Customer Journey Maps

A time-based visualization of customer experiences

What?
A customer journey map is a visualisation of all experiences a customer has with a certain product or service over time. Unlike process maps, a journey map is truly customer-focused and visualizes the story of a customer as a human being.. So commonly, it includes also those parts of a story when a customer does not directly interact with a company through their various channels (e.g. searching for better options, talking with friends about a product or service, waiting times, etc.). Just like a movie is structured by a sequence of scenes, a journey map is structured by a sequence of touchpoints (Be aware that there are many different ways how people use the word "touchpoint" – read more on this in the common questions below). A "touchpoint" describes any moment a customer comes in touch with a specific brand, product, or service on any channel (such as a website, telephone, TV, print advertisement, shop, etc.). So a "customer journey" is always a sequence of touchpoints.

Why?
A customer journey map helps an organization to become more customer-centred. The journey map deliberately presents only experiences of a customer (similarly an employee journey map focuses on the employee experiences. etc.) and thereby helps a project team to slip into the shoes of a customer. It makes intangible interactions visible and facilitates a common understanding of a certain experience between all team members. As it also includes experiences beyond the reach of an organization, it connects the customer's perspective with the organization's perspective. Journey maps can be used to represent research data in an empathic and tangible way. They help to find gaps in the customer experiences and explore potential solutions. They can be used to visualize future experiences of customers using a new product or service. Journey maps can also be used to communicate customer experience problems as well as concepts within organizations. However, a journey map is simply a visualization of data. The quality of any journey map depends on the quality of the underlying data. Read more about how to do research in a later post.

There are various forms of journey maps. The scope of a journey map can be high-level showing the end-to-end experience (e.g. visualizing 30 years of a life insurance)) or it can be focused on a detail of such a high-level journey (e.g. the sign-up process of the life insurance)). A journey map can be used to visualize experiences through storyboards (a sequence of photos or sketches) and emotional journeys (a graph showing the level of satisfaction at each touchpoint from negative to positive). For easier orientation, many journey maps combine several touchpoints to stages (simple and high-level sections of an experience, such as "inspiration, planning, booking, experience, sharing"). It can also include swimlane maps (a visualization on which channel a touchpoint takes place) or backstage processes (alternatively to a service blueprint: a visualization of backstage processes helps to visually connect front- and backstage processes) as well as dramatic arcs (a graph showing the level of engagement at each touchpoint). Read more about these visualizations below.

How to create journey maps

(the simple way)

A simple way is to do a workshop with people who have a good knowledge of your customers' experiences, e.g. customers (yes, real ones!) and/or frontline-employees.

  • People: 3-10 people.
  • Duration: 1-6 hours.
  • Material: Journey map templates, post-its, pens, masking tape.
  • Other: A room. Some coffee and cookies always help..
  • Recommended: Do your personas first!
  1. Choose a persona. Into whose shoes do you want to slip?
    Alternatively, you could also start without a dedicated persona and then use journey mapping to find different customer experience patterns to cluster and segment your customers. However, we strongly recommend to start with a persona so that you have a clear idea whose shoes you'll slip into.
  2. Define the scope of the customer journey and collect data for it.
    Define the time frame of your story. Are you talking about an experience of e.g. 10 minutes, 2 hours, 5 days, or 10 years?
  3. Identify the stages of the customer journey.
    Write down stages of the customer journey. Stages are the high-level sections of an experience, such as "inspiration, planning, booking, experience, sharing" for a holiday.
  4. Start with the main touchpoints of each stage.
    Now fill up the stages with the customer's story. Sometimes it helps if you start with the most crucial touchpoints and then ask yourself what happens before and what happens after this. Use simple post-it notes for this so you can easily add or discard touchpoints.
  5. Refine the journey.
    Go through the customer journey from end to end to check if you missed a touchpoint or if you need more/less details in certain parts. You can always break up a touchpoint in two or more steps or combine several touchpoints to one again. Try to find a consistent level of detail throughout the whole customer journey.
  6. Add more data/visualizations
    Here's a list of options you have to enrich your basic journey map. We'd recommend at least to add a storyboard and an emotional journey:

Storyboard: A visual representation of each touchpoint through sketches, photos, screenshots, etc.
Emotional Journey: A graph representing the persona's level of satisfaction at each touchpoint, e.g. from -2 (very negative) to 0 (indifferent) to +2 very positive.
Dramatic Arcs: A graph showing the level of the persona's engagement at each touchpoint, e.g. from 1 (very low) to +5 (very high). Read more about dramatic arcs in this blog post.
Jobs: A short description what a persona has to do at each touchpoint. Particularly useful for high-level customer journey maps to identify "outsourcing of parts of a service to customers".
Channels: Stating on which channel a touchpoint takes place and optionally also a list of alternative channels on which this touchpoint could take place as well.
Stakeholder: A list of involved stakeholders at each touchpoint.

Scroll down to find examples for these visualizations.

How to create journey maps

(the comprehensive way)

Research, research, research and then derive your journey maps from patterns you'll find. Here's just a brief overview how to do this.

  • People: 3-10 people with good knowledge of your customers (e.g. customers and/or frontline-employees).
  • Duration: Think rather in days. This takes time ...
  • Research data: Collect data about the experience of your customers. We recommend to use qualitative (ethnographic) methods, such as self-ethnography, (non)-participant observation, contextual interviews, mobile ethnography. Our second start-up "ExperienceFellow" is all about how to do research of customer experiences across all channels (on- and offline) along the entire customer journey and how to visualize this with customer journeys. Have a look at http://www.experiencefellow.com to learn more and particularly take a look at the research guide to learn how to do research: http://guide.experiencefellow.com. There'll be also another post about research later in 2015 on this page.
  • Material: Journey map templates, post-its, pens, masking tape, as well as data as input for your journey map.
  • Other: A room. Some coffee and of course cookies help ...
  • Recommended: Do your personas first!

1. Build a research wall.
Make your research findings tangible and accessible by building a research wall. Simply pin up photos, screenshots, quotes from customers or employees, your observations, collected artifacts,, quantitative data, previous research, etc. on a wall. What kind of data do you have to build the customer journey on? Do you already see gaps in your data? Go out and do some more focused research to fill these gaps. Don't only guess how a customer journey looks like – base it on thorough research!
2. Choose a persona. Into which shoes do you want to slip?
Alternatively, start without a dedicated persona and then use journey mapping to cluster your data and to find different customer experience patterns of your customers. These might be a very useful indicator to segment your customers and then build your personas. However, to begin we strongly recommend to start with a persona, so that you have a clear idea of who your customer is!
2. Define the scope of the customer journey and identify stages of the customer journey.
Define the time frame of your story. Are you talking about an experience of e.g. 10 minutes, 2 hours, 5 days, or 10 years? Write down stages of the customer journey. Stages are the high-level sections of an experience, such as "inspiration, planning, booking, experience, sharing" for a holiday. Then, cluster your research around these stages and again identify gaps in your data. Don't hesitate to go back and do some more research if you find gaps. This is an iterative process!
4. Fill up the stages of your customer journey with touchpoints.
Now fill up each stage with touchpoints. Root your touchpoints on your data (Tip: Codify your data and write down the codes on the touchpoints. This helps you to prove your point in a later stage). Sometimes it helps if you start with the most crucial touchpoints and then ask yourself what happens before and what happens after this. Use simple post-it notes for this so you can easily add or discard touchpoints, but also use the material from your research wall. Photos, sketches, screenshots, artefacts help a lot to visualize the experience and can be added as a storyboard to the journey map.
4. Iterate! Test your customer journey and refine it.
Go through the customer journey from end to end or pick some detailed parts of it. Check if you missed a touchpoint or if you need more/less details in certain parts. You can always break up a touchpoint in two or more steps or combine several touchpoints to one again. Try to find a consistent level of detail throughout the whole customer journey. Invite real customers or front-line staff to give feedback on this and use their feedback to refine it!
5. Add more data/visualizations
Here's a list of options you have to enrich your basic journey map. We'd recommend at least to add a storyboard and an emotional journey:

Storyboard: A visual representation of each touchpoint through sketches, photos, screenshots, etc.
Emotional Journey: A graph representing the persona's level of satisfaction at each touchpoint, e.g. from -2 (very negative) to 0 (indifferent) to +2 very positive.
Dramatic Arcs: A graph showing the level of the persona's engagement at each touchpoint, e.g. from 1 (very low) to +5 (very high). Read more about dramatic arcs in this blog post.
Jobs: A short description what a persona has to do at each touchpoint.Particularly useful for high-level customer journey maps to identify "outsourcing of parts of a service to customers".
Channels: Stating on which channel a touchpoint takes place and optionally also a list of alternative channels on which this touchpoint could take place as well.
Stakeholder: A list of involved stakeholders at each touchpoint.

Scroll down to find examples for these visualizations.

Common questions

Send us a mail if you have other questions...

- I know the experience my customers go through. Why should I invest in this?
Probably you think you know it, but in fact you don't. In our experience, it is always a very eye-opening moment when people in an organization (mostly those higher up in the hierarchy who don't have so much direct contact with their customers) see the end-to-end experience their customer go through. You will find gaps and problems, but also work-arounds how your customers help themselves or work-arounds how your employees help your customers. Try it out and base your journey maps on experiences and research instead of mere assumptions. Remember: A journey map is just a visualization of data. If the data is crap, the journey map is crap. If the data is good, you'll find opportunities how to improve your offering.

- I have my journey map. What's next?
Look for problems, e.g. touchpoints with a negative satisfaction on your emotional journey. How could you improve this? Invite your employees and customer to co-create ideas and prototype these (Here you can find a great collection of examples how to prototype). See what works and what doesn't. Then refine your prototype and test it again. In this context, again journey maps help you to understand the context of your prototype (What happens before, what afterwards) and to communicate your concept in your team and to customers and other stakeholders.

- I find many problems. Where should I start?
A simple rule: Fix the basics first. What are basics? The Kano model might help you to understand what are basics and what are performance or excitement factors. Kano model is a theory of product development and customer satisfaction developed in the 1980s by Professor Noriaki Kano. The main idea is to divide factors according to their impact on satisfaction (y-axis) and to what extent customer expect these (x-axis, originally referred to as importance or level of implementation). Read more on this model e.g. on Wikipedia or simply watch this nice video of Jared Spool on “Using the Kano Model to Build Delightful UX”.

smaply: Journey maps

Some tips on how to visualize journey maps

Start with your persona

The persona defines in which shoes you'll slip. The journey map visualizes the customer experiences (i.e. the story) of this persona.

Add touchpoints

Now add touchpoints to your customer journey. Give each touchpoint a title and a description and -if you can- also upload a photo, screenshot, or sketch.

Combine touchpoints into stages

Give more structure to your journey map by combining touchpoints into stages. You can then also collapse stage and navigate quicker through your journey map.

Add a storyboard to your journey map

Below your journey, you can add "smaps". – various visualizations of your data. You can add or delete smaps without changing the data. Adding a storyboard smap helps to visualize the experience of your persona.

Add an emotional journey

The emotional journey visualizes the persona's satisfaction at each touchpoint from (-2) very negative to (+2) very positive). It helps you to find problems or gaps in the customer experience.

Add a dramatic arc

A dramatic arc visualizes the persona's engagement at each touchpoint from (0) low to (4) high. It helps to identify the most important touchpoints from a customer’s perspective.

Add a swimlane map

A swimlane map helps you to show on which channel a touchpoint happens and on which other channels it might happen.

Export your journey map

Export your persona to pdf and plot it out to work with it in your next workshop. Or invite your team members to your project in smaply to work together immediately.