Top 5 Reasons Customer Journey Maps Get Stuck in The Mud

Several years ago I was part of a company that was going through a merger. Not only was the number of employees going to double from approximately 20,000 to 40,000, but the number of customers was going to increase by 300%.

In anticipation of customer support issues that could result from the merger, I was asked to create a customer journey map and identify high risk areas in the customer lifecycle. So I gathered key players from both companies and after spending several days together, we had a customer journey map with over 300 touchpoints, 40 of which we classified as “high risk”.

It was all very impressive. The executives got a kick out of it. But it was also very overwhelming because even though we’d identified those high risk touchpoints, they were still too high-level. They weren’t granular enough for us to actually define tangible action plans and improvements. So we never really got the full benefits of the journey mapping exercise.  One of the logistical challenges we faced had to do with keeping track of the improvements and priorities.  The journey map went from sticky notes on the wall, to a spreadsheet, and then eventually, into a Microsoft Access database.  None of this was ideal for driving the emotion of the map into the organization.

For many companies this is an all too common problem. Journey maps are created regularly but end up collecting dust and never benefiting the customer they were meant to benefit. So how can you avoid getting into the same situation? You can start by understanding the top 5 reasons why journey maps get stuck in the mud:

1) No clear outcomes

2) Misunderstanding the methodology

3) Scope is too large

4) Checking a box

5) No Adoption

JM Stuck

Let’s take a closer look at each of these points.

1) No Clear Outcomes

If you get into your car and start driving in whatever direction you feel like, but with no clear destination in mind, you will eventually get somewhere. And while that somewhere may be fine, is it where you’re supposed to be? J

The same thing often happens with journey maps. Many companies take them on without first defining that ultimate destination, that ultimate goal that they have for creating the map in the first place. When you embark on your journey mapping journey, ask yourself these questions to make sure you’re heading in the right direction:

  • Am I trying to address problems in a specific part of my business?
  • Am I trying to improve my journey mapping skills?
  • Am I creating a map just so I have it as a general reference?
  • Am I surrounded by engaged stakeholders ready to take action on the results?

Symptoms: A lack of clear outcomes often produces these symptoms:

  • Stakeholders will start to engage and participate less in the journey mapping process, unmotivated by the lack of direction.
  • No action plans defined at the end of the journey mapping process. This is a good sign that the mapping experience didn’t produce tangible enough results that can be used to improve the customer experience.

2) Misunderstanding the Methodology

Journey mapping is not process mapping.

Again, journey mapping is not process mapping.

Many organizations that are accustomed to processes such as Lean or Six Sigma will often, with the best of intentions, try to fit process mapping into journey mapping. This is a recipe for disaster. Why?

A process map will produce a journey map that is defined through the eyes of a company’s employees and not through the eyes of the customer. As a result that map will not properly bring to the surface the emotions that customer experience throughout their lifecycle.

Lack of emotion in your journey map will mean that anyone looking at the map cannot connect emotionally with customers and develop the empathy that is essential for understanding customers.

Symptoms: A misunderstanding of the journey mapping methodology produces these symptoms:

  • You have difficulty succinctly describing the customer story.
  • You have a beautiful process map but you still have no understanding of the customer.
  • You’re not able to identify key items like customer pain points or key moments of truth.

3) Scope is too large

As I mentioned earlier in the article, when I did the journey map in anticipation of the merger we had an impressive number of touchpoints (300) and problem areas (40). However, the task was simply too large and covered too many permutations and combinations. This meant that our results were not detailed enough for us to move forward with the work of improving the journey.

In this situation we would have greatly benefitted from having a focused scope. The benefits of a focused scope were clear to me when I ran a journey mapping workshop for a furniture company. We created journey maps for 3 of their personas and all 30 attendees were asked to focus on this basic but essential question:

Who is my customer and what is s/he trying to accomplish?

By keeping the focus on the customer and their needs, this journey mapping session was much more fruitful and engaging for all. We didn’t run the risk of covering irrelevant ground and at the end we were able to define clear action plans for moving forward.

Symptoms: A very wide scope produces the following symptoms:

  • Team members feel overwhelmed and lose interest in the journey mapping process. They may feel like the map is getting away from them.
  • The customer story doesn’t feel “real” enough. This tends to happen when the persona(s) you’re mapping for are not defined prior to the mapping session.

 4) Checking a box

You’ve heard that all the cool kids are doing journey mapping so you decide to do it too. I’ve seen this many times when customers tell me that the executives at their company want to do journey mapping. When I ask them why they want to do it, what their goals are, the answer is often “it’s part of our strategy”. But strategy for what?

One of the great benefits of journey mapping is that it allows team members to collaborate on the maps and reach a consensus on what type of customer experience they want to provide their customers. Therefore, journey mapping is a great tool not just for improving the customer experience, but for getting to organization alignment. However, the organization must go into the mapping process with this objective in mind. Otherwise, then you’re essentially doing it just because the boss says you have to.

Symptoms:  When you’re simply checking a box you’ll notice these symptoms:

  • Journey maps are archived, collecting dust and not benefitting anyone.
  • There’s no follow-up from executives on what can and should be done to improve the issues identified via the mapping process.
  • There’s no sharing or company-wide communication about either the journey mapping process or the planned outcomes.

5) No Adoption

You’ve gone through the hard work and diligence of creating a journey map. You’ve lined your company walls with post-its and communicated your findings to everyone.

Yet there’s no adoption. What gives?

What has most likely occurred here is that you didn’t incorporate some of the best practices of journey mapping. As a result there isn’t a clear story that your team can relate to. Items like images, videos and even the language that you use when describing life cycle stages play a key factor in humanizing the journey map and giving your customers a voice when they’re not physically present. In order to guarantee adoption those human elements have to be present so that you and your team can walk in your customer’s shoes and come up with relevant solutions for improving the experience.

Symptoms: A lack of adoption produces these symptoms:

  • No emotional connection or engagement from your team
  • Inability for your team to articulate the customer story



When you kick-off any journey mapping process it’s important to be clear why you’re doing it, which personas you’re mapping for and what the scope of the mapping exercise will be. You also want to make sure to work with a journey management tool like Touchpoint Dashboard, which allows you to add documents, images, videos and other files to enhance your customer story. These additional touches will give you an edge, allowing you to not only tell the customer story, but tell it with the right emotions. This will ultimately allow you and your team to design new and improved journey maps that truly address the needs of your customers.  We built Touchpoint Dashboard to help you scale.  We built it so you aren’t swirling from walls, to spreadsheets, to Visio, to Powerpoint, to Sharepoint and Access.  It’s built to get your maps unstuck and hitting hard on five great sources of ROI.