I recently received this question from a reader in the UK: Which is more effective, creating journey maps based on actual customer stories or creating journey maps based on stories created (imagined) by employees?
That’s a great question. But it’s actually not a matter of which one is more effective. In fact, both types of maps are essential components of any journey mapping process.
You may have seen our 5 Steps To Mapping The Customer Journey.
Step 1 is aggregating your available knowledge into hypothesis journey maps. This isn’t about employees creating or imagining stories out of whole cloth—but about exposing their internal knowledge, assumptions, and questions about customers’ needs and experiences. We call the maps that employees create by themselves hypothesis maps, because they embody their hypotheses about what customers go through as they interact with the organization.
This step is necessary because it ensures you’re not reinventing the wheel with your journey mapping efforts, but rather building on what your organization already knows about the customer experience. By involving a broad swath of employees in the co-creation of these maps, this step also helps to build support for the overall initiative. Remember: People support what they help to create.
However, in the wrong hands, hypothesis maps are extremely dangerous. They’re full of assumptions that are incomplete at best—and at worst, downright wrong. If others in your organization don’t know that your maps haven’t yet been (in)validated by actual customers, they might make decisions based on partial or flawed assumptions that they believe to be truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
And so, your objective is to quickly move on to step 2 in our process: (In)validating your hypotheses with customers. In this step, you’ll find out which of your assumptions were wrong, which were right, and which parts of the journey you were missing altogether. We’ve yet to have a client who wasn’t surprised by what they learned as they listened to customers tell their stories during a workshop. And that’s why creating journey maps—or, more to the point, revising your hypothesis maps—based on actual customer stories is just as essential as creating those hypothesis maps in the first place.