Visualization of a journey mapping workshop

How to create a customer journey map? (CJM tutorial part 3)

January 20, 2021

In this article we explain how you can map a customer journey. We created a step by step explanation on how to create a customer journey map that you can use as an instruction.

The structure of this article follows the steps of the general journey mapping process that a team needs to go through step-by-step:

Introduction and video summary

Introduction and video summary

Visualizing a complex thing like an end to end customer experience is challenging. Many people might feel lost when they want to start mapping the customer experience and need to make a decision on how to illustrate important moments of the customer journey.

Journey map template with post-its that have drawings or text on them
Starting out with a pen and paper workshop gives you and your peers a feeling for the methodology. Including customers can also be a great way of getting insights.

However: it’s much easier than you’d expect if you know how to get started.

As a first step it is always good to start with a pen and paper workshop to define your journey map. If you can, include your customers or multiple departments in these workshops. If you like, we have workshop templates for journey maps, personas and stakeholder maps on our website that you can download for free.

Tip for starters: After working with pen and paper, the results of such an offline workshop are forgotten or neglected way too often – for the simple reason that it is too difficult to visualize them and no changes can be made afterwards. With Smaply Capture you can now convert your offline notes, edit them and add them to your digital customer journey map. This way teams can collaborate in a digital environment and have presentable exports within a few minutes.

Have you ever wondered what information you can and should use to create a comprehensive journey map? This video summarizes the most important steps and relevant examples for creating a customer journey map.

If you want to dive deeper into the topic continue with reading the rest of the article.

Step 1: Choose a scope for your journey map

Journey maps can have various scales and scopes. High-level journey maps provide an overview of an end to end experience and can be used to plan your research, to manage multiple projects and teams or to align and orchestrate different detailed journeys. 

A more detailed map focuses on one step of a higher level journey. If your goal is to work on a specific idea or a challenge, it can be useful to concentrate on a key part that tells you a lot about the needs of the customer and how your idea connects with them. 

So as a first step you have to decide how far you want to zoom in or out of the experience you are illustrating.

Tip for starters: Frequently people are insecure about how detailed a journey map should be. E.g. how many steps it should include, or if they should rather start on a high level or a more zoom-in level. We suggest starting with a high level journey map to get an overview of the entire journey. Afterwards you can create zoom-in journey maps for single steps, i.e., create a detailed journey map for single steps. For example: What happens in the step ‘xy’? How does the persona actually get there?

Step 2: Choose a persona

In the second step you have to choose a persona for your journey. A journey map always focuses on the experience of one main actor such as a group of customers or employees. 

Some journey maps also combine various perspectives into one map, for example comparing different customer groups or comparing customer experiences with those of employees at the same moment of the service.

person holding a persona template with text and a sketch on it
Take your time to choose and define a good persona that you want to understand. The persona has a strong influence on the overall outcome.

At any rate, to get started, choose a persona that you want to understand. Even though personas are fictional, they help make groups of people with similar behavior patterns or needs more understandable. Start by clearly defining who your persona is, what her expectations, needs and goals are. That might strongly influence how to interpret the journey maps that you are creating.

Link to basics of personas article: You will learn what personas are, why you need them, how to research, define and create them and some templates and a cheat sheet.
If you need help with that, check out our article about personas and what you have to consider when you create them.

Step 3: Define the steps of your journey map

Now you have to define your customer’s journey. Every journey map consists of various steps. A step is any experience the main actor or persona has. Such as the interaction with another person, a machine or a digital interface. But steps can also be activities such as walking or waiting. The level of detail of each step depends on the overall scale of the journey map that you defined above.

horizontally ordered text fields to visualize a customer journey

This illustration shows the five steps Tess undergoes in order to get to her favorite café. The five steps can be categorized into two stages: ‘Getting to Café Bean’ and ‘Experience at Café Bean’.

In a journey map, each step is written in one horizontal row. Various steps can form one stage so that you can group them into different phases, for example the purchase phase or the post-service phase.

Tip for starters: In order to get started with steps, decide what the crucial part of the experience is and then ask yourself what happens before this and what happens after. This will help you get going in building out each step. Avoid creating journey maps consisting of too many steps – it’s very likely to lose the focus then. For the beginning, aim to not exceed 20 steps per journey.

Step 4: Add different details to your map

A Storyboard for better understanding

Storyboards visually represent the sequence of steps through icons, photos of real-life situations or enacted situations, screenshots of interfaces, or just quick scribbles visualizing specific situations.

Visuals for each step help not only to understand the context of each situation, but also give a comprehensive overview of the whole journey and quicker navigation.

Often, the steps of a journey map and a quick storyboard is all you need to create a journey map that is comprehensive and engaging.

Texts & Descriptions offer room for more details

Additional information allows you to describe the persona’s experience even further. You can also use them to add many other types of information. 

For example: rename them and use them for pain points, needs, jobs to be done, KPIs, thinking and feeling, ideas, improvements, key learnings, opportunities, etc.

Channels of communication show the way of interaction

A channel lane gives you a comprehensive overview particularly for high-level journey maps. Specifying the channel (e.g., face-to-face, telephone, online, etc.) a customer uses at each step helps us understand cross-channel experiences and potential gaps regarding cross-channel experiences.

By looking at both online and offline channels, you make sure to include all aspects of your customer’s experience, who also perceives your company as one entity and does not differentiate between different channels.

Moreover, a list of alternative channels allows you to compare experiences between different channels.

For example: it could be a very different experience to purchase a ticket online, on a website or with a smart device, depending on how well the platform is set.

Emotional values give insights about the persona’s satisfaction

An emotional journey reveals obvious gaps within a customer experience, but also possible workarounds by both customers and employees. Emotional journeys are graphs representing a persona’s level of satisfaction at each step.

You can use a simple 5-point scale from very negative (-2) to indifferent (0) to very positive (+2).

For example: a standard customer service might be indifferent, a super kind customer service might be perceived as very positive and result in high satisfaction.

A dramatic arc to show the persona’s engagement 

A dramatic arc is a graph showing the level of a persona’s engagement, arousal or importance at each step on a 5-point scale from very low (+1) to very high (+5). There are moments of “thrill” (i.e. high engagement) and moments of chill (i.e. low engagement) – and both can be positive or negative.

Dramatic arcs help you to reflect on the pace and rhythm of an experience. They can be used to analyze an existing experience as well as to plan a future concept along a desired dramatic arc.

For example: a low dramatic arc when purchasing a few standard pencils might be good, a low dramatic arc when sitting on a rollercoaster not.

Grey squares visualizing steps of a customer journey and emoticons as a graph visualizing the emotional journey
Add various visualizations (text, images…) to make your map easily comprehensible for everyone


Step 5: Analyze your journey map

Now that you have created a full journey map, it is time for you to gain some insights and opportunities out of the data. By analyzing your customer journey you can better understand the customer experience and derive measures to improve it. 

Of course, every journey map looks different, depending on its scope, its context and the persona experiencing it. Nevertheless, there are certain elements you can take into consideration when you want to analyze a customer journey map. 

Get an overview

Start with getting a rough overview by looking at the different steps and the emotional journey. It is important not to get lost in details too early, but rather get a holistic understanding for the whole journey your customer is fulfilling and the emotional values connected to each step. 

Can you already identify any peculiarities or abnormalities? Is there anything surprising to you? Try to highlight what steps are especially important in the different stages or phases of the journey map. 

Identify pain points and room for improvement

After getting a good overview you can start with identifying pain points. Use the information you have to narrow down the problems and add potential ideas on how to solve them. 

The following tips might help you to determine the pain points your customer experiences during his journey:

  • Steps with a low value on the emotional journey lane and a high value on the dramatic arc are problematic. They represent situations with a high importance but a negative / unsatisfying experience. These are situations you should try to improve.
  • You can also analyze waiting periods for your customer. Check for empty steps on the customer journey whilst having many steps on the backstage lane and make sure you illustrated all of them. Is every step necessary? How can you improve the waiting period for your customers?
  • Take a closer look at the different channels in your customer journey map. Is there a pattern recognizable that bad experiences always happen in combination with a specific channel? E.g. when something happens via telephone? 

Analyze the reasons of bad experiences

Once you have identified problems and pain points in your customer journey, you can start digging deeper and analyzing the reasons for these experiences. To do this, you should always keep in mind to analyze the map with the persona fulfilling the journey. Different personas have different needs and might therefore have a different perception of certain situations. The following tips can help you to analyze the ‘reasons why’:

  • Compare different personas and try to understand why their experiences differ. E.g. if they have different emotional values for the same step in the customer journey map, what could be the reason for that? How do the personas differ?
  • Analyze the backstage actions by looking at the stakeholders involved that could influence the experiences. How do you need to interact with these stakeholders in order to improve these experiences? How can you sharpen the flow of information between different stakeholders?
  • Analyze your channels: How many channels do you offer your customers and do they allow for personal connection? Do the channels fit the needs and demands of the persona?

Of course, how you can analyze your customer journey map always depends on what details you have added to your map. Sometimes it also helps to add an empathy map to visualize what your customers think, see, do and feel. You can use this information to empathize with your customers and refine your understanding of the journey map. 

→ Now it’s up to you! Create your own journey map online with our customer journey mapping tool!

→ If you want to continue learning about customer journey maps, we invite you to check out the next and last chapter of this tutorial. In the fourth chapter we will provide you with exemplary journey maps from different industries and contexts.

Link to Chapter 4: CJM Examples. You will get exemplary journey maps from different industries such as tourism, marketing or healthcare.

This article is the third chapter of a whole tutorial about customer journey mapping. The CJM tutorial is structured in different chapters, where we provide you with the most important information about journey maps and how to work with them. Check out the other chapters as well:

CJM Basics: What is customer journey mapping?
CJM Purpose: Why is customer journey mapping important?
CJM How-to: How to create a customer journey map?
CJM examples: Helpful examples from various industries.