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Zooming Out: Thinking Beyond ‘Customer’ Journey Maps

I am a real fan of journey maps.  They are a great way of cultivating a conversation about the value that a stakeholder is seeking and the types of experiences that will satisfy them.  A few recent experiences have moved my thinking on journey mapping, and this blog post is my attempt to capture these thoughts.

‘Customer’ or ‘User’?

You may have noticed that some practitioners talk about ‘customer journey mapping’, others talk about ‘user journey mapping’.  Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, but in terms of journey mapping I have found them rather problematic.  For example:

  • Not all ‘beneficiaries’ are customers, and who we consider the ‘customer’ depends on our perspective:  There can be situations where the ‘beneficiary’ that the ‘journey’ exists for isn’t considered a direct customer.  Who is the ‘customer’ of an electronic patient record system? Is it the health trust that procures it? The clinicians that use it? Or the patients whose data it stores and processes? It could be any—or all—of these depending on the perspective we take and how broadly we define ‘customer’—and whichever perspective we embrace will affect the types of journeys we consider.
  • ‘Customers’ and ‘users’ are not (always) subsets of one another:  There can be users who are not customers (e.g. an internal call-centre worker using an internal system.  Or an external stakeholder who is managing the financial affairs of a relative under power of attorney receives no benefit themselves, yet they need to ‘use’ the banking service).  There can be customers who are not users (e.g. the person whose affairs are being managed via a relative still needs their interests protected). 
  • Journeys need to protect the needs of other stakeholders:  There may be others who have a ‘stake’ in the journey whose needs ought to be protected, even if they are not a customer or a user themselves. 

Incidentally, asking questions about who is considered to be the customer will typically create a healthy and useful debate around who we are designing the service for and who it affects.  I particularly like to use tools such as UCOB and the PQR Formula to provoke these types of thoughts , yet I worry that by branding a journey as ‘user’ or ‘customer’ it may have the inadvertent consequence in unconsciously shifting our attention to particular types of stakeholder. Without intending to get into debates about how we define either term, (and there are certainly broader definitions of ‘customer’ that are more inclusive) I have come to the conclusion (for my own work) that it just doesn’t matter and we are perhaps served best by just referring to ‘journeys’ or, perhaps even better ‘service journeys’.    That way, we liberate ourselves from the tacit presumption that we ought only to focus on journeys from the perspective of ‘users’ or ‘customers’, however we define them. 

Zooming Out: Service Journeys Cross Boundaries

This is important for another reason too.  An end-to-end service journey is often much broader than we might first imagine.  Taking a seemingly curve-ball example: I recently went for a routine doctor’s appointment, and my doctor sent me for a standard blood test.  In order to have blood taken, I had to make an appointment at another local clinic, who then took the blood and sent it to a pathology lab, who would return the results to my doctor.

Imagine being the pathology lab, plotting a ‘customer’ or ‘user’ journey.  Blood comes in, results go out—as long as the accurate results go to the right doctor, then it’s pretty much OK, isn’t it? The doctor is the ‘customer’, as they place the request and get the results.   Yet raw results by themselves have limited value, the macro-level service is about diagnosing and treating a patient.  It’s about ensuring someone stays healthy, it’s about a person not a sample. There are many other crucial stakeholders too, losing sight of this can be really dangerous and can mean that bad experiences slip in.   This requires collaboration—and thinking beyond—organisational boundaries.

Taking just one example, when I arrived at the clinic to have blood taken I found it really difficult to find the right building on the hospital campus, as the signs were (in my view) rather confusing.  The paperwork I had been given referred to a ‘Phlebotomy clinic’.  Phlebotomy isn’t a word I use very often, I assume it means ‘blood’, but I had no idea which building this clinic was inside.

Picture of signs on a hospital campus, outside the main buildings:

NHS Treatment Centre
Day Surgery
X Ray
Enablement Centre
Dermatoloty Centre

Not in any of these places….

I decided to choose a random building and speak to the hospital receptionist, who gave me very precise directions—and announced them almost on auto-pilot (like that was the seven hundredth time she’d advised someone that day).  When I got into the right building, there was a colour coded sign, and it was easy to find (even the walls were colour coded for ease of navigation).

Picture of a sign inside a hospital, clearly pointing out departments with colour coding.

Multi-faith room
Long term conditions suite
Blood tests
Chronic disease management

Found it! A very useful sign.

When I got to the appointment, I was told I should have fasted—I hadn’t been advised of this and this wasn’t on my written instructions so I hadn’t done.  “Ah, this happens all the time” the clinician told me.  Clearly there is some kind of communication breakdown in the journey meaning patients aren’t being advised.  I had the blood taken, but was told I’d likely need to repeat the test.

This isn’t, in any way, intended as a criticism to the National Health Service or the clinicians involved, who were all extremely caring and compassionate, and I am extremely grateful that we have the NHS.  It is, however, an illustration that a ‘service journey’ spans multiple organisations, is ‘multi-channel’, and considering multiple stakeholder perspectives and thinking beyond our organisation is key.  This might lead us to think about communication and signposting—yes, even physical signposting on buildings—to enhance the overall experience.

What are your views? Please add a comment below, and let’s keep the conversation flowing!

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About the author:

Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.

To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit

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3 thoughts on “Zooming Out: Thinking Beyond ‘Customer’ Journey Maps”

  1. Nice post Adrian, it’s so true that there are many different perspectives on ‘the customer’. In some cases I have encountered, the customer is regarded as the person who’s paying for everything! It can be an intriguing and on occasion awkward situation for a BA when there are mismatched views on the end customer and I recently had the opportunity to observe an interesting exchange on this topic between a systems thinking consultant and some sales consultants who worked with large Financial networks. I was running a workshop to attempt to identify all the processes, or journeys, that the sales consultants undertook or participated in and every time the end customer was referred to it was in the context of a financial adviser…. and every time this happened the systems thinking consultant would gently chide the group “What about the END customer?”…… and every time that happened the sales consultant’s hackles rose a little bit more…. two world views that were both equally valid but on a collision course! In my book, getting the customer defined early can be invaluable but I have to say, I do like your concept of a ‘service’ journey as it would defuse a lot of situations earlier!

    1. Thanks for the comment Dave, good to see we are aligned in our thinking, as ever! Funnily enough, I often think of financial services examples in these situations (probably because I spent a big chunk of my career working in that sector). One debate I still think is an interesting one is this one:

      Imagine a car insurance claims team. The policyholder has a bump, and admits liability. The claims team sets out to arrange repairs to the third party’s vehicle.

      Who is the “customer”? Is it the policyholder? The broker (if there is one?) Or the third party who is waiting to have their car repaired?

      All of these folks have definite stakes, perspectives and needs. But if you focus on one to the detriment of others you end up with a problem. The “journey” here, for example, probably needs to provide a convenient and efficient service to the third party (and their insurer), whilst minimising losses and keeping the policyholder and broker informed.

      We could, I’m sure, imagine which if these folks are “customers” (or whether they all are), but if we focus just on “journeys” or “service journeys” then we (hopefully) focus on the outcomes that matter.

      Gosh, thought provoking isn’t it? Maybe you & I should run a session on it sometime 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Customer Is Always Right – If You Know Who They Are…!! | The Samurai Business Analyst

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