Customer Journey Maps - Walking a Mile in Your Customer’s Shoes

Customer Journey Maps - Walking a Mile in Your Customer’s Shoes

| 5 min read

Perhaps the biggest buzzword in customer relationship management is “engagement”. Engagement is a funny thing, in that it is not measured in likes, clicks, or even purchases. It’s a measure of how much a customer feels that they are in a relationship with a product, business or brand. It focuses on harmony and how your business, product or brand becomes part of a customer’s life. One of the best tools for examining engagement is the customer journey map.

As the Cherokee tribe used to say; “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.” (Though the saying was actually promoted by Harper Lee of To Kill a Mockingbird fame). The customer journey map lets you walk that mile.

Author/Copyright holder: Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa). Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 2.5

Customer journey maps don’t need to be literal journeys (like this journey map of the Istanbul public transport system) but they can be. Creativity in determining how you represent a journey is fine.

What is a Customer Journey Map?

A customer journey map is a research based tool. It examines the story of how a customer relates to the business, brand or product over time. As you might expect – no two customer journeys are identical. However, they can be generalized to give an insight into the “typical journey” for a customer as well as providing insight into current interactions and the potential for future interactions with customers.

Customer journey maps can be useful beyond the UX design and marketing teams. They can help facilitate a common business understanding of how every customer should be treated across all sales, logistics, distribution, care, etc. channels. This in turn can help break down “organizational silos” and start a process of wider customer-focused communication in a business.

They may also be employed to educate stakeholders as to what customers perceive when they interact with the business. They help them explore what customers think, feel, see, hear and do and also raise some interesting “what ifs” and the possible answers to them.

Adam Richardson of Frog Design writing in Harvard Business Review says; “A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination. The more touchpoints you have, the more complicated — but necessary — such a map becomes. Sometimes customer journey maps are “cradle to grave,” looking at the entire arc of engagement.”

Author/Copyright holder: Stefano Maggi. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-ND 2.0

Here we see a customer journey laid out based on social impact and brand interaction with that impact.

What Do You Need to Do to Create a Customer Journey Map?

Firstly, you will need to do some preparation prior to beginning your journey maps ideally you should have:

  • User-personas. If you can’t tell a typical user’s story, how will you know if you’ve captured their journey?
  • A timescale. Customer journeys can take place in a week, a year, a lifetime, etc. and it’s useful to know what length of journey you will measure before you begin.
  • A clear understanding of customer touchpoints. What is your customer doing and how are they doing it?
  • A clear understanding of the channels in which actions occur. Channels are the places where customers interact with the business – from Facebook pages to retail stores. This helps you understand what your customers are actually doing.
  • An understanding of any other actors that might alter the customer experience. For example, friends, family, colleagues, etc. that may influence the way a customer feels about any given interaction.
  • A plan for “moments of truth” – the positive interactions that create good feelings in customers that can be used at touchpoints where frustrations exist.

  • Author/Copyright holder: Unknown. Copyright terms and licence: Unknown

User personas are incredibly useful tools when it comes to putting together any kind of user research. If you haven’t developed them already they should be a priority for your UX team.

Once you’ve done your preparation you can follow a simple 8 point process to develop your customer journey maps:

  • Review Organization Objectives – what are your goals for this mapping exercise? What organizational needs do you intend to meet?
  • Review Current Research – the more user research you have at your fingertips, the easier this exercise will be. Be creative and if you don’t have the right research to define the journey – consider how you can carry that research out.
  • Review Touchpoints and Channels – the next step is to ensure that touchpoints and channels are effectively mapped. So for example a touchpoint could be “pay this invoice” and channels could be “online”, “retail”, “over the phone”, “mail”, etc. It can also help to brainstorm at this stage and see if there are any touchpoints or channels you’ve missed in your original data collection exercise.
  • Create an Empathy Map. An empathy map examines how the customer feels during each interaction – you want to concentrate on how the customer feels and thinks as well as what they will say, do, hear, etc. in any given situation.
  • Build an affinity diagram. The idea here is to first brainstorm around each concept you’ve touched on and then to create a diagram which relates all these concepts, feelings, etc. together. This is best achieved by grouping ideas in categories and labeling them. You can eliminate concepts, etc. which don’t seem to have any impact on customer experience at this stage too.
  • Sketch the customer journey. How you do this is up to you; you can build a nice timeline map that brings together the journey over the course of time. You could also turn the idea into a video or an audio clip or use a completely different style of diagram. The idea is simply to show the motion of a customer through touchpoints and channels across your time period and how they feel about each interaction on that journey.
  • Iterate and produce. Then take your sketches and make them into something useful, keep refining the content and then produce something that is visually appealing and useful to stakeholders, team members, etc. Don’t be afraid to rope in a graphic designer at this stage if you’re not good at making things look awesome.
  • Distribute and utilize. The journey maps is no use sat on your hard drive or in your desk drawer – you need to get it out there to people and explain why it’s important. Then it needs to be put to use, you should be able to define KPIs around the ideal journey, for example, and then measure future success as you improve the journey.

Author/Copyright holder: Rosenfeld Media. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY 2.0

A complete customer journey map by adaptive path for the experience of interacting with railway networks.

The Take Away

Creating customer journeys (including those exploring current and future states) doesn’t have to be a massively time consuming process – most journeys can be mapped in less than a day. The effort put in is worthwhile because it enables a shared understanding of the customer experience and offers each stakeholder and team member the chance to contribute to improving that experience.


Harvard Business Review looks at how to use customer journey maps to the maximum effect -

For some great resources to guide your customer journey development check out this blog at Designing CX which includes a ton of templates for free download -

For some alternative ideas on preparing customer journey research check out this piece at CMO Digital Forum -

Hero Image: Author/Copyright holder: Culture Republic. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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