Future of CX

5 key rules of behavioural journey mapping

Colin Shaw
last edited on
October 26, 2023
7-8 mins

Table of contents

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Behavioural Journey Mapping

We’ve recently trained some of our clients on journey mapping. During the process, I realised that there is a lot that people don’t know about it—and that they needed a few rules to help them make the most of the exercise.

We discussed the problems with journey mapping in a recent podcast. Traditional journey mapping is what a customer is doing, but is missing a few things. It gives you a rational customer process, meaning an account of how they move through your experience from point A to point B, but no insight into how people behave as customers and why they do what they do.

To advance people’s thinking about how to create customer journey maps, we have five rules. However, before we get into those, I want to show you how traditional journey maps leave out significant parts of the experience.

Let’s imagine that you have decided to go to McDonald’s. What is the first stage of your journey? If you live alone, maybe it was that you were hungry. If you have children, perhaps it was that one of them was hungry, and they begged you to go to McDonald’s. Then, you get into your car and drive to your preferred location to use the drive-thru window (because, at the time of publication, many states do not have dining rooms open). As you approach the restaurant, you are either deciding what you want or finding out what everyone else wants, which, in some families, can be a challenge in and of itself. Once you order, you pay at the first or second window, collect your food, and either start eating right then in the car or drive home to eat it. (On a side note, I did this exercise at a conference once, and one of the participants added into the account of his McDonald’s journey that after he ate the food, he then “destroyed the evidence.”)

From McDonald’s perspective, they would probably say the journey map for the drive-thru begins when the customer places their order at the intercom. Then, they enter the order into the internal system for processing. The customer pulls around to pay at the first window while another team member assembles the food order and puts it in a brown bag (along with 50 packets of ketchup). The customer then pulls up to the second window where a team member hands it out to them and wishes them well before the customer drives away.  

If you had used a traditional journey map to plot this experience, you wouldn’t have started until the car pulled into the drive-thru lane. As you can see by our earlier example, that was at least three steps into the actual experience a customer would describe.

Behavioural Journey Mapping is different. Our version includes the subconscious and psychological aspects and the usual parts outlined in typical journey mapping. It begins at the real beginning of the customer journey, back in the house when their tummy first rumbles, or their child first asks, “pretty please.”

As I mentioned, we train on this topic and our product. So, we have developed these five rules for advanced journey mapping, which include:

5 key rules of behavioural journey mapping

customer journey mapping
Customer journey mapping
  • Embrace that the journey is rational, emotional, subconscious, and psychological.
  • Look for the hidden aspects of a customer journey.
  • Define strategically what specific emotions drive most value across the market.
  • Build deliberate memory points.
  • Identify how to nudge customer decision-making.


Embrace that the journey is rational, emptional, subconscious, and psychological

For my regular readers, it will be no surprise that it’s not just about what the customer is doing, e.g., going to McDonald’s; it’s also about how is the customer feeling going into that experience, e.g., hungry, excited, guilty, etc. It is imperative to understand how the customer is feeling entering the experience. Remember, right from the start of your interaction, there is a lot of information flying back and forth. In some cases, like with a lot of kids giving orders, it can make people feel distracted, stressed (at least a little), and sometimes hungry, which can lead to agitation (hangry).  

If I were advising McDonald’s, I would recommend they discover ways to make the customer feel better. From the tone of voice that they’re using to their body language, we would want the McDonald’s team member to do things to make customers feel a way that provides a great experience during what can be a transition from a stressful situation. At the time of publication, customers likely waited in a LOOOOONNNG line of cars at the Drive-Thru because of stay-at-home orders during the pandemic, which probably wasn’t enhancing customers’ positive emotions much entering the experience.


Look for the hidden aspects of a customer journey

Map out what is currently happening, along with the experience that might lie beneath the surface. It is essential to recognise that things are happening before your customer turns up at your experience. For example, the McDonald’s customer (or their kid) was hungry, so they decided to get McDonald’s.

However, things happen after you think the experience is over, too. My colleague, Professor Ryan Hamilton, professor of marketing at Emory University, has published a paper on Customer Returns, another part of the user journey process that happens later in the cycle. Their findings were that user journey maps should incorporate returns because it’s increasingly important. Customers return ten percent of all retail sales, but most companies do not include returns in their customer journey maps.

When I was in Atlanta, I flew into Hartsfield, and I was staying at one of the big hotel chains. It had been a nine-hour flight, and I was feeling shattered. Unfortunately, I waited an hour for the shuttle to pick me up—and it took three phone calls to find out where it was! My impression was that the hotel didn’t consider the shuttle part of their experience; they thought it a favour. However, I felt it part of their experience. The hotel would have been wise to see it from my perspective.

Are you looking for those hidden stages at the beginning, end, and middle, like product returns? Look past the obvious steps, as many of the stages have hidden aspects you should consider.


Define strategically what specific emotions drive most value across the market

customer emotions
Define the emotions that drive the most value

Once you have mastered Rule #2, then you know what’s happening today. However, then you need to consider the experience you are trying to deliver for tomorrow. We know over 50 percent of experience is about how a customer feels. So strategically, the organisation should be saying, we want customers to feel THIS at the end of this experience. It could be that you want them to trust you or think that you care about them as customers. However, whatever you choose, it should drive value for the organisations, whether that is Net Promoter Score® or customer-driven growth, or whatever else you are trying to achieve. Your job is to determine how to design an experience that evokes these emotions.

In other words, remember your goal. Your goal is to induce certain feelings related to specific cognition in your customers so that they have a better experience and deliver value to the company.

Too many journey mapping tools talk about positive and negative emotions. For me, that’s not good enough. You need to know the specific feelings that you want to evoke. If you don’t know what customers want or what emotions drive value, you need to do research. Our Emotional Signature® research can get to the heart of what customers really want, by measuring the emotions your experience evokes and revealing what feelings your customers’ wished it evoked, or needs they want it to meet. Once you know what emotions are going to drive the most value, it is easier to plot a course that will get you there with your experience.


Build deliberate memory points

Memory is vital to Customer Experience. Professor Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel-Prize-winning economist for Behavioural Economics, said that people don’t choose between experiences; they choose between the memory of an experience. For me, this concept is fundamental.  

Therefore, once you have designed an experience that makes customers feel the emotion that drives value for your experience, your next consideration is how to build a memory of that.

Essential to this concept is the Peak-End rule. The Peak-End Rule describes how memories form by the peak emotion and the end emotion the customer feels, which can be positive or negative. If you look back at the customer journey you mapped out during rule #2, you can usually identify the customers’ peak emotions, as well as the end emotion they feel today. If per Rule 3, the Peak and End emotion don’t drive value, then you’ve got to change them.

You also need to build in memory points to the experience. Memories are often a network of ideas that reflect each other. A metaphor we often use to describe how this works is a fishing net. Imagine picking up a fishing net by one of the knots in the net, you can also imagine how the rest of the connected knots will also rise with it, dangling below but connected. Memories have similar webs built into them. When you encourage forming a memory, you are managing more than just the one experience; you are managing the entire network of connected memories. In this case, the web of memories is all the journeys they have taken with you in the past.

Here, we are mapping out how customers are making choices. Our steps in user Journey Mapping process looks at these four aspects (Rational, Emotional, Subconscious, and Psychological). We put those layers into the existing journey map. Taking what we know about Behavioural Science (hint: it’s what all these newsletters are about each week), we determine which psychological effect influences customer behaviour at the various moments of their journey through the experience.

Remember, spending all this time and money on customer journey mapping helps you make better decisions about managing the customer experience. In other words, you do journey maps to identify opportunities and recognise what customers’ emotional states are and create ways to change them to your benefit.

Memory is vital to customer experience

Being deliberate in your design is vital. It is essential to remember that Behavioural Economics concepts do not work “in general,” but rather in specifics. So, for example, if you want to use a Framing Effect to drive customers to a particular behaviour, it will only work in a well-defined setting. Journey maps help you find that sweet spot. You know when you have an opportunity to frame a query that appeals to a natural bias and produces the outcome you seek.  

There you have it; the five rules to help you take your customer journey maps to the next level. Not only do you know what your customers are doing, you have a better idea of why they are doing it that way. Moreover, you have the tools to ensure you are doing it the way that maps a route straight to the customer-driven growth destination you need.

Mapping the customer journey is an essential process that allows businesses to gain insight into the customer experience, understand their needs and preferences, and ultimately provide a better overall experience.

Mapping the customer journey is an essential process that allows businesses to gain insight into the customer experience, understand their needs and preferences, and ultimately provide a better overall experience. Here are seven steps to help you map your customer journey:

Step 1: Define your customer personas

The first step in mapping the customer journey is to understand who your customers are. This involves creating detailed customer personas that reflect the different segments of your customer base. These personas should be based on real data and insights, such as demographics, psychographics, behaviors, and motivations.

Step 2: Identify the touchpoints
Once you have your customer personas, the next step is to identify the different touchpoints that your customers have with your business. Touchpoints can include things like visiting your website, calling customer service, receiving marketing emails, and making a purchase. By identifying all of the touchpoints, you can gain a better understanding of the customer experience.

Step 3: Gather data
To create an accurate customer journey map, you need to gather data about each touchpoint. This can include things like customer feedback, customer service interactions, website analytics, and social media engagement. The more data you can gather, the better your understanding of the customer experience will be.

Step 4: Create a customer journey map
With all of the data gathered, the next step is to create a customer journey map. This map should visually represent the customer's experience at each touchpoint, including any pain points, barriers, and opportunities for improvement. This map should also reflect the customer's emotions and behaviors at each touchpoint.

Step 5: Analyze the map
Once you have your customer journey map, the next step is to analyze it. Look for trends and patterns that emerge, such as common pain points or areas where customers are dropping off. This analysis will help you identify opportunities for improvement and prioritize areas to focus on.

Step 6: Take action
Based on the analysis of the customer journey map, it's time to take action. This could involve making changes to specific touchpoints, improving customer service, or enhancing the overall customer experience. The goal is to address pain points and improve the customer experience at every step of the journey.

Step 7: Continuously update and optimize
Finally, it's important to remember that the customer journey is always evolving. New touchpoints may emerge, and customer expectations may change over time. That's why it's essential to continuously update and optimize your customer journey map to ensure that it remains relevant and reflects the current state of the customer experience.

In conclusion, mapping the customer journey is a critical process that can help businesses gain valuable insights into their customers' experiences. By following these seven steps, you can create a detailed and accurate customer journey map that will allow you to improve the overall customer experience and drive business success.


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Memory is vital to Customer Experience
- CXPA on customer journey mapping.

This article originally appeared on the Beyond Philosophy blog.

Colin Shaw

Colin Shaw is recognized by Linkedin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’. He is Founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy who helps organizations unlock growth by discovering customers' hidden, unmet needs that drives value.

Colin has written 7 bestselling books on Customer-driven growth and is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast.

He has also been voted twice as Brand Quarterly readers on one of the 'top 50 Marketing Thought Leaders Over 50' and has been established as one of the top ‘Customer Service Gurus’ in the world by a Global Guru poll.

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