How to create an effective customer journey map

5 min read Optimal Workshop

Understanding your customers is central to any organization which wants to deliver an outstanding experience. But how do you understand your customers better? Tailoring their experience with your products and your organization to suit them should include a customer journey map.

It doesn’t mean your organization needs a brightly colored, fully designed infographic that outlines each and every action your user takes within your product. It does mean an effective customer journey map that promotes empathy and provides a clear vision for improving customer interactions. There are no rules around what that visualization looks like and it is up to your team to create one that makes the most of your customer’s journey.

What is customer journey mapping?

Customer journey mapping (sometimes referred to as a user experience map) is a technique that allows you to visualize your customer’s key touchpoints, sentiments, pain points, and actions. Plotted in sequential order. It’s a map of a customer’s experience with your brand or product, from awareness to purchase and beyond. 

Customer journey mapping helps you look beyond key touchpoints and encourages empathy with your customers. To understand who they are, even a persona to give them a life and demographic. Helping designers and key stakeholders understand where they are coming from. And where you can address their needs, avoid their pain points and encourage them to engage with your product. And even identify opportunities for innovation and improvement across the board.

Why you need a customer journey map

What’s better than a customer that feels seen and understood once? A customer that feels the organization or product really understands their needs (and responds to their frustrations). Like all successful, long-term relationships, keeping customers returning is built on empathy and a solid grasp of their needs and frustrations. 

When you want to get to know your customer, like really get to know them, it’s essential to map their customer journey. Creating a shared understanding of what your customers think, feel, and struggle with as they interact with your organization. Spending the time to establish a customer journey map can help align around identifying known problems, identifying new user pain points, and removing roadblocks for your customers, ensuring their success.

Spending the time to get inside the mind and journeys of your customers through mapping helps your team to:

  • Create a visual guide of the end-to-end customer experience
  • Get an understanding of multiple customer pathways and unravel complex user experiences
  • Create target personas and allow insights to solve problems more effectively
  • Increase your organization’s empathy for your current and future customers
  • Identify potential pain points and roadblocks for your customers
  • Breakdown silos within your organization and improve alignment across teams
  • With a clearer understanding of your customers, better insights to achieve stakeholder buy-in

How to create a customer journey map

Here are 8 key steps to get the most out of your customer journey map process:

  1. Bring key stakeholders together for an initial brainstorming session
  2. Identify potential user personas – demographics, pain points, interests, etc
  3. Create an empathy map – get a real feel for your customer, who they are, and what they want
  4. Flesh out your ideas with user research. Get under your user persona skin with focus groups, interviews, and surveys
  5. Identify possible customer touchpoints
  6. Choose the information you want to highlight – not everything will be relevant
  7. Decide on the best customer journey map tool to answer your questions
  8. Start building your map

Customer journey mapping examples

Each and every customer’s journey is different. This, of course, means that there is no single best customer journey map example or template. Instead, the best customer journey map for any given situation will depend not only on your customers but also on your product, your team, and the goals you’re hoping to achieve by creating the map in the first place.

We’ve found a few examples of customer journey maps to help inspire your thinking:

Current state customer journey maps help you to visualize a user’s experience as it is right now. These are fact-based journey maps – to create an accurate, current state journey map. A good dose of user research data around your actual customers and interactions will help shape this.

An example of a customer journey map
An example of a customer journey map

Future state customer journey maps focus on what the customer journey can and should look like in the future. Although UX data is certainly an important aspect of understanding customers, future state journey maps involve a fair amount of creative speculation and interpretation. These customer journey maps focus on customer hopes and wants (future feelings), in addition to experiences and reactions. They can be a little objective and should be developed in balance with both positive and negative interactions.

Day in the life customer journey maps help you visualize your customer’s entire daily routine. Interactions with family, their commute, work meetings, afternoon coffee, etc. Regardless of whether or not the activities are related to your company. This type of journey map should be organized chronologically to give key insights into how and where customers are. What are the distractions, and where could they interact with your brand or product? How can key pain points be eased?

Service blueprints are a useful counterpart to a classic customer journey map. Whereas a customer journey map focuses on the thoughts, needs, and actions of the customer, a service blueprint reflects the perspective of the organization and its employees. What needs to happen behind the scenes to ensure the customer’s experience is the very best it can be.

Circular customer journey maps may be useful to visualize the customer journey as a circle or loop. Recognizing that some customers are recurring and non-transactional. Particularly through subscription-based relationships.

An empathy map is used to create a shared understanding of customers around their wants, needs, thoughts, and actions. This can be a great starting point to getting under your customer’s skin.

An example of an empathy map
An example of an empathy map

Wrap Up

There is no one size fits all customer journey map. Each customer is unique, each organization is different. Through creating customer journeys, personas and visualizing their key touchpoints, pain points, and understanding who they are, empathy throughout the organization can be generated. With this as a tool to bring key stakeholders on board and to pinpoint where products (and services) can be improved to keep customers or even bring new ones on board, the user experience can be better and more effective.