What is a customer journey map and why do you need one?

Posted on June 14, 2023
6 min read


What does a customer journey map look like? What does it consist of? What are the benefits? How can it help your organization focus on the one thing that truly matters? Let's look at the details of this important tool of UX research and design.

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map tells the story of your customer’s experience. From initial contact, through the various points of engagement, to the eventual long term relationship.

The customer journey map can focus on one particular part of the story or it can give an overview of the entire experience. Either way, it should always identify the key interactions a customer has with your organization.

It’s within these interactions that you'll find out what the user is feeling, what their motivations are during each phase of the journey and surface any questions they might ask when interacting with each of the touchpoints.

The goal of a customer journey map is simple: to teach organizations more about their customers by visualizing their experience. 

What are the benefits of customer journey mapping?

You’ll find that throughout this entire exercise, it will always come back to the customer.

A customer journey map helps you focus entirely on the most crucial person to your business, as they’re the reason for your continued existence. And improving their journey is paramount to keeping them happy, engaged and coming back for more.

There are other benefits too:

  • Allows for collaboration within your organization: Once you’ve established your business goal, all the departments can work together because everyone has the same focus. 
  • Uncover hidden truths: When you’re studying how your customer interacts with any given touchpoint, you may uncover something you had never thought about before (“I never knew we needed a click-to-call button!”).
  • Helps to create a personal connection: Always remember when dealing with a customer, you’re dealing with a human being—not data or figures.
  • Allows for prioritization: Once you’ve determined all the issues people are having at any given touchpoint, you can clearly see what you should focus on first.
  • Accountability: Once you’re discovered your issues, and prioritized them, it’s easier to determine which department in your organisation is best to take care of those issues.

Ultimately, a customer journey map creates shared goals and a common vision throughout your organization.

You could think of journey mapping like the roots of a tree. It’s what keeps an organization solid. A good journey map will help you establish how successful your customer experience is across the customer lifecycle.

Journey mapping places focus on the the customer experience during the entire customer lifecycle.

What is in a typical customer journey map?

There are three crucial prerequisites in any customer journey map: the actor, the scenario and the journey lifecycle.

  • The actor is the person who is experiencing the journey. It’s the person you’re focusing on – either they represent your customer base, or it’s someone else you’re interested in researching. (Also there’s the cast, who are the people influencing the actor’s journey – i.e. if the actor is a B2B purchaser, these people could be clients, colleagues or stakeholders)
  • The scenario is the specific journey that’s being mapped. You should have something specific in mind for this. For instance, imagine you’re a businessperson looking for a new phone and price isn’t a priority, but you want unlimited minutes and low overseas call rates plus good customer support. These details can all form your specific scenario. A scenario is also handy because it provides constraints. This allows you to only focus on the problems that pertain to one particular journey. 
  • The journey lifecycle refers to the activities that the actor will be going through as they go through the journey. In each activity, you’ll be monitoring actions they’re doing (i.e. researching, discussing) and their thoughts and emotions (i.e. frustration, happy, thinking of switching loyalties). All these activities define the overall journey and all the points of potential interaction.

From these facets of the journey map, you’ll be able to gather insights on how to improve the customer experience.

How do we identify scenarios?

There are three possible ways to identify the scenarios to use as part of your customer journey map, although there could be more.

  • User research: Customer interviews (either in-person, on the phone or via email or live chat).
  • Analytics: Your website’s analytics can show patterns that indicate a particular area that should be investigated further. If there’s a sudden drop off in conversions during checkout, or a product page has suddenly lost traffic.
  • Internal prerogatives: Perhaps an internal company project or analysis has revealed a problem that should be addressed.

What are journey phases?

If the scenario is what you create, the journey phases are what your customers surface when they interact with your property.

The experience of your brand or product will involve many different journeys undertaken by many different people, but you will have to decide which one to focus on for your journey map. You may want to focus on the most common one, in order to smooth over any rough edges. Or you’ll want to explore a more unpopular one, in order to bring it up to speed with the rest of your journeys.

The phases within these journeys will help you paint a comprehensive view of the entire customer lifecycle.

Things to remember about journey phases:

  • Define the phases by the customer’s point-of-view, not your own. Making assumptions or guessing will not provide you with genuine, actionable insight.
  • Remember to base each phase on actual observable customer behavior, not cold hard data.
  • Create a model that can accommodate all scenarios.
  • Provide clear definitions for each stage.
  • Discuss it with others in the organization and get internal buy-in from executives.

What does a typical customer journey map look like?

At last, the bit you’ve all been waiting for: an example of a customer journey map. Your customer journey map doesn’t necessarily have to look exactly like this one – and different organizations have different ways of presenting their own. Some maps are much fancier than the one shown below, others are just a bunch of colored post-it notes stuck to a board.

Whatever aesthetic form your map takes, there are three important parts of the customer journey map that you must include. We’ve split them into Zones.

Zone A is the lens – this is what you’re seeing the journey through, i.e. the actor and the scenario. The journey is through their eyes.

Zone B is the experience – this is comprised of the journey phases (the chunks of meaningful behaviour that provide high-level organization of actions, thoughts and emotions) and the actor’s actions, thoughts and emotions throughout the journey.

From this you can head to Zone C, where you gather the insights and opportunities for improvements. As well as defining who is in charge of implementing those insights (internal ownership).

Which brings us to the ultimate point of the customer journey map: how do you spot the stuff that you can fix?

How do you spot opportunities?

There are plenty of ways to analyze the journey, and every organization provides different journeys through their properties, so no two journeys will necessarily highlight the same opportunities. However, to help you get started, there are a few things to look out for:

  • Look for points of failure: what was missed? How can you better support users? When are their needs least satisfied?
  • Gaps: find where absolutely no support is offered. What pain points were not addressed?
  • Redundancies: have you noticed any duplication in your interactions? Are you wasting people’s time if there are multiple people doing the same job?

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