Understanding Customer Journey Maps


Share on LinkedIn

A great journey map helps us visualize an experience and share that vision across a team or company. This guide is your introduction to the basics: why journey maps are important and how to be great at them so that every member of your team can visualize your customer experience and their role in delivering it.

What is a journey map?

A journey map is a visual representation of the stages or steps in an experience.

Every employee in a company impacts the customer journey either directly or indirectly. If a journey map isn’t simple enough, there will be employees that won’t understand it. In order for each employee to contribute to the success of the customer’s journey, it is fundamental that everyone in the company understands the customer journey map.

Why is having a journey map important for your business?

Understanding the customer journey is extremely important for any company. If the members of a team don’t share an understanding of the customer journey, coordinating their efforts across the journey becomes especially challenging. Conversely, if a team uses a journey map to share an understanding of the customer journey, then everyone can rally around the customer through every stage of their journey.

According to Gartner, 82% of companies have created a journey map but only 47% felt like they were using those maps effectively. (June 10, 2019)

The benefits of having a great journey map include:

+ Enhanced team-wide communication and coordination
+ Focused innovation efforts on improving the customer journey
+ Increased return on the investments made in producing the customer journey

Great journey maps engage employees in the stories and lives of their customers. When employees are able to understand the company’s intentions throughout the customer journey, they are able to connect their role directly to the company’s strategy and mission. When employees don’t have a great journey map, they often don’t understand their role in the context of the bigger picture which leads to a lack of true day-to-day engagement. A great journey map gives employees a clear understanding of where the customer journey needs to go and their roles in helping their customers get to the successful completion of their journey every time.

What is an example of a customer journey map?

Your company’s customer journey map tells your customer’s story from beginning to end. It defines the major milestones: where the journey begins, where it ends, and the stages in between.

Here are five stages in an example customer journey map:

1. Awareness Your customer has never heard about your brand or has possibly forgotten about it as a solution to their needs. That is, until the moment when they are acquainted or reacquainted with your brand. It’s a moment with great impact on the rest of their journey.

2. Learn Your customer has become acquainted or reacquainted with your brand and starts to investigate your solution. They search the web, visit your website and perform research into whether they want to select your solution, someone else’s, or keep searching.

3. Purchase Your customer has decided that they are willing to take the first step in acquiring your solution. They want the process to be easy but also protective of their rights as a consumer. How they purchase your solution can be the differentiating factor in their ultimate purchase behavior.

3. Use Your customer has fallen in love with your solution. They choose it every time over your competitors’ because of what it does for them. Every time they choose your solution, they are appreciative that your company exists.

4. Loyalty Your customer continues to proactively engage with your brand. They are now the captain of your fan club rooting for your success in continuing to elevate their life experiences.

What is a great journey map?

Every customer journey map is unique. How your company thinks about your customer’s journey is a strategic decision that can provide a major competitive advantage. Each stage of the customer journey requires company resources and employee efforts to produce. By naming and crafting each stage, companies can focus their efforts and resources on what is truly important to their customer and their business. They can also eliminate the expenditure of efforts and resources on things that don’t matter.

When a company names its customer journey stages, it establishes a language for managing their customer’s experience. But just having a common language isn’t enough. That language has to speak to everyone in the organization. If everyone doesn’t understand the stages of the customer journey, the company cannot communicate or coordinate their efforts effectively. That’s not to say that the first draft of a journey map has to be perfect. No journey map is ever perfect. Working towards perfection should be the goal of every organization. It’s best to create a draft and start sharing it with others in the organization as early as possible. This way the language and story can immediately start evolving towards the point when everyone is able to understand your customer’s journey map.

What causes bad journey maps?

Bad journey maps don’t unite people. They actually divide people into two groups: those who have access to the journey map and understand it, and those who do not. While this isn’t an intentional outcome, it happens more times than not for several reasons:


1. Too many stages make a journey map hard to remember. Every team is different but making the journey map as easy as possible to understand and remember is in everyone’s best interests.

2. Complicated stages make the journey map hard to understand. If a team’s members don’t understand a stage in the journey, they can’t understand the customer’s journey.


1. Too few team members actually get to spend time with the journey map. Many never see the journey map while others don’t get dedicated time to spend with it.


1. Input is missing from team members who are instrumental in managing the customer’s journey but don’t participate in the journey map process. Before entire teams can align, their leaders need to work together to provide a holistic view of the journey from all of the key players involved.

2. An outdated journey map tells the story of a customer in the past which is especially dangerous because journey maps can be very memorable. They can leave an imprint on the brain that can drive future decisions based on old information.

Why you need a system for designing journey maps

Complicated journey maps are relatively easy to develop. Great journey maps need to be simple. Simple rarely happens in a first draft. Simple must be pursued. To pursue simple, you need a system for designing journey maps, sharing them with your team, and simplifying/improving them over time.

Most journey maps don’t survive long after they are created. Time and budget are invested in creating them to capture a snapshot of the customer experience at a point in time. But every day thereafter, an intricately-designed journey map loses value because things change. To retain value, a journey map must be maintained as changes are made and new information is learned.

By using a system for designing journey maps, teams no longer have to worry about how they are going to coordinate and communicate changes. They can simply focus on what they need to change in the customer journey to improve service, reduce cost and increase revenue.

How to measure and analyze a journey map

A journey map is working if a company is able to measure and track improvement in the following areas:

Goal performance measures the percentage of customers that complete each stage of the journey successfully.

Employee Engagement measures the percentage of employees that are actively engaged in understanding the journey.

Rate of Innovation measures the number of ideas that employees produce on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to improve the journey.

Rate of Improvement measures the ability of the team to make improvements to the journey map on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

By measuring and tracking these four key performance indicators, companies can demonstrate improvement as well as a return on their investment spent creating and managing their customer journey map.

A great journey map example

Here is a practical example of how creating a great customer journey map can impact the success of a company.

Before 2010 there was no Uber, no Lyft, no ride-hailing apps available. If we needed a ride, we hailed or called a cab. The journey map was very straightforward: You needed a ride. If you weren’t in a position to hail a cab, you would look up cab companies in the city you were in and call them on your phone to book a ride. They would arrive, take you to your destination, and you would pay before getting out.

The payment stage took place at the end of every journey you took. You would be at your destination but had to wait to complete the transaction. You also had to break out your wallet and use your credit card which opened you up to potentially catastrophic outcomes like losing your wallet or having your credit card number compromised.

By innovating the traditional journey map to move the purchase stage to the beginning of the customer journey and making it so customers only had to provide their billing information one time, ride-hailing companies like Uber were able to completely transform the customer experience. In the process of simplifying the journey map for an industry, they are elevating the life experiences of over one hundred million consumers.

Mitch Belsley
Mitch is a CX consultant, blogger, and co-founder of the CXM software platform The Experience Manager.Over the years he's worked everywhere from the "front office" to the "head office" which has provided him with a unique view for creating CX strategies, customer centric cultures, and operationalizing unforgettable experiences for businesses big and small.


  1. Mitch, this is a good overview. But you missed one of the most common causes of a customer journey map – not involving the customer in the creation of the map! Bob/CustomerThink found the same thing in their analysis of successful customer experience programs. The most successful programs were far more likely to include customers in the creation of their maps.

    A customer journey map that doesn’t include customers in the process is just guessing – and typically badly.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here