What is a customer journey map and why do you need one? Practical advice on placing the customer at the heart of your organisation

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Here at WhatUsersDo we’re all about bringing the maximum amount of learning to people at any stage of their UX development. Hence we’re bringing you this first in a long line of weekly UX beginner’s guides, aimed to help the newbies of the UX testing world. This is also why we’ve started using words like hence.

This week: customer journey mapping! What does a customer journey map look like? What does it consist of? What are the benefits? How can it help your organisation focus on the one thing that truly matters?

Last week, we ran a webinar tackling the above questions – the video of which is directly below. However if you’d rather read through the highlights, where I basically paraphrase our UX researcher Hazel Ho in order to make myself look smart, by all means carry on reading after the webinar.

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WhatUsersDo Customer Journey Mapping Webinar

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map tells the story of your customer’s experience. From initial contact, through the various points of engagement, to the eventual long term relationship.

The customer journey map can focus on one particular part of the story or it can give an overview of the entire experience. Either way, it should always identify the key interactions a customer has with your organisation.

It’s within these interactions where you will find out what the user is feeling, what their motivations are during each phase of the journey and surface any questions they might ask when interacting with each of the touchpoints.

The goal of a customer journey map is simple: to teach organisations more about their customers. 

What are the benefits of customer journey mapping?

You’ll find that throughout this entire exercise, it will always come back to the customer.

A customer journey map helps you focus entirely on the most crucial person to your business, as they’re the reason for your continued existence. And improving their journey is paramount to keeping them happy, engaged and coming back for more.

There are other benefits too:

  • Allows for collaboration within your organisation: once you’ve established your business goal, all the departments can work together because everyone has the same focus. And it’s nice to work with other teams. You might make some friends.
  • Uncover hidden truths: when you’re studying how your customer interacts with any given touchpoint, you may uncover something you had never thought about before. (“I never knew we needed a click-to-call button!”)
  • Helps to create a personal connection: always remember when dealing with a customer, you’re dealing with a human being. Not data or figures.
  • Allows for prioritisation: once you’ve determined all the issues people are having at any given touchpoint, you can clearly see what you should focus on first.
  • Accountability: once you’re discovered your issues, and prioritised them, it’s easier to determine which department in your organisation is best to take care of those issues.

Ultimately, a customer journey map creates shared goals and a common vision throughout your organisation.

Hazel likes to think of journey mapping as the roots of a tree. It’s what keeps an organisation solid. A good journey map will help you establish how successful your customer experience is across the customer lifecycle.

customer experience and customer lifecycle descriptions

Journey mapping places focus on the the customer experience during the entire customer lifecycle.

What is in a typical customer journey map?

There are three crucial prerequisites in any customer journey map: the actor, the scenario and the journey lifecycle.

  • The actor is the person who is experiencing the journey. It’s the person you’re focusing on – either they represent your customer base, or it’s someone else you’re interested in researching. (Also there’s the cast, who are the people influencing the actor’s journey – i.e. if the actor is a B2B purchaser, these people could be clients, colleagues or stakeholders)
  • The scenario is the specific journey that’s being mapped. You should have something specific in mind for this. For instance, imagine you’re a businessperson looking for a new phone and price isn’t a priority, but you want unlimited minutes and low overseas call rates plus good customer support. These details can all form your specific scenario. A scenario is also handy because it provides constraints – so you’re only focusing on the problems that pertain to one particular journey. There won’t be any generalisation and this will allow you to prioritise only the critical parts of the journey.
  • The journey lifecycle refers to the activities that the actor will be going through as they go through the journey. In each activity, you’ll be monitoring actions they’re doing (i.e. researching, discussing) and their thoughts and emotions (i.e. frustration, happy, thinking of switching loyalties). All these activities define the overall journey and all the points of potential interaction.

From these facets of the journey map, you’ll be able to gather insights on how to improve the customer experience.

How do we identify scenarios?

There are three possible ways to identify the scenarios to use as part of your customer journey map, although there could be more.

  • User research: customer interviews (either in-person, on the phone or via email or live chat).
  • Analytics: your website’s analytics can show patterns that indicate a particular area that should be investigated further. Say if there’s a sudden drop off in conversions during checkout, or a product page has suddenly lost traffic.
  • Internal prerogatives: perhaps an internal company project or analysis has revealed a problem that should be addressed.

What are journey phases?

If the scenario is what you create, the journey phases are what your customers surface when they interact with your property.

The experience of your brand or product will involve many different journeys undertaken by many different people, but you will have to decide which one to focus on for your journey map. You may want to focus on the most common one, in order to smooth over any rough edges. Or you’ll want to explore a more unpopular one, in order to bring it up to speed with the rest of your journeys.

The phases within these journeys will help you paint a comprehensive view of the entire customer lifecycle.

Things to remember about journey phases:

  • Define the phases by the customer’s point-of-view, not your own. Making assumptions or guessing will not provide you with genuine, actionable insight
  • Remember to base each phase on actual observable customer behaviour, not cold hard data.
  • Create a model that can accommodate all scenarios
  • Provide clear definitions for each stage
  • Discuss it with others in the organisation and get internal buy-in from executives

What does a typical customer journey map look like?

At last, the bit you’ve all been waiting for: an example of a customer journey map. Your customer journey map doesn’t necessarily have to look exactly like this one – and different organisations have different ways of presenting their own. Some maps are much fancier than the one shown below, others are just a bunch of coloured post-it notes stuck to a board.

Whatever aesthetic form your map takes, there are three important parts of the customer journey map that you must include. We’ve split them into Zones…

example of a customer journey map template

Zone A is the lens – this is what you’re seeing the journey through, i.e. the actor and the scenario. The journey is through their eyes.

Zone B is the experience – this is comprised of the journey phases (the chunks of meaningful behaviour that provide high-level organisation of actions, thoughts and emotions) and the actor’s actions, thoughts and emotions throughout the journey.

From this you can head to Zone C, where you gather the insights and opportunities for improvements. As well as defining who is in charge of implementing those insights (internal ownership).

Which brings us to the ultimate point of the customer journey map… how do you spot the stuff that you can fix?

How do you spot opportunities?

There are plenty of ways to analyse the journey, and every organisation provides different journeys through their properties, so no two journeys will necessarily highlight the same opportunities. However, to help you get started, there are a few things to look out for…

  • Look for points of failure: what was missed? How can you better support users? When are their needs least satisfied?
  • Gaps: find where absolutely NO support is offered. What pain points were not addressed?
  • Redundancies: have you noticed any duplication in your interactions? Are you wasting people’s time if there are multiple people doing the same job?

For more information on customer journey maps, including examples of maps from other organisations, guidance on how to use journey mapping with WhatUsersDo and the keys to making a journey map successful, please do watch our customer journey mapping webinar.

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Main image by Don Ross III

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher is the Content Marketing Manager of WhatUsersDo. He’s also a filmmaker and the editor of wayward pop culture site Methods Unsound. He used to be the deputy editor of Econsultancy and editor of Search Engine Watch.

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