What is customer journey mapping?

10 min read
When you’re looking to improve customer experience, it’s important to think like your customer: to understand their point of view and be mindful of them at every step of their journey with you. That’s where customer journey mapping comes in.

Customer journey mapping visually illustrates customers’ processes, needs and perceptions throughout their interaction and relationship with your brand. It’s the perfect middle ground between pure data and storytelling – because one without the other can leave you in the dark, plus make it hard to communicate CX across your organization.

You can use a journey map for any of these reasons:

  • Insights – get a better understanding of your CX by cross-referencing journey maps with core metrics
  • Impact – identify opportunities to optimize your CX, by focusing on the moments that matter most to your customers
  • Issues – diagnose serious CX issues, whether in a single journey or across multiple ones
  • Innovation – identify where new products or services can improve existing customer journeys, or create completely new ones

Selecting a Customer Journey

All customer journeys fall into one of these 4 categories:

  • Onboarding eg taking out insurance, buying a car or opening an account
  • Maintaining eg taking the car to a mechanic, calling for technical help or changing your address
  • Using/owning – buying a bus ticket, making an insurance claim or using a smartphone
  • Renewal – insurance, subscriptions or services

You can look at one customer going through journeys across all 4 categories, or how different customers go through a single journey.

Identifying Your Customer Touchpoints

A customer journey map includes all of the touchpoints a potential customer has before, during and after an interaction with your brand.

This includes things directly influenced by your as well as those influenced or controlled by third parties. This is an important distinction as, while you may not be responsible for a particular part of the journey, it still affects the experience your customer has.

  • Before – how did they get to you? For example, your customer may find out about you through adverts, billboards, social media, online reviews or good old-fashioned word of mouth.
  • Duringwhat did they do with you? This might be your point of sale (POS). It could be your website, branch, store or delivery. Customers may interact with sales assistants and call centres.
  • After what did they do after? This might include invoicing, queries, returns, product support, product or service lifetime, newsletters and customer feedback surveys

Once you understand and map every touchpoint in your customer journey and collect feedback from each, you’ll be able to spot pain points along the way or areas where you could improve the experience.

How it Works

Creating a customer journey map is simple. Here’s an example for a customer looking to take out a mortgage. The customer touchpoints in our example below are highlighted in bold.

Your customer has seen an advertisement for an attractive interest rate and their brother recommended your mortgage.

Your online mortgage calculator said the repayments were affordable, so the customer had a helpful face to face meeting in a branch, and went home to fill out the online application form.

They instantly received an email with a decision in principle, telling them it had been accepted, inviting them to complete the full application.

The customer takes a few days to fill in and received an ‘application received’ message.

Some of the information was missing, so a contact centre agent calls them to explain what information they need to provide.

Finally, the mortgage is agreed and the customer receives a letter with a binding mortgage offer.

Once the customer has then gone through the house buying process, had their surveys carried out and confirmed their exchange date, they receive final confirmation of the mortgage including direct debit details, terms and conditions etc. The process is now complete.

So that’s a total of 11 touchpoints – and for many home buyers there will be much more back and forth too – up to the point of purchase.

After completion, there may be more, like annual or monthly statements or interactions with the customer if they want to increase or decrease how much they pay each month.

What to Fix in the Customer Journey, and Where?

On the face of it, you might have a satisfied customer. They may give high NPS or CSAT scores as they now have their mortgage and a lovely new home.

But how many other customers started the application form, gave up filling it in because it was too complicated and went to another provider? Or received a mortgage in principle only for the full application to be rejected?

This is where journey mapping is essential. By gathering feedback at each touchpoint, you can start to understand how each one contributes to the overall experience. Was there a stage that was particularly difficult? Where did your customer service fail to match up to their expectations?

Being able to pinpoint specific pain points along the customer journey means that you can step in and make improvements at the moments that matter.

Using customer experience data and mapping it back to specific touchpoints is how you start to understand the key moments that influence customer behaviour. By analysing this feedback side by side with your core CX metrics, you’re able to identify the improvements that will have the biggest impact on your customers and their overall experience as well as the impact on organisation metrics like win rates, sales and customer lifetime value.

Learn more about customer journey mapping:

How to capture and capitalise on customer insights

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Frequently Ask Questions About Customer Journey Mapping

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions people have about journey mapping research.

Should I create journey maps based on real customer stories, or with stories made up by employees?

Customer journeys that are not based on real customer stories can be incredibly dangerous – because they’re filled with assumptions that might be incomplete or downright wrong. That said, you’ve got to start your journey mapping process somewhere, and assumption-based journey maps are a natural place to begin. Even if the journey these assumptions depict isn’t completely accurate, they’re a valuable tool for getting employees to empathise with customers and highlighting spots where additional customer research is needed.

Think about doing it this way: create an assumption journey map with employees from various departments — that way, you can draw on their various perspectives and insights. Then go out and do qualitative research with customers to validate (or invalidate) those journeys. This can include at-home ethnography, diary studies or one-on-one interviews.

One time- and cost-efficient research method is to bring multiple customers in to participate in one day of your workshop, have them walk through the assumption journey maps, and then ask them to change the maps to match their own collective reality.

Without quantitative research data, what is best practice for determining emotions throughout a customer’s journey?

It’s important to understand the relationship between quantitative and qualitative research data — and what kind of insights each can provide.

Quantitative data is great at helping you understand customers’ overarching attitudes towards your company, where their pain points are and what they do as they interact with you. What you can’t get from quantitative data is a deep or nuanced understanding of customers’ underlying emotions, attitudes or motivations—or what exactly an ideal solution to their problems looks like. For that, you need to complement your quantitative data with qualitative research like observations and one-on-one interviews.

What about B2B customer journey mapping?

Journey mapping for and customer experience for B2B brands is just as valid and important as it is with their B2C counterparts. In each type of business, you have to start with your persona — whose journey are you mapping out?

Just like B2C companies, B2B organisations often have several different personas whose journeys need to be mapped. But while a B2C company’s persona journeys may never cross paths, the journeys of a B2B organisation’s personas may be intricately connected.

Consider the journey of a Chief Financial Officer who has to approve a major software purchase. They hand off the details of the transaction to their finance team before adding their signature. As soon as the paperwork is in place, the client’s Chief Technology Officer steps in to oversee the integration of this new software platform. And then, throughout the onboarding process, the company’s developers and system administrators step in for the required customisation. Towards the end of the journey, the internal training team ensures a successful rollout to the company’s employees.

While each of these roles may need to have a detailed journey map, the unified journey — including key handoffs amongst the various roles — is often equally important. Don’t shy away from high-level journey maps that illustrate the flow of actions and information from role to role.

Effective B2B journey mapping also involves extensive customer research. The B2B companies I’ve worked with bring in employees from their clients’ organisations to participate in workshops. While this may initially seem like a recruiting challenge, B2B journey mapping participants are usually more than happy to take part in an initiative that will make their jobs easier.

See how customer journey mapping can boost your customer experience