The Customer Journey Mapping Myth: Why You Should Start with What You Know?

Theory tells us that customer journey mapping starts with customer research. We disagree. Our experience tells us that it is better to build assumptive maps first, based on what the business knows, and shaped by their goals and current knowledge, before heading out to the customer to get their perspective.

We call this research the validation stage, but that term is probably misleading. At no stage are we presenting assumptive maps to customers to “check them”. We are doing deep discovery with customers about their journey, in the context of their lives, finding out from them what matters and, more importantly, why it matters to them.

During this stage we use qualitative research in the form of listening to customer stories, projective techniques and good old fashioned interview techniques to understand what influences their behaviour and the journey they take in the category we are interested in. We are doing the same research you might start with, but from a base of existing knowledge, and with clearer parameters and direction, than if we had gone in cold. And, money permitting, we then quantify these insights.

Finally, we take this customer research information and refine our assumptive maps – fleshing them out, changing them up and reforming them so that customer knowledge is combined with business knowledge to illuminate insightful opportunities to satisfy the needs and requirements of both the customer and the business.

Starting with an assumptive journey does many things, not least:

1. Provides traction and gets projects moving – An assumptive map brings the project team together, gets their perspective on the table and allows them to be heard (solving many problems down the line).

2. Aligns stakeholders – An assumptive map opens up a collaborative discussion of the customer experience, highlighting differences in perception and assumptions across departments that may need to be addressed. This alignment is crucial for a successful CX strategy.

3. Provides a business view of the issues – An assumptive map creates a business view of what the customer journey might look like. It highlights not just gaps in knowledge, but provides insight into how the customer is perceived within the business. These internal issues / perspectives can then be researched, and data used to provide a customer centric argument for a different or improved approach.

4. Focuses the research – A preliminary map reveals gaps in your knowledge about the customer journey. It pinpoints specific areas where you need deeper customer insights. Research then becomes more targeted and efficient.

5. Gives a head start on quick fixes– an assumptive map can sometimes highlight very obvious quick wins to customer issues – just by bringing different people from the organisation together.

6. Provides a sense of ownership – The beauty of an assumptive map is that it’s inherently iterative. As you do the research phase or gather more customer data, the map is refined. But starting with one that is created by the team, based on their insights, means that the final outputs have less challengers within the business.

Want to see some case studies of how we’ve made this work? Get in touch with us at [email protected] or find out more at