Table of Contents
What is a customer journey map?
A customer journey map is a flowchart or similar visualization that shows the full lifecycle of a potential customer’s “journey.” The map covers the point when the prospect learns about a company to them becoming a customer and through extended customer support. These maps are a visual representation of interactions across all channels a customer may interact with, including social media, in-store, website, or email.
A customer’s first touchpoint with your brand may be a social media ad, which is the starting point on their customer journey map. The map then charts all of that user’s interactions and may have branching points for choices they could make. For example:
- Begin at the social media ad touchpoint.
- The next node on the map indicates the customer going to your website.
- A branch on the map may describe the customer deciding whether to make a purchase: If they buy, their journey may include an email invitation to a mailing list. If they don’t buy, the next step in their journey could be an individual discount code by email.
- The map for purchasing customers then charts any of the customer’s post-purchase interactions, such as: Sending a customer satisfaction evaluation, receiving customer support , or renewing a contract or making another purchase
- The map for customers who did not purchase shows the steps to re-engage them.
Types of Customer Journey Maps
What goes onto your customer journey maps will depend on customer types, the services or products you offer, and the goals of your mapping exercise. Maps for companies that offer business-to-business (B2B) products or services will also differ from maps for business-to-customer (B2C) brands. You may end up with multiple maps; some may show the current state of your customer journeys and others may show a desired future state.
Ultimately, the customer journey map should be a tool that helps you and your marketing team identify areas for growth and make decisions. The following examples are good places to start:
Current state map
A current state map is often the first customer journey map a team creates. This is a map that shows how an average customer interacts with your brand today. For these maps, you will look at internal data, like website traffic sources or data showing how they move through your online storefront. This mapping process can show current pain points or customer service gaps that you can work on now. It can also highlight points of high conversions that you will want to emphasize in the future state.
Future state map
For future state maps, gather a wishlist of improvements and your team’s strategic goals and use these to plan the ideal state of customer journeys with your brand. These maps work best when compared to current state maps — the current state maps help identify areas for improvement and what is working to inform future state maps.
Mapping a day in the life of a customer can help marketers and customer-facing teams understand what the customer is thinking, and how best to help them. These kinds of maps rely heavily on customer profiles or personas, because different customers will interact with different touchpoints. Where other customer journey maps will center the customer interacting with your brand, the day-in-the-life style imagines what your customers might do from when they get up to when they go to bed, and what problems or questions they may face during the day. You can use these maps to identify customer needs and create new marketing strategies.
Service blueprint map
A service blueprint map focuses on how teams deliver services. You can expand a customer journey map to identify which teams are responsible for each part of the customer experience, and specific roles, technologies, processes, or policies that each step requires.
Where a customer journey map begins with the customer looking at products on your company website before going to a store, the service blueprint map includes that, and also labels which technology powers the chat, who answers questions, and which teams handle the customer in-store. These maps may depict current state, and help identify pain points for current customers, or they may show future state, helping plan how a service will ideally operate.
Benefits of customer journey mapping
The practice of customer journey mapping gives you a clear picture of a customer’s experience with your brand, which will help:
- Improve communication across teams - If you understand how a customer passes from team to team, you can identify and close interdepartmental gaps, and ensure that the right information reaches the right people in time.
- Improve customer experience (CX) - Mapping the entire customer journey means understanding what your brand looks like to a prospective customer, and finding ways to improve that perspective. You can also identify ineffective touchpoints and understand customer expectations.
- Increase customer loyalty and engagement - If you understand the customer’s experiences, you can improve customer engagement with more targeted ads and emails to help them make informed decisions.
- Identify and measure areas of improvement - A clear picture of your customer’s interactions will help you gather better data about specific “moment of truth” touchpoints (decision points where you may keep or lose customers), and measure the efficacy of new CX initiatives.
- Boost revenue or sales - All these benefits will create happier and better-informed customers. According to Invesp, it costs five times more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one, and keeping just 5% of your customers can increase profits between 25% and 95%.
Components of a customer journey map
A customer journey map is a kind of infographic that shows different stages and key touchpoints a customer may experience with your brand, meaning it will have components that record and show different types of data.
Remember that a customer journey map is a tool for you and your team. It doesn’t need to follow a specific template or pattern as much as it needs to be something that meets your needs. With that in mind, not all customer journey maps will use all of these components.
Visual components of a customer journey map
A customer journey map will use certain visual elements to depict the journey through the map, these include:
Touchpoints are any interaction a prospective customer has with your organization during the buying process. Customer touchpoints can occur on marketing channels (including social media platforms), web or TV ads, radio or podcast promos, posters on a bus bench, or in-store flyers. They may also include messaging a chatbot, downloading an ebook, taking a survey, or going into a physical store.
One challenge of mapping customer behavior is predicting what the customer may do. While touchpoints map direct engagement with a brand, actions include indirect engagement. For example, when a customer tries to decide between pet food products, they browse review websites or ask friends with similar pets for personal recommendations.
These are different from touchpoints because your ability to control them is limited. However, for the journey map, work from the assumption that the customer will perform that action to progress to the next touchpoint.
Customer journey stages
Many customer journey map types begin before the customer knows they will be a customer. Every customer journey has multiple touchpoints and customer actions that fall into one of the five customer journey stages:
- Awareness: The customer has heard of your brand
- Consideration: Your brand is an option the customer will consider
- Decision: The customer has decided to choose your brand
- Retention: Your brand is trying to keep the customer loyal
- Advocacy: The customer will recommend your brand to others
Some maps separate the stages using different background colors for each, so that the customer touchpoints remain in focus, with a color-coded system indicating which touchpoints fall into which stage.
Marketers create customer personas to describe different groups of customers. The customer persona depicts a fictional person who represents a swath of your customer base, as an archetype of those customers. The persona describes the customer type’s needs, preferences, emotions, habits, and motivations. The information a persona includes varies across businesses, but will include data from marketing tools and focus groups.
For example, a pet food brand may have a persona for Alex:
Alex is a 35-year-old who lives in an urban apartment with two cats.
- They work in sales for a tech company.
- They are single.
- They are tech-savvy.
- They will splurge for the cats.
- They live in the city and do not have a car.
What they’re looking for in a pet food brand:
- They are concerned about giving their cats natural products with health benefits.
- They like the convenience of having food delivered (instead of using the bus).
Media and social media habits:
- They watch a lot of shows on Netflix and other streaming services.
- They tend to surf social media on weekday evenings, before bed.
- They prefer Instagram, but have Tumblr and Facebook accounts.
And a second persona for Frank:
Frank is 68 years old, and lives in a suburban house with 1 cat and 1 dog.
- He is retired.
- He is married.
- He can use a computer, but is not tech savvy.
- He has a limited budget but has enough to treat the pets well.
What he’s looking for in a pet food brand:
- Good value for money.
- A brand he can trust for both pets.
- Available in stores he visits regularly.
Media and social media habits:
- He listens to the radio in his truck every day.
- He is on Facebook, but checks it about once a week.
- He usually speaks to friends on the phone, but is learning to text.
Alex’s customer journey would be markedly different from Frank's. Alex’s journey should include Instagram ads, and perhaps some on Tumblr and Facebook. Frank’s journey would likely start with a radio ad. While Alex would appreciate a “free delivery” offer by email, Frank would prefer a manufacturer’s coupon to use in-store. These personas help determine what the pet food brand can do to attract more customers like Alex or Frank.
Emotions and pain points
Some maps consider the customer’s emotions at various points along their journey. How would a customer anxious about their pet’s health interact with a pet food brand differently than one who is overwhelmed, or someone who’s content? The customer’s feelings will influence the actions they take.
For example, a customer feeling overwhelmed with too many options might appreciate a brand that’s endorsed by a personality they respect, such as a TV host with pets. A content customer may stick with their current brand. A customer who has had positive interactions with your brand may consider it the next time they need your service.
A customer who has seen the same ad too many times or has to contact the customer service team multiple times about the same problem may become frustrated. This can lead to people stepping off the customer journey and considering other options. Using a map to identify pain points or interactions where customers consider leaving the customer journey can help your team improve the user experience.
Solutions or opportunities
At various stages of the buying process, when the customer needs to take an action to remain on your customer journey, there are things your organization could do to keep their attention. Any of the customer journey map types, but especially the future state maps can be a useful tool for brainstorming solutions to pain points and opportunities to keep customers coming back.
Identifying pain points could also indicate solutions, and implementing those solutions may be part of your service blueprint. Any customer emotions you’ve identified could present opportunities to surprise, delight, or help the customer. Once you’ve built a customer journey map with the other things in mind, you can start to list ways to improve the buying process, and ensure that customers encounter fewer pain points as they journey.
How to create a customer journey map
The following steps will help you create maps your teams can use, but if one of these stages doesn’t fit — or doesn’t fit right now — you can skip or return to it later.
Determine the goal for your journey mapping process and choose a map that best fits that goal. Do you want to know what your current customers experience? Do you want to plan a future service? Do you want a sense of the customer’s life?
Note: If this is your first mapping exercise, a current state map may be the best place to start. It gives you experience with making a map, and is based on information you can get right now.
Gather key stakeholders
Customer journey maps represent a holistic view of your customers’ interactions with your company, so it’s important to gather stakeholders from any teams that power those interactions. This may include teams that don’t directly interact with customers, as the customer journey map covers all channels and all stages of the customer lifecycle. Gathering stakeholders early can help you clear roadblocks and get time with the right people to answer your questions.
Research your customers
Pulling customer data from internal systems (like a data warehouse or CRM tool) is crucial to journey mapping, but you also need customer research to help create and refine your map. This data may include feedback questionnaires asking why customers picked your product over others and user testing data. This information can help you identify customer pain points and define customer personas.
Remember that journey maps for business-to-business (B2B) companies will differ from maps for business-to-customer (B2C) brands.
Develop customer personas
Customer personas will help you create more specific maps. To start, develop one to three customer personas that capture most of your existing customers. Then, look at your data for ways to tailor the customer maps to those personas. Ask these questions:
- What emotions are they feeling? (needs they are trying to meet or problems they are concerned about)
- What questions do they have? (about your product or about how to begin your service)
- Which touchpoints are they going to use or skip? (such as social media or an email newsletter)
Part of the customer journey is about problem-solving, which means part of the mapping process is understanding what problems need to be solved. Using target customer personas lets you narrow the scope of those problems.
Remember that a B2B organization may have customer personas that include the decision-makers at the target company, rather than an individual consumer as in a B2C company.
With all the data in hand, it’s time to start listing any touchpoints where customers interact with your brand. This includes your company website, email marketing, customer service emails, app push notifications, paid ads, storefronts, social channels, and many others.
This step is closer to a brainstorming exercise. Start with the common touchpoints identified by Google Analytics or other tools, and then move out to more uncommon examples, like in-store returns. You may also start to notice trends during this process, such as some customer types having a lot more touchpoints than others.
Create the map (use a template)
First define the scope of the map you are using by identifying the beginning and end of your customer journey. Then, using the list of touchpoints, the customer personas, and your analytics data, start putting the maps together with these steps:
- Choose one persona.
- List the first interactions those types of customers have with your brand.
- Determine their next most likely interaction, and add that to the map.
- Repeat, following that persona through all of their actions and touchpoints from your list. Make note of which touchpoints from your list do and don’t get used, as that can help you identify areas where your organization is wasting effort.
- Repeat for any other personas you have.
Customer journey map templates can help streamline this process. You can always begin with an existing template and expand it later to meet your needs, rather than trying to start from scratch.
Establish resources and ownership
You can now use the maps to identify the resources available to your customers and your teams and determine ownership of those resources. A comprehensive list should include the tools that your teams can use to interact with customers, customer service documentation, email newsletters, knowledgebase articles, and data repositories.
The team or individual owners of those resources will be the teams responsible for using and maintaining them. Identifying that ownership gives your teams a clearer division of responsibilities, and allows you to keep those resources up-to-date better. Keeping this information on the customer journey maps can help you set priorities and goals for those resources.
Take a test drive
In addition to verifying whether your map is accurate, walking through the customer journey map yourself helps you test assumptions, such as whether your website is easy to navigate. You can do this at any point of the process, but having a fully built map allows you to experiment with different touchpoints and experiences.
List gaps and recommendations
Throughout the mapping process, you may notice trends or patterns in the customer experience. Use the customer journey map to explore those trends and identify gaps. For example, a trend may show more customer escalations after a hand-off from the sales team to a customer support team. The map may show that the customer has to repeat themselves because the teams are using different tools that don’t interact.
After identifying gaps, you can suggest changes to your processes, such as finding a way to make the sales and customer support tools share information, or getting a tool that works for both teams.
Update the map regularly
As your business evolves, your maps should keep up. Periodically revisit the data that you used to create your maps to make sure that they reflect the latest trends. When you do, revisit the maps and make sure that all touchpoint, resource, and ownership information they include is still accurate. Try taking the customer journey again after updating the maps, to see if the experience has changed significantly.
Remember that these maps are not set in stone. You can update them at any point that the information seems outdated or irrelevant. However, setting a regular cadence to test and verify your maps ensures it gets done.
What data points do I need to build a customer journey map?
During the customer journey map process outlined above, you’ll need data including:
- Customer survey data
- Net Promoter Scores (NPS)
- Customer feedback
- Website usage statistics
- Data from your modern data stack
- Focus group data (if applicable)
- Customer personas (existing or created during the process)
Some of this data is considered solicited data, meaning you had to ask your customers to provide it. Unsolicited data includes information they are not directly telling you, but that you gather from chat transcripts, social media interactions, frontline employee contact, or other operational sources. Both types of customer-centric data will provide useful insights into the customer experience.
Do I need a customer journey map tool?
There are multiple customer journey mapping tools that you can consider to help you streamline the process, such as LucidChart, Totango, and Smaply. You could also use any tool for making visual flowcharts, such as Figma, Microsoft Visio, or Miro. However, these tools are not required, and you can instead use a template to help guide your customer journey mapping process.
A hands-on demo is one of the best ways to determine which of those tools is best for you. If you find it easier to use one tool over another, or in place of a template, then that tool may be worth investing in.
Customer journey mapping templates
We've created four customer journey map templates you can download and use for free. The templates include:
- Current state customer journey map template
- Future state customer journey map template
- Day-in-the-life customer journey map template
- Service blueprint customer journey map tempalte