Unveiling hidden bias in customer journeys

    bias in journeys

    Organizations can take proactive measures to mitigate bias and unlock the full potential of their customer journeys.

    In customer research and product development, bias often lurks insidiously, revealing itself when it’s already too late to fix. 

    An airline’s journey map might be built by a homogenous group of people, such as tall men, who subconsciously lean towards their own preferences when it comes to prioritizing passenger needs. Their decisions could lead to more legroom, when the majority of customers actually would prefer more overhead storage. 

    You might even launch products with bias baked in; such as most cameras – which are built to accurately capture lighter skin tones, leading to silhouetted and overexposed images of darker-skinned people. 

    Bias is a multifaceted issue for organizations that want to work in a customer-centric way. But if you can prevent or reduce bias throughout the customer journey, your business will thrive.

    The cost of bias: internal and external impacts

    Bias can negatively impact your organization from the inside-out.

    Internally, bias breeds discontent among employees, stifles innovation, and hampers overall performance. Research indicates that employees perceiving bias are nearly three times as likely to become disengaged at work, incurring substantial costs estimated at hundreds of billions annually for U.S. companies alone (Forbes).

    Externally, bias can spark lawsuits, tarnish reputations, and drive away potential business opportunities. Of course, losing millions of dollars in a lawsuit is a worst-case scenario. But it’s more common than you might think, thanks to your brain chemistry. 

    Understanding cognitive bias

    At the core of biased decision-making lies cognitive bias. Cognitive bias is a psychological term used to describe the unconscious mental shortcuts we use every day to expedite decision-making. While inherently adaptive, these biases can lead to flawed judgments and skewed data interpretations.

    With regards to your customer journeys, these shortcuts can inhibit your understanding of your customers, and lead to costly mistakes. 

    Types of bias in customer journey mapping

    Customer journey mapping is a valuable tool for understanding and improving the customer experience, but like any process involving human judgment, it is susceptible to cognitive biases. Here are some cognitive biases that might show up in the Journey mapping process.

    Confirmation bias

    Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. In customer journey mapping, this bias might lead researchers to focus only on evidence that supports their assumptions about customer behavior while ignoring contradictory data.

    Anchoring bias

    Anchoring bias occurs when individuals rely too heavily on the first piece of information encountered (the "anchor") when making decisions. In customer journey mapping, this might happen if researchers base their understanding of the customer journey on initial assumptions or stereotypes, rather than being open to exploring different possibilities.

    Availability heuristic

    The availability heuristic estimates the likelihood of an event based on how easily it comes to mind. In customer journey mapping, this might occur if researchers give undue weight to recent or memorable customer experiences, even if they are not representative of the overall customer journey.

    Self-serving bias

    Self-serving bias attributes successes to controllable internal factors and failures to external factors. In customer journey mapping, this might lead organizations to attribute positive customer experiences to their own efforts, while blaming external factors for negative experiences.

    Recency bias

    Recency bias causes us to give greater weight to the most recent events or experiences when making decisions or judgments. In customer journey mapping, this might lead researchers to focus too heavily on recent interactions or feedback, without considering the entire experience over the course of the customer lifecycle. 

    Conservatism bias

    Similar to confirmation bias, conservatism bias involves a preference for leaning on pre-existing beliefs. Unlike confirmation bias, conservatism gives more credence to established theories, conclusions, and processes, and resists new or innovative approaches. This might show up in your journey mapping process by ignoring suggestions for radically different solutions for customer problems. 

    Hindsight bias 

    This bias involves believing, after an event has occurred, that one could have predicted or foreseen the outcome. In customer journey mapping, this might lead mappers to overlook the complexities and uncertainties involved in understanding customer behavior, leading to overly simplistic or deterministic conclusions.

    Awareness of these biases can help researchers approach customer journey mapping with a more critical and objective perspective, leading to more accurate and insightful insights into the customer experience.

    Preventing bias in customer journey mapping

    To mitigate bias in customer journey mapping, and in customer service design generally, proactive measures are essential. Some steps we recommend:

    • Store all of your journey information in one place: Use one Journey Management platform throughout your whole organization to avoid data silos and bring as many contributors to the mapping process as possible. You can use TheyDo to create, update, and share your journeys with everyone in your organization quickly and efficiently. 

    • Maintain consistency in procedures, methods, and tools: Make sure your data is clean and your research methods consistent in order to avoid false comparisons. 

    • Update your journeys regularly: Add new customer insights as they come in, not once every few months, in order to maintain the most accurate and useful maps. 

    • Foster diverse teams: Including diverse perspectives in the journey mapping room will create space to challenge assumptions and validate findings independently.

    • Utilize AI: Cut down on bias in customer data analysis by synthesizing research data with AI. 

    How AI can prevent bias in journey mapping

    AI can be a useful partner when it comes to reducing bias in your journey mapping process. By cutting out the human middle man in customer data analysis, it can present information directly in the voice of your customers. 

    Journey AI analyzes customer research from raw text input such as interviews and surveys to identify, synthesize, categorize and map insight within a few minutes. Journey AI creates journey phases and steps, and maps extracted insights to their corresponding lanes. It essentially eliminates the step between research and mapping, saving you time that would have been spent combing through tons of research data, and possibly making mistakes or overlooking insights. 

    Of course, AI engines are not completely without bias. They are built by humans, after all. But as AI models learn more (and the humans building them refine their software), they will process your data within the context of a large, comprehensive range of customer experiences. 

    Tackling bias for better business outcomes

    When running a customer-centric business, combating bias isn't just a moral choice—it's a strategic necessity. By investing in robust research methodologies, fostering a culture of inclusivity and objectivity, and using new, objective tools such as Journey AI, businesses can save time and resources in the long run. Unbiased insights pave the way for informed decision-making that not only delights customers in the short term, but maximizes profits and saves money in the long-term. By addressing bias head-on, organizations can unlock the full potential of their journeys.