yellow background with writing: how to evaluate a journey map? ...6 aspects to consider

How to evaluate a customer journey map?

March 8, 2017

How worthy is a customer journey map? What aspects you should consider when analyzing a customer journey map that someone else made? In this article you learn about the six most relevant aspects to consider when evaluating a the usefulness of a customer journey map.

Journey maps differ in many ways – the content, the visualization, the focus, the purpose.... How do you know if you have a useful journey map in front of you? A journey map that you can trust in and that is elaborated enough for you to base decisions on it?

Here come the six most important aspects that help you decide how valid a journey map is.

Why is it important to evaluate customer journey maps?

  • You need to be clear about the purpose of the map; for example, has the map been created in the process of some creative ideation, or has it really been made for implementation?
  • You need to make sure you're focusing on the right part of the experience; for example, do you really need to optimize the overall experience or should you rather focus on a specific moment that is not going well yet?
  • You need to be sure you are focusing on the right actor; for example, do you want to optimize the journey for users (i.e. people who really use the product on a daily basis) or for buyers (i.e. a manager who is buying the software for the team, but not using it)? That might lead to very different journey maps and a different process.
  • You need to be aware of the reliability of a map; for example, is there enough data that backs the journey map's content or has it been assumption-based? Basing decisions on assumption-based journey maps is a huge pitfall that can lead to implementing the wrong solutions and wasting resources.

1. What’s the state of the map?

In general, we distinguish between two types of customer journey map states:

Current-state journey maps describe how someone experiences an existing service or physical/digital product. Thus, this type of journey map represents an experience as it is right now. They can help identify problems or opportunities. Ask yourself: Does my journey map show what is currently happening?

Future-state journey maps visualize the potential experience someone might have with a not-yet-existing service or a physical or digital product. Thus, this type of journey map shows a state that is not yet a reality. Such maps can help show what you would like to happen or what you would like to design for the future.

When you evaluate a customer journey map, make a sharp distinction between current-state and future state and make sure that the two states are not mixed.

2. What’s the data base?

A journey maps data base is crucial for its validity – and if it's a good idea to base decisions on it or not. When evaluating a customer journey map, you should make sure that enough data and the right data.

Assumption-based journey maps are useful at the beginning of the process. Their content is based on inference, estimations and guesses – and not on actual research data. These maps are a good starting point, but they should always be challenged and evolve eventually into a research-based journey map through research or prototyping.

Research-based journey maps are journey maps with content that is based on research data collected from relevant stakeholders. They contain qualitative data (e.g. interviews insights) and quantitative data (e.g. surveys and tracking numbers). These are the maps that should be consulted for making decisions.

Link to Customer experience research: You will learn what customer experience research is, why it is important, how to conduct is and some methods you can use.

3. What’s the level of detail?

Customer journey maps can be compared to geographical maps: depending on the zoom level, you can see more or less details. The more you zoom out, the longer the experience you illustrate, though with less details. The more you zoom in, the time span of the experience is shorter, but with more details.

High-level perspective: how far does the journey map zoom out? Does it capture an end-to-end experience?

Detailed scope: How much does the journey map zoom in? Does it focus on a specific part of the journey? Perhaps the smaller interactions taking place?

When you evaluate a customer journey map, check if the journey map does not switch between the levels of experiences.

If you think that one touchpoint on a high-level map needs further explanation, rather create a sub-journey where you can analyze the step in more detail.

In general, creating a journey map repository can help you create journey maps that have their focus adapted to the current use case.

4. What’s the focus of the customer journey map?

A journey map can have two types of focus:

Product-focused: does the journey map emphasize the journey that your customer has with your service or product over that of a more holistic view of the customer experience?

A product-centered journey map represents an interaction between a customer with a service, physical or digital product, or a brand. These journey maps leave out all steps outside the reach of a company. They can be useful to illustrate a specific and rather detailed experience, such as the onboarding experience to a software or to visualize a very high-level  experience, such as customer lifecycle maps.

Experience-focused: does the journey take into account experiences that your customers might have outside of their experience with your product or service?

Experience-centered journey maps reflect the situational context and show how touchpoints are embedded in the overall experience. It can lead to better insights of what people really want to achieve and not only how they interact with a company.

5. Who’s the main actor of the journey?

Is the main actor of the journey map a customer? An employee? A user, citizen, patient, student, ...?

Journey maps always have a main actor, illustrated by a persona. A persona is a rich description of a fictional person who exemplifies a specific group of people. Even though personas are fictional, they help make groups of people with similar service needs more understandable.

Link to basics of personas article: You will learn what personas are, why you need them, how to research, define and create them and some templates and a cheat sheet.

6. How helpful are the journey visualizations?

Journey maps can be enriched with a variety of visualizations, for example:

  • Photos
  • Sketches
  • Graphs
  • Diagrams
  • Emotional journey
  • Dramatic arc
  • Ratings
  • Feelings

Visualizations make it easier for the team to “step into the shoes” of different customers.

Which visualizations are useful depends on the subject matter of the project and sometimes lanes must be altered to serve the project’s purpose.


Sign up for the free Smaply online course and learn more about journey mapping, persona creation and ecosystem mapping.

At the end of the course you can also receive a certificate for your newly acquired knowledge.

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