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Can Customer Journey Mapping help you leave the Isle of Cyclops?

This article is the first in a series about Customer Journey Mapping (CJM), originally published in 2017 and now revised. Below is the full list of articles. You will be able to download the series as an ebook once the fourth article is posted.

  1. What is Customer Journey Mapping? [Below]
  2. Seven benefits of Customer Journey Mapping [coming soon]
  3. Best practices for Customer Journey Mapping [coming soon]
  4. Is NOW the right time for Customer Journey Mapping? [coming soon]

The cyclops without CJM

Let's take a moment to step into the shoes of Polyphemus, one of the Cyclopes brothers.

Like most cyclopes, you make your living simply but honestly, trapping unlucky passersby in your cave and eating them at your convenience. It's a happy life, the bucolic peace punctuated by the excitement of the occasional chase and feast.

Then one day an oddly-dressed adventurer arrives. Only later do you find out his name was Odysseus -- initially he tells you he goes by "Nobody," the liar!

With Nobody, you go about the usual routine, trapping him and his men (quite a few!) into the cave, anticipating the feast ahead.

But you're blindsided by what happens next. Somehow Nobody talks you into drinking too much, a bad habit of yours. While you're indisposed, your would-be dinner stabs you in your one good eye (your only eye!) with a red hot poker. You bellow to your brothers for help, saying "Nobody is trying to kill me," but they take you literally and ignore the blind rage (heh heh) in your voice, not coming to your aid because apparently no aid is needed.

In the end all you can do is blindly throw rocks at Nobody / Odysseus as he sails away.

Just imagine, though, that you had been a more proactive Polyphemus. In between the consumption of passersby, instead of taking leisure, you and your brothers had been hard at work on CJM. How different would that outcome have been?

What is CJM?

The seemingly simple core idea of CJM centers around this question: “How does my customer experience the relationship with my company?”

Under CJM, the customer experience is conceptualized as a journey, with many points of contact with a brand and product category long before an actual purchase is made. And the journey continues with the post-purchase experience.

Broadly, then, a journey can be divided into phases. Note that the mapping should include what happens on a tangible or functional level AND what happens on an emotional level. There are multiple ways of doing this, but the following is commonly accepted:

  1. Pre-purchase. Includes all customer interactions up until they decide to satisfy a need by making a purchase. During pre-purchase CJM maps interactions with:
    • The product category, including your competitors
    • Your brand
    • The environment: other sources of influence and information including friends and peers (social networks), media of all sorts, professional connections, and so on.
  2. Purchase. Not just the literal issuing of a PO or swiping of a card, but including the actual selection of a particular product / service. The CJM captures factors that might:
    • Influence brand selection
    • Stop, delay or hasten a purchase
    • Increase or reduce spend
  3. Post purchase. From receiving delivery through the conclusion of all interactions that involve the brand, product, or service. Activities to watch:
    • Use of the product or service
    • Rectifying problems encountered, including through customer service
    • Word of mouth that loops back to the pre-purchase stage for others

The Cyclops WITH CJM -- the rest of the story

With that framework in mind, let's rethink Polyphemus's situation as that of the proprietor of his own island, with the "customers" being those wandering souls who came there to partake of its bounty (or perhaps get eaten).

With CJM, you can see how Polyphemus may have been able to get an entirely new perspective about the Isle of Cyclops*. Even if he didn't literally leave the island to do his research among wandering groups, his CJM report would help him figuratively leave the island by taking in a different view of his world.

Pre-purchase. Polyphemus would have seen that his customers, the wanderers who come to his island for refuge, are more than just his potential dinner. In fact, they bring to his island a vast array of experiences, some of them violent and dangerous.

Purchase. As a consequence of their experiences, these wanderers are not all willing to pay full price for a week's stay, the proverbial pound of flesh. Some of them are bad for business and better off left alone. Polyphemus would have seen that a different pricing structure -- perhaps some form of tribute, rather than human flesh -- might have increased selection of his island as a destination, for some future scenario in which wanderers have a choice about where to go.

Post purchase. Polyphemus might have found that different pricing and cancellation policies would have improved feedback into others' pre-purchase phases. Wanderers might also have suggested instituting a customer experience department.

CJM -- from the outside in

While conceptually simple, the CJM approach has far-reaching implications for every facet of how an organization makes money and/or serves its customers. It's incredibly valuable in that regard, but only if implemented well and with the right internal people. We'll dive into that in other articles.
Below are the other articles about customer journey mapping (CJM). Or you can download the whole series as an e-book.

  1. What is CJM? 
  2. Seven benefits of customer journey mapping [coming soon]
  3. Best practices for customer journey mapping [coming soon]
  4. Is NOW the right time for CJM? [coming soon]


*Apologies for poetic license. The Cyclopean isles were actually what Polyphemus threw at Odysseus. So he couldn't have lived on them. But if you've read this far I trust you'll forgive the geographic inaccuracy.


Written by Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen, MBA, is the President of Phase 5 US and the leader of the firm's Data Analytics practice. With almost 2 decades of experience in client-side marketing strategy, market research, and product management, Steve brings a client’s mindset and drive for actionable results to each project. He has extensive experience in capturing the view “from the outside” with a special focus on product and service innovation. Steve is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.