What is a customer journey map?
A customer journey map is not just another deliverable you attach to a project and then forget about.At Smaply, we think a journey map can become the central hub for customer experience insights – visualizing the customer journey holistically, end-to-end. Read on if you’d like to find out what customers experience when they use your service or purchase your product (or, when they fail to do so). We'll show you how to help your customers navigate your service, no matter how complex it is.
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What is a customer journey map?
A customer journey map (CJM) is a diagram that visually represents a sequence of steps a person or a group takes when interacting with your company, product, or service. The goal is to understand what they experience along the way to ensure a consistent and seamless experience at all touchpoints and across all channels.
In other words, a journey map is like a movie: It tells the story of a protagonist in a sequence of scenes. It can illustrate the experiences of different people, such as:
- User experience of a website or an app
- Employee experience during the recruitment process
- Journey of a patient admitted to a hospital
- Customer experience in different sectors, like banking, tourism, education, etc.
Watch our 4-minute video explainer on journey mapping and its importance for different industries.
What is the importance of customer journey mapping?
Customer journey mapping is important to ensure that you don’t miss an opportunity to interact with customers at any stage. This process also helps you understand the customers’ perspective, find customer experience gaps, communicate them across the organization, and explore potential solutions to optimize and personalize customer experience.
Here’s an example—
Let’s imagine a company is struggling with retaining customers, which is crucial for the company’s growth.
Mapping out the SaaS customers' journeys could help the company identify the small and big moments that influence customers’ decisions and get to the bottom of the problem. For instance, customers may churn because of poor onboarding, bad user interface or low-quality support.
In any case, user journey mapping can help identify and address those issues.
There are several possible reasons to start mapping your customers’ experience:
- Improve the status quo
- Recognize customer pain points and key moments
- Address low customer satisfaction scores or other KPIs
- Shift focus from processes to customer
Is journey mapping really worth it?
- Companies with a customer experience mindset drive revenue 4-8% higher than the rest of their industries.
- 81% of companies view customer experience as a competitive differentiator.
- 96% of customers say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand.
- Brands with superior customer experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than competitors that lag in customer experience.
- Companies with initiatives to improve their customer experience see employee engagement increase by 20% on average.
Check out a larger collection of CX statistics on Forbes.
Journey mapping doesn’t only matter from the revenue perspective for business or ecommerce – it is relevant in various niches, like healthcare or civil service. At Smaply, we believe service design can change not just people’s experiences, but also their everyday lives and our society as a whole.
Tip for beginners: Don’t just create your user journey map and forget about it afterwards. Customer expectations change overtime and it’s vital to update your map on a regular basis. It’s best practice to keep your journey map in a digital format so teams can easily access and update it.
What are the elements of journey maps?
Customer or user journey maps vary depending on their goal, context, detail, etc. They can cover omnichannel journeys or focus on a single step. Regardless of their size or design, good journey maps are made up of similar components.
A simple customer journey map consist of:
- Persona (the main protagonist, e.g. the customer)
- Steps (or touchpoints)
Lanes are optional elements that enhance the journey map. They offer room for extra information about backend and frontend activities. Some of the most common lanes are:
- Storyboards with images
- Texts and descriptions
- Channel overviews
- Emotional values
- Dramatic arcs
Here’s an example of what a journey map can look like—
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Now, let’s unwrap each component of the journey map.
A journey map is incomplete without specifying a persona that represents the behavioral traits and needs of your average customer. Developing a persona ensures you put your customer’s perspective at the center and create empathy for your customer. Smaply's co-founder Marc Stickdorn’s advice is to use core personas during the journey map design process but to test it with extreme cases.
You can use a free persona generator and connect it to your organization’s user journey map.
Learn more about embedding personas in organizations from Marc Stickdorn. The session is also available on Spotify, iTunes and Google Podcasts.
Stages divide the customer journey timeline and help structure it. For example, a simple journey map can consist of three stages: pre-service, service, and post-service. A more complex map can include further detailed stages, such as gathering information, buying, setting up, using, support, etc.
Here are some examples of customer journey map stages in different industries:
- Travel: research, booking, arrival, stay, return
- Restaurant: arrival, ordering, meal, payment, leaving
- Online shopping: research, evaluation, ordering, delivery, returns
- Airport: pre-boarding, boarding, flight, exit
3. Steps (titles)
Steps in a journey map represent activities, touchpoints or micro-interactions that a customer has along their journey to reach a goal (e.g. a purchase). When you create a customer journey map, give each step a short title to sum up your persona’s experience and activity.
We usually differentiate between steps and touchpoints:
A step describes every experience a customer has along the journey. Steps can include customers doing research, experiencing waiting time or getting to the store by bus. So you can’t always influence every step that your customer experiences.
Touchpoints, on the other hand, are direct or indirect interactions between the customer and the company that reinforce or compromise their trust, e.g. a customer reading your ad, contacting customer service or using your product.
You can’t directly influence every step; but you can influence every touchpoint.
Hence, every touchpoint is a step, but not every step is a touchpoint. So don’t forget to add both types of interactions to your journey map.
When you define the basic framework for your customer journey map with stages and sequences of steps, you can enhance it with extra lanes, such as storyboard. A user journey map storyboard is a row of photos or images below each step that illustrates what is happening.
You can use real photos or screenshots of the software interface—anything that represents that moment in time. Storyboarding is a simple technique for building visual journey maps. It lets you explore details in each scene and see what the journey is like for the persona differently.
5. Text lanes
You can also elaborate on each step of your CJM with text descriptions. Text lanes can describe the persona’s pain points or include verbatim customer quotes to articulate what they are experiencing.
If needed, you can add additional lanes for customer needs, wishes, your own ideas, KPIs, etc.
6. Channel overview
Your customers interact with your company via different channels. Adding channel lanes toyour customer journey map shows how customers interact with your brand or product. It is useful for high-level maps to fill in gaps in cross-channel experiences.
7. Emotional values
The emotional journey is the core of your map. So don’t forget to add emotional values to your customer’s experiences in order to quickly identify the persona’s level of satisfaction at every step. It can be as simple as a 5-point scale in which 5 means “very satisfied” and 1 means “unsatisfied”.
8. Dramatic arc
The dramatic arc is a graph that shows a persona’s engagement or the importance of a particular step. They are used to analyze the existing experience as well as map out a future concept or a desired engagement.
The choice of lanes you use in your map depends on the type of journey map you create and the scope of your project.
How to optimize customer journey maps?
Customer journey maps make customer experiences visible and facilitate a common and empathic understanding between all team members. To optimize them, include intangible experiences and interactions beyond the reach of an organization.
Marc Stickdorn says it’s best to mix qualitative and quantitative approaches when designing journey maps. For example, you can use snippets of videos where you can see customers failing to use your product or service and mix them with statistics proving or showing why this happens.
Now, with the increasing presence of journey mapping technology, the latter has become more accessible to companies. There isn’t any software that can solve everything and it can’t replace pen and paper journey mapping workshops, but it makes sense to use it to solve specific problems companies struggle with.
To ensure better customer experience, many companies decide to implement customer journey mapping. As a result, customer journeys have become increasingly complex.
- A customer journey map visually represents customer journeys and tells the story of customers' experiences with your brand across different channels and touchpoints.
- Before you start journey mapping, think of a persona to focus on.
- Journey maps typically consist of elements such as stages, steps, and extra lanes that divide the timeline and describe various interactions the persona has with your brand.
- Customer journey maps are important if you'd like to address low customer satisfaction scores because they shift the focus from processes to customers.
Feeling ready to get your hands dirty?
Start creating your own journey maps with Smaply! This tool will guide you through the process of journey map creation. Besides that, you can also create personas and stakeholder maps to back up your work.
It's free, forever.