What's the Big Deal about Journey Mapping


If you have been keeping an eye on the customer experience (‘CX’) business, you will have seen regular references to ‘customer journey mapping’, ‘customer corridors’ or ‘touch point maps’. Definitions vary but basically these maps are a picture of the steps and processes we put customers through as they try to interact with us.

Intuitively it makes sense that explicitly designing customer experiences in this way increases the chance that you will get them ‘right’ – remembering that the arbiter of best practice here is not a consultant’s clip board & stop watch but the opinions & feelings of those pesky customers.

This is true, but there is a basic principle that makes these maps doubly valuable if you plan to stay right: Customers do not think about interactions with your company in averages. Rather, the Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman pointed out the ‘Peak-End Rule’ of judging customer experiences. According to the Peak-End Rule, we judge our past experiences almost entirely on how they were at their peak (pleasant or unpleasant) and how they ended. Virtually all other information appears to be discarded, including net pleasantness or unpleasantness and how long the experience lasted.

Journey maps allow you to specify the possible peaks and troughs in the experience you are providing your customers. We also call these peaks the ‘Moments-of-Truth’ (MOTs) that really matter to the customer. The important consequence of the ‘Peak-End Rule’ is that good work in one area of the interaction can be obliterated by a service shortfall at another MOT… Or vice versa (see below chart).

This helps explain why Ikea offer inexpensive food and treats right after their (potentially) unpleasant check-out process: create a high point at the end of the customer journey, and the entire experience will be judged more favourably.

Implications for customer feedback programs

Thinking about customer feedback programs, this curious irrationality of how we judge experiences has two immediate implications:

  • Firstly, if your customer journey is relatively straightforward, you may be able to get away with asking customers ‘how did we do?’ or ‘would you recommend us’ at the end of the journey. But you should also ask about your performance at the critical moments on the journey to make sure you have not drifted into a service shortfall that has a lasting negative impact.
  • Secondly, if your customer journey is complicated or lengthy you should aim to poll customers at each moment-of-truth to make sure the peak is where you planned it. Do not ask every customer at each MOT of course, sample and suppress to avoid survey fatigue. And remember that the key drivers of the customer experience will be different at each MOT. 

In summary then, not only does your customer feedback program probably need to be more granular, but journey mapping is important because the maps help you to design and manage your customer experience around Moments of Truth, informing where you need to collect this granular feedback.


A word about the drivers of loyalty

Now turning to loyalty strategy, there is a subtlety to this drive for a good customer experience that we should note. It’s often assumed that to create loyal customers we must go above and beyond, exceeding expectations during the customer journey.

However, whilst good customer experiences make satisfied customers, satisfaction does not create loyal customers on its own. Indeed, in a recent survey published in the Harvard Business Review, 20% of ‘satisfied’ customers still intended to leave the company in question.

Rather, reducing dissatisfaction is far more important, as dissatisfied customers predictably take their business elsewhere and spread the bad word. For instance, the same survey showed customers receiving poor service were twice as likely to tell 10 or more people about it than those receiving good service.

So reducing dissatisfaction is a churn avoidance strategy that aims to avoid driving customers away with bad service. Don Peppers put this well in a recent LinkedIn post:

“In one survey of nearly 100,000 US consumers researchers found that ‘there is virtually no difference at all between the loyalty of those customers whose expectations are exceeded and those whose expectations are simply met’. Across industry after industry, the key driver of customer disloyalty is dissatisfaction, driven by unresolved problems or service issues and a customer service interaction is roughly four times more likely to drive disloyalty than loyalty.”

The message here is clear: customers are more likely to punish bad service than reward good service, and loyalty has as much to do with companies delivering on the basics than on ‘surprising and delighting’ their customers.


Loyalty and customer journey mapping

Bringing it all together, there are three take-away messages for practitioners of customer journey mapping, customer feedback programs, and loyalty:

  • The customer experience will be judged almost entirely on how it felt at the peaks and shortfalls and how it ended, the ‘Moments of Truth’.
  • Journey maps help you to understand and capture these ‘Moments of Truth’ throughout the customer experience, and incorporate them into your customer feedback programs and business strategies
  • Understanding service shortfalls is important, not only because of our irrational ways of remembering experiences, but because dissatisfaction is such a critical driver of (dis-)loyalty. So before we use customer journey maps to create moments of customer delight, we should use them to make sure we understand and deliver on the basics, because the very first step to creating loyalty is preventing disloyalty.


We are Ellipsis, the Customer Loyalty Experts. We help businesses thrive through solving complex customer problems. Please get in touch, we’d love to talk.

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