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How to Build a Customer Journey Map that Works 

Steve Offsey | Apr 30, 2016 18,875 views 9 Comments

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If you’ve searched for information about how to build a customer journey map, you’ve likely encountered a dizzying array of different approaches. Your search may have left you asking questions like:

Why do journey maps all look so different from one another?
Where should I start if I’m interested in creating a journey map?
How do you know which approach will be the most effective for your organization?
Are there journey map templates available that I can use?

In this article, I’ll define the nine most common components found in customer journey maps, so you can create the most effective journey map for your needs.

1. Shine the Spotlight on the Customer

The first thing you need to decide is whose journey you are going to map. You can map the journey, for example, of a specific customer type (persona), a potential (target) customer, or a segment of customers, depending on the purpose of your journey mapping initiative.

To decide whose journey to map, first clarify the business goal that your journey mapping initiative will support. Some examples of business goals that journey mapping can support include:

  • Establish a journey framework that applies to all or most of your customers that can be used across your firm to build a common understanding of customer stages, goals, touchpoints, etc.
  • Align siloed business units and functional areas with the key friction points in the customer’ experience.
  • Support a more collaborative planning process for investing in customer experience-driven growth.
  • Operationalize a new customer segmentation framework.
  • Optimize the customer experience for a high value customer.
  • Understand how the customer experience of one customer segment or a particular buyer persona differs from another.
  • Grow your business by targeting a new customer or under-leveraged customer.

In B2B customer acquisition, a buyers’ journey typically includes different types of customers who serve different roles in the B2B purchase. In this case, it is useful to include multiple customer types in the journey and show how and when each is involved in the overall purchase.

These buyer roles are typically defined using personas. Personas are archetypes of your customers that help your organization understand their needs, expectations, and behaviors. Personas are a helpful tool for delivering positive, memorable experiences for your customers.

Consolidated view of customer personas

Personas are archetypes of your customers that help your organization understand their needs, expectations, and behaviors.

Linking your customer journey map to the persona definition can be a helpful way to establish and maintain a shared understanding of your personas and their journey. If you don’t have personas defined, you should consider including the development of personas as part of the journey mapping initiative.

2. Build a Customer Journey Map with Defined Stages from the Customer’s Perspective

Journey maps are organized by customer stages (sometimes referred to as phases). Each stage represents a major goal your customer is trying to achieve in their overall journey. You should build a customer journey map with stages that represent your customer’s goal-oriented journey, not your internal process steps.

Why should you avoid defining journey stages that map to internal processes? It’s a common mistake that instantly turns your journey map into an internal process diagram—commonly referred to as an inside-out approach. As we’ll discuss later on, you can map internal processes, like your sales process, onto the customer journey stages after you’ve established a customer-centric stage model.

Stages can be high level, like a stage in your customer’s relationship with your brand. Or they can be narrower, like the ‘Board Flight’ stage in a map that models the first time flight experience for an airline customer. How broad or narrow your stages are will depend on the journey you decide to map.

Example of a Circular Journey Map

Each stage represents a major goal your customer is trying to achieve in their overall journey.

The stage format is implicitly linear, in that one stage follows another. However, you can use visual design in your map to show customer behaviors that are cyclical.

3. Capture Your Customer’s Goals

Your customer interacts with your brand in order to meet specific goals, sometimes referred to as wants, needs, or expectations.

Here are some examples of customer goals:

  • I want to know what my options are.
  • I want to be sure I am paying a fair price.
  • I want to feel respected.
  • I need to be productive while traveling.

Clearly capturing your customer’s goals in each stage of the journey enables you to evaluate how well the customer experience you are delivering is—or isn’t—meeting those goals.

The value of your map as a business decision-making tool is largely a result of this evaluation. So make sure you include a clear understanding of customer goals!

4. Describe the Touchpoints Your Customer Uses to Interact with Your Organization

Touchpoints are the points of interaction that your customer has with your brand, or outside of your brand, as they seek to meet their specific goals and needs. A lot of the discussion about the value of journey maps is related to gaining clear insight into the different touchpoints across your customer’s journey.

Touchpoints occur in one or more channels, via a tool or resource, but a touchpoint and the tools and resources being used are not the same thing. For example, when a customer goes to a retailers website to conduct research, the touchpoint is the customer’s actions on behalf of their goal via the web channel. So a touchpoint is the intersection of customer actions with a specific tool or resource.

It’s easy to think of touchpoints just as the tool, resource, or channel. That’s okay. But by themselves, these touchpoints are void of experience and don’t really tell you much. They need an actual customer to engage through them on behalf of some goal to become an actual experience element.

Example of a Front Stage Back Stage Journey Map with Touchpoints

Touchpoints are the points of interaction that your customer has with your brand, or outside of your brand, as they seek to meet their specific goals and needs.

Some maps just inventory all the tools or resources without the details of the customer’s actions at each touchpoint. This can be helpful if the customer journey includes multiple touchpoints in each stage and you need to understand which tools and resources your customer is using to achieve their goals, as well as their relative importance.

Regardless of which touchpoint terminology you’re using—or even if you’re implicitly describing the key touchpoints in the journey as you map customer actions and behaviors—make sure to use a customer-centric or outside-in approach that describes how your customer engages with them to achieve their goals.

5. Use Your Journey Map to Visually Communicate Emotions

Emotions drive most of human behavior—even if we are not aware of it. The most rational looking B2B purchasing decisions, including those employing extensive questionnaires and numerous evaluation matrices, are at the mercy of the buyer’s emotions (e.g. Am I ready take a risk or should I play it safe? Do I owe someone a favor or want to undermine a rival?). As Tony Zambito, a leading authority on buyer insights and buyer personas, states:

What we are learning over the past decade… [and] the thousands of buyer interviews I have completed appear to confirm, is emotions are very much a significant part of B2B buying decision-making today.

—Tony Zambito in The Role of Emotions and Goals In B2b Buying Decisions

Capturing your customer’s emotions (also referred to as feelings) throughout their journey is essential for truly understanding their experience. It’s important to understand both how your customers want to feel in each stage in their journey your brand and explore how they actually feel at each stage.

Regardless of the nature of the experience your organization delivers, you will retain your customers and gain new ones if the experience you deliver results in positive emotions. In other words, delivering a memorable experience that your customers would want to repeat.

Customer research is a strategic business asset that can be operationalized using customer journey maps. Qualitative research is the best way to truly understand your customer’s emotions. While quantitative research can be used to measure satisfaction or overall sentiment for a touchpoint or stage, it is not as effective at uncovering and understanding why customers feel the way they do.

Emotions can be represented in journey maps in various ways. Some maps are very specific about customer’s emotions. For example, you might see words like frustrated, confused, delighted, impressed, etc. Some maps use simple conventions like Happy – Neutral – Sad, or Positive – Neutral – Negative. You can use words, phrases, icons, and other visual approaches to represent emotional stages throughout the journey. Maps that include quantitative measurements of emotions might use scores, scales, or graphs.

No matter which way you represent customer emotions in your journey map, the key is to capture emotional experience data in the first place and visually represent it in your map in a way that’s easy to understand and impactful.

Example of Journey Map with Emotions

Capturing your customer’s emotions throughout their journey is essential for truly understanding their experience.

 6. Convey the Customer’s Evaluation of their Experience

Journey mapping initiatives should always include an assessment of the customer experience. In many cases, the most helpful type of experience evaluation is often an emotional evaluation, as discussed above.

But sometimes it is helpful to include other types experience evaluation instead of, or in addition to, emotions. Here are a few examples:

  • Importance of a touchpoint, tool or resource.
  • Satisfaction with a touchpoint tool or resource.
  • Measure of how much effort a customer had to exert to accomplish a goal relative to how much effort they expected to exert.
  • Measure of how much time it took to accomplish a goal relative to how much time they expected to take.

Every map should include an experience evaluation that identifies the points in the customer journey that are creating friction and those that are delighting your customers. Some maps use visual approaches, or experience ratings to clearly communicate the friction and delight points in the customers’ journey. One way to highlight those points is to use a convention that explicitly labels them as pain points and delight points.

Example of a Journey Map with Customer Feedback

Journey mapping initiatives should always include an assessment of the customer experience.

Moments of truth are those make or break moments in the customer journey. Identifying moments of truth highlights which of those touchpoints are the most important to optimize for your customer. This provides a lens through which you can prioritize investment in the most important touchpoints in the journey.

If you are interested in identifying moments of truth, be sure to do so with reliable data. Qualitative research, such as a contextual inquiry, is an excellent way to capture the in-the-moment emotions—positive, neutral, or negative—at the different touchpoints in the journey. It helps you capture the intensity of those emotions and the behaviors they drive, which will help you assess which touchpoints are really make or break moments.

Exploring behavioral analytics data, call center data, and other voice of the customer (VoC) data can also be revealing. You may also consider conducting a quantitative study to gain statistically relevant feedback from customers on what they see as the importance of the different touchpoints.

7. Drive Innovation by Including Opportunities for Growth

Identifying opportunities to drive growth through investing in customer experience improvements is a key objective of many journey mapping initiatives. You should build a customer journey map as a tool to use in your action planning. This will show where you identify opportunities, assess their impact, cost, etc. and eventually set investment priorities for your organization.

Some maps explicitly list out the key opportunities on the map itself. This can be helpful as a communication tool, especially if the key opportunities are added after opportunities have been prioritized. In this way, the journey map becomes an ongoing communication and governance document.

8. Include a Backstage to Show Internal Resources and Processes Responsible For Delivering the Customer Experience

Up until now, I’ve focused on the frontstage or outside-in view of the journey. The backstage refers to the internal systems, processes, and people that are involved in delivering that journey. This is the inside-out view of the journey. When combined in a single journey map, these two views are often referred to as a Frontstage/Backstage Map or an Eco-System Map.

Mapping the frontstage and backstage on one map creates visibility to the internal resources and processes that are responsible for delivering the customer experience—visibility that can help your organization understand what is involved in delivering and ultimately improving the customer experience.

Example of a Front Stage Back Stage Journey Map

The backstage refers to the internal systems, processes, and people that are involved in delivering that journey.

9. Highlight Your Customer’s Verbal (and Non-Verbal) Thoughts

Some maps include a thinking category. If you have captured your customer’s goals for each stage or touchpoints, then you are most likely including thinking into your map. An example of a goal that reflects customer thinking might be:

“I want to get the expert advice of a sale associate on which products are the best options for my needs.”

Thinking can also reflect the customer’s thoughts as they progress through their journey. For example:

“This salesperson is being very helpful!”

Thinking is often combined with doing and feeling in journey maps. This model combines what the customer is thinking with their actions and how they feel while doing those actions. Many maps include all three of these categories—although they may not always be organized or labeled this way.

When a customer articulates what they are thinking out loud, it is commonly referred to as a verbatim. Think of verbatims as customer quotes that bring their experiences to life. Including a few verbatims in your map can be an effective way to highlight specific aspects of the customer experience or of the customer’s goals or mindset.

Frequent Biz Traveler-color

Verbatims are customer quotes that bring their experiences to life.

Conclusion

In this post I’ve outlined a variety of content types you can use to ensure that your customer journey map is informative and actionable. Don’t let the different terminology and visual approaches for representing journey map content overwhelm you. Once you understand the core content types, you can develop a plan to gather the right customer experience data to build a customer journey map. And once you have the data, you can decide the terminology and visual language that provides the best fit to convey your findings to your audience.

Want to elevate your journey mapping efforts? Click here for a complimentary Forrester research report, “Getting Help With Customer Journey Maps” by Senior Analyst Joana van den Brink-Quintanilha.

Learn how to build the right customer journey map for you in UX360.

How to Build a Customer Journey Map that Works originally appeared on the TandemSeven blog.

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9 Responses to How to Build a Customer Journey Map that Works

  1. Shub May 3, 2016 at 6:39 am (1 comment) #

    One of the most useful explanations of customer journey mapping I’ve come across. Nice one.

  2. COUBRAY May 5, 2016 at 5:20 am (1 comment) #

    Outstanding article. I like the step by step explanation and also the efficient way your CJM are displayed.

  3. Jim Tincher May 14, 2016 at 7:44 am (26 comments) #

    Steve,

    Nice article. We typically break down your first topic into two separate questions. We tell journey mapping clients that their first two questions are What to Map and Whom to Map.

    We start with What to Map because we need to tie the map into a business problem. And that ties into the level of detail in the map. Is it an end-to-end experience map, or a deep dive into a specific journey? Either approach can work, depending on what you’re trying to do.

    For example, when we worked with a company that sells products to builders, we had to spend some time deciding whether we wanted to map the entire home building journey, or go deep into the actual construction. Since their goal was to provide a broader service to builders we went with an end-to-end experience map. But had they instead wanted to improve their experience at the moment of usage, we would have gone with a narrower but deeper map.

    The next question is Whom to Map. Most of our clients don’t have personas, so we instead use a variety of customer types – those who are loyal versus on the fence (or promoters and detractors for NPS fans), those who use one product vs. many, and new vs. experienced customers. This makes sure we’re getting a broad understanding of the various customers.

    I also like your breakdowns of things to consider in the process. Great stuff!

  4. Denyse Drummond-Dunn May 31, 2016 at 11:23 pm (29 comments) #

    Good read article Steve.
    Useful, clear and above all a great read.
    Congratulations on this outstanding post.

  5. Ryan Esco November 15, 2016 at 7:18 pm (6 comments) #

    As marketers or business owners we make assumptions about our customers and their motivations. The article does a really nice of job of reminding us to take the customers perspective and use that as a map for messaging and product positioning.
    Great article. Thanks.

  6. Rick Harris December 19, 2016 at 10:34 pm (7 comments) #

    Excellent article on the detailed approach needed for CJM design.
    One thing I would add is to create customer-derived success outcomes for each stage of the journey.

    It’s tempting to see uncompleted journeys as ‘failures’ but from a lifetime value perspective, what’s right for the customer may not necessarily mean a completed journey.

    E.g. Browsing for a used car might be about establishing awareness or credibility of a dealership rather than buying a car that day/week.

  7. Yuri January 3, 2017 at 7:23 am (1 comment) #

    A very deep dive-in inside the CJM ropes, Steve. Impressive work. I love how you put business goals before everything else. It’s hard to overemphasize the need for getting goals straight before doing journey mapping.
    There’s one thing I would add, however. Apart from linear and cyclical types, maps can also be non-linear and even time-based. Well, maps can be of any shape as they reflect the path customers take and paths might vary.

    A tip for those eager to start with CJM – choose right tools for digitizing your maps and personas from the very beginning. There are few online sources that provide a handy platform for building customer journey maps. UXPressia (http://uxpressia.com) is my personal keeper. With lots of templates, a separate tool for designing personas and ability to share them with team members and export for further offline use, it’s a thing worth checking out. I’d love to hear what you have to say about this, Steve.

  8. Rudolph Regter July 16, 2017 at 3:49 am (1 comment) #

    Hi Steve,
    Impressed with an very clear explanation. Would you mind if I use this as example in my lessons at the Rotterdam Business School with full acknowledge of your name and website? The students might be later managers and will start using your services.
    Thanks, Rudolph Regter

  9. Steve Offsey July 17, 2017 at 7:33 am (1 comment) #

    Hi Rudolph,

    Glad you found this post useful and feel free to use it in your course.

    As companies realize they can no longer afford to navigate marketing and customer experience using journey maps based on a static and fuzzy perception of customers’ real-world behavior, they’re discovering ‘customer journey analytics.’ I’ll be adding a new post this week on CustomerThink explaining ‘What is Customer Journey Analytics,’ but if you can’t wait you can start reading at https://www.pointillist.com/blog/

    Best,

    Steve

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