What is customer journey mapping? Create journey maps in 10 steps

Journey Mapping Concept
Steve Tsentserensky
Feb 07, 202214 min read

How does a customer get from A to B in your business? No matter the industry and no matter what A or B is, your customer is always moving along a path. It’s easy to think you’ve already locked in the optimal route but are you sure? Journey mapping is what clues you into what’s working and what needs work. Without it, you’re more or less just guessing.

What is journey mapping? Our definition

Journey mapping is the visualization of a customer’s interactions and experiences with your brand across all touchpoints over time. This means everything from social media and email marketing to customer support to your website and anything else a customer could touch. Mapping the entire process – and the accompanying motivations, expectations and emotions – allows you to see things from the customer’s perspective, refining the user experience by identifying and resolving pain points to ultimately fulfill customer needs better.

Also known as a user journey map, you would create one for each user persona you’re targeting.

In the next section, we’ll break down what makes up the core parts of the customer journey mapping definition.

The components of customer journey maps that help us understand the client journey

No matter how you actually map things out or if you use a journey map template, there are a number of items that are universal in the process.

User persona or main actor

This is the “who” of the map; the person that’s going on the journey. You shouldn’t be pulling this user or buyer persona out of thin air though, research is key to properly establishing your main actor. This should include customer interviews, market research and demographic analysis.

It’s also important that each journey map corresponds to a single user persona, or point of view, because the idea here isn’t to put yourself in all of your customer’s shoes, it’s to get a crisp, granular and data-rich narrative on an individual persona.

Why? Because each journey is different. The journey of someone buying a burger is different than a purchasing manager buying food inventory for an entire cruise.

User persona example

Scenarios and expectations

Think of scenarios as the “what”, “where” and “how” of a customer journey. It’s each step they take in pursuit of their goal as well as the accompanying expectations.

You want to consider the entire sequence of experiences and the expectations that go with them, which will allow you to highlight the positives and negatives throughout.

Critically, you don’t need to wait until a product exists to do this. You can map out the experiences of an anticipated journey to help you during the design phase.

Consider ordering food via an app, the broad scenario is to order food and the expectation is to receive it within a certain amount of time but there are many smaller interactions en route to finalizing an order. Finding a restaurant, locating the menu, adding items, adding a tip, etc.

Itemizing allows you to optimize.
Customer scenario Doordash example

Touchpoints

In a nutshell, these are all the places, both digital and physical, where scenarios and interactions occur. They include everything from in-store to email to customer service to social media and beyond. Every point of contact on all channels is a touchpoint.

When creating your journey map, make sure to include these.
Customer touchpoints

Phases of the journey

If scenarios are the micro, the phases are the macro-level of a journey. They help you define the purpose of each scenario on the map and are vital for organizing information and insights.

Typically you’ll find phases broken down into a timeline with these categories:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Purchase
  4. Retention
  5. Advocacy

Customer journey

Actions, mindset and emotion

This is where you really get in the head of a user or buyer and document the deeper insights related to each experience they have on the journey. Let’s look at each element individually.

Actions are the literal things a user is doing. The real behavior in each step.

Mindset is what they’re thinking as they go and they vary at each action. It’s not just the thoughts at every point of the journey, it’s everything that makes up the mindset; including questions, required information as well as overall motivation. Ideally, and particularly if this is for an existing product, you can use real customer feedback to incorporate the genuine voice of the customer.

Emotion is how the customer feels throughout the phases. This can be as simple as emojis to represent the trajectory of the emotional journey and general sentiment from point to point. A smiley face is positive, a neutral face is ok, a sad face is negative. This can give you the peaks and valleys of the journey at a glance and informs you where you need to do more work to make things better.

Think of it this way; actions and mindset work together to create an emotion, or sentiment, towards each step in the journey.
Customer mindset, motion & actions

Opportunities and insights

Once you’ve done all the above and gotten it all together on your map, it’s time for the fun part; analyzing the insights and identifying opportunities.

Seeing a customer’s entire path from start to end is what makes it possible to take advantage of opportunities you may have missed, sharpen and improve certain parts of the journey or develop new solutions.

Why is mapping user journeys important?

Mapping the journey of your users or customers is important because it forces you to get in their shoes and analyze interactions from their perspective.

For most businesses these days, customer touchpoints are omnichannel in nature, meaning those interactions, product offers and marketing efforts aren’t all happening in one place, or channel. It could be a mix of brick-and-mortar, social media, email, app and more. A proper journey map gives you both the big picture and the minute details that get a buyer from awareness to purchase with consistency across all channels.

What each type of customer journey map is for

Journey maps come in multiple flavors and there’s a good case for using all of them, together, to create the clearest picture of what your customer persona is up to.

Current state

As the name suggests, this map shows the customer journey as it currently is, highlighting all the things they do, think and feel in regard to your business.

Future state

Again, sort of an obvious one but in need of some explanation. Future state maps are more goal-oriented in that they lay out future interactions along with the thoughts, actions and mindset changes that accompany them.

When you’re working on a new product or service, you’d of course be relying on this one but it is useful to create this type of map when brainstorming improvements for the current journey.

Day in the life

This map is even more customer-focused in the sense that it doesn’t include or involve your product at all. It’s about generating a more holistic view of the customer’s day without you. When they might scroll social media, when the TV is on, when they’re at work, when they have free time, how they use their free time, where they shop, when they shop, where they check reviews, etc.

This sort of experience map allows you to understand, in detail, how a customer spends their time and it gives you the ability to find places of easy integration, where your marketing message will be most likely to stick or where you have opportunities for onboarding.

Service blueprint

Think of this one as being the synthesis of either your current or future state map and a day in the life map. The service blueprint details how you organize behind the scenes to get in front of the customer and meet their wants and needs with your product or service.

This is often represented as backstage actions, i.e. your actions which they don’t see from key role players and team members, and frontstage actions, i.e., their actions.

So what is a journey map used for?

The beauty of journey maps is that they can be used for such a wide variety of purposes, just about anything in fact. Customer experience may be the most common but we’ll take a look at a few other use cases here.

Stakeholder

A stakeholder journey map is sort of the opposite of a customer journey map. If the aim of a customer map is to understand the customer’s journey from awareness to purchase to advocacy, a stakeholder map helps to better understand the interplay of internal parties.

Patient/healthcare

Being a patient – be it in an emergency situation, for ongoing care or just a check-up – isn’t the most fun thing a person can do. It could even be downright scary. A patient journey map helps locate and alleviate those pain points as much as possible to make what might be a tough situation a bit easier.

Similarly, a healthcare customer journey map could work towards the same end with elements of the healthcare industry. Like insurance companies, whose current state seems intentionally designed to make the process as inconvenient as possible.

Member

Gaining and retaining members is a distinct process from customer acquisition. The journey to membership in a club, fraternity/sorority or professional association is different than that of a buyer. Member journey mapping allows you to refine that.

B2B

The path a business-to-consumer, or B2C, takes is generally going to be different than companies that sell business-to-business. Companies like Amazon, for example, who operate B2C and B2B need to develop unique approaches to each. A B2B customer journey map would be designed to highlight that for that side of their business.

eCommerce/retail

How does a consumer find your eComm shop? What’s the process once they land on it? What are the pitfalls and points at which they bounce? An eCommerce customer journey map will assist you in answering those questions and more. And then optimize.

Likewise, a retail customer journey map will do the same for your brick-and-mortar store.

Marketing

The marketing that works best is the marketing that’s done with intention – and the research to back it. A marketing customer journey map is what gives you that confidence to move forward.

Software

Alleviating the burden and hurdles that are sometimes associated with onboarding a new user with a software customer journey map can help you lock in that user for life.

How to create a customer journey map using Slickplan

Now that we’ve gone into the nitty-gritty of maps and given a set of examples of how they’re used, it’s time to learn how to make a customer journey map that’s formed to your business.

Fortunately, the process of creating, building and setting up one of these is made significantly easier with a user journey tool like Slickplan’s Diagram Maker.
Slickplan customer journey map

1. Define your business goal and scope

The whole point of creating a journey map is to achieve some business-related goal or improve a process.

Looking through that lens, consider what goal a customer is striving towards through this journey. What is the overall point of the journey?

Scope in this case means how big or small your map will be. Is this meant to show the entire customer experience from beginning to end, or refine a specific point in the journey?

Long story short, both the journey and the scope need to be informed by an overarching business goal. Otherwise, it’s an exercise in futility.

2. Create and research a user persona

If you’re having trouble with the previous step, having a user persona in mind helps. This is the fictitious archetype that you’ll be creating this map for; the very definition of your target audience. Each map should be based on a single persona.

Keep in mind that it’s not enough to jot down a few details and move on. No, no, this requires real research and we’re talking beyond just standard demographic metrics. Do interviews, ask questions that help you understand motivation, get a stock photo to represent the person. Really dig in. Creating the fullest picture possible of the person taking the journey makes the map all the stronger.

3. List scenarios chronologically

This is sort of the meat of the map. Use your journey map tool to list out, step by step, the actual sequence your target user will go through on a timeline. Your scenarios are the interactions the user has with your product or services.

It’s vital to include motivations and expectations here for each scenario as well to get a sense of the customer’s psychology; why are they taking this action and what do they expect from it?

If you’re making a current state map this will be less of a thought exercise and more literal documentation. If it’s a future state map that you’re building, there will likely have to be more brainstorming and research involved in homing in on the anticipated scenarios, motivations and expectations.

4. Identify phases of the journey

Beneath this, you’ll want to note where on the journey each scenario happens. It’s important to accurately identify the phase because this will inform the action you take later to address any pain points or inefficiencies.

As mentioned above, the typical phases are awareness, consideration, purchase, retention and advocacy. Understanding where each scenario falls within these phases (or whichever phases are more relevant to your business) allows you to optimize for that purpose.

Communication that’s meant for customer retention won’t be made more useful by sharpening the degree to which it raises basic awareness of your product. They’re separate things.

5. Note the touchpoints and channels they happen on

Where does each interaction occur? Is it an email? A phone call? Social media? In your store? Make a note of where everything happens and the team members or departments who would be involved.

Keeping this clear helps you build consistency across all channels later.

6. Incorporate mindset or emotional state at each interaction

How does your target persona feel as they go? The easiest way to add this to your journey map is with simple visuals like emojis or symbols that will tell you at a glance if the interaction is ok or needs additional attention.

7. Take the journey yourself

You might be wondering at this point how you can know some of these things, like emotional sentiment at each point, for example. A couple of ways; one is to ask consumers and the other is to actually take the journey yourself.

You should really be doing both.

Going through the entire experience as a customer would, putting yourself squarely in their shoes, gives you and your team a much fuller picture.

Consider the show Undercover Boss, the whole idea is that they put themselves in the place of a worker to understand where their processes are failing. Something that’s difficult to see unless you’re there yourself.

8. Locate pain points

You can do this before or after you or your colleagues take the journey but to improve customer satisfaction you need to pinpoint the parts that are lacking in the process.

Often pain points will start to become evident as you go through the earlier stages of the mapping process.

9. Note opportunities for improvement and potential solutions

Leave space at the bottom of your journey map to make note of areas for improvement or solutions you encounter along the way.

10. Assess and refine

So, now that you’ve created a detailed overview of the entire customer experience from start to finish using your user journey mapping tool, what’s next? Well, the chances of the journey being absolutely, 100% perfect are slim to none – and resting on your laurels is a good way to let the competition catch up.

Look for ways to smooth over those points of discomfort or places where emotional sentiment dips to the negative. Consider developing a service blueprint in the journey map creator to help you optimize behind-the-scenes activities to create better results for customers.

At the end of the day, improvements come from informed iteration.

Start customer journey mapping today with Slickplan

Knowing where to go requires knowing where you stand and a journey map is what gets you there. Without creating this visual representation of your customer’s path, it’s difficult to pinpoint the areas that need refinement with any level of confidence. A thorough and well-crafted map built with our journey mapping tools will also pinpoint areas for development and enhancement that you may not have considered in the first place.

Level up your user experience and give our Diagram Maker a spin today. Try it free for 14 days. Heck, you can even start with our journey map template.

Steve Tsentserensky is a freelance copywriter, video producer and photographer with a knack for making the complex consumable. A passion for travel has led him to the digital nomad lifestyle and an ever-changing office from which he creates content for companies large and small through his production company, SBT Productions. Find him on LinkedIn.