Journey mapping is now a staple activity for many Experience Management (XM) teams. However, despite the – often significant – amount of time and resources organizations invest in developing these journey maps, these efforts often fail to make a substantive impact on customer or employee experiences. One of the reasons these efforts tend to fall short is that organizations often view the journey maps as an end in and of themselves rather than as a tool they can use to achieve the ultimate objective: designing and improving individuals’ experiences.

To achieve the full value of their journey mapping efforts, organizations need to use the insights they’ve generated to drive meaningful action across five main areas:

  1. Find and Fix Problems. Identify pain points and close experience gaps
  2. Design Innovative Experiences. Uncover and fulfill unmet customer or employee needs
  3. Create Strategic Alignment. Link XM efforts to desired business outcomes
  4. Refine Your XM Listening Program. Focus insights and metrics on key moments of truth
  5. Build an XM-Centric Culture. Instill XM-centric mindsets and behaviors across the organization


Find and Fix Problems

Journey maps help illustrate how customers or employees view their experiences with the organization by putting individual interactions in the context of their broader goals, objectives, and activities. This comprehensive perspective of people’s experiences with the organization makes these maps an especially valuable tool for diagnosing existing pain points across a customer or employee journey and then developing XM-centric solutions to improve those negative experiences.

Here are three suggestions for how you can use journey maps to find and fix problems:

  • Identify the troublesome transitions and handoffs. Bad experiences often hide in transitions or handoffs – such as moving from a chatbot to phone interaction or being transferred between departments. Despite the fact that these moments are frequently fraught with uncertainty or frustration for the people going through them, because they take place between channels or individuals, the negative impact tends to go unnoticed by the organization. Journey maps provide an excellent opportunity to bring cross-functional teams together to review the entire journey, identify where there may be poor handoffs, and brainstorm ideas and assign accountability for improving these transitions. 
  • Eliminate inefficient processes, rules, and policies. Most organizations have some processes, rules, and policies in place that – while they may appear necessary or routine from a business perspective – actually create negative experiences for customers or employees. Examine your journey maps to identify instances where the underlying internal structures supporting the journey are actually impeding people’s ability to accomplish their goals. These might be unnecessary steps that you’re requiring people to follow or overly rigid policies that make it difficult to deliver easy, enjoyable experiences. While this review may not result in a sweeping internal overhaul, it will at least help you identify where there are opportunities to streamline, simplify, or even automate these processes.
  • Update communications to adjust expectations. Sometimes, bad experiences are the result of a mismatch between people’s expectations and reality. So rather than committing to some major redesign to address every negative interaction, use your journey maps to uncover pain points that you can alleviate by adjusting how you communicate to better set expectations. For instance, if you find that waiting on hold to speak to the help desk is a major source of frustration, instead of immediately investing in upstaffing or training to make agents more efficient, try letting people know up front how long the wait time is expected to be. This will ease their uncertainty and anxiety, resulting in a better waiting experience.

Design Innovative Experiences

Journey maps help organizations develop a deep understanding of customers’ or employees’ true goals, requirements, preferences, and motivations. So in addition to finding and fixing existing issues, organizations should use these maps to identify where there are unmet – and often unexpressed – needs and then translate those into new or improved products, services, or interactions.

Here are three ways you can use journey maps to design innovative new experiences:

  • Address needs that fall outside the organization. Journey maps encompass people’s end-to-end journey to accomplish a goal…including interactions that don’t involve the organization. For example, an employee’s journey of applying for a job may include asking friends or family about the company. Although this experience doesn’t currently intersect with the organization, it is still an important step for the individuals who are trying to accomplish their goals. Use your journey maps to brainstorm ways to facilitate or support these external steps to help customers or employees reach their ultimate goals more smoothly and efficiently.
  • Chart path for XM innovations with future state journey maps. In addition to building a journey map that reflects the current state of your customers’ or employees’ experiences, you can also create a future state journey map, which shows what an idealized version of this path would look like. Comparing these two maps – one showing how the journey is and one showing how it could be – will help you brainstorm creative solutions for bridging gaps between those two journeys, guide the process of developing the new experiences, and keep everyone working towards the same end goal. 
  • Expand perspectives during the process redesign effort. Most organizational processes are just one piece of an interconnected system that spans functions and teams. However, when organizations redesign internal processes, they typically take a silo-centric approach and only consider the process in question – a narrow perspective that can limit the inventiveness of potential new designs. Introduce journey maps into your process redesign efforts to understand the broader environment that process is operating in so you can envision and proactively design the new process more holistically to account for any upstream or downstream effects of the planned changes. 

Create Strategic Alignment

Sustainable XM success requires the organization to maintain a systematic focus on making experience-centric changes over multiple years and across multiple projects and departments. It can be a significant challenge to keep people aligned with the overarching XM vision while ensuring XM efforts stay aligned with the organization’s broader business priorities. Thanks to their cross-functional perspective, journey maps are a useful tool to overcome this challenge.

Here are three ways you can use journey maps to create strategic alignment:

  • Validate and drive prioritization of current projects. Organizations will usually have several different XM-related projects and initiatives happening simultaneously in different areas of the company, all competing for limited resources and attention. Use the journey maps you’ve developed to aid in validating the importance of these different efforts as well as to identify which ones will have the most significant impact on critical experience moments of truth. This will inform how the organization prioritizes its investments to ensure they are focused on the most important areas. 
  • Show back-office employees how they impact experiences. XM is the job of everyone across an organization. While it may be obvious to employees on the frontline or in HR how their role contributes to better customer or employee experiences, this connection may not be as clear for back-office employees who work in roles like accounting, IT, or legal. Share journey maps with these back-office employees to help them not only recognize the role they play in creating and delivering positive experiences, but also solicit their input for how to improve or fix the processes, policies, and systems that they are responsible for. 
  • Use maps to guide post-merger integration. One of the most challenging aspects of a merger and acquisition process is effectively absorbing new people into the existing customer or employee base. You can make this process easier by creating customer and employee journey maps for both organizations, which will help the acquiring organization discover which elements of the other organization’s CX or EX efforts they should embrace, will help expose any XM-related issues that might arise during the transition, and will highlight differences that may lead to customer or employee attrition once the two organizations merge.

Refine Your XM Listening Program

As organizations’ XM efforts mature, their customer and employee listening programs usually expand from one or a few listening posts to a conglomeration of experience monitoring tactics. It is not unusual for these tactics to periodically require some pruning and evolving in order to keep up with the changing insights needs of the organization. Use your journey maps to close X-data blind spots and to architect a more effective listening strategy, whether that’s a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program or a Voice of the Employee (VoE) program.

Here are three ways you can use journey maps to refine your XM listening program:

  • Identify where to establish listening posts. Because journey maps outline the steps a customer or employee follows to accomplish a specific goal, they are a valuable resource for pinpointing where the organization should set up listening posts to capture people’s perceptions of their experiences. You should take particular care to establish these experience listening points during the journey’s moments of truth, which are the individual interactions that have the most significant impact on loyalty.
  • Align internal service-level metrics to expectations. Most organizations select metrics based on an internal understanding of what the organization is trying to achieve. To counteract this, use your journey maps to help you identify customer or employee expectations around key service interactions, like “I expect IT to respond to my ticket within 24 hours,” or “I shouldn’t have to wait more than 15 minutes to speak with an agent.” Then put X- or O-data metrics in place that measure how well you deliver on those expectations. 
  • Bring together fragmented listening efforts. In many organizations, different departments will operate their own, isolated listening efforts, deploying their own surveys, analyzing their own insights, and distributing findings only to people within their groups. Use journey maps to break down these information silos and reconfigure your measuring and reporting to align with essential interactions across the customer or employee journey, rather than with company departments. Bringing these fragmented listening efforts together will allow you to better coordinate feedback requests, synthesize richer findings from across different sources, and define the appropriate collaborative actions to improve people’s experiences. 

Build an XM-Centric Culture

The experiences an organization delivers are a reflection of its culture and its operating processes. Therefore, any organization looking to design and deliver consistently positive experiences to customers or employees needs to foster an environment that instills XM-centric mindsets and behaviors in its leaders and employees. Because they provide a human-centric, rather than process-centric, view of someone’s interactions with the organization, journey maps can be a valuable tool for reinforcing the importance of embracing XM-centric behaviors with employees across the business.

Here are three ways you can use journey maps to build an XM-Centric culture:

  • Create opportunities for employees to actively engage with journey maps. Employees across the organization should understand and actively engage with the journey maps that have been created. There are a number of different methods you can use to communicate the findings of journey maps and help employees understand the implications of those findings on how they do their work. Some methods focus more on information sharing – like executive read-outs, infographic-style summaries, or display posters – while others are more interactive and encourage employees to actively consider their role in the journey – like gallery walks, gamified maps, or meeting toolkits provided to managers to discuss with their teams. Use a mixture of communication methods to reach the right audiences in the right ways at the right time.
  • Incorporate journey maps into new hire and onboarding processes. To ingrain an experience-centric perspective into your organizational culture, don’t just expose existing employees to how they can use findings from journey maps within their everyday work – incorporate it into your new hire and onboarding processes as well. This will not only help new hires understand common journeys customers or employees undertake with the organization and how the organization supports each of these journeys, but it will also communicate that the organization is genuinely committed to delivering positive experiences.
  • Highlight how employees fit into the bigger picture. Employees typically care most about the customer or employee experiences that fit within the narrow scope of their responsibilities. You can raise employee empathy and improve cross-functional collaboration by sharing journey maps with employees so they understand what happens during someone’s experience upstream and downstream of their narrow perspective. And to extend the benefit of this journey-level mindset beyond just the journey maps you’ve formally created, you can encourage employees to proactively consider people’s journeys by training them to consistently ask and answer the five questions of Journey-Centric Thinking.


The bottom line: Journey maps are only useful if you use them to drive meaningful action.

Isabelle Zdatny, XMP, CCXP, is an XM Catalyst for Qualtrics XM Institute

Aimee Lucas, XMP, CCXP, is an XM Catalyst for Qualtrics XM Institute