How to Create a Customer Journey Map — and Why You Should

10 min read

Understanding how customers interact with products or services is essential to providing the best service. UX (user experience) professionals and product designers can help organizations optimize the customer experience by charting a customer journey map. 

What is a Customer Journey Map?

A journey map illustrates a consumer’s interactions with a brand. This includes communication channels, products, and services. A journey map helps organizations track the sequence of events that bring users from an initial entry point to a target conclusion. It’s also called an experience map or user story.

Consider creating journey maps for your services throughout your company’s strategic processes. This will help your team hone in on where to improve.

A user journey map aims to create a clear, unified illustration of customer touchpoints. That way, a company can better meet people’s needs and expectations by alleviating pain points.

Why You Need User Journey Maps

A journey map’s purpose is to provide a cohesive visual representation of a potential user so brands can find thoughtful solutions to better meet customer needs. Design teams, customer support advocates, and other stakeholders often use this method to build empathy with their users to find improvement opportunities.

What are the benefits of using a journey map? It can help companies:

  • identify and better understand target customer bases

  • improve engagement with specific customer personas 

  • optimize customer experiences and satisfaction

  • assign ownership of touchpoints

  • overcome silos within the organization

  • boost customer retention rates and positive reviews

  • shift marketing efforts to a customer-focused perspective

Customer mapping is a valuable method that user-experience professionals can use to help companies meet their business goals and find greater success.

Journey Map Components

What does a user journey map show? Journey maps visually demonstrate a customer’s process when engaging with a company in a linear timeline. To do this, a map needs the elements:

  • A target customer persona

  • A specific scenario

  • Channels the customer will use

  • Touchpoints throughout the process

  • Space for mindset and emotions

  • Pain points or problems with the current system

  • Solutions

Here’s a closer look at each of the journey map components and the purposes they serve.

Customer Persona

This is the user or actor who will be going on the journey. Since the purpose of a journey mapping is to get in the customer’s shoes, you should identify the specific buyer personas you’re tracking. 

Each map should involve a single point of view to hone in on one customer’s perspective, whether it’s a typical customer or a target one.  

Specific Scenarios

Why is the customer engaging with your product or service? What do they hope to achieve? Is this their first time interacting with your brand? How did they discover it? These are the questions you need to consider when creating the scenarios for your journey map, as they provide the framework.

Include the sequence of events that lead from the customer’s first steps to their concluding actions. Consider the persona’s characteristics, values, priorities, needs, and likely behavior when plotting their course.

Channels

Within each phase, consider the channels the person uses to interact with the brand. This includes the communication methods and devices they use, and whether it’s a unidirectional or bidirectional channel. 

The medium may be an advertisement, social media, your website, a phone call, web chats, text messaging, or in-person conversations. You may have to create multiple paths depending on the possible channels the customer may use.

Touchpoints

These are the specific customer interactions that occur during the process, with specific emphasis on the ones that move the person from one phase to the next. Customer touchpoints detail what exactly a user does and how they do it. These serve as the milestones along the journey, where the customer makes critical actions.

Mindsets and Emotions

What is the person thinking and feeling as they interact with the organization? These align with the scenario and touchpoints by describing the user’s thoughts, motivations, reactions, and reservations during these phases.

This internal monologue should coincide with the person’s external actions and choices, taking note of their emotional highs and lows. Ideally, these should come from actual customer feedback.

Pain Points

Customer pain points are problems that arise when the persona interacts with your company or its products. These are specifically negative reactions and emotions that inhibit the person from reaching their objective or your business goals. 

Solutions

An effective journey map will reveal opportunities for how your team can improve the user experience. Once these are identified, your team can build solutions that should transform the current process.

Stages of the Journey

Regardless of the particulars in each case study, every customer journey map should follow a certain sequence of phases.

What are the 4 stages of journey mapping? Awareness, Engagement, Transaction, and Retention. These trace the life cycle of a customer’s experience from beginning to end — and potential follow-up.

1. Awareness

At this point in the journey, the organization should communicate their basic “what” and “why,” ensuring potential customers have a baseline understanding of their values and advantages.

Common awareness-building methods include direct mail, sponsored search results, print advertisements, and word of mouth. For this stage, the more visible you are to consumers, the better.

2. Engagement

This move to active research begins with the Consideration phase, as they take steps to study your offerings. A wise customer researches and weighs their options before making a decision, so a good initial engagement can go a long way.

On a map, this should depict the organization forming a dialogue with users to provide the information they desire. This can be done through social media, a website, phone calls, email exchanges, or in-person conversations.

3. Transaction

This is when a potential customer becomes an actual customer. This phase is also called the Purchase or Decision stage because it describes an actual transaction with your brand. The nature of the transaction depends on what the business offers and how it measures success. It may be as simple as a one-time product sale or something more complex like a contract for a service period.

4. Retention

The Retention or Loyalty phase identifies whether the customer was engaged and satisfied enough with their purchase to return in the future. Loyal clients are crucial for building stable, long-term financial success. 

A business can facilitate this through follow-up calls, satisfaction surveys, loyalty rewards, or returning customer coupons.

How to Create a Customer Journey Map

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with possibilities when creating a customer journey map, so strive to keep the diagram focused. The more complicated it is, the less useful it will be in inspiring clear, actionable solutions.

How do you make a journey map? The mapping process begins with setting goals and picking a persona, then tracing the current journey and brainstorming the ideal journey with alleviated pain points.

Set Goals

What do you hope a successful customer experience will be? You can’t create a good map without knowing what scenario you want to create. Establish your objectives by deciding how you want your business to impact your customers. This may be an overarching look at one customer’s experience with your entire business model. Or it’s an isolated exploration of a new product you’re developing.

Of course, you should consult with fellow team members and stakeholders. They’ll confirm the goals are reasonable, accurate, and worthwhile.  

Define Your Target Persona

Identify the actor who will be taking this journey. You can draw from actual or potential customers depending on what you’re trying to learn by mapping.

Then, perform extensive research to learn about this demographic. The more you understand their values and motivations, the more accurate your customer journey map will be. To get a full, accurate insight into the user, you can:

  • Create customer surveys

  • Pull data from contact profiles

  • Explore website analytics

  • Have conversations with consumers

Do whatever you can to get to know your target.

Find the Touchpoints

Use your findings to determine how customers tend to interact with your organization before reaching the final objective. Plot out their actions — correct and diverging — and relate them with thoughts and emotions.

There’s no correct number of touchpoints on a customer journey map; that will depend on your business. If you feel that there are too many touchpoints between a potential customer finalizing their transaction, revisit those opportunities.

Define the Pain Points

Pay extra attention to negative experiences when you’re mapping the sequence of touchpoints. Explore these in greater detail before proceeding. You need to verify that you understand the root of the frustration and why the customer’s expectations aren’t being met. These points of departure away from the goal will help you find ways to optimize the user experience.

Map the Current State

Use a visual design template to arrange the touchpoints into a path that follows the overarching journey phases. Make sure the information you include is accurate and understandable to all viewers. This should reflect the typical path that the chosen user follows in real life.

You’ll already have an idea of any gaps or problems in the actual journey by this point. Use visual elements like color and callouts to enhance comprehension of the map rather than complicate it.

Map the Future State

Hone in on the pain points and decide how they need to be addressed so customer actions can change. This idealized map is the future state of the user experience you’ll want to strive for. Realize this new path by identifying opportunities and brainstorming solutions to inspire change. Involve stakeholders who can bring about these improvements.

Journey Map Templates

You’ve seen the benefits of making a customer journey map, but where do you start? Check out journey map examples for inspiration — particularly ones in a similar industry or type of business. This will allow you to see how comparable maps implement the components and phases in a cohesive, digestible way. 

Then, when you’re ready to make your own case study, find a customer journey map template that you can customize. Pick a product with the functionality and pricing that fits your needs. The most commonly used diagramming applications include: 

  • Lucidchart

  • Trello

  • Asana

  • Edit.org

  • Microsoft Visio

  • Creately

  • Smaply

  • Gliffy

  • FlowMapp

  • UXPressia

Or, hire an outside expert to perform the mapping for you and help you create a unified omnichannel experience for your clients.

Need help mapping?

Mapping the user experience is a valuable process that can benefit any organization, whether you run a big social media platform or a small eCommerce startup. Brands can gain massive insights into their customer base when they walk the path in their shoes.

Need an expert to administer your next customer journey mapping? Contact MVP Match. We can connect your organization to a UX design expert to help. 

And if you’re a freelancer who’s skilled in design thinking, join the MVP Match network. Many companies need you to improve their user experiences and help them flourish.

About the Author

Match wants to bridge the perspectives of talents and companies, and Marta’s job is to blend all the elements without burning the engine. She translates backstage know-how into practical insights and stories. What can’t be written on a blog will land on socials as a meme. She believes that shaping the #futureofwork is all about transparency and courage in communication. While collaborating with writers and authors from all over the world, she makes sure that everything that ends up on the Match blog makes the bridge stronger than ever.