A 5 Step Guide to Crafting a Customer Journey Map


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What is a Customer Journey Map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of every interaction an individual customer may have with your brand. It’s essentially a roadmap of the full customer experience, from when a customer first becomes aware of your brand to when they make their final purchase. Understanding the customer journey is fundamental to understanding how the customer experiences your brand. It encompasses every touchpoint, interaction and activity that could be taken by a single customer. 

Journey mapping allows you to identify what points you should be measuring and monitoring from the start of a customer interaction and throughout. A customer journey map shows you the opportunities to ask for feedback. You can build and utilise customer personas to understand how different types of customers may experience your brand. 

It’s more than a linear timeline of the steps a customer takes. As HBR notes, a customer journey mapping framework needs to identify the actions, motivations, questions and barriers that a customer could face. Understand that the path taken by any given customer can vary greatly, and the process will require empathy and significant research to be the best it can be. There’s no one way to craft a journey map, but in this blog, we will discuss five steps to getting started. 

Why Is It Essential?

A customer journey map is essential to creating a comprehensive customer experience. In an ideal world, customer experience would be seamless, but journey mapping helps you to know where there might be cracks in your processes that may negatively impact CX. The exercise of journey mapping itself allows you to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and see their experience in a holistic way, so you can truly understand the who, what, when, where, why and how of any customer that may interact with your brand. 

When you understand the complete trajectory of your customers’ experiences and bring those key learnings to action, your business can benefit significantly. When properly compiled and applied, a journey map should enable you to reduce customer effort and increase customer satisfaction. It should help you to gain new customers and keep existing ones as you’ll have a better understanding of who your customers are and their motivations.  

Step 1 – Identify & Chart Touchpoints

Touchpoints are any interaction, whether physical or not, that can alter how a customer feels about your brand, product or service. Identifying the touchpoints in your business is not as easy as it seems. They represent the various interactions along the customer journey. Understanding what the multiple touchpoints are within your business can take time, as many may be outside of your control. Online reviews, for example, can be considered a touchpoint as they are informing a customer’s perception of your brand, service or products. Third parties may also be responsible for certain aspects of the customer journey, making them responsible for various touchpoints – like your shipping partner who communicates delivery notifications with customers on your behalf. 

Once you’ve identified your touchpoints, your journey map can begin to take shape. It almost certainly will not be a straight line, but how direct or complex your map may be will vary greatly by business and interaction type as well as the motivation of the customers following their path. 

Step 2 – Craft Personas

Customer personas are research-based, detailed representations of segments of your customer base. They are fictional constructions of who a real customer, or potential or former customer, might be. Data will be essential here, and you may need to dig deep and get creative. Be careful not to base your personas on stereotypes. They need to be dynamic, realistic and slightly nuanced so you can understand the emotional as well as practical drivers of the ideated customer. You should consider the basics like background, demographics, lifestyle, personality, information sources, and shopping preferences but also more complicated characteristics that may drive interactions and motivations with your specific brand. If you are, for example, selling gym memberships, a first-time mother might be more emotionally sensitive to your messaging than a sporty university student. 

If you want to take another approach, ethnographic research can be a great way to get to know who your customers are. With this style of research, you physically visit and get to know real-life customers rather than using impersonal data-driven insights to craft your personas. 

Step 3 – Design Scenarios

Your personas will each have different paths that they would take in how they interact with your business. For each persona, you should chart out the variations of their individual journey. If you were to create the same generic journey map and apply each persona to it, you would miss ample opportunities to scrutinise your business further and to identify opportunities for improvement. 

There are four major types of journey maps that you can design to understand various scenarios your customer may encounter: Current state, Future state, Day in the Life, and Service Blueprint. There is no need to chart all four, but it can be helpful to understand each depending on your goals. 

A current state map will help you to make incremental improvements by understanding how your customer interacts with your brand today. A future state map is important to introduce if you are planning to introduce changes to your business to identify how your customer will interact with your business when it changes. A day in the life map charts your customer’s day in a holistic way, including whether or not it is directly including your brand, services or products. This type of map is of particular use if you are looking to innovate or ideate to address unmet customer needs. And finally, a service blueprint which is a simplified diagram of the other types of blueprints on which you can add the elements that systems that drive the journey (people, technologies, policies, etc.). The blueprint can be used to understand existing relationships and analyse a service rather than as an ideation tool. 

Step 4 – Determine Pain Points & Obstacles

Once you’ve put together your personas with your touchpoints to develop a map, you can then chart the process to identify the errors, frustrations, bottlenecks and roadblocks that are preventing customer ease or satisfaction. This process is so important for understanding how your customer reacts to different steps taken with your brand and what struggles they may face, which lead them to abandon your brand for another. When you understand pain points and obstacles, you can mitigate them, whether that’s by addressing issues in your FAQ or knowledgebase or by making your website more mobile-friendly. 

It is important to note that this process is not just about identifying where a customer struggles, finding those happy or seamless moments will also help you to learn how to adjust and improve the more frustrating points of the journey. 

Step 5 – Empathise and Adjust

Now is the time to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and go on the journey yourself. You may have designed a complete map, but you won’t know how finished it is until you attempt to experience the customer’s lifecycle yourself. For each persona that you crafted, you should attempt the journey yourself and analyse the results. This way, you’ll gain a personal understanding of how a customer might struggle or where they might find moments of joy. Identify opportunities for improvement, adjust where necessary, and do it again. 

A journey map should be a living, breathing document within your organisation, so while this is listed as the final step, you should be consistently reevaluating the customer journey, so it evolves alongside your business. You can create a truly smooth process the more you understand the journey, so regularly conducting this exercise will have a really positive impact on your brand’s CX. 

Sarah-Nicole LeFlore
Sarah-Nicole "Nikki" is a Customer Success Manager at CX Index, a Dublin-based Voice of the Customer (VOC) Vendor. She contributes her insights on the many benefits of prioritising customer experience to the CX Index blog. She is currently based in London but has lived in New York, Dublin and Paris. She has a B.A. from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT and an MSc from Trinity College Dublin.


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