Get Emotional About Journey Mapping

By Peter Haid

How can anyone not be touched by the recently-gone-viral story of the Target employee who not only patiently waited, but also helped his elderly customer count her coins for payment of her goods at the register? It melted the heart of the anxious customer next in line, so how can it not do the same to us, social media engagers?

Even more so, as customer experience professionals, this story should trigger a happy feeling. This is what it means to be customer obsessed. The Target employee, by authentically engaging the elderly customer, left a mark on another customer and, thanks to social media, many more potential customers. Yes, this ripple effect is thanks to social media, but its origin is a simple act of compassion between an employee and a customer.

Keep in mind, though, it’s not just about the single moment of great customer experience. It’s about our holistic approach to the customer’s journey. This is to say, this moment of interaction should be but one emotion-infused moment in a serious of emotion-infused moments that make up the customer’s journey with your organization. In order to do journey mapping right, you need to approach it from this angle.

Note that this angle is in stark contrast to the process mapping approach. When weighing the two mapping options, one from an inside-out perspective (process mapping) and one from an outside-in position (journey mapping), think about the Target story.


Let’s look at both approaches in the context of the simple cashier interaction:

As process mappers would have it, the check-out action is basically functional and operational. Its success is based on its efficient completion, because after all, this is simply a transaction.

Alternatively, by adopting the journey mapper’s lens, the same transaction can be seen as an experience that engages the customer’s intent and preferred interaction style (in this case, counting out coins to cover the cost of the purchase). Similarly, its success is measured by a positive effect on the customer’s emotions. (Happy effect on customers not directly involved in the interaction? Added bonus!)

Put into the mapping context, a customer continues to engage with your organization at varying points because of the experience, not the product itself. Purchasing a product or service is an experiential step in the customer’s journey with Target (or any company). The emotion it evokes, whether positive or negative, will lead the customer to further engage or disconnect with the organization. By providing that draw to return due to a positive experience, the company develops a journey-type relationship with the customer, rather than one of an exchange of goods, as process mapping might have it.

It’s this understanding of the interactions we have with customers as points in a journey that will lead us to become better mappers, but more importantly, to move our organization forward. Process mapping is slowly becoming obsolete as journey mapping is overtaking it as a transformational tool. Journey mapping is so much taking center stage that there are professionals that have taken it on as a full time occupation. Like individual professionals, companies are waking up to the fact that the last 20 years of Lean/Six Sigma work has given them an efficient path to customers, but one that doesn’t lead to loyal customers. Without returning clients, without loyal journey-takers, the company remains without growth and the map, stagnant. Overlooking emotions, and thereby journey mapping, is an opportunity cost we need to ask if we are willing to take.

One last thing to consider in the journey map that really rings true with our case of the Target employee is the focus on cross-functional teams. Unlike process mapping’s assignment of specific department roles, journey mapping recognizes that in practice all employees are customer experience professionals. Nothing proves that more than our experience-generator Target cashier.