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10 behavioural biases that impact your customer journey mapping workshops

As featured in B2B Marketing magazine

09 August 2018

An office
Plotting your customer journey is affected by the behavioural psychology of the team doing the mapping. Learn the top 10 biases that can mess with your outcomes.


When you and your team set out to plot your customer journey, the map you create and the journey you paint will be affected by the behavioural psychology of yourself and each of the team members involved in mapping the journey. Cameron Gunn explores the top 10 biases that can mess with your outcomes.


Customer journey mapping has always been full of good intentions. You get support from your boss and from your colleagues. You get your hands on useful research. You run a brilliant workshop. And everyone is excited about the big step you’ve taken towards becoming more customer obsessed.


But despite all the good work that you’ve done – things tend to kind of just fizzle out. So, we asked ‘what gets in the way of effective customer journey mapping?’.


Turns out a big reason sits at the heart of what we do: your own, and your colleague's built-in biases.


There is a long-standing temptation in B2B marketing to think of ourselves and business stakeholders as purely rational people. The reality is very different. People are irrational.


The reasons why people think and act the way they do in business workshops and decision making teams are heavily impacted by their own inherent biases.


Top 10 biases at play in a customer journey mapping workshop or process


There are literally hundreds of cognitive biases that impact our how we think, how we behave, and how we make decisions. We’ve identified 10 you need to be mindful of for your next customer journey mapping exercise.


1. Confirmation bias


We tend to seek information that confirms rather than contradicts our view.


In the age of Google, we can quickly find things that validate our opinions. This is a problem with a team or individuals mapping a customer journey, as those involved can simply jump on anything that confirms their beliefs.


During the process, constantly challenge yourself and the group by asking ‘what are all the reasons our assumptions are wrong?’. By putting yourself through this rigour, you will avoid simply confirming existing individual and organisational beliefs.

2. Authority bias


The tendency to attribute greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure.


This is a particularly important bias as the customer journey mapping process involves multiple levels of seniority, from both customers and colleagues. 


You need to create conditions so that a variety of people can meaningfully contribute. Follow a process that ensures both junior and senior people can participate at the same level and ensure that all voices are heard.


3. The Dunning–Kruger effect


The tendency for unskilled individuals to overestimate their own ability, and the tendency for experts to underestimate their own ability.


Think of this as the little brother of imposter syndrome. I’m sure you’ve met people along the journey who are absolutely confident in their ability, even in the face of conflicting evidence. And while we can’t easily fix them, we can do something about experts underestimating their ability.


By giving your subject experts a defined and recognised role, you’ll create a space where their colleagues will lean-in to what they say. Publicly name your experts and define their role so that everyone is clear on the value that they bring.

4. Information bias


The tendency to seek information even when it cannot affect action.


As marketers, we’re always on the lookout for more data. And while our ability to collect data has never been greater, we’re not always brilliant at turning it into something useful.


Make sure that you’re not drowning in data. By adding restrictions to the research phase of your process, such as limiting the time you spend researching for example, you’ll make sure that you focus on the most relevant information, and not get distracted by interesting but useless data.


5. Bandwagon effect


The tendency to base actions and beliefs on what others do or believe.


Everyone wants to be part of the crowd. It’s in our nature to blend in and make sure we’re not ostracised from the group. It’s useful for some things, but a problem for customer journey mapping.


Make sure that you call it out when it feels like people involved in the mapping process or team are agreeing with each other simply to fit in with the crowd and avoid conflict.


6. ‘Not invented here’ bias


The tendency to dismiss the ideas, research or knowledge developed outside a group.


People really dislike outsiders. A lot of organisations have a tight-knit culture, where it can be difficult to bring in outside perspectives. Often businesses will insist on internal initiatives and ‘home-grown’ innovation even when more exciting options might come from outside their four walls.


When customer journey mapping, make sure you communicate how you’re going to use third-party research and the value that it brings. It will help people to buy into the approach and reduce any friction as you progress.


7. Shared information bias


The tendency for group members to spend more time and energy discussing information that all members are already familiar with.


We all prefer to talk about things we agree on and are all familiar with. In 2001, researchers looked at the quality of group decision-making. They found that when group members are motivated by a desire to reach closure, their bias for discussing shared information is stronger.


Customer journey mapping can be mentally exhausting. Make sure your process includes plenty of time for breaks and ample time to discuss decisions, and not just simply review research.


8. Framing effect



The tendency to draw different conclusions from the same information, depending on how that information is presented.


How we are presented information has a massive impact on how we interpret it. Customer journey mapping often involves the distillation and presentation of lots of different data and research, alongside presenting back recommendations to the business. Agree at the start of the process on how to standardise and present customer research so you’re not influencing how people are making decisions.

9. Primacy/recency effect


Items near the end of a sequence are the easiest to recall, followed by the items at the beginning of a sequence.


We are exposed to an incalculable amount of information every day. To help us process and remember what’s important we prioritise what we last heard, followed by what we heard first. This means we often forget what people say in the middle of a conversation, or tune out in the middle of a process.


When customer journey mapping make sure you’re not discounting the middle. Capture, recap, review, discuss as you go through the entire process.

10. Selective perception


The tendency for expectations to affect perception.


This has a massive impact when evaluating your success. Although there is a lot of goodwill around customer journey mapping, often the value people expect is not aligned. Be clear with your stakeholders about why you’re doing this work. But also, be realistic with them. The negative impact of a poor customer experience can be twice as large as the impact of a great one. Improving your customer experience will do more to defend and retain your customer base, rather than help you attract new customers.


Where next?

Cognitive biases aren’t inherently bad. We actually need them to get through our lives. But we do need to be aware of the impact they have on us and how they affect the work that we do. By being conscious of how behavioural bias can impact customer journey mapping, and taking steps to mitigate against it, you’ll provide a more accurate representation of the customer journey and a more valuable business tool.


This article was featured in B2B Marketing magazine. Read it in full here.