Customer Journey Maps

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What are Customer Journey Maps?

Customer journey maps are visual representations of customer experiences with an organization. They provide a 360-degree view of how customers engage with a brand over time and across all channels. Product teams use these maps to uncover customer needs and their routes to reach a product or service. Using this information, you can identify pain points and opportunities to enhance customer experience and boost customer retention.

Data often fails to communicate the frustrations and experiences of customers. A story can do that, and one of the best storytelling tools in business is the customer journey map.”

— Paul Boag, UX designer, service design consultant & digital transformation expert

In this video, Frank Spillers, CEO of Experience Dynamics, explains how you can include journey maps in your design process.

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Customer Journey Maps – Tell Customer Stories Over Time

Customer journey maps are research-based tools. They show common customer experiences over time To help brands learn more about their target audience. 

Maps are incredibly effective communication tools. See how maps simplify complex spaces and create shared understanding.

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Unlike navigation maps, customer journey maps have an extra dimension—time. Design teams examine tasks and questions (e.g., what-ifs) regarding how a design meets or fails to meet customers’ needs over time when encountering a product or service. 

Customer journey maps should have comprehensive timelines that show the most essential sub-tasks and events. Over this timeline framework, you add insights into customers' thoughts and feelings when proceeding along the timeline. The map should include: 

  1. A timescale - A defined journey period (e.g., one week). This timeframe should include the entire journey, from awareness to conversion to retention.

  2. Scenarios - The context and sequence of events where a user/customer must achieve a goal. An example could be a user who wants to buy a ticket on the phone. Scenarios are events from the first actions (recognizing a problem) to the last activities (e.g., subscription renewal).

  3. Channels – Where do they perform actions (e.g., Facebook)?

  4. Touchpoints – How does the customer interact with the product or service? What actions do they perform?

  5. Thoughts and feelings – The customer's thoughts and feelings at each touchpoint.

A customer journey map helps you understand how customer experience evolves over time. It allows you to identify possible problems and improve the design. This enables you to design products that are more likely to exceed customers’ expectations in the future state. 

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How to Create a Customer Journey Map for Exceptional Experiences?

An infographic showcasing seven steps to create customer journey maps.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

  1. Define Your Map’s Business Goal

Before creating a customer journey map, you must ask yourself why you're making one in the first place. Clarify who will use it and what user experience it will address.

  1. Conduct Research

Use customer research to determine customer experiences at all touchpoints. Get analytical/statistical data and anecdotal evidence. Leverage customer interviews, surveys, social media listening, and competitive intelligence.

Watch user researcher Ditte Hvas Mortensen talk about how user research fits your design process and when you should do different studies. 

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  1. Review Touchpoints and Channels

List customer touchpoints (e.g., paying a bill) and channels (e.g., online). Look for more touchpoints or channels to include.

  1. Make an Empathy Map

Pinpoint what the customer does, thinks, feels, says, hears, etc., in a given situation. Then, determine their needs and how they feel throughout the experience. Focus on barriers and sources of annoyance.

  1. Sketch the Journey

Piece everything—touchpoints, timescale, empathy map output, new ideas, etc.). Show a customer’s course of motion through touchpoints and channels across the timescale, including their feelings at every touchpoint.

  1. Iterate and Refine

Revise and transform your sketch into the best-looking version of the ideal customer journey.

  1. Share with Stakeholders

Ensure all stakeholders understand your map and appreciate how its use will benefit customers and the organization.

Buyer Journey vs User Journey vs Customer Journey: What's the Difference?

You must know the differences between buyer, user, and customer journeys to optimize customer experiences. A customer journey map is often synonymous with a user flow diagram or buyer journey map. However, each journey gives unique insights and needs different plans.

Customer Journey

The customer journey, or lifecycle, outlines the stages a customer goes through with a business. This journey can vary across organizations but includes five key steps:

1. Awareness: This is the first stage of the customer journey, where the customers realize they have a problem. The customer becomes aware of your brand or product at this stage, usually due to marketing efforts.

2. Consideration: Once customers know about your product or service, they start their research and compare brands.

3. Purchase: This is the stage where the customer has chosen a solution and is ready to buy your product or service.

4. Retention: After the purchase, it's about retaining that customer and nurturing a relationship. This is where good customer service comes in.

5. Advocacy: Also called the loyalty stage, this is when the customer not only continues to buy your product but also recommends it to others.

The journey doesn't end when the customer buys and recommends your solution to others. Customer journey strategies are cyclical and repetitive. After the advocacy stage, ideally, you continue to attract and retain the customers, keeping them in the cycle. 

There is no standard format for a customer journey map. The key is to create one that works best for your team and product or service. Get started with customer journey mapping with our template:

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This customer journey map template features three zones:

Top – persona and scenario. 

Middle – thoughts, actions, and feelings. 

Bottom – insights and progress barriers.

Buyer Journey

The buyer's journey involves the buyer's path towards purchasing. This includes some of the steps we saw in the customer journey but is specific to purchasing:

1. Awareness Stage: This is when a prospective buyer realizes they have a problem. However, they aren't yet fully aware of the solutions available to them.

2. Consideration Stage: After identifying their problem, the buyer researches and investigates different solutions with more intent. They compare different products, services, brands, or strategies here.

3. Decision Stage: The buyer then decides which solution will solve their problem at the right price. This is where the actual purchasing action takes place.  

4. Post-Purchase Evaluation: Although not always included, this stage is critical. It's where the buyer assesses their satisfaction with the purchase. It includes customer service interactions, quality assessment, and attitudinal loyalty to the brand.

All these stages can involve many touchpoints, including online research, social media interactions, and even direct, in-person interactions. Different buyers may move through these stages at different speeds and through various channels, depending on a wide range of factors.

User Journey

The user journey focuses on people's experience with digital platforms like websites or software. Key stages include:

1. Discovery: In this stage, users become aware of your product, site, or service, often due to marketing efforts, word-of-mouth, or organic search. It also includes their initial reactions or first impressions.

2. Research/Consideration: Here, users dig deeper, exploring features, comparing with alternatives, and evaluating if your offering suits their needs and preferences.

3. Interaction/Use: Users actively engage with your product or service. They first-hand experience your solution's functionality, usability, and usefulness to achieve their goal.

4. Problem-solving: If they encounter any issues, how they seek help and resolve their issues fall into this stage. It covers user support, troubleshooting, and other assistance.

5. Retention/Loyalty: This stage involves how users stay engaged over time. Do they continue using your product, reduce usage, or stop altogether? It includes their repeated interactions, purchases, and long-term engagement over time.

6. Advocacy/Referral: This is when users are so satisfied they begin to advocate for your product, leaving positive reviews and referring others to your service.

Download this user journey map template featuring an example of a user’s routine. 

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Understanding these stages can help optimize the user experience, providing value at each stage and making the journey seamless and enjoyable. 

Always remember the journey is as important as the destination. Customer relationships start from the first website visit or interaction with marketing materials. These initial touchpoints can influence the ongoing relationship with your customers.

A gist of differences between customer, buyer, and user journeys.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0

Aspect

Customer Journey

Buyer Journey

User Journey

Scope

All customer interactions, pre and post-purchase.

Pre-purchase stages: awareness, consideration, conversion.

Subset of interactions in digital platforms.

Start/End Point

From marketing to end of customer relationship.

From awareness to conversion stages.

From user entry to exit on a digital platform.

Focus

All types of products and services—software and non—software interactions.

Decision-making before a purchase

Primarily digital platform interactions.

Drawbacks of Customer Journey Maps

Customer journey mapping is valuable yet has limitations and potential drawbacks. Recognize these challenges and create more practical and realistic journey maps.

  1. Over-simplification of Customer Experiences

Customer journey maps often risk simplifying complex customer experiences. They may depict varied and unpredictable customer behaviors as straightforward and linear. This simplification can lead to misunderstandings about your customers' needs and wants. As a result, you might overlook customers' diverse and unique paths. 

Always remember that real customer experiences are more complex than any map. When you recognize this, you steer clear of decisions based on simple models.

  1. Resource Intensity

Creating detailed customer journey maps requires a lot of resources and time. You must gather extensive data and update the maps to keep them relevant. This process can strain small businesses or those with limited resources. 

You need to balance the need for comprehensive mapping with available resources. Efficient resource management and prioritization are crucial to maintaining effective journey maps.

  1. Risk of Bias

Creating customer journey maps carries the inherent risk of biases. These biases can arise from various sources. They can impact the accuracy and effectiveness of the maps. 

Alan Dix, an expert in HCI, discusses bias in more detail in this video.  

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Common biases in customer journey mapping include:

  • Assumption Bias: When teams make decisions based on preconceived notions rather than customer data.

  • Selection Bias: When the data doesn’t represent the entire customer base..

  • Confirmation Bias: When you focus on information that supports existing beliefs and preferences. Simultaneously, you tend to ignore or dismiss data that contradicts those beliefs.

  • Anchoring Bias: Relying on the first information encountered (anchor) when making decisions.

  • Overconfidence Bias: Placing too much trust in the accuracy of the journey map. You may overlook its potential flaws.

These biases may misguide the team, and design decisions based on these maps might not be effective.

To address these biases, review and update journey maps with real user research data. Engage with different customer segments and gather a wide range of feedback to help create a more accurate and representative map. This approach ensures the journey map aligns with actual customer experiences and behaviors.

  1. Evolving Customer Behaviors

Customer behaviors and preferences change with time. A journey map relevant today can become outdated. You need to update and adapt your maps to reflect these changes. This requires you to perform market research and stay updated with trends and customer feedback. 

Getting fresh data ensures your journey map stays relevant and effective. You must adapt to evolving customer behaviors to maintain accurate and valuable customer journey maps.

  1. Challenges in Capturing Emotions

Capturing emotions accurately in customer journey maps poses a significant challenge. Emotions influence customer decisions, yet you may find it difficult to quantify and represent them in maps. Most journey maps emphasize actions and touchpoints, often neglecting the emotional journey. 

You must integrate emotional insights into these maps to understand customer experiences. This integration enhances the effectiveness of customer engagement strategies. You can include user quotes, symbols such as emojis, or even graphs to capture the ups and downs of the users’ emotions..

  1. Misalignment with Customer Needs

Misalignments in customer journey maps can manifest in various ways. It can impact the effectiveness of your strategies. Common misalignments include:

  • Putting business aims first, not what customers need.

  • Not seeing or serving the varied needs of different customer types.

  • Not using customer feedback in the journey map.

  • Thinking every customer follows a simple, straight path.

Engage with your customers to understand their needs and preferences if you want to address these misalignments. Incorporate their direct feedback into the journey map. This approach leads to more effective customer engagement and satisfaction.

  1. Over-Reliance on the Map

Relying too much on customer journey maps can lead to problems. These maps should serve as tools rather than definitive guides. Viewing them as perfect can restrict your responsiveness to customer feedback and market changes. Treat journey maps as evolving documents that complement direct customer interactions and feedback. 

Make sure you get regular updates and maintain flexibility in your approach. Balance the insights from the map with ongoing customer engagement. This approach keeps your business agile and responsive to evolving customer needs.

  1. Data Privacy Concerns

Collecting customer data for journey mapping poses significant privacy concerns. Thus, you need to create a balance. You must adhere to data protection laws and gather enough information for mapping. 

You need a careful strategy to ensure customer data security. Stay vigilant to adapt to evolving privacy regulations and customer expectations. This vigilance helps maintain trust and compliance.

Learn More about Customer Journey Maps

Take our Journey Mapping course to gain insights into the how and why of journey mapping. Learn practical methods to create experience maps, customer journey maps, and service blueprints for immediate application.

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Explore this eBook to discover customer journey mapping.

Find some additional insights in the Customer Journey Maps article.

Questions related to Customer Journey Maps

How to create a customer journey map?

Creating a customer journey map requires visually representing the customer's experience with your product or company. Harness the strength of visual reasoning to understand and present this journey succinctly. Instead of detailing a lengthy narrative, like a book, a well-crafted map allows stakeholders, whether designers or not, to grasp the journey quickly. It's a democratized tool that disseminates information, unifies teams, and aids decision-making by illuminating previously unnoticed or misunderstood aspects of the customer's journey.

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What are the 5 stages of customer journey?

The customer journey encompasses five distinct stages that guide a customer's interaction with a brand or product:

  1. Awareness: The customer becomes aware of a need or problem.

  2. Consideration: They research potential solutions or products.

  3. Purchase: The customer decides on a solution and makes a purchase.

  4. Retention: Post-purchase, the customer uses the product and forms an opinion.

  5. Advocacy: Satisfied customers become brand advocates, sharing their positive experiences.

For a comprehensive understanding of these stages and how they intertwine with customer touchpoints, refer to Interaction-Design.org's in-depth article.

What is perspective grid workshop?

A perspective grid workshop is a activity that brings together stakeholders from various departments, such as product design, marketing, growth, and customer support, to align on a shared understanding of the customer's journey. These stakeholders contribute unique insights about customer needs and how they interact with a product or service. The workshop entails:

  1. Creating a matrix to identify customers' jobs and requirements, not initially linked to specific features.

  2. Identifying the gaps, barriers, pains, and risks associated with unmet needs, and constructing a narrative for the journey.

  3. Highlighting the resulting value when these needs are met.

  4. Discuss the implied technical and non-technical capabilities required to deliver this value.

  5. Brainstorming possible solutions and eventually narrowing down to specific features.

The ultimate aim is to foster alignment within the organization and produce a user journey map based on shared knowledge. 

Learn more from this insightful video:

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Why customer journey mapping is important?

Customer journey mapping is vital as it harnesses our visual reasoning capabilities to articulate a customer's broad, intricate journey with a brand. Such a depiction would otherwise require extensive documentation, like a book. This tool offers a cost-effective method to convey information succinctly, ensuring understanding of whether one is a designer or lacks the time for extensive reading. It also helps the team to develop a shared vision and to encourage collaboration.  Businesses can better comprehend and address interaction points by using a journey map, facilitating informed decision-making and revealing insights that might otherwise remain obscured. Learn more about the power of visualizing the customer journey in this video.

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What are the pain points in the customer journey map?

Pain points in a customer journey map represent customers' challenges or frustrations while interacting with a product or service. They can arise from unmet needs, gaps in service, or barriers faced during the user experience. Identifying these pain points is crucial as they highlight areas for improvement, allowing businesses to enhance the customer experience and meet their needs more effectively. Pain points can relate to various aspects, including product usability, communication gaps, or post-purchase concerns. Explore the detailed article on customer journey maps at Interaction Design Foundation for a deeper understanding and real-world examples.

What are the benefits of customer journey mapping?

Customer journey mapping offers several key benefits:

  1. It provides a holistic view of the customer experience, highlighting areas for improvement. This ensures that products or services meet users' needs effectively.

  2. The process fosters team alignment, ensuring everyone understands and prioritizes the customer's perspective.

  3. It helps identify pain points, revealing opportunities to enhance user satisfaction and loyalty.

  4. This visualization allows businesses to make informed decisions, ensuring resources target the most impactful areas.

To delve deeper into the advantages and insights on journey mapping, refer to Interaction Design Foundation's article on key takeaways from the IXDF journey mapping course.

What is the customer journey map in design thinking?

In design thinking, a customer journey map visually represents a user's interactions with a product or service over time. It provides a detailed look at a user's experience, from initial contact to long-term engagement. Focusing on the user's perspective highlights their needs, emotions, pain points, and moments of delight. This tool aids in understanding and empathizing with users, a core principle of design thinking. When used effectively, it bridges gaps between design thinking and marketing, ensuring user-centric solutions align with business goals. For a comprehensive understanding of how it fits within design thinking and its relation to marketing, refer to Interaction Design Foundation's article on resolving conflicts between design thinking and marketing.

What is the difference between a customer journey map and a user journey map?

A customer journey map and a user journey map are tools to understand the experience of users or customers with a product or service.

  • A customer journey map is a broader view of the entire customer experience across multiple touchpoints and stages. It considers physical and digital channels, multiple user personas, and emotional and qualitative aspects.

  • A user journey map is a detailed view of the steps to complete a specific task or goal within a product or service. It only considers digital channels, one user persona, and functional and quantitative aspects.

Both are useful to understand and improve the experience of the users or customers with a product or service. However, they have different scopes, perspectives, and purposes. A customer journey map provides a holistic view of the entire customer experience across multiple channels and stages. A user journey map provides a detailed view of the steps to complete a specific task or goal within a product or service.

While user journeys might emphasize specific tasks or pain points, customer journeys encapsulate the entire experience, from research and comparison to purchasing and retention. 

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What is the difference between a customer journey map and a service blueprint?

Customer journey maps and service blueprints are tools to understand and improve the experience of the users or customers with a product or service. A customer journey map shows the entire customer experience across multiple touchpoints and stages. It focuses on the front stage of the service, which is what the customers see and experience. It considers different user personas and emotional aspects.

A service blueprint shows how a service is delivered and operated by an organization. It focuses on the back stage of the service, which is what the customers do not see or experience. It considers one user persona and functional aspects. What are the steps that the customer takes to complete a specific task or goal within the service? What are the channels and devices that the customer interacts with at each step?

Where to learn more about customer journey mapping?

For an immersive dive into customer journey mapping, consider enrolling in the Interaction Design Foundation's specialized course. This course offers hands-on lessons, expert guidance, and actionable tools. Furthermore, to grasp the course's essence, the article “4 Takeaways from the IXDF Journey Mapping Course” sheds light on the core learnings, offering a snapshot of what to expect. These resources are tailored by industry leaders, ensuring you're equipped with the best knowledge to craft impactful customer journey maps.

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Literature on Customer Journey Maps

Here’s the entire UX literature on Customer Journey Maps by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Customer Journey Maps

Take a deep dive into Customer Journey Maps with our course Journey Mapping .

This course will show you how to use journey mapping to turn your own complex design challenges into simple, delightful user experiences. If you want to design a great shopping experience, an efficient signup flow or an app that brings users delight over time, journey mapping is a critical addition to your toolbox. 

We will begin with a short introduction to mapping — why it is so powerful, and why it is so useful in UX. Then we will get familiar with the three most common types of journey map — experience maps, customer journey maps and service blueprints — and how to recognize, read and use each one. Then you will learn how to collect and analyze data as a part of a journey mapping process. Next you will learn how to create each type of journey map, and in the final lesson you will learn how to run a journey mapping workshop that will help to turn your journey mapping insights into actual products and services. 

This course will provide you with practical methods that you can start using immediately in your own design projects, as well as downloadable templates that can give you a head start in your own journey mapping projects. 

The “Build Your Portfolio: Journey Mapping Project” includes three practical exercises where you can practice the methods you learn, solidify your knowledge and if you choose, create a journey mapping case study that you can add to your portfolio to demonstrate your journey mapping skills to future employers, freelance customers and your peers. 

Throughout the course you will learn from four industry experts. 

Indi Young will provide wisdom on how to gather the right data as part of your journey mapping process. She has written two books, Practical Empathy and Mental Models. Currently she conducts live online advanced courses about the importance of pushing the boundaries of your perspective. She was a founder of Adaptive Path, the pioneering UX agency that was an early innovator in journey mapping. 

Kai Wang will walk us through his very practical process for creating a service blueprint, and share how he makes journey mapping a critical part of an organization’s success. Kai is a talented UX pro who has designed complex experiences for companies such as CarMax and CapitalOne. 

Matt Snyder will help us think about journey mapping as a powerful and cost-effective tool for building successful products. He will also teach you how to use a tool called a perspective grid that can help a data-rich journey mapping process go more smoothly. In 2020 Matt left his role as the Sr. Director of Product Design at Lucid Software to become Head of Product & Design at Hivewire. 

Christian Briggs will be your tour guide for this course. He is a Senior Product Designer and Design Educator at the Interaction Design Foundation. He has been designing digital products for many years, and has been using methods like journey mapping for most of those years.  

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