Customer journey maps are more than just diagrams. Sure, they illustrate (in a very visual and easy-to-digest way) the steps customers go through when engaging with a company. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

Customer journey maps act as the foundation on which customer experience strategies should be built. They allow brands to dig into customer experience at every touchpoint and identify pain points along the way. That’s hugely important, as companies look to improve the customer experience in order to increase revenue, build loyalty and stay competitive in crowded markets.

However, the majority of companies are incorrectly mapping the customer journey — rendering the very foundation of their customer experience strategies inaccurate.

According to customer experience expert Esteban Kolsky, 24 percent of companies have undertaken customer journey mapping, but only 2 percent of those companies reported success with the process. Additionally, when customers are shown a customer journey map, 72 percent say it doesn’t describe their needs or their relationship with the brand.

For journey maps to be successful, they need to be representative of the experiences customers are actually having. So forget what you think you know about your customers. Here are five tips for creating an accurate customer journey map:

1. Define What You’re Mapping

Start the journey mapping process by creating a clear scope and establishing goals. Think about what you want to accomplish with the customer journey mapping effort and what you’ll need to do to get there. Hint: your number one goal should be to improve customer experience, but it’s important to set specific goals, too. For example, a brand may want to gain insight into the unique pain points of millennial customers. Identifying specific goals in advance of mapping allows you to take a more strategic approach right off the bat.

Along the same vein, you’ll need to determine what your journey map will cover. Journey maps can look at one specific line of business or segment of customers, while some maps take on the entire business model. Either method will work — pick whichever makes most sense for your brand — but be sure to make the distinction before you start. That way there’s no confusion about what part of the journey you’re mapping and which customers are represented.

2. Let Customer Feedback Drive the Mapping Process

If you want to create an accurate journey map that represents real-life customer experiences, you need to take on an outside-in perspective. Gather and analyze customer feedback, and allow those customer insights to drive the mapping process. Your map should focus on the things that your customers want — not what you think they need.

The more feedback you can collect, the better. Pull insights from call centers, surveys, social channels, forums and beyond. Make sure you are looking at solicited and organic feedback. This ensures that your journey map is as closely aligned with your customers as possible.

Equipped with customer feedback data, you’re ready to start the mapping process.

3. Take on the Customer’s Voice

A good journey map will describe experiences using the customer’s voice. Start by defining the various stages of the customer journey, then identify moments in which the customer interacts with your brand. Define key expectations customers have throughout the journey and highlight moments that could make or break the customer experience.

As you go through the customer journey, remember to include the emotional state of customers at each stage. What are they feeling and why? This allows for a deeper understanding of the customer experience and will help you down the road when it comes time to alleviate pain points and improve the experience with tangible changes.

4. Show Don’t Tell

It’s important to support each point on the customer journey map with customer quotes or feedback data. This brings the map to life and acts as a reminder that the customer journey map is generated entirely based off of real customer sentiments. Showing how customers feel as they interact with your brand is far more powerful than telling.

5. Audit Your Findings

Make sure you’re double checking your work and updating journey maps on a regular basis. A good way to make sure you’re accurately tracking the customer journey is to identify listening points that indicate when and where you are capturing customer feedback. This ensures that listening points are aligned with critical moments and pain points.

Additionally, consider setting up internal interviews, workshops and surveys with employees who regularly interact with customers. It’s also helpful to interview and (when possible) observe customers throughout the customer journey. This will give added context about each interaction and can help support findings or identify areas where your map needs updating.

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