What can go awry in customer journeysThere is much written on the virtues and triumphs of mapping customer journeys, but little about what can go awry.

Customer journeys are beacons that focus teams across an organization around the common goal of helping people become successful and happy. Successful and happy people, as we all know, stay as customers, spend more money and may even share the love with their social circles.

In fact earlier this month, Forrester's report, "Banks and Retailers: You Cannot Price Your Way Out of Bad Customer Experiences," uncovered that customer experience accounts for 55% of customer loyalty to banks, and 46% to retailers.

Yet sometimes, a zealous, well-intentioned exercise to map journeys goes awry and someone yells, "This customer journey effort is BS!"

Customer journeys document the experience customers have from their point of desire to fulfillment. It includes not only the interactions a person has with a company, but also the touch points where their impression of the brand is impacted. This latter factor includes social and media influences.

In this endeavor, arriving at success versus disillusionment depends a lot on your approach. Here are two critical things to remember as you embark on your own odyssey in search of providing the ultimate customer experience:

Customer Journeys are Messy

Customer journeys are messy, multi-channel beasts that change direction at a customer's whim -- after all, it’s their journey, not yours.

The exercise is not a way to box customers into a desired path with a dry erase marker and whiteboard. It’s a way for brands to better understand customer desires, anticipate needs and uncover opportunities to delight. It’s important to remember that many of the crappy customer experiences we face personally were born from a brand's too-rigid definition of the path consumers must follow. Case in point: the last time you navigated a call center script either with verbal gymnastics or by playing touchscreen hopscotch.

Brands too often approach mapping customer journeys as a process problem rather than a party project. Process conjures up commanding customers with straight, orderly conduct -- like the Von Trapp children at the beginning of The Sound of Music. They were a miserable bunch.