The No-Nonsense Guide to Mapping the Customer Journey

| April 2, 2015
Sign up to get weekly resources, and receive your FREE bonus eBook.
Thank you!

Get ready for some great content coming to your inbox from the team at UserTesting!

Customer journey mapping sometimes gets a bad rap.

It can seem time-consuming and not very practical or actionable.

But really, it’s an extremely valuable exercise that’ll give you a clear picture of the interactions customers have with your brand—both positive and negative. And it’ll help you discover opportunities to increase conversions and provide a better customer experience.

Today, we’re going to go over how to map your customers’ journey and how to use the map to find optimization opportunities.

Why create a customer journey map?

Lots of teams map the customer journey in order to develop empathy for the customer. It helps them keep the customer’s needs and intentions at the center of their marketing and design decisions. This is a must for companies that want to be customer-centric.

But if you’re a practical person and that sounds a little too touchy-feely to you, think of it this way: journey mapping means figuring out what it’s like for customers to interact with your brand over time and across different channels. It means taking a step back and looking at the whole picture at once. It helps you understand where you’re putting up barriers between them and what they want. When you identify those barriers, you can remove or reduce them and then boost your conversions and revenue.

Who should do this?

Marketers, UX designers, and customer experience professionals can all benefit from creating a customer journey map. We suggest getting several people from different teams involved in the exercise.

Okay, let’s create the map!

In this section, we’re going to present a basic structure for a journey map that you can modify as much as you want to fit your needs. We’ll use an airline company as an example.

Note: There are tons of different ways to build a customer journey map, so keep in mind that your results will vary depending on your company, your industry, and how much time you decide to invest in the exercise. If you use an online tool, be aware that your format might look different from this example. Some folks create maps that follow a circular path. Some include a rating scale to mark the quality of an experience, rather than simply positive or negative. Some do a much simpler version of the example below, leaving out personas and specific activities. Experiment to see what makes the most sense for your company!

Building the map

To draw out your map, you can use a whiteboard, paper and sticky notes, or a spreadsheet. There are also several online tools that you can use to build your map, like UXPressia and Canvanizer.

Whatever medium you choose, the first step is to identify the stages of a customer’s interaction with your brand, from when they first hear about your company through the point when they become a brand advocate and customer for life. It will probably be something like this: Discovery, Research, Conversion, Post-Sale Engagement.

Next, break those stages down into common activities that customers will complete at that part of their journey. For example, the Discovery phase for an airline company might have activities like “Search for a flight for an upcoming trip” or “Learn about travelling internationally.” Plot the stages and their activities across the top of your map:

customer-journey-map-top-categories

Stages and activities (click to enlarge)

Now we’re going to fill out the different channels. Think of the ways your customers interact with your brand. You’ll probably want to include channels like Website (Desktop), Website (Mobile), Mobile App, Social Media, Phone, In-Person, and Chat Support. Plot these out on the left side of your map, from top to bottom.

customer-journey-map-blank

Blank customer journey map (click to enlarge)

Filling out the map

For this step, you’ll need to think about your personas. Which activities do they complete along their customer journey? Which channels do they use for each activity?

Remember, the exact journey isn’t the same for each customer. Some customers will make a quick decision and move from discovery to purchase right away, on a single channel. Others will take more time to research, compare, and ask questions across several channels.

For each persona, plot a point for each activity on the map, and then connect the dots.

customer-journey-map-with-personas

Three personas’ journeys (click to enlarge)

Now, how do you actually use the map?

Here’s where things get fun (and actionable)! You’re going to use the map to find opportunities to increase conversions and improve the customer experience.

Plotting your known high points and low points

First, mark your known pain points on the customer journey map.

A great starting place is to check in with your support team and find out what problems they address on a daily basis. For example, they might tell you that site visitors often chat in because they’re confused about the pricing on your website.

You can also use any survey results you already have to find any problem areas. You might have a customer satisfaction survey that shows that your customers think it takes too long to get through to anyone on the phone when they need help.

Now, you’ve already identified a couple of optimization opportunities! Go ahead and mark them on the map.

You can do the same thing for any places where you’re currently doing great. Do you often hear positive feedback from customers about how smooth your signup process is or how helpful your content marketing is? Add that to the map!

customer-journey-map-with-good-and-bad-experiences

Filling in positive and negative experiences (click to enlarge)

Discovering new opportunities

What about the interactions that aren’t obviously positive or negative? At this point, you’ll use your analytics data and qualitative feedback to fill in the gaps in your customer journey map.

Maybe there are the places where you might suspect there’s room for improvement, but you’re not sure what’s going wrong or what needs to be fixed. For example, when you look at your analytics, where are visitors bouncing from your site, abandoning their orders, or unsubscribing from your emails? At what point do they stop replying to your sales team’s outreach efforts? These actions tell you that there’s room for improvement and optimization.

So how do you determine what’s actually going wrong at these points? The best bet is to ask your customers directly. Ask questions like:

  • On a scale of 1 (very unlikely) to 10 (very likely), how likely would you be to recommend our company to a friend, and why?

  • If you had a magic wand, what would you change about this product?

  • How did your experience today compare to your expectations? Why?

You can ask these questions via a survey, a user test, or even over the phone, depending on what stage you’re investigating.

By now, your map should be getting pretty full. Give yourself bonus points if you can add a few words describing the customer’s mindset at each interaction.

Once your map is filled in…

When you’ve got your completed map, your team can tell at a glance how the customer’s experience with your company changes as they move through their journey.

You can use the map to prioritize new optimization efforts. Which pain points affect all or most of your personas? Which critical interactions need to be improved? Are there any quick wins you can achieve by making a small interface tweak? What improvements will require a longer-term investment, but are still important?

We recommend sharing your map with other teams within your company to build a broader sense of awareness of what it’s really like to be your customer. It’ll get everyone thinking about creating a better experience for your users, and it’ll put you well on your way to becoming a truly customer-centric company.

If you found this article useful, you might also enjoy our crash course on optimizing the cross-channel experience.