The Path to Customer Journeys
Slower-moving organizations, or those with high change risk, are often rife with channel gaps. Legacy systems, disparate vendors, long contract commitments - usually mean non-integrated systems without access to SDKs or APIs that can be capitalized on for consistent customer experience and data access. All of this is hard to see, and even harder to quantify internally, since departments and processes can be walled off from one another.To discover new insights into what your customers are actually experiencing as they interact with your organization across divisions and channels, I find journey and experience maps insightful. By mapping these flows at a high level, you can identify gaps in the customer experience that may be disjointed and painful, and provide visual storytelling of the cross-channel process of a single customer touchpoint. Over time, they can guide you to how changes in customer behavior have shifted the user’s expectation of an integrated, seamless product experience. The visual medium gives you a quick picture, to gain internal consensus on how customers should be treated and what they can expect across distinct digital channels channels.

The final journey map, offering a quick overview of the user's path and where needs are not met due to friction

Final experience map, with a point-in-time reference of what the user is feeling and thinking as they move through each step of the process, along with their emotional benchmark

Starting the journey
The path to mapping started first with a high-level linear flow for on-boarding and acclimation through our digital channels.
1. Gather data. Go through your analytics; make observations; comb through feedback mechanisms like email, phone, social media messages, app reviews, customer surveys, focus groups;  if you have access to a data warehouse, verify your data through actual customer datasets.
2. Identify your states or touchpoint and your channels. Reference materials and documentation from your own experiences, along with user stories/requirements, test documentation, screenshots and workflows. For channels, what are the opportunities and constraints with each? For states, what are the high-level milestones and decisions/questions within each? Gain a solid understanding of challenges and benefits of each channel, and analyze your states for those that provide the right level of detail to identify pain points in the process, whether it is due to heavy usage (lots of people) or if it’s cumbersome but high-value (an online application).
3. Trend analysis. What do similar institutions and technologies have that you don’t? Understand the high-level presumptions users may have based on their experiences elsewhere, and how they shape the expectations of your product.
4. Touchpoints. Figure out which channels and devices are associated with major milestones in the customer journey.
5. Talk about feelings. Map user feedback along with your own intuition about how customers feel involuntarily switching channels.
6. Test your gut. Verify and pass around your documentation to get feedback. Does everyone see the same story when they look at it? What is missing to tell the complete picture?
7. Internalize and figure out what you are going to do about it. Are there quick wins? Do other things require legacy integration? New technology? Get those things on the roadmap.

Macro-journey ideation - spending and budgeting

The large-scale picture helps inform which areas of your journey are potential sources of pain. Each of these can be drilled down into, to map the user's emotional journey. For example, what is the process for an existing user who uses their phone exclusively and wants to apply for a mortgage… can they do that on their mobile phone, or do they have to visit a physical location for some or all of the process? What would make this a seamless, fluid experience?
If there are large channel gaps in critical paths within your product, there are likely goals your users cannot complete without involuntarily channel-switching. By combining a high-level journey and experience maps with user research (see previous post), you can get at the heart of what causes your users pain and what features they need to reach their goals. 
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