What is Customer Journey Mapping?

Customer Journey Mapping is a workshop method that aims to identify the interactions that target customer personas have with a product (i.e. user experience), including the positive or negative emotional impact of that experience. This method has a narrative component to it as well, as it enables teams to clearly tell the story of a product’s end-to-end user experience through the lens of a step-by-step “journey” over a set period of time.

Often used by marketing teams to either develop new customer journeys or improve existing ones, the Customer Journey Mapping workshop has now been adapted to:

  • Understand a customer’s current state
    The goal here is to pinpoint the difficulties that specific customer personas encounter or the inconsistencies they face with a product’s current user experience. The end result of this type of workshop is to brainstorm and define solutions that will eventually lead to a better customer experience overall.
  • Illustrate a customer’s ‘day in the life’ experience
    This type of workshop is focused squarely on user needs and, therefore, has almost nothing to do with the product itself. For this reason, it can be a particularly useful exercise during a product’s design stage—well before the target customer has been defined. The goal here is to outline the future path a customer will take in order to satisfy a specific need—for example, purchasing an online training course—and then using those insights to build a step-by-step user experience around that.
    Keep in mind that a ‘day’ in this context doesn’t necessarily correspond to a 24-hour period of time. You can define the timeframe (i.e. a few hours or several months) based on the type of journey your customer will likely take from start to finish.
  • Define a customer’s future state
    This workshop method is all about identifying what the optimal user experience could be. Unlike the approaches above, this one requires you to already know the ins and outs of your target customer persona in order to anticipate the difficulties that customers may encounter along their journey and then use those insights to design a product experience that meets those needs and expectations as much as possible.

Prerequisites for a Customer Journey Mapping workshop

Before kicking off your Customer Journey Mapping workshop, keep the following in mind:

  • The workshop should be dedicated to either improving an existing journey (current state) or creating an entirely new—and ideal—journey (future state).
  • Be sure to rely on data whenever possible. If your workshop is dedicated to improving an existing journey, be sure to collect both qualitative and quantitative data to help you paint a clearer picture about actual customer actions and behaviors.
  • Customer Journey Mapping can also have an “emotional” element to it—as in, there’s an opportunity to identify how customers think and feel at each stage of their journey. Qualitative data (i.e. customer interviews and surveys) can be useful here, as can past work done in an Empathy Map workshop, too.

How to conduct a Customer Journey Mapping workshop

It’s important to set the context of the workshop before getting started. You’ll want to be clear on what the target customer personas are trying to achieve along their journey and what segment or portion of the journey you want to dedicate the workshop to. Once you’ve set the ground rules for the workshop, here are the key steps to follow:

  1. 1. Break the journey into stages

    Draw a horizontal line on a board. This will be used to recreate how an existing or ideal customer journey unfolds from the customer’s perspective. This is typically represented as a chronological sequence of events—broken into stages—that flows from start to finish in a logical way. Once you’ve identified the different stages along this journey, be sure to write them down on sticky notes and position them accordingly along the horizontal line. Then draw vertical lines extending upwards from each stage marker to create individual columns. These will be used to demarcate each of the key stages of the customer journey.

  2. 2. Identify the right questions to ask at each stage

    You’ll want to list out the questions to ask at each stage of the customer journey, including:

    • What actions is the customer being asked to take?
      Examples: Comparing pricing, requesting a demo, paying a deposit, etc.
    • What touchpoints or interactions does the customer have with your business?
      Examples: Filling out a contact form, visiting a brick-and-mortar store, etc.
    • What emotions does the customer have?
      Examples: Frustrated from having to find information, relieved after being helped, etc.
    • What opportunities for improvement exist?
      Only applies if your workshop is focused on improving an existing journey.
  3. 3. Answer the questions for each stage of the journey

    Now that you have identified the questions to ask, it’s time to answer them for each stage of the customer journey. You need to repeat this process, in chronological order, until you’ve filled out answers for each stage. Keep this simply by answering questions in a concise way and writing those answers down on sticky notes. For example, if you’re identifying a specific action taken by a customer, simply write down a descriptive verb on the sticky note.

    Pro-Tip: For visually expressing customer emotions along the journey, feel free to use emojis like those used in a Niko-Niko Calendar.

  4. 4. Challenge and bullet-proof the journey created

    The purpose of building a Customer Journey Map is to have a visual reference for all of the steps a target customer persona takes—or potentially will take—when engaging with a product or a business. If your workshop was dedicated to refining an existing customer journey, you’ll want to hone in on which parts of the journey could use some improvement. Feel free to use a Prioritization Matrix to facilitate this.

    On the other hand, if you’ve created an entirely new customer journey during this workshop, first check it for consistency—to make sure you haven’t left anything critical out—and then invite other teams, with a fresh set of eyes, to weigh in with a second opinion. Better yet, use it as the foundation for a customer focus group to confirm whether or not the new journey developed actually aligns to real customer actions or behaviors.

Suggested resources to learn more about Customer Journey Mapping