Of the four types of customer journey maps, the current-state map is the most ubiquitous. That’s not surprising, given how many organizations are trying to understand their customers’ current pain points and improve the customer experience.
Wondering how you can get started mapping your own organization’s current-state journey map? Follow these 10 steps:
1. Identify an important problem area through existing (mostly quantitative) data.
If you haven’t done any previous journey mapping projects, it can be tough to know where to start. Some companies choose to divide their efforts into pre-purchase and post-purchase journeys. Others start with customers’ first impressions, like sales or onboarding. But don’t throw darts to choose your journey—select it carefully. The ideal journey sits at the intersection of customer pain points and internal business objectives. Make the case for choosing that journey by examining the customer feedback, operational data, and financial data that you’ve already got on hand.
2. Choose key personas and their journeys.
Different customer segments will naturally have different experiences with your organization. (Consider the needs, questions, and emotions of a lower-income first-time homebuyer versus a wealthier buyer purchasing an investment property or vacation home.) So it’s essential that your journey mapping efforts explicitly target specific personas or customer segments.
You should also determine the start and end points for the journeys you’ll be studying. These guardrails may shift a bit as you continue your work (especially when you ask customers where they think the journey starts and ends), but having a stated focus will simplify the rest of the process.
3. Learn more about customers through (mostly qualitative) research.
Your existing data can tell you a lot about your customers, but it’s probably light on helping you understand exactly how your customers do certain things or why. And it most certainly can’t give you a full picture of the customer journey. Qualitative research like one-on-one interviews, observations, and diary studies can help to fill in these blanks.
Note: Depending on time and resources, some companies skip this step and move directly on to step 4.
4. Aggregate all available knowledge into hypothesis journey maps.
A hypothesis journey map is just what it sounds like—your hypothesis of what customers go through as they do business with you. If you did an extensive amount of research in step 3, your hypotheses might be pretty well baked. But if you skimped on or skipped step 3 altogether, then your hypothesis map is likely full of incomplete or incorrect assumptions. Not to fear! That’s where the next step comes in.
5. (In)validate your hypotheses with customers.
One of the most effective—and fun!—ways to determine whether your assumptions were right or wrong is to invite your customers to a workshop. (When we run workshops, we typically include 15-20 customers along with a slightly smaller number of our client’s employees.) The workshop setting allows for intimate conversations, storytelling, and a deep exploration of customers’ needs and pain points. Ultimately, you’ll wind up with a bunch of sticky notes that represent the aggregate experience of the customers in the room.
6. Confirm workshop findings with quantitative research.
Mapping the journey with your customers delivers a trove of rich data. But the trade-off is that you can realistically only invite a small number of customers to any given workshop. To determine whether your newly vetted journeys truly represent your target customer segments—or just those participants you recruited—you’ll need to do some additional quant work. Surveys work great for this. Or, you can go back to all that data you gathered in step 1 for evidence that further supports or refutes your workshop findings.
7. Share maps to develop customer empathy throughout your organization.
We talk about journey maps for a reason: These visual storytelling tools are incredibly effective for getting cross-functional employees to understand the broader customer experience that exists outside of whatever single touchpoint, channel, or function they’re responsible for. So don’t neglect to create and share journey maps with employees from across your organization. However, creating maps shouldn’t be your end goal. Ultimately, customer journey mapping is about improving the customer experience and making your organization more successful—so be sure to continue on with steps 8, 9, and 10.
8. Prioritize the issues you want to focus on.
Not all customer pain points are created equal. To determine the ones that are most worthwhile to fix, ask questions like: How many customers—or which customers—does this issue affect? And how big of a problem is this anyway—a showstopper or just a minor annoyance?
Also look at the business impact of each potential pain point: How much additional revenue would we potentially gain by fixing this? Can we model the long-term cost savings of improving this part of the journey? And how much is it going to cost to put a viable solution in place?
As in step 1, you’re looking to prioritize issues that live in the sweet spot between customer pain points and your internal business objectives.
9. Analyze customer pain points for root causes.
Once you’ve determined what it is you want to fix, it’s natural to want to run off and start fixing it. Not so fast! Many customer pain points are the result of systemic problems within your organization—or your partners’ organizations. Fixing the surface problem without looking deeper at the people, processes, and technology that underlie it will only result in more customer pain points down the road. Simple techniques, such as the 5 Whys, can help you identify the root causes of problems in the customer journey.
10. Design solutions to root causes.
Even once you’ve identified the right problem to solve, it’s a common knee-jerk reaction to solve that problem with the first solution you think of. But let’s be honest: our first solutions aren’t always our best. Designing your solutions in a customer-centered manner involves three basic steps: coming up with as many possible solutions as you possibly can, prototyping those that seem most viable, and then testing those prototypes with customers (and/or employees and/or partners). Iterating on this process several times will mitigate the risk of implementing the wrong solution to the right problem.