How to run a customer journey mapping workshop

Paul Boag

To map the customer journey it is necessary to speak to a lot of people. Often the easiest approach is to run a workshop. But how exactly would that work?

I’m a fan of customer journey mapping. It is a great way of engaging companies with the user’s experience and identifying shortcomings in the way they operate. I’ve written before about why I believe it is such a useful tool and how to gather the data required to create a customer journey map.

What I did not write about in my previous article is how important it is to get input from people across the organisation. This is especially true for those who work with the customer on a daily basis.

Running a customer journey workshop is often a convenient way of engaging with many stakeholders. It is also great for getting key influencers to start thinking about the users experience. But how do you run a workshop like this?

The first thing is to know what you want from the workshop.

Ensure you have clear goals

The goal of the customer journey workshop is not just to map the customer journey. In fact it is unlikely you will be able to create a detailed customer journey map in a day. Instead expect to walk away with a draft of a single journey for one type of user. If you are lucky you might cover two, but don’t expect that.

The aim of customer journey mapping isn’t to map every nuance of the users experience. You are not trying to create a realistic representation of every users experience. Instead you are trying to tell a story. A story you can circulate around the company to engage people with the idea of customer service. Something to get them thinking.

The workshop helps in that regard. It will focus key influencers from across the organisation on the importance of user experience. It educates them so that they better understand how to serve their customers and carry out further research.

The process of creating a customer journey map also helps identify weak points in the customer journey. Places where the organisation is letting customers down and processes need to change.

It is important to keep these goals in mind. It is easy to get sucked into endless discussions over different paths the user might follow. Pick a path and tell that story.

With these goals clear in your mind the next decision is who to invite to the workshop.

Who to invite

There are two types of people that you should invite to a customer journey mapping workshop. There are those who understand the customer journey and those who do not but our key influencers in the organisation.

It is often senior management who fall into the latter category. The more senior you are the less you have to do with customers. Yet the more your decisions impact their experience.

That is why these people need to attend a customer journey workshop. It helps focus them on customer needs and shows them the consequences of some of their decisions.

That only works if you also have people who understand the customer journey in the meeting too. Most obvious source of these people are customer service staff. Those who engage with users on a daily basis. They will have invaluable anecdotes of failures in user experience. Stories you can incorporate into a customer journey map.

But there are other people with a contribution to make. Marketers often have insights into user behaviour based on market research they have carried out. Digital teams also have good contributions to offer. Contributions based on usability testing and analysis of web analytics.

Make sure that when these people attend the meeting they bring any research or data they have on users. The more material you have to work with, the easier the session will be and the less reliant it will be on personal opinion.

How to run the session

Running a customer journey workshop is not as hard as you might think. Different people run these workshops in different ways. But the approach I have settled on is straightforward and you could run it without trouble.

Identify the key stages of user interaction

Begin by identifying the key stages a customer passes through in their interaction with your company. This often involves stages such as:

  • Discovery.
  • Research.
  • Purchase.
  • Delivery.
  • After sales.

It is important to note this will vary depending on the nature of your product or service. There is no right or wrong way to organise your stages so feel free to decide on a model together in the workshop.

Identify the information you want to map

The second decision the group needs to make is what information you want to map about the user. What do you need to know at each of these key stages in their interaction. Again, this is up to you. But some typical areas are:

  • Tasks. What is the user trying to achieve at this stage?
  • Questions. What does the user want to know at this stage?
  • Touchpoints. How does the user interact with the organisation at this point?
  • Emotions. What is the user feeling at this stage in the process?
  • Weaknesses. How does the organisation let the user down at this stage?

Create your customer journey grid

With those two decisions made you can now create a grid with key stages on one axis and information to gather on the other.

Your basic customer journey map should look something like this.
Your basic customer journey map should look something like this.

It is important to stress that the final customer journey map doesn’t need to look like this. But this provides a framework you can work with.

I recommend getting a large roll of paper and covering an entire wall with this grid. As big as you can.

Start by working together

Now as a group work through the first column. For each row start writing information on post it notes and add it to the grid. For example what tasks is the user trying to complete in the discovery phase? Write each task on a separate post it note and add it to the appropriate cell on the grid.

The reason to write them on post it notes is that as the day goes by you may well restructure the grid. You may also decide that a task happens later in the process.

Where possible use the data and information people brought along to inform what goes on your post it notes. But if in doubt, guess. You can always confirm your guess after the workshop. It is better to maintain momentum than get stuck on part of the grid.

Work in small groups

By the time you reach the bottom of the first column people will have got the idea. At this point I tend to split attendees into pairs (or small groups depending on numbers). I then give each pair a column to work through by themselves. This speeds up the process and also stops the day getting too monotonous.

Once the pairs have finished their columns we come back together to discuss. This ensures everybody is in agreement even if they didn’t produce that column themselves.

That is it. But what happens after the workshop is just as important.

Post workshop

There are two dangers of a customer journey workshop.

The first is that the journey maybe inaccurate. It is never going to be perfect, but it should at least be representative of reality. That is why you should spend some time after the workshop validating the results. You don’t need to make this complicated. It just means passing it by some customers and getting their feedback.

The second danger is that the customer journey map just ends up in a draw somewhere, unused and forgotten. To prevent this it needs converting into some kind of engaging format that everybody in the company can see.

That might be a poster, a video or some kind of interactive application. Whatever the case you must present this in a way that engages people. That means getting a designer to work with it. They can produce something understandable and attractive.

A customer journey map needs to be easy to grasp and engaging.
A customer journey map needs to be easy to grasp and engaging.

A storytelling tool

At the end of the day a customer journey map is a storytelling tool, not an academic tool. It needs to end up as a simple representation of the customers experience. Something that people can easily take in and something that influences how they think about the role of the company.

A good customer journey map allows people to see problems with the way their business works in a glance and inspires them to fix things. That is something worth a days workshop.