative research is more focused on capturing information about experience elements that you think or know to ask about.

The latter approach works really well in a validation scenario where the survey is built based on qualitative journey research. If you skip the qualitative journey research, you miss the opportunity to understand what is truly important to your customers.

Qualitative research also enables both researchers and clients to observe customers emotions first hand. This direct observation of customer experience and is a strong empathy building technique that often becomes a catalyst for customer experience driven change. These customer experiences can be captured on video as well, which can then be shared with a wider audience. Videos captured during qualitative research allow for rich, human-based storytelling, that can accompany and support your journey map.

Qualitative Research Methodologies for Journey Research

There are many qualitative research methodologies in the research tool kit that can be leveraged for journey research. Several factors influence which methodology or methodologies you might use including:

• Your target audience
• The nature of the experience you want to capture
• Time
• Budget

Some of the key qualitative journey research methods are:

•Contextual, in-depth interviews
• Observational interviews
• Digital diary studies
• Mobile “ethnographies”
• Focus groups
• Community boards

We’ve found that conducting in-person contextual/observational interviews for = journey research, is the most effective research technique. However, it can be very time and cost effective to combine an initial technique like a mobile ethnography, digital diary study, or focus groups, etc. with in-person, contextual/observational interviews.

The initial study provides a lot of insight with a larger sample size, with participants located in distributed locations if desired, relatively quickly, and at a lower cost than in-person interviews. Mobile ethnographies or digital diary studies allow for capturing lots of contextual experience data, including videos and photos, although video submissions have to be short. If you design your study with this limitation in mind, and then supplement it with in-person observations, you will be amazed at the rich, in-depth data you will collect about your customers’ journey.

The Role of Quantitative Research in Journey Research and Customer Experience Management

While we have found that qualitative research is essential to journey research, quantitative research also plays an important role. Qualitative research should be used to initially discover and model your customers experience journey. Quantitative research can be used to validate what you discovered through qualitative research with a statistically validate sample size.

Designing and conducting the quantitative research after the qualitative research enables you to design your survey based on an in-depth understanding of your customers journey from their point of view. This is a critical point to register. Quantitative surveys will only be as effective the questions you know to ask. If your goal is to drive customer loyalty through generating positive customer experiences, then it is worth the investment to qualitatively explore your customer’s journey so you know what questions to ask in a quantitative study.

Once you have modeled your customer journey using qualitative data from journey research and possibly quantitative data as well, we recommend using the journey map as a framework to evaluate and optimize your on-going customer experience feedback tools. Key questions to ask are:

• Are we getting feedback at the most important customer touchpoints?
• Are we asking the right questions at each touchpoint?

Quantitative data, including behavioral and performance analytics, can also be layered right into your journey map. For example, quantitative data can be used to

• Support the qualitative experience journey with quantitative customer experience data like frequency, importance, satisfaction, time, etc
• Monitor and evaluate key customer experience metrics over time
• Show the impact of investments into the customer experience on key performance indicators (KPI’s) over time

The combination of qualitative and quantitative data in your journey map will ensure that you are investing in customer experience from your customers point of view rather than an internal point of view, increase your confidence in the qualitative data by supporting it with statistically relevant data, and help you monitor, report, and activate on on-going customer and business performance metrics over time.

Journey mapping tools such as TandemSeven’s UX360 are a great way to bring this quantitative and qualitative data together in your journey map.

The role of hypothesis maps

We’ve discussed the importance of conducting journey research rather than relying on existing insights from isolated touchpoints and employee knowledge. However, we recommend jump-starting your journey mapping initiative by creating a hypothesis map leveraging existing insights and employee knowledge. Starting with a hypothesis map has multiple benefits, including:

1) Educating cross-functional stakeholders on what a journey map is and how it will benefit them

2) Creating engagement and ownership in the outcome of the journey mapping initiative with these cross-functional stakeholders

3) Identifying obvious gaps in knowledge

4) Making organizational assumptions about the customer experience clear and tangible

Comparing the final customer journey map with the hypothesis map can reveal mistaken assumptions and help you course correct on investments predicated on these mistaken assumptions.

Summing it up

Many of our clients have failed attempts to successfully create a customer journey map, because they didn’t invest in journey research in the first place. If you want your journey map investment to drive meaningful change for your customers and your business, then you need to invest in journey research.

Journey research employs qualitative research methods to holistically capture your customers’ journey, as they experience it. It helps discover the impact of experiences at one touchpoint on other touchpoint experiences. It helps you understand customer goals and objectives. And it maps customers’ emotions throughout the journey. Journey research also helps you design and operationalize better on-going customer feedback at key touchpoints in the journey.

Companies are embracing Customer Journey Maps as a CX tool to help drive customer engagement and loyalty. However, many of these journey maps are not delivering on their intended promise. A primary reason journey maps underperform is that they are hypothesis journey maps rather than customer journey maps.

Hypothesis journey maps are created using existing insights and internal knowledge about customers. Customer journey maps may leverage existing insights but don’t rely on this data. Instead, customer journey maps are created using customer insights collected by conducting journey research.

While leveraging existing insights and internal knowledge as part of a journey mapping initiative is recommended, it’s important to understand the common limitations of these insights, and how to best incorporate them.

Companies typically collect data – behavioral, performance, and attitudinal – for specific touchpoints or channels. The data for each touchpoint is collected in isolation from other touchpoints. And optimization efforts are typically focused on customer touchpoints in isolation to each other.

But customers don’t experience these touchpoints in isolation from each other. Rather, customers experience touchpoints in relationship to each other as they interact with your brand with specific goals and expectations in mind. A core value proposition of creating customer journey maps lies in understanding the relationships between interaction touchpoints from your customers’ point of view.

If you want to truly capture your customers’ journey, and leverage the intended value of a journey mapping initiative, you need to conduct journey research. In this article, We outline the key attributes of journey research and discuss why qualitative research techniques are the most effective form of Journey Research. We also discuss how quantitative research can – and should – be integrated into your journey maps to identify trends and gaps, validate and provide on-going governance of your customers’ journey.

Amy Tse, TandemSeven

By Amy Tse

What is Journey Research?

Journey Research is specifically designed to:

Explore your customers’ journey holistically, across touch points and over time
Frame customers’ experiences in terms of their overriding goals and objectives
Capture customer emotions throughout the journey

Explore your customers’ journey holistically, across touch points and over time

Most companies collect on-going customer feedback using quantitative and structured data methods, like NPS and customer satisfaction surveys, and behavioral and performance analytics. This data is typically collected for each of the key customer touchpoints (often corresponding to specific channels). While this data provides value, it is designed to provide customer feedback on a specific touchpoint independent of the role that touchpoint plays within the broader customer journey.

But customers experience these touchpoints in relation to each other across their journey. What they experience at one touchpoint within their journey, impacts their expectations for their experiences at other touchpoints. Capturing those cross-touchpoint expectations and how well your customer experience is delivering on those expectations is like the secret sauce of customer journey maps.

The limitation of optimizing touchpoints in isolation from each other has been a key driver in the adoption of customer journey maps. But some companies mistakenly think that they can create a customer journey map by taking their existing insights for key touchpoints and stringing them together into a journey framework with customer phases, and customer doing, thinking and feeling. The output of this type of effort looks like a journey map, but it is missing the secret sauce – the holistic, relational elements of your customer journey that help drive meaningful change for your customers and your brand.

It is also logical, and common, for companies to think that they can effectively leverage employee knowledge of customers and their experiences. But this knowledge is almost always limited. Most employees interact with customers, and evaluate and deliver customer experiences at specific touchpoints. Their insights have the same limitations as the common structured and unstructured data companies typically collect – they lack the holistic, relational context of a customer experience journey across touchpoints and over time.

Aside from the limitations of collecting touchpoint data in isolation to other touchpoints, NPS, customer satisfaction surveys, and most quantitative surveys are not ideal for discovering your customer journey because they are structured. Being structured means that you make assumptions about your customers’ experience framework in order to ask them about it. You only learn about what you ask. In contrast, journey research is unstructured. It doesn’t need to make assumptions about your customers’ experience framework. Instead, it discovers what that framework is.

Journey research repeatedly shows that the meaningful experience categories companies use to design and operationalize their customer experience are often not experienced as separate experience elements by customers. Your customers are on a journey to accomplish their goals and all the experience elements involved in their interactions with your brand function holistically to either support or hinder their goals. These experience elements function in relation to each other. Journey research brings to light the dynamics between, and relevance of, experience elements, from your customers, human experience point of view.

The most effective way to discover and capture experiences holistically is to conduct contextual, observational qualitative research. We provide an overview of different journey research techniques later in this blog.

Frame customers’ experiences in terms of their overarching journey goals and objectives

Journey research helps you discover what is important to your customer. It will reveal your customers’ overarching goals, or objectives, throughout the journey. And in doing so, it will reveal what experience elements are needed in order for your customers to feel engaged with your brand and to generate customer loyalty.

Journey maps that incorporate customers’ over-arching experience goals as a framing device for the detailed journey map insights help stakeholders easily grasp the essential human elements of the customer journey. The customer goals put all the details of the map into perspective and help to make the journey story cohesive and human-centered. And the overarching goals are helpful and easy takeaways from the journey map that can be leveraged in decision-making contexts throughout your organization.

On its own, simply asking your customers what is important to them and what their goals are, surprisingly, is not the most reliable and effective way to understand your customer’s overarching goals. Listening to and observing your customers as they actually experience their journey is the key to understanding your customers’ goals and objectives. Again, contextual, observational qualitative research is your best bet.

For example, let’s imagine a retail shopping experience for some particular retail category. You might want to ask your study participants up front, what is important to them in their retail experience. Then you might:

Ask them where they typically shop and why
Observe them shopping and capture their experiences as they shop
Ask them what would make their experience even better and why

The answers to the “why” part of the questions above, and the highs and lows that emerge in your customers actual shopping experiences will most likely tell you more about your customers’ experience goals than their answers to the original “what’s important to them” question. We suggest including the original question and using that as one data point in conjunction with the qualitative insights from your Journey Research.

Capture customer emotions throughout the journey

Generating positive emotions throughout the customer journey drives customer loyalty. Journey research helps you understand your customers’ emotions throughout the journey and where the most important opportunities are to create or intensify positive emotions. Again, qualitative research is the best way to observe and understand the emotional aspect of your customers’ journey.

The over-arching customer goals we just discussed, almost always include at least one emotional goal like being comfortable, appreciated, confident, etc. And customer goals will also help to explain customers’ emotional reactions to their experiences with your brand. For example, if an over-arching customer goal is to get in and out of your retail store as fast as possible, anything that slows them down will generate negative emotions.

Qualitative research helps you understand your customers’ emotions by placing their reactions to their experiences in the context of their over-arching goals, and by organically capturing positive and negative emotions in their interactions with your brand as they arise. This way you discover which elements of the experience matter.

In contrast, quantitative research requires that you first pre-determine what elements of your customers’ experience you think might matter and then ask them to rate or describe their emotional reaction to the experience element. These types of surveys often ask customers to rate frequency of use and importance as well. The important point here is to see that qualitative research allows you to organically discover what matters to customers by capturing their emotional reactions as they occur, whereas quantitative research is more focused on capturing information about experience elements that you think or know to ask about.

The latter approach works really well in a validation scenario where the survey is built based on qualitative journey research. If you skip the qualitative journey research, you miss the opportunity to understand what is truly important to your customers.

Qualitative research also enables both researchers and clients to observe customers emotions first hand. This direct observation of customer experience and is a strong empathy building technique that often becomes a catalyst for customer experience driven change. These customer experiences can be captured on video as well, which can then be shared with a wider audience. Videos captured during qualitative research allow for rich, human-based storytelling, that can accompany and support your journey map.

Qualitative Research Methodologies for Journey Research

There are many qualitative research methodologies in the research tool kit that can be leveraged for journey research. Several factors influence which methodology or methodologies you might use including:

• Your target audience
• The nature of the experience you want to capture
• Time
• Budget

Some of the key qualitative journey research methods are:


•Contextual, in-depth interviews
• Observational interviews
• Digital diary studies
• Mobile “ethnographies”
• Focus groups
• Community boards

We’ve found that conducting in-person contextual/observational interviews for = journey research, is the most effective research technique. However, it can be very time and cost effective to combine an initial technique like a mobile ethnography, digital diary study, or focus groups, etc. with in-person, contextual/observational interviews.

The initial study provides a lot of insight with a larger sample size, with participants located in distributed locations if desired, relatively quickly, and at a lower cost than in-person interviews. Mobile ethnographies or digital diary studies allow for capturing lots of contextual experience data, including videos and photos, although video submissions have to be short. If you design your study with this limitation in mind, and then supplement it with in-person observations, you will be amazed at the rich, in-depth data you will collect about your customers’ journey.

The Role of Quantitative Research in Journey Research and Customer Experience Management

While we have found that qualitative research is essential to journey research, quantitative research also plays an important role. Qualitative research should be used to initially discover and model your customers experience journey. Quantitative research can be used to validate what you discovered through qualitative research with a statistically validate sample size.

Designing and conducting the quantitative research after the qualitative research enables you to design your survey based on an in-depth understanding of your customers journey from their point of view. This is a critical point to register. Quantitative surveys will only be as effective the questions you know to ask. If your goal is to drive customer loyalty through generating positive customer experiences, then it is worth the investment to qualitatively explore your customer’s journey so you know what questions to ask in a quantitative study.

Once you have modeled your customer journey using qualitative data from journey research and possibly quantitative data as well, we recommend using the journey map as a framework to evaluate and optimize your on-going customer experience feedback tools. Key questions to ask are:


• Are we getting feedback at the most important customer touchpoints?
• Are we asking the right questions at each touchpoint?

Quantitative data, including behavioral and performance analytics, can also be layered right into your journey map. For example, quantitative data can be used to

• Support the qualitative experience journey with quantitative customer experience data like frequency, importance, satisfaction, time, etc.
• Monitor and evaluate key customer experience metrics over time
• Show the impact of investments into the customer experience on key performance indicators (KPI’s) over time

The combination of qualitative and quantitative data in your journey map will ensure that you are investing in customer experience from your customers point of view rather than an internal point of view, increase your confidence in the qualitative data by supporting it with statistically relevant data, and help you monitor, report, and activate on on-going customer and business performance metrics over time.

Journey mapping tools such as TandemSeven’s UX360 are a great way to bring this quantitative and qualitative data together in your journey map.

The role of hypothesis maps

We’ve discussed the importance of conducting journey research rather than relying on existing insights from isolated touchpoints and employee knowledge. However, we recommend jump-starting your journey mapping initiative by creating a hypothesis map leveraging existing insights and employee knowledge. Starting with a hypothesis map has multiple benefits, including:

1) Educating cross-functional stakeholders on what a journey map is and how it will benefit them

2) Creating engagement and ownership in the outcome of the journey mapping initiative with these cross-functional stakeholders

3) Identifying obvious gaps in knowledge

4) Making organizational assumptions about the customer experience clear and tangible

Comparing the final customer journey map with the hypothesis map can reveal mistaken assumptions and help you course correct on investments predicated on these mistaken assumptions.

Summing it up

Many of our clients have failed attempts to successfully create a customer journey map, because they didn’t invest in journey research in the first place. If you want your journey map investment to drive meaningful change for your customers and your business, then you need to invest in journey research.

Journey research employs qualitative research methods to holistically capture your customers’ journey, as they experience it. It helps discover the impact of experiences at one touchpoint on other touchpoint experiences. It helps you understand customer goals and objectives. And it maps customers’ emotions throughout the journey. Journey research also helps you design and operationalize better on-going customer feedback at key touchpoints in the journey.

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UX360 - Enterprise Journey Mapping Platform

Power Platform

UX360 - Enterprise Journey Mapping Platform
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How Can We Help You?

Journey Mapping

Visualize your customer’s pain points and gaps, and create the future state customer journey. We put our tried and true journey mapping methodology to work to align your organization around your customer and use our UX360 platform to help create, store and share these assets.

Customer & User Research

Ground your CX initiatives on real insights uncovered via contextual inquiry.

2017-08-17T13:19:21+00:00