Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What's the Difference: Journey Map or Lifecycle Map?

Image courtesy of Unsplash
Today's post is inspired by a couple of different conversations that happened over the past week or so. 

What's the difference between a customer experience lifecycle map and a customer journey map? 

I thought it was worthwhile to clarify because the difference is in the details! Literally.

I'll start with the customer experience lifecycle map.

The lifecycle map shows the phases of the customer's relationship with your company. It's high level and is good for understanding the overall relationship the customer has with the organization, from before he's even considered a customer through when he is no longer a customer. It typically includes these stages: Need, Awareness, Consideration, Selection/Purchase, Experience, Loyalty, Advocacy, Engagement, Raving Fans. And, unfortunately, Exit. It's not necessarily linear and often circles back on itself.

This type of map is often handy for your marketing and sales folks to help them understand and identify where prospects or customers are in the relationship with the company so that they can better target communications, marketing campaigns, or sales pitches based on wants and needs at each stage. The problem is, it's a 30,000-foot view; it's too high level to be able to help the organization understand the customer experience or to effect change that is meaningful to the customer experience.

Lifecycle maps have their place and are important to nurturing the overall customer relationship, but to get to the heart of the matter, to really design a better customer experience, you must map the customer journey.

What, then, is a customer journey map? In simplest terms, it's a way to walk in your customer's shoes and chart his course as he interacts with your organization (channels, departments, touchpoints, products, etc.) while trying to fulfill some need or do some job within each stage of the lifecycle.  It allows you to identify key moments of truth and to ensure that those moments are executed delightfully. The map is created from his viewpoint, not yours. It's not linear either, nor is it static. But it is the backbone of your customer experience management efforts.

This is where the details come into play, though. The journey map looks at each and every step a customer takes in order to achieve some task, i.e., calling support, ordering a product, etc., with the company. It describes what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling at each step in the journey. Lifecycle maps don't get to this level of detail, and they're not focused on some task the customer is trying to do.

Why do you need a customer journey map? I believe customer journey maps provide clarity for the entire organization. There are a ton of benefits, including (to name just a few):
  • getting organizational buy-in for customer focus and customer centricity
  • understanding your customer and his interactions with your organization
  • aligning the organization around a common cause
  • speaking a universal language (customer)
  • breaking down organizational silos
  • getting a single view of the customer
  • improving the customer experience
If you've done some mapping, take a look at the maps and tell me if you've gotten to the level of detail that you need to get to in order to improve the customer experience. Is it a lifecycle map or a journey map? If you haven't started with personas, described some task the customer is trying to achieve, and validated with customers, you need to go back to the drawing board. Literally.

A map does not just chart - it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected. -Reif Larsen, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet


  1. Excellent points, Annette. There's still a lot of inside-out thinking and content in "Customer Journey Maps". Making the distinction between understanding the company better versus understanding the **customer experience journey**. I've been applauding and critiquing the processes and maps that people are sharing, and just last week wrote a "do this, not that" post about "best practices" that may also be interesting to your readers: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140921164343-155828-customer-journey-maps-do-this-not-that

    1. Thanks, Lynn... and thanks for sharing your post here, too.

  2. Annette,

    Your post prompted two thoughts:

    The map is not the territory ~ Alfred Habdank Skarbek Korzybski

    But more worryingly, how can you know where you are going without one?


  3. Annette,
    I have a problem with Customer experience lifecycle maps as they are focused on what business wants rather than what the customer needs/wants in their design. Journey mapping is much more useful if done well.


    1. I agree, Adrian. And yet I see so many companies thinking that creating lifecycle maps constitutes mapping the customer journey. It is so far removed from that. :-(