Customer journey mapping: How does it work?

Harvard Business Review defines a customer journey map as “A diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it is a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination.” In other words, a customer journey is a visualization of the series of interactions a person has with a company while attempting to accomplish a goal over time and across channels.

Common elements of a customer journey map

The actor. The actor is the persona experiencing the journey. To find the “actor,” you must identify distinct customer groups who interact with your website. You likely have various personas visiting your website, so start with high-influence customer types who either love the system (loyal customers) or hate the system (frustrated customers).

Examining the two extremes will give you the most encompassing understanding. Consider this: how do a 9-year-old and a 90-year-old understand and use the site? When identifying the actor, consider these questions:

  • Why were they looking for the product that they bought on your website?
  • How did they research the product?
  • What criteria helped them make their purchase decision?
  • Which of your competitors’ sites did they visit while evaluating products?
  • Why did they choose your website?
  • What was their experience like on your website when buying the product, and what can be improved?

Scenario and expectations. The scenario corresponds to the specific journey that is being mapped and the expectations are what people anticipate will occur throughout the journey. Scenario and expectations help focus the journey map on a particular set of interactions; for instance, John wants to switch to a cell phone plan that saves him money and has higher usage limits. To do so, he’ll compare plans on the internet and possibly browse for discounts or call customer care to understand various plan options.

The level of detail needed in the scenario depends on what you’re trying to accomplish; your goal is to define a scenario based solely on the customer’s perspective. To do this, the scenario that you select should influence long-term relationships, represent a moment of truth (make-or-break situation) for a customer, and have an impact on your ROI.

Try to define the stages through the customer’s point of view – not your business’ – then define customer goals for each stage. When building this, use parallel, action-oriented words like discover, learn, try, define, negotiate, and stay away from words like sell, maintain, share.

Actions, mindsets and emotions depict the behavior, thoughts and feelings the actor has throughout the journey. These help to visualize the pain points and high points the customer experiences. Graphical emotions or emojis are okay to use but can be difficult to read – don’t use changing colors to convey information as these can be difficult to comprehend.

Insights into an organization. This is a way to measure and understand opportunities to extend or enhance the customer experience, and internal weaknesses or new opportunities within the business model. This section takes on the perspective of the business rather than the customer to understand “moments of truth” or interactions that may potentially be turning points in the customer’s perception of the company.

What are the characteristics of a good journey map?

A good journey map is…

  • Focused on clear communication rather than flashy visuals
  • Makes recommendations, delegates ownership, and provides metrics
  • Follows a singular persona
  • Uses graphics and illustrations when possible
    • Graphics should increase comprehension, not add confusion, and should make good use of available space rather than cluttering
  • Include general divided areas, otherwise known as swim lanes, which identify which channel (website, phone, physical interaction) the customer journey takes place in

For more details about customer journey mapping, reach out to Vinay Sharma, Director of eCommerce at Pierce Washington. Stay tuned for our next blog, Customer journey mapping: The benefits and challenges.




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