Our latest POV on how customer experience drives everything from concept and creative to design and technology

Customer Journey Mapping

Because Knowing is Half the Battle

In their Customer Conversation report, eConsultancy and IBM report that 81% of companies are confident they have a great CX (customer experience) and a holistic view of their customers. But customers disagree. The same report also points out that only 37% of customers feel like they are well understood. And while 89% of companies think they are great at handling customer service issues, 47% of customers think they are terrible at it.

Many companies today still operate under the false assumption that the way they think their internal processes run are actually the way things happen in the real world for their customers. But we all know things don’t always go as planned. So most companies also have some form of VoC (voice of the customer) program to help address CX issues, but methods like VoC and NPS (net promoter score) simply cannot reveal the root causes of customer issues.

That’s where Customer Journey Mapping can help. Imagine actually knowing why your customers behave the way they do when it comes to doing business with you. Imagine knowing that one critical point in your ordering process is hampering sales and creating waves of negativity among customers. Imagine knowing that one simple but valuable improvement can create a much better outcome for a particular touch point. Or imagine you now know how to leapfrog into a next-gen customer experience that truly innovates.

That’s why knowing is half the battle, and why using Customer Journey Maps to capture, document, and share customer insights is becoming so popular in CX organizations. Not knowing what is really going on has become a critical danger for any business hoping to remain relevant in a customer-centric economy.

What is a Customer Journey Map?

Whether called a journey map, an experience map, or a journey model, a Customer Journey Map is a clear, detailed visualization of the overall touch point interactions that comprise the customer experience, or a smaller part of it. The journey is crafted from the customer’s point-of-view, not from the internal business process point-of-view, as shown in this pioneering example from LEGO.

There are several types of journey maps, all with slightly different structures and purposes. But most journey maps identify each and every customer interaction, each outcome, and how each interaction makes customers feel. When documenting maps it is important to capture the customer’s actions, touch points, expectations, results, and emotional impacts.

While there are a few functional types of journey maps, and numerous different visual styles, the key distinction is between current state versus future state mapping. It is often best to start by mapping the current state in order to find gaps in the customer experience that need changing. From there you can brainstorm solutions, and craft a future state journey map that rectifies these gaps, and maps necessary changes to your customer experience.

What Can I Do with Customer Journey Maps?

There are many valuable things one can do with customer journey maps. One of their most effective uses is as a catalyst for change in a cross-functional team workshop setting. As I mentioned earlier, this can be done in a day when tackling a small scope. Get a solid cross-functional team together to quickly map the current state, select critical pain points to fix, and brainstorm solutions together.

This is known as co-design or participatory design. Co-designing solutions with the right people in the room is a great way to innovate. In the ideal situation, you will have representation for leaders, managers, employees, and customers as your co-design team. Figuring out the right mix and size of your team takes a bit of planning ahead, but the benefits are worth the effort. This is why Customer Journey Mapping often involves workshop settings where multiple roles can come together and collaborate.

When future state journey mapping, cross-functional co-design workshops are ideal, and can be done with very large groups (divided into smaller teams) or small groups. Using an existing current state map as a guidepost, teams focus entirely on creating a new customer journey and any new business capabilities that journey requires.

How Do I Get Customer Journey Maps?

Journey mapping is actually one of the simpler, most cost-effective ways to think more like your customers and empathize with their experiences and emotions. Journey mapping also has the added value of bringing together cross-functional teams, sometimes even customers, into a collaborative and lively design thinking (5) process.

Traditional methods rely simply on paper, post-it notes, and marker pens. Large paper sheets allow for the quick modeling of customer journeys using color-coded post-it notes and written notes capturing the details of each step in the journey. Use the post-it colors to represent different parts of the interactions with blue for actions, red for emotions and thoughts, green for touch points, and so on.

There are also some cool new digital mapping tools out there like UXPressia, Touchpoint Dashboard, Smaply, and Journeys. They do a very good job of simulating a paper journey map in the digital world. From the creators of This is Service Design Thinking, Smaply smartly integrates Experience Fellow to combine qualitative research with journey mapping in mobile devices.

Regardless of the tools you use to map with, ultimately you want to create a large poster of the journey that can be mounted on the wall or emailed and shared with others for discussion. The whole point of journey mapping is for everyone to understand how they fit into the bigger picture of creating a great customer experience, and to keep reworking the journey into an optimal state.

Here are a few tips to be aware of when trying your hand at Customer Journey Mapping:

Scope to Fit Your Objectives

A journey map can indeed be an all-encompassing day-in-the-life map of the entire customer journey, based on extensive research, and mapping out an entire customer life-cycle. But a journey map can also be rapid, targeted, slice-of-life map that focuses deeply on solving a particular problem with a small part of the overall journey, like onboarding, or product setup, or warranty claims.

Some companies avoid customer journey mapping, because of the misconception that extensive amounts of time and research is needed. This is not true. Journey mapping can be done in in a single workshop session and still reveal many of valuable insights. Scope the size of your journey mapping project to fit your needs. Use the insights you have if you can’t invest in customer research. Validate later with front line Customer Service and VoC employees.

Keep it Real

Be certain to keep the outside-in customer point-of-view in mind when journey mapping. The best way to do this is of course with customers in the mix, either through personas, research, or as active workshop participants. If that isn’t possible, use personas to keep the customer point of view or whatever customer data you have. You can validate assumptions later, but getting started is key. Just be sure to keep it real, and identify the needs of customers, not what you think they need.

Use Personas

As mentioned above, personas help keep the customer in your Customer Journey Maps. Use customer and user personas if you have them. Select a key persona, and map out the journey of their experience with your company in real-time. Personas are research-based profiles of customer types that keep the human element front-and-center in making design decisions. Again, if you don’t have research use what data you do have to craft a realistic portrait of customer types, and their attitudes, needs, and behaviors.

In the B2B world, personas may represent larger teams and different company types. For example Dealers, Distributors, and Original Equipment Manufacturers are each a unique company persona, with many underlying key roles as actors. When mapping for large groups get to know the underlying roles and map each one’s part in the customer journey, but use the overall company as the persona.

Capture Customers’ Emotions

Don’t forget to include emotional states at each point of interaction. The emotional impact of a customer’s interaction lingers long after the moment itself, and colors the perception of every successive interaction. That can be phone call treatment, mobile app behavior, website ease of use – anything and everything.

Pay very special attention to those areas that cause emotional spikes in uncertainty, frustration, confidence, joy, delight, etc., especially major or defining interactions. These are the so-called moments-of-truth that can often make or break customer relationships. Carefully consider these moments and different ways to change interactions that smooth friction, as well as go the extra mile.

Don’t Spare the Details

When you are working to get executive buy-in for customer experience improvements, a high-level customer journey map may be enough. But if you are trying to solve real problems do not spare the details in mapping your customer’s journey.

If you are working from customer research, you will also have quotes, artifacts, photos, and videos to complete the picture and show the reality of the journey. If you are also working from data and verbatims analytics, use the data to reinforce qualitative findings if needed. Even if you are working only with survey data and analytics, be sure to provide whatever real-world examples you have that show the customer’s experience and state of mind.

Tell the Story

Customer Journey Maps are visualizations that tell a story. Ensure that story is fully understood, especially if you are designing a future state or new service. When crafting a future state journey map, you can also use storyboards and videos to make the future state more realistic, and to help establish the business case for change.

Storyboards are sketched or photo-realistic tele-plays that visually show the story of your customer journey. Video animations can also easily simulate a process or service that has not been designed yet so that people fully understand your intent. The more detail you can provide in your maps and supporting documents, the greater the understanding of your goals for the future customer journey will be.

Hire a Pro

If you’re not sure where or how to even start, hire a professional. Many CX and UX firms offer journey mapping services, and can guide you through effective Customer Journey Mapping techniques. Contact us to learn more about our one-day Customer Journey Mapping Workshop offering, it’s a great way to get started.

Start Applying Customer Journey Mapping Now.

No matter what type of Customer Journey Mapping you do, once you start using these tools and the techniques, you will see the value they provide. They are appropriate for any organization in any industry vertical. Many Six Sigma organizations are surprised to find that the techniques and tools they use are very similar and easily incorporated when you have customer empathy as your guide on the journey.

So start journey mapping now.