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All You Need To Know About Customer Journey Mapping

“Stories have defined our world. They have been with us since the dawn of communication, from cave walls to the tall tales recounted around fires. They have continued to evolve, with their purpose remaining the same: to entertain, to share common experiences, to teach and to pass on traditions.”

Francisco Inchauste wrote those words1 on this website back in 2010. His post is just one of many on this website that talk about the power of storytelling to engage users.

But storytelling is not just a tool to engage users. It is also a powerful way to teach organizations more about their customers.

Most organizations are reasonably good at gathering data on their users. But data often fails to communicate the frustrations and experiences of customers. A story can do that, and one of the best storytelling tools in business is the customer journey map.

What Is A Customer Journey Map? Link

A customer journey map tells the story of the customer’s experience: from initial contact, through the process of engagement and into a long-term relationship.

It may focus on a particular part of the story or give an overview of the entire experience. What it always does is identify key interactions that the customer has with the organization. It talks about the user’s feelings, motivations and questions for each of these touchpoints.

It often provides a sense of the customer’s greater motivation. What do they wish to achieve, and what are their expectations of the organization?

A customer journey map takes many forms but typically appears as some type of infographic. Whatever its form, the goal is the same: to teach organizations more about their customers.

A customer journey map takes many forms but typically appears as an infographic.2

A customer journey map takes many forms but typically appears as an infographic. (View large version3) (Image: Effective UI4)

It will come as no surprise that marketers often use customer journey maps. But more and more digital professionals are adopting them, too.

Why You Should Create Customer Journey Maps Link

A customer journey map is a powerful tool.

If you are a designer, it will help you to understand the context of users. You will gain a clear picture of where the user has come from and what they are trying to achieve.

If you write copy, it will help you to understand what questions users have and how they are feeling.

It gives managers an overview of the customer’s experience. They will see how customers move through the sales funnel. This will help them to identify opportunities to enhance the experience. The map will show how enhanced customer service can differentiate the organization’s digital experience.

For the user experience designer, a customer journey map helps to identify gaps, points in the customer experience that are disjointed or painful. These might be:

  • gaps between devices, when a user moves from one device to another;
  • gaps between departments, where the user might get frustrated.
  • gaps between channels (for example, where the experience of going from social media to the website could be better).

Most of all, a customer journey map puts the user front and center in the organization’s thinking. It shows how mobile, social media and the web have changed customer behavior. It demonstrates the need for the entire organization to adapt.

It encourages people across the organization to consider the user’s feelings, questions and needs. This is especially important with digital products and services.

Even the process of creating a customer journey map will help people to focus on the needs of users.

Even the process of creating a customer journey map will help people to focus on the needs of users. (Image: Adaptive Path5)

With so many benefits, a customer journey map makes a lot of sense. But where do you start?

How To Research A Customer Journey Map Link

The process of creating a customer journey map has to begin with getting to know users.

Many organizations already have some information about users. In fact, you might meet resistance from those who feel that repeating this exercise would be a waste of time. This is why gathering existing research is a good start. Often, this research will be out of date or buried in a drawer somewhere.

By gathering existing research, you will see what the organization knows and how relevant that information is. This will placate those who are resistant, while potentially saving you some research effort.

There are two types of research: analytical and anecdotal.

Analytical Research Link

You can turn to many sources for data about users. The most obvious is website analytics, which provide a lot of information on where users have come from and what they are trying to achieve. It will also help you to identify points in the process where they have given up.

But be careful. Analytics are easy to read wrong. For example, don’t presume that a lot of clicks or long dwell times are a sign of a happy user. They could indicate that they are lost or confused.

Social media are also a useful source of data. Tools such as SocialMention6 tracks mentions of a brand and whether those mentions are positive or negative.

Tools such as SocialMention help you gather data about how the brand is perceived.7

Tools such as SocialMention help you gather data about how the brand is perceived. (View large version8)

Search data also provides valuable insight into what users are looking for, revealing whether your existing website is providing the right information.

Finally, consider running a survey. This will help you build a more detailed picture of users’ questions, feelings and motivations.

Anecdotal Research Link

Although data can build a compelling case, it does not tell a story by itself. For that, you need anecdotes of user experiences. You can get these by speaking to users in interviews or on social media.

You will also discover that users volunteer experiences by posting them to social media. Be sure to collect these mentions because they will be a useful reference point in your final map.

Speaking to front-line staff who interact with customers daily, such as those in support and sales, is another useful way to understand customer needs.

The detail of the research will be constrained by your time and budget. If your organization has many different user groups, then creating detailed customer journeys for each might be hard. Therefore, focus the research on primary audiences.

You can make educated guesses about the customer journeys for secondary audiences. Do this by workshopping solutions with front-line staff and other internal stakeholders. Although this “quick and dirty” approach will not be as accurate, it is still better than nothing.

Be careful to make clear what has research behind it and what does not. Making many decisions based on assumptions is dangerous. Once management sees the benefits of research, they will be willing to spend more time on it.

With your research complete, it is time to create the map.

Presenting Your Customer Journey Map Link

As mentioned, there is no right or wrong way to produce a customer journey map. Normally, it will be some form of infographic with a timeline of the user’s experience. But it could just as easily be a storyboard or even a video.

A customer journey map has no set form. Use whatever form that most clearly communicates the story.9

A customer journey map has no set form. Use whatever form that most clearly communicates the story. (View large version10) (Image: Jonathan Lupo11)

The goal is to ensure that the user’s story remains front and center in people’s minds. Get a designer to produce the graphic to ensure it is as clear as possible and grabs people’s attention.

Whatever its form, the map should contain both statistical and anecdotal evidence. It should highlight users’ needs, questions and feelings throughout their interaction with the organization.

Producing a clear map is a design job. Work with a designer to find the right approach.
Producing a clear map is a design job. Work with a designer to find the right approach. (Image: Philips12)

Don’t make it too complex. It is easy to get caught up in the multiple routes a user might take. This will just muddy the story.

The graphic is not meant to map every aspect of the customer’s experience. Rather, it should tell a simple story to focus people’s attention on the customer’s needs.

Think of the customer journey map as a poster pinned to the office wall. At a glance, people should be able to see the key touchpoints that a user passes through. It should remind them that the customer’s needs must always be at the forefront of their thinking.

The map should be clear and simple, something you could pin to the office wall.13

The map should be clear and simple, something you could pin to the office wall.

There are so many ways to approach the customer journey map. I would love to hear of any good examples you have seen. Please post them in the comments below.

(il, al)

Footnotes Link

  1. 1 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/01/29/better-user-experience-using-storytelling-part-one/
  2. 2 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/1-broadband-provider-journey-large-opt.jpg
  3. 3 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/1-broadband-provider-journey-large-opt.jpg
  4. 4 http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2011/09/the-value-of-customer-journey-maps-a-ux-designers-personal-journey.php
  5. 5 http://mappingexperiences.com
  6. 6 http://www.socialmention.com
  7. 7 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/3-socialmention-example-large-opt.jpg
  8. 8 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/3-socialmention-example-large-opt.jpg
  9. 9 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/4-mobile-commerce-strategy-large-opt.jpg
  10. 10 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/4-mobile-commerce-strategy-large-opt.jpg
  11. 11 http://visual.ly/mobile-commerce-strategy-tactics?utm_source=visually_embed
  12. 12 http://www.design.philips.com/philips/sites/philipsdesign/about/design/aboutus/Experience-Flows.page
  13. 13 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/6-example-large-opt.jpg
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Paul Boag is the author of Digital Adaptation and a leader in digital strategy with over 20 years experience. Through consultancy, speaking, writing, training and mentoring he passionately promotes digital best practice.

  1. 1

    All you need to know about journey mapping? This article barely touches on the subject. More appropriate to call it an introduction or some guidelines…

    17
    • 2

      Daniel Schwarz

      January 15, 2015 8:41 pm

      Your opinion is certainly valid, but you must remember that this is a blog/online magazine and not a book. The title doesn’t imply that it will teach you everything about journey mapping, and in fact is a suitable length for a blog.

      Perhaps Paul could suggest a book for further reading? I for one would like to know more :)

      8
      • 3

        I would also love some recommendations for books related to creating journey maps. I’m particularly interested in finding books that cover the research that should go into the creation of a map. I think real research is key to the usefulness of a journey map… Of the ones I’ve seen, too many are just based on the authors’ opinion and guesses.

        7
        • 4

          Sloan. You have a point. It is an over the top title. I got carried away :)

          Guys. I honestly don’t know of any good books on customer journey mapping. What I have learnt has been through experience, presentations and the occasional blog posts.

          Sloan, you obviously know a lot on the subject. Where would you point people?

          2
        • 5

          Great post with a very useful framework for approaching a difficult – but invaluable – initiative. In terms of recommended books, our company PeopleMetrics has a slightly more in-depth eBook related to journey mapping that you can download here: http://info.peoplemetrics.com/customer_journey_mapping_ebook

          Let us know if you find it helpful.
          Thanks and good luck!

          5
  2. 6

    On the case of interviewing…

    Since we cannot see into the mind of another to know what they feel and think at that moment, you’re relying on what they convey to you. Because of this my opinion is that customer journey maps are inaccurate and limited.

    Humans cannot convey their feeling into words without lost meaning. Time warps feeling towards products, services and experiences. Interviewing someone immediately after will most likely yield different results than interviewing them after a few days, additionally there is the factor of forgetting things. If you’re gathering opinions off social media you have to be careful due to other people’s opinions tainting new opinions, additionally that person may have a particular agenda and may exaggerate greatly.

    You’d have to a lot of of these before you get some actionable data. Doing anything based on several experiences can potentially be a mistake.

    Staff probably aren’t that helpful, I know I didn’t have much more to stay about customers other than “They are derps” ;)

    5
    • 7

      Those are all valid points but I think those just become factors in refining the analysis. Any analysis should include taking into account the contexts and agendas of the data sources, even taking into account your own internal history and bias. At the end of the day, this, just like other tools, is useful for thinking through a process, identifying some key concerns, and moving the needle toward the better for the user experience. It is not a panacea, it won’t be fully accurate. It will only be an abstract of what really happens. But it’s better than A) nothing B) guess work alone C) relying on a single data source (web-metrics)

      1
    • 8

      Well, yeah, but that ain’t a jab at customer journey maps. That’s a jab at bad research and bad process. And I totally agree, bad things actually are bad ;)

      The journeys are just an extra tool to gather information an insights that you would otherwise omit. You still need marketing data and it will probably still influence the company’s decissions more than journeys but they are what pushes your product a bit further finding new directions of expansion.

      What I’m saying is that even a shallow journey map gives extra info on top of other data collected anyway. A journey well done is a driver for new products and customer satisfaction.

      0
    • 9

      Interesting article and posts. As most people have acknowledged, customer journey maps are invaluable. I’ve witnessed many businesses who thought they knew their customers, only to find out that they’ve been looking at them though a very myopic, distorted and biased lens. Customer journey maps are valuable for clarifying business problems and creating internal alignment.

      While a number of Jay’s comments are accurate, they are not relevant to CJM’s.

      “Since we cannot see into the mind of another to know what they feel and think at that moment, you’re relying on what they convey to you.” TRUE. This is why I would never use straight up interviews to inform the creation of a CJM. You need techniques other than traditional interviews. To get people to reveal their tacit and latent desires, you need co-creation methods in conjunction with contextual inquiry. Asking a person what they do is only valuable if you are doing it retrospectively after you have observed them and you can correlate their comments to the observations.

      “Humans cannot convey their feeling into words without lost meaning. Time warps feeling towards products, services and experiences.” TURE. Again, this is why you need to co-creation techniques that immerse them in their current experience and the tools to allow them to capture and articulate that experience and how it can be improved.

      “If you’re gathering opinions off social media you have to be careful due to other people’s opinions tainting new opinions, additionally that person may have a particular agenda and may exaggerate greatly. TRUE. This is why I’d never use social media to inform the creation of a CJM.

      “You’d have to a lot of of these before you get some actionable data. Doing anything based on several experiences can potentially be a mistake.” TRUE and FALSE. How many is a lot? You need to conduct rigorous qualitative research with your target audience to make sure you are basing decision on data and not anecdotal information. I’d suggest a minimum of 10 subjects, that way no one person is more than 10% of your data. After data collection, you need to conduct rigorous analysis to identify the patterns.

      “Staff probably aren’t that helpful, I know I didn’t have much more to stay about customers other than “They are derps”” FALSE. FALSE. FALSE. Use the same co-creation methods you use with your customers.

      So in summary, Jay makes some accurate statements, but they are misguided and out of context with CJM’s. The items identified above have no influence in creating an accurate CJM. And, you need to do research to inform the creation of an accurate CJM. Otherwise, it’s just you opinion and you’re guessing.

      Some references to learn more about CJM’s, check out the subject matter – Design Research. Also…

      Kim Goodwin, Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services

      Brenda Laurel, Design Research: Methods and Perspectives

      One final note, the journey map examples illustrated above were created by a professional visual communications designer who understands how to communicate complex information is succinct, simple and compelling ways. These “infographics” don’t just happen by accident. See Edward Tufte, Visual Display of Quantitative information.

      CJM’s a re valuable and in the long run very cheap in contrasting to the time and money wasted developing a solution based on faulty information.

      7
  3. 10

    Great article, Paul. In many cases, customer experience is one of the only ways I which an organisation can differentiate itself from its competitors. It’s simply too critical to be left to chance. I hope you article will encourage more people to take a fresh, objective and deliberate look at their customers’ journeys.

    1
  4. 11

    Annette Franz

    January 17, 2015 1:32 am

    Thanks, Paul, for a great post. Spreading the word on the importance of journey mapping to transforming the customer experience is always a good thing! I work for Touchpoint Dashboard; we are an online journey mapping platform. On our website in the Resources section (http://www.touchpointdashboard.com/resources/), we offer some whitepapers, slides, blog posts, and case studies that might be helpful to your readers. I’m happy to answer questions about best practices, too.

    2
  5. 12

    Thank you Paul for your article.

    Indeed customer journey is a useful tool that every time is more common in large organizations. At the moment I am working on one and I have to say that there is not much information online recommending a methodology or giving some tips, so it’s nice to read this.

    With the experience I have, I can say that the hardest is to decide which are the aspects that you want to highlight in you map, which are different depending on the service or the journey you’re mapping. At the end, the aim is to come up with a relevant analysis that provides some valuable information to the viewer, adding some extra value, and that’s not easy.

    When it comes to complete the information I would say that there are a few standards, like describing what the user would DO, THINK and FEEL.
    Also, when it comes to visualize it, the most common is to use a table model, where you can include visuals as well as explanations in order to create a more complete map.

    In this article you mention the research phase to gather info about the users. Once you have this info, I think that the ideal would be to define the main targets (one or more) and visualize the journey for each of them. This is time consuming but it is more realistic. Otherwise, you can map the journey of only one of the profiles, or generalize to get a less profound result.

    Thanks!

    -1
  6. 13

    Hello,

    Thank you very mich for your introduction in this kind of user research!

    I like this journey mapping toolkit http://designingcx.com/cx-journey-mapping-toolkit/

    I think it is quite handy to use it with your clients and other interdisciplinary teams.

    All the best, flo

    1
  7. 14

    HI All & Paul,

    One great resource is SF site: http://www.significantfeelings.com/?s=customer+journey

    Cheers,
    T

    4
  8. 15

    Hmm,

    The article is… meh. Especially because the title is a lot bigger than the content.
    Content of the article: “Gather data about the journey, get a designer and put it in a nice form and make sure to have some user voices there.”

    That is not the essense of Customer Journey Mapping. Doing that is pointless if there are is no action after that. The secret sauce of the customer journey map is that the whole team, which has direct and indirect connection to the customer, is involved in a workshop. They discuss the journey, explore the “moment of truths” and try to feel the pain of the customer so that they can suggest how the journey can be improved.

    The journey is the communication tool to bring the important people together and make them talk about their customer with an hollistic approach and not fixing little bits here and there while loosing the whole picture.

    -5
    • 16

      Really? The “secret sauce” is a workshop involving the team? Sounds like journey map guesswork to me. You failed to mention customer research at all in your reply that began with your opinion that the article was “meh” because of its title. This type of generalist and unsubstantiated opinion is what we unfortunately still encounter in the UX field on a daily basis.

      2
  9. 17

    Another great tool to create a CJM:
    https://uxpressia.com/

    7
  10. 18

    John Godfrey

    May 14, 2015 4:41 pm

    An interesting article and thought provoking. Working in a large I deal with a wide range of ‘customers’ on a daily basis. Many of the people are approachable and we engage well both in physical or written/verbal communication. Their journey is often one fraight with the needs and aspirations of their clients. To map this journey becomes very complex and it is easy to loose vital pieces of data which could and probably should be mapped. My concern is that my ‘customers’ do not necessarily have a clear understanding of their clients needs and aspirations. It is therefore difficult to drill down to the relevant level and obtain a full picture on which the journey can be mapped.
    Working in the UK public sector challenges such as that above are everyday occurrences. Does any one else face the same challenge?

    0
    • 19

      Daniel Hadas, CX and EX Practitioner, Enthusiast & Advocate

      June 2, 2015 8:37 pm

      John,

      The challenge you face is real, and it’s unfortunately quite common! Many do not truly understand their customers’ needs, and instead make assumptions based on personal preferences. This is similar to the “guess work” mentioned in other posts. I’d be interested to learn more about your situation. What are these forums if not a place to help one another solve complex challenges?

      Best,
      Danny

      1
  11. 20

    Hi Paul,

    I work as a creative consultant and this is a really useful tool. I’ve been using your method since I bought Digital Adaptation last year.

    I wonder if you can provide more insight / methods / discussion on CUSTOMER PROFILE. I feel it’s an enormously needed cog in the integration of, for example, customer journey and business strategy. But it’s hard to find concise and applicable methods.

    Yours faithfully,

    Sergio

    2

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