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Customer Journey Mapping: A how to guide

Creating a customer journey map is a great way to understand your customers more fully. Creating the map needn’t be a complicated process, however, to ensure you get the most value out of the exercise, it is advisable to do a little planning in advance.

By investing a bit more time up-front you’ll find that the journeys you map are not only a valid and accurate representation of the steps your customer will take, but that you also  correctly capture the true needs of customers so as to identify improvements and next steps activity.

Before you start, if you haven’t already done so, I’d suggest reading my article on what is a customer journey? That will help you understand how the customer journey map fits into the context of your wider customer experience strategy.

Right. Good to go? Great! Let’s get down to it. The approach we’re going to use is the same one I’ve been using at Damfino for many years. It’s a 7-step process and covers the activities you’ll want to do in the lead up to the customer journey mapping workshop, the process of actually developing the map and then the options you’ll have ahead of you when you’ve finished. The seven steps are as follows:

7-Step Process

  1. Decide which journeys to map
  2. Define customer needs by creating customer personas
  3. Identify customer touchpoints & channels
  4. Ensure stakeholder input & representation
  5. Step through the journey, in the shoes of the customer
  6. Capture pain points and moments of elation.
  7. Develop your map further


1. Decide which journeys to map


Best practice organisations will typically map all customer journeys, doing so not only helps with how they manage their day-to-day channel operations, but also enables them to target improvement action quickly and efficiently.

That being said, journey mapping can be a complex process and mapping so many journeys at once can be a significant undertaking. Therefore, we recommend you seek to prioritise the journeys that matter most. The way you choose to prioritise is entirely up to you. It could be based on customer feedback, where the journey is leading to particularly low levels of customer satisfaction or complaints. You could prioritise on journeys that contribute most to your sales metrics. Or you could prioritise based on where you encounter challenges with operational efficiency and the logistics of delivering a service.

2. Define customer needs by creating personas


It’s important that before you start mapping, you’re clear on who your customers are and that you understand their needs. Defining your customers into like-minded groups or Personas is a great way of doing this and will help keep things focussed and manageable when you start mapping.

Creating personas may sound like a simple task, but you’d be surprised how many organisations I work with that continue to make broad-brush assumptions about their customer base. The danger with adopting this approach is that when it comes to mapping the customer journey you may assume the customer needs one thing, when they actually need something else entirely. Likewise, it’s easy to convince yourself that a certain aspect of your proposition is an absolute ‘must have’ for a customer, when in fact, the customer really couldn’t care less.

The best way to identify customer needs is through research. You’ll want to use both qualitative and quantitative measures and if you don’t already do this. Personally I’d highly recommend actually speaking with a representative sample of your customers face to face, through either 1:1 interviews or by arranging a customer focus group before you start. It can often be very inexpensive to do this and the information you gather will help your business improve its customer proposition in many ways for years to come.

3. Identify customer touchpoints and channels


Most businesses have a plethora of channels and customer touchpoints. They could be physical, such as stores, branches or direct marketing and brochures or they could be digital, like email, the website, social media. They could even be outsourced services offered by 3rd parties, like a dealership or a billing company.

Chances are when you begin to look into this, you’ll find you have more customer touchpoints that you realise.

While this is in many ways a simple step, it helps you to understand the complexity of your own customer engagement landscape. It will also help you appreciate the tanged web of channels through which you both want to deliver excellent customer experiences and also that you expect your customer to be able to traverse.

4.  Ensure stakeholder input and representation


While it’s long since been the aim of all businesses to document their processes and operating procedures so that all knowledge is captured and stored, very few actually do this in a way that ensures the knowledge is 100% up to date and secondly, captured in a format that makes it immediately accessible and usable.

For this reason it is essential that you have the people who deliver the various aspects of your customer service in the room with you when you start documenting a customer journey map. Not only will this give you access to a massive amount of knowledge from across the organisation and greatly speed up the production of your maps, it will also be invaluable in identifying what ACTUALLY happens, rather than what should happen.

In a recent customer journey mapping session I ran with a client, we were discussing ways to improve the complaints process. The manager responsible for the contact centre gave an assured and detailed recollection of the process for triaging customer complaints.

It was all very much ’by the book’. Shortly after, one of the customer service agents we had in the room sheepishly raised their hand and say, no, that actually isn’t what happens. It turned out that in an attempt to reduce the volume of complaints, the agents had proactively adopted a new process, applying different criteria for complaint categorisation.

While not the root cause of the issues experience by the customer, this simple change had major onward impacts for why customers were dissatisfied with how their complaint had been handled.

For this reason make sure you engage people across your organisation and at all levels. You’ll be surprised how much comes to light.

5.  Step through the journey, in the shoes of the customer


Next you’ll want to make sure you’ve put your customer hat on and that it’s firmly attached as you’ll be looking at things from a customer perspective for most of this part of the process.

The aim of this session is to think and act as much like the end customer as you can. To help ensure your actions are guided, it’s useful to have the personas you created close to hand. Remember, when we step through these journeys, it’s not about how you would approach the fulfilment of the need, it is about how your customer would approach the same challenge, with all the biases, knowledge and actually, the lack of knowledge they have at their disposal.

Start at the start, meaning the identification of the need. Keep in mind that the start of a customer journey is unlikely to be a visit to your website, the customer may be well on their journey to a solution by that stage.

At all stages, document how the customer interacts with influencers, including how they interact with your brand, keep a track of the channels they use, what do they see and what information is presented to them.

When documenting the user journey sometimes I find it helps to think of the journey as a series of stages. The stages can differ from journey to journey, but the following stages, defined by e-consultancy are a good basis to work from.

  1. Awareness – Where the customer initially identifies the need
  2. Interest – Where the customer sees potential solutions to a need
  3. Consideration – Where the customer is comparing solutions in order to find one that best meets their needs
  4. Purchase – The process of acquiring the product or service
  5. Retention – How the customer can be supported and communicated with post-purchase
  6. Advocacy – How, as a business you will seek to build that customer relationship and make the customer an advocate for your organisation

For simplicity, and because I find steps 5 and 6 tend to move away from the perspective of the customer,  I tend to roll Retention and Advocacy into a single step, called Support, which captures the plethora of customer needs beyond the point of purchase.

When you step through your user journeys you will find many of the steps branch off and are non-linear in nature. That’s ok and it’s nothing to worry about, it simply articulates the complex nature of customer experiences.

My advice would be to take a first pass through the journey as you believe most customers would progress and then you can always come back to tackle secondary journeys afterwards. You’ll find that in many cases secondary journeys end up linking back into your primary route later down the line anyway.

6.  Capture pain points and moments of elation


As you progress through the steps of creating your customer experience map you’ll encounter points in the process where there is the opportunity for customer frustration or customer pain. You’ll also encounter points in the journey that provide great customer satisfaction.

Its vitally important you capture all of these points as ultimately when we’re done documenting the customer journey we’ll want to use our findings to inform our improvement plan.

To help you identify all of the pain points experience by your customers make sure you refer back to your research and customer insight. Looking at your complaint statistics is a great way to make sure you capture everything, but likewise, you’ll find that by simply working through the journey you’ll uncover issues that you didn’t even realise were problem areas. Remember, you’re still wearing your customer hat and if you’re confused (knowing what you do about your organisation) then just think how the customer must be feeling at this stage.

7.  Develop your map further


When you’re done mapping your current-state customer journeys you’ll have a number of options ahead of you.

The immediate tendency is to rush off and fix all the customer pain points you’ve identified during the process of mapping.

While this is perfectly fine and acceptable, it can often lead to effort being spent on a series of largely tactical fixes. Sure, the removal of barriers and customer pain points will improve your experiences overall, but can you be sure that the resulting experience is still what customers truly want from you. What you need to avoid is spending time and energy building a ‘Faster Horse’ rather than focusing your effort on developing truly transformational customer experiences that put you head-and-shoulders above the competition and delight your customers.

Instead think about creating a Future State Experience Map. This approach is more strategic, in that it allows you to focus on the future and define experiences as you would want them to become, not simply how to optimise the existing process.

Future-state experience maps can often be really exciting to create. In some ways they’re actually more difficult than an existing state user journey map as they force you to think outside of the box. The whole point is that you define another way of doing things from a customer perspective, not simply recreate what you have today.

Done well, I’ve seen businesses and teams really embrace these maps. It gives everyone something to aim for and something tangible to get excited about.

Of course, if a future-state experience map isn’t right for you, thats fine. You’ll no doubt have a long list of improvements resulting from the mapping exercise that when delivered will result in a significant step forward in the service you offer.

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