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Map Customer Hassles to Enhance the Journey

  • Annette Franz

Anyone who reads this department regularly knows that I’m a huge advocate of journey maps. They are excellent tools for helping you walk in your customers’ shoes and understand their experiences with your business. Recently, I stumbled upon an article in Inc. about a new kind of tool: the hassle map.

The term and concept were developed by Adrian Slywotzky, who explains that hassle maps reveal the steps that cause a customer to have a negative experience with a business. The map can be literal or a simple mental construct and should play a key role in determining strategies for engineering, design, marketing, partners and competitors.

There are numerous different types of hassle maps. Some take you through the steps of the process that a customer goes through in order to do something; others chart back- and front-stage people, tools, and systems; and there are those that graph desirable, yet mutually exclusive, customer needs — price versus quality, convenience versus variety and the like.

When creating a hassle map, Slywotzky urges professionals first to consider the following questions:

  • Where are the emotional hot spots, irritations, frustrations, time wasters and delays?
  • Where are the economic hot spots?
  • What are the ways that businesses can radically improve for both customers and themselves?

There's no one right way to proceed with your hassle maps, but he suggests first looking at various personas, as different customer types have different problems, pain points and desired outcomes. Ask yourself what each of these customer personas hate. Or, whenever you can, actually watching, talking and listening to, and empathizing with these people is an even better approach. These actions enable you to ascertain what it’s really like to be your customer. Thoughtfully consider both the strengths and weaknesses that are identified. Then, look for inspiring solutions.  

Unlike journey maps, hassle maps are not rooted in redesigning customer interactions. Rather, they take the jobs that need to be done and make them simpler through product design and innovation. A great example of this comes from Netflix. Consider what renting movies used to entail: driving to the video store, finding the right film (hopefully), waiting in line to check out and then remembering to return the video before incurring late fees. A hassle map would have identified the pain points of that experience and supported finding a solution that makes life easier for customers.

Slywotzky continues: “Each extra step, wasted moment, avoidable risk, needless complication, less-than-optimal solution, awkward compromise and disappointing outcome is a friction point on the hassle map. And each represents an opportunity for a creative organization to create new demand by eliminating the friction or even reversing it, turning hassle into delight.”

In this way, a hassle map can be employed to reveal the gap between what customers buy and what they really want and need, based on what jobs they need to do or tasks they want to complete. Inside this gap is the opportunity for demand creation and customer experience enhancement.

Finally, always keep in mind that the ultimate goal of hassle maps is to improve the customer experience while developing products that make people’s lives easier. I encourage you to walk in your customers’ shoes as they use your products and interact with your business; apply hassle maps to identify, measure, and resolve their pain points and frustrations; and perhaps even create the next Netflix.


Annette Franz is founder and CEO of CX Journey. She may be contacted at

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