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Understand the journeys your customers experience

If you want to improve your customer experience—or if you just want to understand what kind of experiences your customers are currently having with your brand—creating a customer journey map is an important first step. After all, it’s hard to know where you should focus your improvement efforts if you don’t know what needs improvement, or even know what the entire experience is like.

So, what is a customer journey map? A customer journey map is a visual outline of the steps a customer takes when interacting with your brand. Effective journey maps shed light on individual experiences and can help your team gain a higher-level understanding of potential roadblocks or pain points your customers may encounter along the way.

However, mapping your customer journey—every possible interaction a customer can have with your company to reach a desired end result—may feel overwhelming. This article will break down exactly what customer journey mapping is, why it is important to your customer experience, and the steps you need to take for a successful journey mapping project.

Types of Customer Journey Maps

Current State Journey Map

While it can be tempting to start with your eye on the horizon towards a future goal, the best place to start your journey-mapping journey is with a strong current state journey map.

Most organizations are able to see the obvious pain points or roadblocks that their customers might be experiencing within a single channel, like the website or when customers call the contact center—but it can be much more complicated to follow these pain points across channels the way the customer would naturally experience them. Creating a current state journey map helps you visualize what your customers are experiencing right now, across channels and departments.

Future State Journey Map

A future state journey map can serve as inspiration for your organization, helping you prioritize where resources and capabilities should be sourced, and creating a North Star for what you want your customer experience to eventually become. The process of mapping your future state can also be an opportunity to explore the potential experiences you can someday offer and help you identify the strategies you will need to adopt in order to eventually deliver a better customer experience.

The most important attribute of a future state journey map is to be actionable. In order to accomplish this, you will need to account for both external results (the customer experience of the journey) and internal results (the tools and processes you will need to deploy to make it happen). Both interact and support the other; focusing on one alone will not be nearly as effective, or as comprehensive, at solving the challenges that you identified during your current state discovery phase.

What’s Included in a Customer Journey Map

Personas

While similar to a marketing persona, a CX design persona focuses more on the behavioral and psychological aspects of the individuals in question. CX design personas include standard demographic data, plus insights into what their desired journey looks like.

This includes the customer’s backgrounds and their feelings, needs, and expectations at each step in the experience.

Touchpoints

A touchpoint is any engagement or interaction customers have with your brand. Whether it’s seeing a banner ad on a website, shopping in a store, or calling a contact center, every interaction accumulates—and every interaction is an opportunity for you to improve that relationship. Customer journey mapping helps you visualize each interaction, identifying what is going well, and what might need improvement.

How to Get Started with Customer Journey Mapping

Customer journey maps can help you create a framework for more successful customer interactions and an overall better customer experience—but it can be daunting to start. Here are the basic steps.

Step 1: Choose a Journey to Map

Much like a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, journey mapping begins with choosing one potential journey to visualize. You will eventually want to map more and more potential customer journeys, but it’s important to prioritize. When deciding which journey you want to visualize first, consider choosing your most common customer journey, one that you feel needs work, or even one that may be facing increased competition.

Step 2: Identify Personas on that Journey

Once your first journey has been chosen, it is important to review all available data to determine which of your customers are most likely to experience this journey. Build a persona that can help you understand and empathize with a customer experiencing every touchpoint on this journey. What are their priorities, and what are their frustrations?

Step 3: Find Common Touchpoints

Next, determine where these personas are interacting with your brand, and when. Are they having a consistent experience across channels? Finding the frequent interactions that your different customer personas have with your brand can help you identify what is important to your customers, what they want and expect from your brand, and where you can improve to meet their expectations.

Step 4: Go Deeper

As you continue your mapping exercise, get the most out of it by making sure your journey map is rich in detail. There are several sources to mine for useful journey mapping data, including customer analytics, digital analytics, contact center recordings, survey data, behavioral research and empathy building exercises.

Step 5: Get a Multi-Department, Omnichannel Perspective

Finally, remember that throughout the average customer journey, your customer is most likely going to interact with multiple channels or departments within your organization. This makes it important to include a cross-functional team during the journey mapping process; without the perspectives of everyone involved in the customer’s journey, your journey map will be incomplete.

What Customer Journey Mapping Success Looks Like

Here's how customer journey mapping lead to a Last Best Experience for one of our employees

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What are the Benefits of Customer Journey Mapping?

The obvious benefit to mapping out your customer journeys is a better understanding of your customers, their interactions with your brand, and the pain points or inconveniences they may be experiencing along the way. Your journey map should lay out the paths that your customer takes to interact with you, including the channels, solutions and departments supporting each touchpoint. This data can help you drive alignment around the potential causes of each pain point, identify capability gaps, and develop strategies for addressing them. But it goes deeper than that.

According to a study from Salesforce, 80% of customers rate the experience they have with a company as important as the product they buy, and 53% of customers say they feel an emotional connection to the brands they buy from most often. By diving deep and backing up your journey map with data, you can get a clearer picture of not only the ‘what’ of your customers actions, but the ‘why’ as well. Understanding the interactions that different customer personas have with your brand will help you better understand the overall relationship your customers have with your organization, their expectations, their desires. In turn, you can use this data to become more proactive in your customer experience.

In short, a customer journey map is integral to becoming a proactive, customer-centric organization. By digging deep into what they’re experiencing today, you can stop focusing on potholes and pain points—and start building the experience you envision for the future.

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