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Getting Lost on the Customer Journey

by Hank Barnes  |  August 11, 2015  |  3 Comments

I’m a big believer, as most of you know, in Customer Experience.  But I have to admit that I struggle to fully understand Customer Journey Mapping.  This jumped to the front of my mind after reading a great post from Esteban Kolsky on the topic.  Esteban captured many of my concerns with journey mapping in his post.  I’ll likely reiterate some of them here (apologies in advance if I repeat you in any way, Esteban)—but from what I hope will be a different perspective.


To put it simply, I think Customer Journey Mapping can help you try to be more customer-centric and help you try to put yourself in the mind of your customer.  But a customer journey map is unlikely to provide a complete picture of what really happens.  It is one part of the “toolkit” (and little to none of the implementation) towards a better customer buying experience.  And used incorrectly, it could be pretty damaging.

Here are where my concerns lie:

Journey Mapping is for an Individual – B2B Buying is done by teams

This is my biggest concern.  If you are applying journey mapping to B2B buying, particularly for technology, more often than not you are dealing with buying teams.  I’ve yet to find a journey mapping methodology oriented for a team.  Others have suggested to focus on “the champion” or “the decision maker”–and that is great guidance.  But ultimately the real journey won’t ever be captured if you focus on an individual.  And trying to consolidate mulitple maps for all of the  different buying team roles is difficult (maybe even impossible).

If someone has an approach for this that could change my mind, I’d love to hear about it.

Journey Mapping may give a false sense of customer-centricity

Esteban talks about this, but I want to re-iterate it.   When I read about journey maps, most of the guidance is about the customer journey with you–the provider.  But that is not the journey at all.  As we have mentioned, 68% of the buying process is done interacting with anyone other than the provider or their content.   In many parts of the journey, buyers don’t want the provider involved.   Yes, you can develop and influencer marketing program to get others talking about you, but you are not in control.

If you put the “with you” into the journey equation, it is highly likely that your journey map will be incomplete and just plain wrong.   The journey is not about you–it is about the customer achieving a goal.  My first introduction to something like journey mapping was Customer Scenario Mapping with the Patricia Seybold Group.  I prefer their perspective.    They encourage you to think of the customer scenario independently.   Focus on what they want (or have) to do to accomplish a goal.  Once that is defined, and only at that point,  then you can figure out where you can help, if at all.   Two separate steps.  Patty and her team takes it even further and highly encourage that scenario mapping be done with your customers as part of a co-design effort.   Rather than you predicting what they want, you design with them.

The other thing to remember is that for all the interactions that buyers have externally, they also (for many purchases) have to do a lot of work internally– gaining support and following the procurement rules of the organization.  Do your maps include those activities (which are likely to have some, possibly significant, variances) for every potential customer?

Journey Mapping can be too optimistic

Finally, when sellers map journeys, even if they don’t insert the “with us” too soon, they are usually expecting an outcome and a path that is always progressing toward an end.   Many journeys, perhaps even most buying journeys, never hit the destination.   They are short circuited or delayed by budget issues, no decisions, or other priorities.    Maps that don’t reflect these detours, delays, and roadblocks are unrealistic.   This is akin to Esteban’s comments about control—journey maps imply control and some level of order that simply does not exist (about the only order that exists is in following procurement rules).   Do you reflect the roadblocks and detours and explore if (and how) you can help your customers get back on track?

Ultimately, like most things, journey mapping can be a helpful —but it is only part of the solution and needs to be viewed through the right lens to make sure that you don’t get misled or think you have more control of the buying effort.  And, don’t let the idea of building journey maps or personas, for that matter,  lull you into a false sense of customer-centricity–particularly if you are doing either without directly involving customer input or review.



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Category: future-of-sales  go-to-market  

Tags: customer-journey  marketing  sales  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Getting Lost on the Customer Journey

  1. Thanks Hank for quoting me, and for making my dribbles sound better than they are!

    nicely done,

    • Hank Barnes says:

      Thanks Esteban. The more all of us expose the issues that come with the illusion of control of tech buyers, the better.

  2. Or it can be like getting lost in the desert, on a circuitous route that’s aimless and meandering. They guide buyers through a carefully planned series of interactions called a customer journey.

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