Our willingness varies depending on what the client is looking to accomplish. There are times when a workshop is absolutely the best journey mapping methodology – and times when it’s a train wreck. Let’s start with the best ways.
We frequently end our research projects with mapping workshops. After sharing the research results, we have participants map out the customer journey, using the voice of the customer as their guide.
For example, we recently worked with a software company to research how their business customers actually do their day-to-day business, including the highs and lows. We spent four hours sharing the research, then broke them into two groups to map out the customer’s journey, based on the research they just heard, as well as their experience accompanying us in the interviews.
We also led a workshop for a government agency which conducted their own research. Their web team personally interviewed 30 business clients, and also conducted usability research. So a workshop was a great way for them to come together and to agree on the research implications. After mapping the current state journey, they then created a journey blueprint – also called a future state journey map – to align their approach to make it dramatically easier to be their customer.
Bruce Temkin had a great post about when to use research and when to use workshops. While it’s valuable to uncover the real voice of the customer, you can’t spend $100k+ to answer every business question. Workshops are used for those important-but-less-critical journeys, supplementing research-based journey maps.
For example, one client’s CX team identified their twelve most important journeys. They then deliberately selected which journeys we would research, and which they would use workshops for. This enabled them to move forward more quickly, and to leverage the research findings more completely across journeys.
We typically use this approach for our B2B clients. Another software client started by having us lead a workshop at their user group, with 71 participants sharing their experience reporting a software issue or requesting a new feature. Representatives from the company facilitated the ten groups, allowing them to hear first-hand of the frustrations when response time is slow, or answers aren’t specific enough.
We then went to their clients to do a deep-dive journey map of their specific situations. We invited 5-8 leaders from the client to map out their experience, showing problems created by hand-offs between silos and other points of friction. Our client took notes and asked occasional follow-up questions, but their clients were the focus.
All three uses work because they include the literal voice of the customer in the process. Even in the second example, where it’s an internal workshop, it still uses the research from other projects to ensure that they truly represent the customer’s journey. We put together the attached infographic to help determine when workshops make sense.
A few months ago I received a call from a clothing manufacturer. They wanted to host a journey mapping workshop to understand why they had so many returns, and how to prevent them.
I laid out a process using example #1 above. We’d start with their insights team sharing their research. Next we would map out the current journey for three of their segments before action planning. My contact thought that would work really well, and asked to have a follow-up with her boss.
In that second call, her boss told me that they didn’t actually have any research into this issue, they didn’t have any time or money for research, and they wanted to use this workshop to get to the bottom of the issue.
That’s the absolutely worst use of a journey mapping workshop – to substitute internal beliefs for the voice of your customer. Doing this gives your internal biases the ring of truth – “We have a journey map showing this!” But the thinking that led to this problem (excessive returns) won’t suddenly uncover the voice of your customer. Internal workshops without research is risky.
We politely declined to lead the workshop, but offered to help if they came up with the budget for research. If you’re ever presented with the request to conduct internal workshops without research, I recommend that you do the same.