Skip to main content

See how CustomerXM works

Watch On Demand Demo

Customer journey mapping 101: Definition, template & tips

22 min read
Find out about how to start customer journey mapping, and how to improve it for the benefit of your customers and the business.


If you want to improve your customer experience you need to be able to understand and adapt the customer journey you offer when someone interacts with your organization. Whether their journey is entirely online, offline, or a blend of both, there are multiple journeys a customer might undergo.

Understanding the customer journey in depth helps you identify and take action on customer pain points and repeat what’s working. By doing this, you will improve the overall experience that your customers have, which will have better outcomes for your business.

Outlining the potential customer journeys your audience might go through requires a process called customer journey mapping.

Free access: Download our free journey mapping template here

What is customer journey mapping?

Creating a customer journey map is the process of forming a visual representation of customers’ processes, needs, and perceptions throughout their interactions and relationship with an organization. It helps you understand the steps customers take – the ones you see, and don’t – when they interact with your business.

It enables you to assess:

  • Insights – from your existing customer journey, how to understand it better
  • Impact – how to optimize budgets and effort for changes we want to make to the customer experiences
  • Issues/opportunities – Diagnose the existing customer journey
  • Innovation – where you might want to completely change the existing customer experience

A customer journey map gives you deeper insight into the customer, so you can go beyond what you already know. Many brands see the customer journey as something that is visible – where the customer interacts with the brand. But in reality, this is not true, and only accounts for a percentage of the entire customer journey. Creating a customer journey map gets you thinking about the aspects of the journey you don’t see, but have equal weight and importance to the entire experience.

When mapping out the customer journey, you are looking for the moments that matter – where there is the greatest emotional load.

Example

If you’re buying a car, then the greatest moment of emotional load is when you go to pick the car up because it’s yours, after picking the color, choosing the model, and waiting for it to be ready.

 

Ensuring these moments match your customers’ expectations of your product, brand and service teams are key to helping you reach your business goals. But you can only do that by understanding the journey your customers go on in order to get there, what they’re thinking and needing from you at that time. Developing a customer journey map puts you in their shoes so you can understand them better than ever before.

Customer journey map template

Getting started when creating a customer journey map template doesn’t have to be difficult. However, your customer journey map template will need to cover several elements in order to be effective.

There are several ingredients that make up the anatomy of a customer journey, all of which should be looked at carefully so that you can find out where the customer journey runs smoothly and meets customer needs at that moment in time – and where the experience does not, and needs some improvement.

Understanding their behaviors and attitudes also means you can fix bad experiences more effectively too because you know why you haven’t met your customers’ expectations and what you need to do to make amends. There may be times when things go wrong, but it’s how you adapt and what you do to fix these experiences that separates the best. Knowing how the customer will be feeling makes taking that decisive action much easier.

When exploring and visualizing the customer journey we are assessing:

  • Customer behavior
    What is your customer trying to do?
  • Customer attitudes
    What is your customer feeling/saying?
  • The on-stage experience
    Who/what is your customer directly interacting with? (This includes various channels, such as TV ads or social media)
  • The off-stage experience
    Who/what needs to be in place but which your customer is NOT directly aware of?

Example

So what could the customer journey map examples look like when starting the process of buying a car?

6_Hub_Cust Journey steps@2x

Customer journey vs process flow

Understanding customer perspective, behavior, attitudes, and the on-stage and off-stage is essential to successfully create a customer journey map – otherwise, all you have is a process flow. If you just write down the touchpoints where the customer is interacting with your brand, you’re typically missing up to 40% of the entire customer journey.

There is no single customer journey. In fact, there are multiple. The best experiences combine multiple journeys in a seamless way to create a continuous customer lifecycle as outlined below.

6_Hub_Buy Own image@2x

Getting started with customer journey map templates

To begin, start by choosing a journey that you would like to create a customer journey map for and outline the first step that customers will take.

You can use this customer journey map template below to work out the customer behaviors, attitudes, the on-stage and off-stage processes – and the KPIs attached to measuring the success of this experience.

Free access: Download our free journey mapping template here

The customer journey mapping process

The step-by-step process of mapping the customer journey begins with the buyer persona.

Step 1 – Create a customer persona to test

In order to effectively understand the customer journey, you need to understand the customer – and this is where creating a persona really helps. You may base this around the most common or regular customers, big spend, or new customers you haven’t worked with before. This persona is beyond a marketing segment, but that can be a great place to begin if you’re just starting out on the mapping process for your organization.

Proven Results: Discover how customer segmentation can drive profits to your business.

What do you include? Start with these characteristics.

  • Name
  • Age
  • Job role
  • Family status
  • Professional goals
  • Personal goals

These personas help you gain a deeper understanding of your customers and can be derived from insights and demographic data, or even customer interviews. This works for both B2B and B2C business models, but in B2B especially you’ll have multiple customers for each opportunity so it’s recommended you build out multiple personas.

To begin, start with no more than three personas to keep things simple.

Create a diverse team

When creating a customer journey map, you also need to build out a diverse mapping team to represent the whole business. Include frontline staff, day-to-day management, corporate teams, HR, and business support functions. They will give you vital feedback, advice, and perspectives you hadn’t thought of.

 

Every customer journey mapping process should end by asking ‘what next?’ so you can follow through and take action.

Step 2 – Choose a customer journey for mapping

Select a customer journey map to construct, then build a behavior line. This might be a new customer journey, renewal, or fixing a product issue. You might also choose this based on the most frequent customer journeys taken, or the most profitable.

Step 3 – Work through the mapping process

Ask yourself the following:

  • Who are the people involved in this journey? E.g. if you’re in a car dealership, that might be the customer, the sales rep, and front-of-house staff.
  • What are the processes or the things that happen during this journey?
  • What are the customer attitudes? What are they feeling at this time? Go beyond excitement or frustration. Bring these feelings to life. This car is my dream come true!
  • What is the moment that matters? Identify the greatest moment of emotional load. The make or break where everything could be good up until that point, but if you get that moment of maximum impact wrong, then all that’s good is forgotten. The best experience brands get this moment right and identifying it is an important first step to achieving that. In that moment, ask yourself what are the things/people/processes involved? Think about this for the whole business – across your product, brand, and service teams.
  • But beyond identifying this moment, you need to establish what your customers’ needs are. What are they getting out of this moment? How do their needs change if this experience goes badly? Knowing the answer to these questions can help you deliver experiences that will resonate, and respond quickly to unforeseen circumstances or issues.
  • And finally, how do you measure how effectively you are meeting customer needs throughout the journey? Set KPIs to put benchmarks in place for your customer journey map and customer experience and track your progress.

Step 4 – Innovate

When you are mapping out your customer journey, brainstorm ideas for how to improve that moment that really matters. These ideas don’t need to be practical, but by putting together a diverse mapping team from around the business you can begin to filter through these ideas.

Then, test it.

Ask yourself: Is it feasible? Is it viable? Is it desirable? Don’t ask can we do it, ask should we do it? Then you can start to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Step 5 – Measure

Use the customer journey map to decide on your measurement framework.

Who are you measuring? What are you measuring? When on the journey are you measuring it? And why? And finally, what metrics and KPI’s are in place to measure this?

6_Hub_Cust Journey Bubbles long @2x

Data inputs for your customer journey map

Your customer journey map process will require you to use several different data inputs to get an accurate picture of how your customers behave and where you can improve their experience.

A customer journey map is often developed using data gleaned from customer feedback you’ve requested. While this type of market research is useful, your research process needs to be deeper to gain a richer, more accurate understanding of your customer’s behavior.

To create a customer journey map that accurately reflects the truth of customer actions and intentions, you need to take into account both solicited and unsolicited data.

Use solicited data to understand the voice of the customer

Solicited data includes the customer feedback you gain when you conduct research through surveys such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) or ask customers for feedback on social media. This approach can be very useful for understanding your customer’s point of view, rather than just making assumptions about how they think and behave.

However, your target audiences won’t tell you everything about what they plan to do when undergoing their customer journey. Though they might tell you that they’ve had a great experience in a particular part of their customer journey, this type of feedback presents a few issues:

  • You have to know when to ask for feedback: You might already have a customer journey in mind when asking for feedback – but do you know all the routes a customer might take in your customer journey map?
  • It’s a snapshot: When you survey customers, you’ll likely only get insights into their experience at that particular moment about a specific touchpoint
  • It’s what customers say they think/will do, not what they actually think/will do: You’re relying on your customers to accurately reflect their sentiment and intentions in their responses, which isn’t always the case. For your customer journey map to be effective, you need to find the truth
  • Your sample size might be too small: If you’re trying to understand how a relatively niche customer journey is doing, you might find that the number of customers who have not only taken the customer journey but are willing to respond with feedback is very limited. You can’t risk survey fatigue by polling the same audience several times, so your insights are limited
  • You’re only getting part of the picture: You will likely have several types of useful customer data on file, but these are often not considered as part of the process when creating a customer journey design because solicited data takes precedence

You’ll need to infer how customers feel to be able to accurately predict the actions a customer takes. To do so, you’ll need to look at unsolicited data.

Unsolicited data

Unsolicited data covers everything your customers aren’t telling you directly when you ask them and contextual data that you likely already collect on them, such as purchase history. It can be taken from various sources, such as your website and social channels, third-party sites, customer calls, chat transcripts, frontline employee feedback, operational sources, and more.

This type of data is nuanced, but it allows you to establish the truth of your customers’ experience. The ability to gather unsolicited customer feedback from every channel enables you to see more than just what a customer tells you directly. Using real-time feedback gathering and natural language understanding (NLU) models that can detect emotion, intent, and effort, you’ll be able to understand your customers’ actions in a more profound way. Unsolicited data offers you a 100% response rate that better indicates what your customers actually think of each step in their customer journey.

Rather than be limited to a small sample size of customers who respond to surveys, you’ll be able to build an accurate picture of the average customer on each step of the customer journey map by using this richer insight data with your own operational data.

Why using solicited and unsolicited data is important data

With solicited data, you don’t always see why a customer behaves or thinks as they do. For example, a customer might tell you that they would recommend you to a friend or family – but they don’t renew their subscription with you. A customer might be an ideal candidate for a particular journey, but they abandon their basket when prompted to give their personal details. Understanding the why behind customer actions is key for designing a great customer journey, and that’s why both solicited and unsolicited data collection and evaluation are necessary for creating great customer journey maps.

Of course, knowing how customers will actually respond to your customer touchpoints is only part of the process. You may need to develop more than one customer journey map and create sub-audiences for your customer personas to accurately see where you can rectify pain points and improve outcomes. You will need to collect and analyze contextual data across all customer journey touchpoints and develop a highly detailed journey map that can unveil routes your customers might be taking without your knowledge.

Qualtrics’ Experience ID platform can overlay solicited and unsolicited data to provide an all-encompassing picture of your customer journey map, no matter how complex. Creating an effective customer journey map is easier with all your data collated and analyzed together, with actionable insights created automatically.

Why should you use customer journey maps?

A customer journey map creates a common understanding for the organization of how a customer interacts during different stages of the customer lifecycle, and the roles and responsibilities of the different teams in charge of fulfilling that experience.

It will also bring an organization together, and foster empathy and collaboration between teams because people will know what is required from everyone in the business to deliver the experiences that customers expect. This will help you to develop a shared sense of ownership of the customer relationship, which ultimately drives a customer-centric culture. With everyone working towards a common goal, communication of what you learn about the customer and the journey they go through is vital in order to drive best practices throughout the organization.

Creating an accurate customer journey map will help your customer service team to focus on more specific issues, rather than handling problems generated by a less-tailored customer journey. Your customer experience will be improved with a customer journey that’s personalized to the specific personas you have generated. You’ll have put yourself in your customer’s shoes and adapted your strategy to reflect your customer’s perspective – which in turn will create more memorable experiences.

Creating a customer journey map will influence your journey analytics across the business. So for example, it will determine what you ask, who you ask, when you ask, why you ask it and how you ask questions in your Voice of the Customer Program.

Maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential not only to increase customer satisfaction by 20% but also lift revenue up by 15% while lowering the cost of serving customers by as much as 20%

McKinsey, The Three Cs of Customer Satisfaction

The uses of customer journey mapping

So when should you use customer journey mapping?

There are four main uses:

  1. Assess the current state of your customer journey
    Understand and diagnose the specific issues in current experiences
  2. Understand what the future state of your customer journey should look like
    Design, redesign and create new experiences
  3. Blueprints
    For implementing change
  4. Communication
    Bringing teams together to train and scale up best practices.

How to improve a customer journey

Take stock and take action

To improve the customer journey you need a clear vision of what you want to achieve and you need to make a distinction between the present and the future.

  • What is your customer journey right now?
  • What does the future state of your customer journey look like?

This is why organizations blueprint their customer journey because they can see what works and act accordingly. By understanding your customers’ attitudes and needs at critical times in the journey, you can make amends to better meet them – and develop contingencies to cope when these needs aren’t or can’t be met. For example, during a sudden, unexpected surge in demand.

Orchestrate your customer journey

To offer your customers truly optimized experiences, you’ll need to go further than just creating a customer journey map. You’ll also need to orchestrate journeys using real-time customer behavior to adapt your strategy as your customers make choices. Orchestrating a journey means taking dynamic action towards optimizing your customer’s experience, using real-time customer behavior as informative data.

Learn more about ExperienceiD, Qualtrics’ new intelligent platform for customer journey orchestration

Improve your employee experience

Use your diverse mapping team to come up with ideas that incorporate experience from all aspects of the business to improve the customer journey – and remember that this has a significant payoff for your employees too. Improving the employee journey – by giving teams the tools to make a difference – can have a positive knock-on effect for the customer and improve their experience in those key moments. This is because employees have the autonomy and motivation in their roles to help their customers, and realize their own potential.

Tools to help you with your journey mapping

Your customer journey map isn’t just designed to improve the customer experience. Creating an accurate customer journey map can help you to improve your business outcomes.

Being able to link operational data to key touchpoints in a customer journey is transformative for organizations. This is because improving segments of the customer journey will see a direct impact on your business. The Qualtrics Journey Optimizer helps you do just that. By analyzing areas for improvement as outlined by your customer journey map, organizations can take actions that will have maximum benefit for their customers, and the business too.

With Qualtrics CustomerXM, you’ll:

  • Create a common understanding throughout your workforce of how a customer interacts with your organization, and you’ll know the roles and responsibilities of your different teams
  • Develop empathy and collaboration between teams, working together to achieve the same outcome
  • Develop a shared sense of ownership of the customer relationship which ultimately drives a customer-centric culture

Learn more: The 5 competencies of customer journey mapping