A journey map is like a travel guidebook. It helps translate a particular group of foreign behaviors and motivations into a language you and your organization can understand. Arguably the most essential part of your customer success program, creating a reliable journey map is not a simple endeavor. Because of that, you want to do it right, and you want to do it once.

Luckily, there’s no lack of resources available to help you navigate the process. Heck, throw a rock and you’re bound to hit a customer experience blog post these days. However, after going through the process myself, I can pinpoint a number of places where I ran into some unexpected, yet common, pitfalls. Below is a list of five things about journey mapping that made me say, “Man, I wish somebody would have told me about that."

1. Don't Underestimate the Power of a Proposal

Journey mapping requires participation across all departments, so organizational buy-in at the highest level is essential. Before buying new dry-erase markers and Post-it notes, send a proposal to executives and department heads outlining session goals and expected high-level outcomes. Doing so helped me align management’s expectations with my plans (and assured broad attendance for a journey mapping session that spanned a full day at our headquarters). The proposal justified that time investment and also allowed for questions and feedback, set the stage for a long-term process, and reduced friction while tacitly relaying upper management endorsement.

2. It's All About ROI

The road to improved customer experience can be littered with utopian prose usually reserved for fairy tales and presidential campaigns. “If we just make customers happy, Shazam!” “Happy customers buy more/stay longer/tell more friends/adopt shelter dogs!” Just remember: nothing matters—nothing—unless it can be justified by increasing the overall value of the company. Effective customer journeys require immediate and ongoing investment of time and money. Whet their appetite with that journey map proposal—and then really get them salivating by showing how you expect their support/investment to pay off. Arm yourself with figures, not idealism.

3. Surveys Will be Way Harder Than You Think

Ever hear of “survey fatigue?" You will. There’s no doubt that customer experience surveys are invaluable and you will look forward to their promise of continual feedback and insight. Until you run your first survey. Compiling the questions is hard, writing them is an art, and getting people to respond may make you question your own humanity. Did I mention they’re invaluable? In short, nobody prepares you for being on the other end of a customer satisfaction survey.

4. Your Actual Journey Map May Look ... Disappointing

If you've ever researched journey maps online, you know there are three or four beautiful examples that seem to populate every presentation, blog, and link you see. There’s the perfectly precise and orderly Starbucks one; the awesomely playful but serious bright yellow Lego circular one; there’s the Rail Europe one with its intricate little charts and graphs. Forget them.

The hard reality is that those journey mapping infographics are the result of an insanely good designer. And unless you, too, have access to an insanely good designer, it’s possible (read: 100% likely) that the result of your weeks and months of effort will be pretty underwhelming by comparison, at least visually. That’s okay. It can still do the job. Just make sure the end result effectively relates the story and information that took so much effort to collect. Which brings me to my final journey map insight.

5. Nobody Cares as Much as You Do

Customer experience can be seductive and the benefits seem obvious to those of us who study and practice it. But don’t be surprised if people around you aren’t immediately convinced. (“Wait, we have to invest in making it easier for our customers to return items?”) Habits die hard, feelings get hurt and it’s easy to lose sight of the prize, especially when those rewards are not immediate. You will need to constantly champion your work and speak in terms that the rest of the organization will value. Don’t get discouraged! Customer success isn’t intended to be a quick fix, and I can tell you from my own experience that making an impact takes time. But it will happen—just remember to present those results in terms your audience can appreciate.

Did you encounter these stumbling blocks on your journey-map journey? Are there other factors that tripped you up? Let me know in the comments!

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