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Why Journey Map?

“O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!”

-- Robert Burns

Seeing ourselves as others see us is a gift. And customer experience mapping (CEM) gives us all the power to do it! All it takes it stepping away from your desks for a while—and some empathetic imagination.

In the technology services business, our workdays are consumed with the things we do: closing cases, escalating, shipping replacement parts, improving knowledge and self-service, dispatching field staff, preparing for new product introductions…the list goes on and on. But it turns out, this isn’t what your customers are experiencing, at all.

You think of escalations; they think of getting handed off to another person whom they hope can help. You think about no-fault-found warranty return rates; your customers think you shipped them a broken and confusing product. You think about VSOE and entitlement management; your customer wonders why you can’t just “do the right thing.”

You’re not wrong, by the way, to think what you do.

But you need to be aware that the customer’s experience is really, really different from yours. Perhaps the biggest difference is that you’re looking at the aggregate—at rates, and averages—while they’re experiencing their own singular situation.

So what? Well, your short-term financials, and your performance objectives, probably hinge on your experience. But your long-term success, and that of your brand, depend on the aggregate (not average) of each customer experience.

Clearly, ignoring this isn’t an option. But, short of renting an RV to visit all your customers, it’s hard to find out how they experience you. That’s where customer experience mapping can help.

How to Map Your Customer Experience

Get Ready

  1. Scope the problem. Taking on the customer lifecycle cradle-to-grave isn’t practical, but the best insights come when multiple groups explore their hand-offs from the customer’s perspective. Pick a use case that’s important, but manageable. When in doubt, scope it down.
  2. Get the right people in the room. A group of five to ten seems to work best. Have representatives from each of the groups that own policies, operations, products, and services that will drive what the customer sees. Make sure they’re prepared with process flows, reports, case notes, escalations, and other data that will help them understand and explain what the customer sees.
  3. Put up paper. Lots of paper. A double width of butcher paper seems to work well. It seems like a small thing, but you’ll want to use the map that you create over and over again, to enlighten and encourage other stakeholders.
  4. Distribute colored stickies. Different colors will represent different actions, objects, and experiences. Surprisingly, any room brightens up when people get their hands on colored sticky notes and Sharpies.


  1. Walk through the customers experience as a series of events, creating a time-sequenced row of one sticky per event. Here’s where the magic happens. Make sure everyone contributes: no one knows it all. There will be judgment calls as to whether suggestions represent corner cases or important steps to model; keep track of the ones that fall on the cutting room floor, as you may change your mind or choose to focus on these later.
  2. Identify on stage and back stage tasks that you do, again, each in its own row and color. By “on stage,”we mean things that you do that the customer experiences directly, such as talking with a support analyst. By “back stage,”we mean something that you do that the customer can’t see directly, like routing a case to a different queue or submitting a product defect. These stickies are where your team lives, so this builds a bridge from the customer’s world to yours.
  3. Watchyour customers reaction. At each point in the customer’s map, what are they feeling, do you suppose? Was something surprising, delightful, frustrating, annoying, or offensive? Use your powers of empathy. It’s often useful to remember back on experiences that you’ve had with other vendors.


  1. Identify Key Moments of Truth (KMOTs). Of all the places customers react, which seem the most important to them? Which are the ones most likely to adjust their opinion of you, for better or worse? Which will surprise them? KMOTs create the short list for further examination.
  2. Look for experience fracture points. Are there places where the ball really gets dropped from the customer’s
    perspective? (At this point, we don’t care if there are good reasons or not from your perspective.) These,
    especially if they’re KMOTs, are worth a “five whys”deep dive.
  3. Look for ownership fracture points. As enterprises, we’re at our blindest when we’re transitioning customers from one team to another: marketing to sales, sales to implementation, web to assisted, Tier 1 to Tier 2, EMEA to North America, etc. Watch the customers carefully as they transition, and work especially hard to see if their
    experience goes sideways when no one is watching.
  4. Validate with customers. This is optional, but what a great idea to walk customers through this map to find out if this really is what they experience and feel, and what you might have missed. Again, judgment is required to not over-focus on a single customer.
  5. Explore hunches.Before getting into a serious action plan, are there any quick wins? Do you have any brainstorms about what to do? Sometimes, as soon as an experience gap is identified and the right people are in the room, the solution is completely obvious.
  6. Put together an action plan. Prioritize the KMOTs with gaps, assigning owners to each. Use the map to test proposed solutions—will they solve the problem at hand from the customer’s perspective? Do they create new problems? If there’s a problem with a hand-off, make sure that all the right organizations are working together on it.

We all have the ability to harness the power within – to see ourselves as others see us. It’s a gift. 

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David Kay

About Author David Kay

David Kay is principal of DB Kay & Associates, a consultancy that provides thought-leading advice in knowledge management, self-service, and social support to the high-technology service and support market. DB Kay customers include IBM, Microsoft, Research In Motion, Tektronix, TI, Intuit, and Cisco. David is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and webinars. He was recognized as an Innovator by the Consortium of Service Innovation, and is a KCS Certified Trainer. DB Kay & Associates is a TSIA Consulting Alliance Partner.