Customer journey mapping is a powerful way of describing how users reach their goals on a given site or app. By combining storytelling and visualization it allows teams to immerse themselves in the client experience and empathize deeply about their experience.
At its most basic, a customer journey map breaks the user journey into steps, and then for each step describes what is going on. Each step is described in multiple layers, including each touchpoint with the company, the user’s intent, thoughts and feelings, and additional information and insights, such as qualitative and quantitative data.
As a result a customer journey map is one, neat visual that allows you to see the relationship between the touch points you’re delivering and the customer’s subjective experience, and helps you identify areas to improve the customer experience. It can be a powerful tool to align different teams and stakeholders on the reality of what is happening to users. The format makes complex topics quickly digestible and creates clarity about what problems to solve.
Customer journey maps help businesses understand their users better, and make it easier to spot where the company should invest in improving the customer experience. They are powerful tools in customer-centric businesses to improve customer satisfaction, retention, and by extension, financial performance. They should form a core part of every product manager’s toolkit.
This guide provides a step-by-step guide to building your own customer journey map, including a template and worked example from eBay to get you started.
Get the customer journey map template: Miro | Figma
Why build a Customer Journey Map
Building a customer journey map offers a number of benefits:
- Understanding the user experience holistically – helps you understand your customers’ experience across their whole journey end-to-end and from multiple perspectives to get a rich, structured view of what is going on.
- Empathize deeply with users – helps you understand both what users are feeling, and why they are feeling that way. Puts their actions and feelings in a narrative that is easy to understand and sympathize with.
- Fostering cross-functional alignment – allows different functions to plot the things that they care about on the same map. For example, designers might care about the user flow through the app, whilst engineers want to see the underlying tech tech, and marketers what to see the email and notification touch points. This develops a joint understanding of the customer experience and alignment on the company priorities.
- Helping identify the top problems to solve – helps you see where the biggest problems to solve are, and suggests potential solutions by connecting customer goals with their touch points and resulting emotions.
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What is a Customer Journey Map?
A customer journey map is a visual representation of the process a customer goes through to achieve a goal. It’s used by businesses to get a sense of their customers’ motivations, needs, and pain points as they navigate through the user experience.
Customer journey maps often include:
- Customer Persona – this is a fictional representation of your customer, which illustrates the characteristics, needs, and motivations your customers typically have.
- Stages – these are the different phases your customer goes through as they experience your product and try to achieve their goal.
- Touch points – these are the points of interaction your customers have with your product. They could be anything from visiting your website, receiving an email or speaking to a customer service agent.
- Emotions – at each stage your customer is likely to experience different emotions, both good and bad. By mapping these out, you can identify opportunities to improve the customer experience.
- Opportunities – these are problems that you’ve identified are worth solving, based on the customer emotions, and potential solutions you might want to explore.
Whilst every customer journey map will be a little different (and that’s good!) there are some guiding principles from which the value of them flows:
- Customer centric – describe the customer’s experience from the customer’s point of view, not the business’s. This is a tool to help you build empathy with your customers and understand their motivations.
- Multi-channel – include all the touch points that a customer experiences, not just the website or app. The customer’s experience is holistic, and digital, physical and in-person interactions need to be considered together. You can’t appreciate the full customer experience by looking at different touch points in isolation.
- Blend touch points with experience – match the touch points customers have (objective) with what they feel (subjective) to help you understand how customers feel and why.
- Visualization – illustrate the customer experience in a visual way that is much easier to digest and understand than a written description or set of slides.
- Goal oriented – describe the customer’s journey towards a goal. That means if you improve the journey, more people should reach the goal. Whether that’s a purchase or another valuable event, this should create impact for the company.
There are a few common variations of customer journey maps that are worth mentioning:
- Current vs. future state – typically you create a customer journey map of the current state of the user experience, and that’s what we’ll describe here. A variation of this is to create a map of the future state of the customer experience, which is a powerful way to describe your vision for the product.
- Customer vs. user journey – for lots of businesses the customer (person who buys the product) and the user (person who uses the product) will be the same person, but for some businesses (e.g. many SaaS products) then the customer and user will be different people. Understanding both their journeys is important, and you’ll want to map them out separately.
- Service blueprints – these are very similar to customer journey maps, in that they map out the customer experience step-by-step. Rather than focusing on the touch points that the customer has and the emotions they experience however, they focus on the business operations and technology that sits behind the scenes and supports the customer experience. Don’t get too caught up on the terms here – add whatever is helpful to your map.
How to build a Customer Journey Map
Given how powerful it is at aligning people and identifying the key areas for action, customer journey maps are surprisingly quick and easy to create. Building one follows seven steps:
- Define your customer persona
- Select the customer goal
- Define the journey steps
- Add customer touch points
- Add customer thoughts and feelings
- Further enrich the map
- Identify where to act
Get the customer journey map template: Miro | Figma
It’s possible to pull together a basic version of a customer journey map on your own and in a couple of hours. However, you’ll get more diverse perspectives and a richer map if you can flesh out the basic structure in a cross-functional workshop, and then further enrich it with insights from different specialists over time. This can also be a highly effective way to surface user issues and gain alignment on the rationale for changes among multiple stakeholders.
If you’re going the workshop route, then block out 90 mins – 2 hours and think about including people from a broad range of functions:
- User research or design
- Marketing (especially CRM)
- Customer Service
- Sales and account management
- Sector experts
- CEO, founder or General Manager
As we run through each step, we’ll provide notes on how to facilitate such a workshop to build your customer journey map.
1. Define your customer persona
Your customer is the central character for the customer journey map, so it’s essential to have a good idea of who they are. If you have some distinct customer segments (particularly in multi-sided marketplaces) then you’ll want to create separate maps for each segment. If your users are more homogeneous, then it’s possible to create a customer journey map for a persona that represents all your users.
In either case, what is really useful is to have a good understanding of their needs, and their pain points.
The needs should be written in the format “I want … “ or “I need … “, for example:
- I want to find what I’m looking for as fast as possible
- I need to know my item will turn up
- I want my item to arrive really quickly
The pain points should summarize the core themes that customers talk about whenever you speak to them about this particular journey. What are the things that they complain about, or really frustrate them.
As with other parts of the journey, this is best informed by user research. But if you don’t already have this, it’s ok to empathize with your users and imagine what their top needs and pain points are to get you going. Customer journey maps are most valuable when you continually update and enrich them, and you can refine these later after you’ve spoken to more customers.
Sometimes it’s useful to add demographic data (e.g. gender, age, income level) to your persona, but ask yourself whether this really improves your understanding of the user. For example, both King Charles and Ozzy Osbourne are male, born in 1948 and grew up in England. Clearly none of these facts improves your understanding of what they want, or how they will act.
Usually you’ll want to have defined the persona you’re looking at before you have the workshop. Apart from anything else, it will affect who you invite. There’s little value in inviting someone from Sales if they only speak to Enterprise customers, and you’re building a map of your consumer journeys.
2. Identify the customer goal
With your persona set, you need to define the scope of the map by making it clear the goal the customer is aiming for. This could be the end-to-end experience, e.g.:
- Uber: book a taxi and get to my destination
- Bloom & Wild: send someone flowers
- Netflix: watch a movie
Or it could be a smaller, specific journey, e.g.:
- Tiktok: create an account
- ASOS: send a return
- Monzo: resolve a billing error
As with the target persona, you’ll want to define the goal before you arrange the workshop. As well as determining who you want to invite to the workshop, you’ll want to frame the session properly by being clear on these up front. You should mention this when you invite people, so they know what to expect, and then set the scene by recapping the persona and goal at the start of the workshop.
3. Define the journey steps
With the scope of your customer journey map defined, you can now break down the customer journey towards their goal into different steps. Effectively you are building the horizontal axis of the map during this phase.
If you’re mapping the end-to-end customer experience you’ll typically want to break the journey in something like 6-10 steps, so you get the right level of detail. More than that can become overwhelming, and you can get lost in the details and not see the full picture. Less than that and you won’t get sufficient detail in each step for the map to be useful.
That said, if you’re mapping out a smaller journey (e.g. account creation) then you might want to go into more detail, and map every screen or interaction to give you a really comprehensive understanding of what is happening. This is particularly effective when you believe journeys have become bloated.
Mapping out the steps in the customer journey is done fairly easily by asking the group to describe the process they would need to go through to reach the customer goal. It’s best done all together, so that everyone has the same understanding of the steps involved in the customer journey. Ideally someone runs through it as a customer, looking at the site / app with fresh eyes. This is particularly important when teams have been working on a topic for a long time – it’s easy to lose sight of the end product.
Have a think about the level of granularity that will be most useful before you start, and then guide people as you break these steps out. You can always group smaller steps together or split larger sections apart if you want to change the level of detail you are getting back from the group.
4. Add customer touch points
With the journey broken down into steps, you now have the framework to add the details of the journey to. Start with the customer touch points – i.e. all the places that the customer interacts with your business. This could include:
- Using the app
- Visiting the website
- Emails, notifications and ads
- Speaking to a customer service agent on the phone or via chat
- Using a physical object (e.g. using a Tier e-bike)
This step is particularly useful to do with people from across the business, as often different teams will have very different views on what the customer is doing at each point. The marketing team might have a very clear view of the emails a user is receiving, whilst designers know which screens they are using in-app. By getting a range of perspectives you build a richer map, and everyone gets a more holistic view of the customer journey.
It can also be useful to add user stories in a separate row at this point, so you have a simple reference of all the things a user might want to do. As you’ve already define the persona for the whole map, you don’t need to restate this, and could use one of these formats:
- “I want to … [some action]”
- “I want to … [some action] so that [user goal]”
You can either do this as a group, working through each step one at a time, or you can ask different people to add the touch points they are most familiar with to the map in parallel. For example:
- Marketing could add the emails the user receives
- Customer service adds the calls they typically receive
- PM / designer adds the touch points with the website / app
Other things to bear in mind:
- Adding screenshots can really bring the journey to life, and make the whole map much easier to visualize. Whilst we’ve included it in this section because it makes sense thematically to put screenshots with the touch points, in reality you’ll probably need to add these later, rather than live in the workshop.
- The best way to prepare for the workshop is to go through it yourself. If you have time, you might even go through it together as a group. Go on the website and actually buy something! There’s no substitute for directly experiencing the product to make sure you don’t miss anything.
5. Add customer thoughts and feelings
You now have a very factual description of the customer experience as they interact with your product and business. Now you can add on the customer’s thoughts and feelings, which result from these interactions.
As with the persona’s needs and frustrations, ideally these are based on user research. They might even be direct quotes from customers from interviews or via customer service tickets. But if you haven’t done that research yet, just imagine what your customers would think, feel and say by putting yourself in their shoes, and then update this later once you have had a chance to speak to more of them.
You probably won’t be far off the mark by being a human and taking a fresh look at your product, and the exercise of empathizing with your customers will be incredibly valuable.
In any given step, the customer might be thinking and feeling different things, so it can be helpful to break out both the positive and negative thoughts. Some parts of the experience will be working well, and some won’t – this is normal.
With the user’s emotions mapped below the touch points, it should be easy to see why users are feeling the way they do, and as a result you can start to think of ways to improve the experience for them.
This step is best done by getting people to write down what they expect customers to feel on their own, and then bringing everyone back together to put these on the map. Doing it this way will help you get a more accurate sense of the customer by avoiding groupthink.
Once everyone has put their post-its on the map describing the customer feelings, you can do dot voting on how you expect the customer to feel at each step.
6. Further enrich the map
Whilst you could stop at this point, it’s often helpful if you can continue to add additional layers to further enrich your map.
There are no limits here, and you can add as many as are useful. Some of the more common layers beyond the basics are:
- Provocations – can you articulate the problems that are worth solving using the format “how might we…”? This is a great way to synthesize everything together and work out what are the problems worth solving.
- Feature ideas – you can add feature ideas here based on the problems you’ve identified to address the biggest opportunities you see.
- Quotes – if you haven’t already got them, adding customer quotes to the map will help people empathize with them, and justifies the thoughts and feelings you’ve plotted on the map. Get in the habit of adding stand out quotes directly to your customer journey map straight after user interviews. You can’t be user-centric if you’ve only got an internal perspective of the customer journey.
- Insights – adding quantitative insights, whether it’s a chart or a 1-line fact gives you even more color to the map, and helps you understand the incidence and severity of issues that come up in your customer quotes. Adding the conversion funnel of the journey to the map is also extremely useful, so you know at a glance how many people are making it from one step to the next. It shows quickly and cleanly where folks are dropping out.
- Metrics – if you understand your customer journey very well quantitatively, it might be helpful to define KPIs or metrics for each stage. For example, the number of searches and click-through-rate of the first 10 results for a search step. This can help you track how these steps are changing over time, and as you release new features.
- Tech stack – plotting the internal and 3rd party tech systems that help deliver the touch points into the map can also be useful. This allows you to see where legacy tech might make it difficult to change the customer experience, or areas where you might be better off outsourcing capabilities to a 3rd party. Having this connection between the technical architecture and user experience allows you to have a really good conversation with your engineering team about their plans to evolve the tech stack going forward.
Again, there’s no right or wrong here, it all depends on the sorts of conversation that you want to drive.
Whilst adding provocations or feature ideas could be fun and productive to do in a workshop setting, a lot of the other things you might add here are probably best done afterwards. That will give people time to pull together other pieces of insight and information.
Make sure you ask the group what other information they would find useful to have on the map, as well as get individuals to commit to adding that information by a certain time. That will help maintain accountability and ensure that the work actually gets done. Once complete, you can either bring the group back together to review the additions (most effective if there’s new insight) or reshare it if the additions support your existing conclusions.
7. Identify where to act
You now have a complete enough picture for your customer journey map to help you decide where to act. You can clearly see how the customer feels at each step in their journey, as well as the touch points that are driving these emotions.
Looking at the customer journey map as a whole, you will likely notice either individual steps where the customer experience is poor (e.g. search), or themes running through multiple steps that are dragging down the customer experience (e.g. trust).
Call out these areas as the ones that you want to focus on. Identifying opportunities where you can dramatically improve the user experience, and then focusing your efforts on them is the essence of a product strategy. If you have multiple issues at different stages of the funnel it can be helpful to size the impact of fixing at different stages.
A great way to wrap up the workshop is with a discussion of where these high impact areas are. Having done the work to fill out the customer journey map, people will be familiar with the details, and you’ll be able to have a good discussion. Don’t feel under pressure to make a decision in the workshop itself if you’re not comfortable though – you can always follow up later. It’s also quite common for workshops to run out of time since people can become passionately involved in the topic. Round 2s and follow ups are fine.
Either way, make sure people know what the next steps and implications of the customer journey map are. Having gone to the trouble of creating it, they will want to know that the effort was worthwhile.
Getting the most out of your customer journey map
As with any tool or framework, how useful a customer journey map is depends on whether it resonates with you and your colleagues. Here are a few tips for getting the most value from your map:
- Better done than perfect – the simpler the map you try to create, the easier it will be to get something down on paper, and have something to align people around. Getting started is better than getting it perfect. You can always add more detail later.
- Make it yours – this guide and our template shows you what a customer journey map could look like, but there are no firm answers here. Create the layers that you think will be useful, and will inform the conversations and decisions that you want to have with your map.
- Use it – customer journey maps are only useful if they are used on a regular basis. If you treat this as a once-and-done exercise then it will be of limited value to you. But if you are continually checking in on the customer journey map and using it to frame your thinking then it will be immensely valuable. A great way to do this if you’re in a physical office is to think about creating a physical map on the wall of the team space, so it’s always visible. If you’re working remotely, then consider using it to frame feature kick-offs and strategy updates.
- Update continuously – for a customer journey map to be useful, it has to reflect the latest thinking of the team. Rather than spend a lot of time doing a big refresh every few months, get in the habit of continually editing and updating the map as you come up with new insights. This might mean blocking out a few minutes each week to add in quotes from user research, new bits of analysis or the results from features that have been released.
Want to go deeper into strategy? Check out our 7 week course: Product Strategy
Customer journey maps are a powerful way of visualizing the user experience end-to-end, and from multiple perspectives including their touch points with your business, their needs, thoughts and emotions. Creating a customer journey map is a great way to empathize more deeply with your customers, spot opportunities to improve the user experience, and align with others on the most important work to be done.
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What is customer journey mapping
Customer journey mapping is the process of visually displaying a customer’s experience and interactions with a company’s product or service. Customer journey maps break down the steps involved in reaching a specified goal, such as a purchase, a subscription, or creating an account. These steps are then described from the customer’s point of view, both in terms of the different touchpoints they have with the product or service, but also by the thoughts and feelings that the customer is likely to have. Customer journey mapping helps companies understand their customers, identify gaps in the customer experience, and find opportunities for improving it.
How to do customer journey mapping
Customer journey maps are best drawn up in cross functional workshops, where people from different perspectives can sketch out the user experience. Before you start, you need to define the persona and goal you are drawing a customer journey map for. Once that is done, you can break the journey into stages. Finally, you can add touchpoints, thoughts and feelings to the map in different layers and for each step. You can add additional insights and information to the map to further enrich it if you like.
Why is customer journey mapping important
Customer journey mapping is a powerful way to empathize with your customers, and understand their needs, actions and emotions. By developing a really good understanding of your customers and how they find your product, you can identify pain points they experience and opportunities to improve their journey. Customer journey mapping does this in a visual way that makes it easy to spot particular stages of the journey that are problematic, as well as themes that run across multiple stages.
What are the benefits of customer journey mapping
Customer journey mapping is an immensely helpful tool with a number of benefits. Customer journey maps allow you to understand the user experience holistically, giving you a rich, structured view of their journey end-to-end and from multiple perspectives. They also help you empathize with your customers, helping you understand what users are feeling, and why they are feeling that way. Customer journey maps foster cross-functional alignment by allowing different functions to plot the touchpoints and information they want to see on the same map. Finally, customer journey maps help identify the top problems for companies to solve by linking customer goals with the touchpoints needed to achieve them and emotions customers feel as a result.