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Journey maps: all you need to know

February 9, 2022

What really matters for customers when they use a service or purchase something? Well, you may have heard about journey maps and how they are powerful tools for organizations to answer that question appropriately. It's for this reason that you're here, isn't it?

In this article you'll learn:

Introduction

The relevance of customer experience has made it clear that, nowadays, 80% of customers consider their experience with a company to be as fundamental as its products.

In reality, it doesn't matter if we are talking about customers, citizens, patients, employees, or any other person's experience. It might be challenging to put yourself in someone else's shoes. However, journey mapping can facilitate this process and, in doing so, help us improve these experiences.

For example, think about a typical e-commerce context: why do customers go all the way along a purchase process and simply leave their cart page without finishing their shopping journey?

Or in another industry, why is it so common for the (potential and existing) customers of a health insurance company not to acquire any policy or product despite long calls with the sales team?

Regardless of whether you are in a B2B, B2C or non-profit company, a journey map is all about the commitment to enhancing people’s experience. As long as a company comprehends customer expectations, it’s more likely to meet their needs.

Ready for more? This is only the tip of the iceberg, and throughout this article, you will see the benefits of journey mapping, how to create a journey map and its best practices, examples, free templates and much more.

So keep an eye out for what is coming!

What is a customer journey?

The customer journey is defined as the sum of steps that a customer takes to complete a task.

Even though we call it customers here, the term can also be replaced with other roles, like patient experience or citizen experience.

This mainly shows the accumulated steps made by a customer when interacting with a service or digital/physical product. Therefore, understanding your buyer’s journey is crucial for designing a service or product journey, identifying neglected issues and increasing customer satisfaction.

And how can we visualize a customer journey?

This is where journey map tools come into play: these allow us to picture the experience of a primary actor, mostly characterized as a persona. A journey map helps to identify touchpoints, emotions and interactions that the persona experiences and is relevant to their goal, such as a purchase.

Create a visually appealing journey map with these tips, or check out our guide about personas if you want to learn how to represent personas realistically.

What is journey mapping?

Journey mapping is the process of creating the journey map of a customer or any other main actor. It allows visualization of this person’s interactions with a business/organization.

Thus, it helps to describe service or product interactions from a user perspective, step by step.

Journey maps help businesses understand the customer’s perspective. They put humans at the center of the design / innovation / implementation process, which makes them strong tools for a human-centered approach.

In practice, a buyer journey or user journey is a visual representation that evidences all touchpoints across their journey, including interactions with channels of communication (social media, live chat, emails, etc.). It helps teams out with a cohesive system for CX management, thus allowing them to grasp the big picture in terms of the service they provide.

Nowadays, journey mapping is more and more involved as an ongoing management process, used to orchestrate improvements in customer satisfaction and its operationalization.

The purpose of a journey map is to ensure every customer (or any other actor) is going through your service journey over the path that you have prepared for them and thus has a seamless experience. Furthermore it also helps to align the contribution of stakeholders that help to make the journey happen.

What are the journey map components?

How a journey map looks will depend on your project; however, usually, it is based on one or more personas and covers:

  1. Customer’s steps towards their goal;
  2. All touchpoints which are also known as the place where customer interactions occur;
  3. Actions, feelings and thinking are grounded by research, including observations at each journey stage.

If you are not sure about the difference between steps and touchpoints, don’t worry. Steps are experiences the main actor of your map has, while touchpoints are key interactions that can reinforce or compromise their trust. We’ll cover more about it in the topic “how to create a journey map”.

Besides these elements, according to your scope, journey maps can be enhanced by a variety of optional lanes such as frontend and backend activities, dramatic arcs, conversion funnel, metrics, and so on.

Benefits of journey mapping

In a nutshell, here are 5 key benefits of mapping a customer journey that truly brings value:

  • Make intangible experiences visible;
  • Find gaps in experiences;
  • Facilitate a common understanding between team members;
  • Allow different teams to work together efficiently and creatively;
  • Build the bridge between customer needs and service with new solutions.

Moreover, we have some data about ROI from research that compares companies with a journey mapping program vs those without. The top 3 benefits are:

  1. Improvement in customer service costs of +23%
  2. Improvement in the average sales cycle of +16%
  3. Improvement of employee engagement of +14%

What are you waiting to dive into your buyer’s journey as well?

How to create a customer journey map or any journey experience

According to Aberdeen Group’s research, 2/3 participants rated their journey mapping as unsuccessful, and to prevent you from making such common mistakes, let’s check out this guide with seven steps for creating a practical journey map that really works, by the authors of the bestseller “This is Service Design Doing” who have been in the service design field for over 10 years.

The 7 Steps of Customer Journey Mapping

1. Define scale and scope

Will your journey map show an end-to-end experience from the high-level perspective, such as someone creating a trip wishlist until their return home sharing fantastic holiday photos on social media, or is it a zoom-in on a stage of this trip, such as check-in time at the airport?

Whatever your intention, having the scope defined is relevant to the journey map’s development. Then think about how far you will go to zoom in or out of the experience you are about to dive in.

Also be aware of the duration time of the experience; it might impact how detailed the journey is.

A quick and relevant tip: don’t forget to decide who should join the co-creation process.

2. Prepare data

Thanks to journey mapping software, it is fully possible to create a journey map iteratively and remotely. Regardless of online or offline preference, your research data should be present, and data collection helps you get a quick overview of it.

To increase the reliability of journey maps, they should be research-based and include actual data such as website/app analytics, interviews, surveys, observational research, etc.

A bit further down this process, you’ll have a close look at your research, how it fits the customer stages and if there are gaps in your data. Then, if necessary, keep doing some more research.

3. Choose a persona

Before starting to fill up the steps of your journey map, it is time for the following question: who is the main actor, aka persona, who experiences the journey?

According to Patrick Faller, a writer and award-winning journalist at Adobe:

“User personas are archetypical users whose goals and characteristics represent the needs of a larger group of users. Usually, a persona is presented in a one or two-page document (like the one you can see in the example below). Such 1–2-page descriptions include behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and background information, as well as the environment in which a persona operates.”

However, it is not as rigid as it looks!

Did you know that you can start without a specific persona?

In this case, cluster your data through a journey map, and you might detect different experience patterns shown by whoever is your main actor. It can be a useful indicator to help segment your customers and build your personas.

4. Create steps

Once you have set the scope, persona and data, it is time to fill up the stages of that journey with steps.

A step is any experience the persona has, such as interacting with another person, a machine or a digital interface. Moreover, steps also can be activities such as walking or waiting.

During this phase, the level of detail of each step depends on the overall scale that was previously defined.

Adding a storyboard is a fundamental practice that can help better visualize the context of the experience with photos, sketches and other visual elements that contribute to it.

Tip: sometimes, it helps if you start with the most crucial steps and then ask yourself what happens before and after these.

5. Refine

Refine the journey by going through it end-to-end to check if you missed a step or even double-check needs for more/fewer details in certain parts.

You can always break up a step into more steps or condense several steps into one. This helps you to keep all steps of a journey map on the same level – not having a few high-level and a few very detailed moments on it.

Each project might demand a different level of detail, so don’t miss the opportunity to revise if there is a consistent level of detail throughout the journey map entirely.

During this phase, get the benefit of real customers or frontline staff’s feedback and use it to enhance your map.

6. Add lanes

Journey maps can be enhanced by a variety of optional lanes. The lanes mentioned below are a few of these and help to go from insights to actions that meet user and business expectations.

You might ask yourself, “What lane should I use for my case?” Well, fair enough. An accurate answer is all about your needs, depending on the subject matter of the project and what a particular lane can provide.

The core of most customer journey maps is the emotional journey: a graph that visualizes customer satisfaction on a scale from -2 (a very negative experience) to +2 (a very positive experience).

Visualization of an emotional journey.

Depending on the research data and objectives of the journey map, lanes add different details to a map and help visualize distinct aspects of the experience, such as an emotional journey, dramatic arc, stakeholders, channels, backstage processes, “What if?” etc.

Curious to know the purpose and benefits of different lanes? This guide will show you more about how to create a journey map that suits your project needs.

7. Follow-up

Last but certainly not least, journey mapping as an ongoing process will provide common ground to your team members to gather research-based improvements over time and contribute with new insights and opportunities.

A journey map, as an effective tool, may be updated accordingly to new products and services or simply updates at the company. Therefore, embedding journey maps throughout an organization will be the key to the success of this valuable process towards a better customer experience.

Types of customer journey maps and examples

Often, journey maps share a similar framework, although a wide variety may be found.

The following journey map types summarize the four most common ones and when it is worth considering creating them .

Current state maps

Let's go straight to the point, current state maps are based on how the physical/digital product or service presently exists and indicate the steps that the main actor (customer, employee, citizen, etc.) take today to accomplish a task and what the experience is like for them.

Use when: You want to know how people experience your service or product over time, so you can find gaps and identify opportunities for improvement in their journeys.

A current state journey map visualized in Smaply.
A current state journey map visualized in Smaply
(click to expand)

“Day in the life” maps

A “day in the life” map helps you visualize interactions of your persona chronologically during the entire daily life, including their self-care routine, relations, commute, work meetings, etc. - regardless of whether or not the activities are related to your organization.

Use when: looking for the context of your persona? This type of journey map is an excellent way for exploring and getting insights at a higher level. E.g. a 24-hour experience of a family traveling during the holiday.

A journey map visualizing a day in the life of a dylexic child.
Source: Chiara Galiano on Behance

Future state maps

Another journey mapping approach, the future-state journey map is helpful when visualizing the ideal-state journey for an existing product and innovative when considering a not-yet-existent service or product.

It should be feasible and realistically represents what the experience will become. In this case, you may disregard ineffective observed points in the current state which will allow you to rewrite this journey and improve it substantially.

Use when: the key point is to explore customer expectations and create new values and experiences.

https://assets-global.website-files.com/5efcb2de6010ca2c18f0cf59/620396829ce7a853bf966ab0_Future_state_customer_journey_map.png
A future-state journey map visualizing the traveling to a university. Source: Iris Tong Wu; Travel Mate
(click to expand)

Service blueprint maps

Service blueprints can be understood as an extension of journey maps, primarily focusing on the interaction between frontstage and backstage actions, besides support processes.

It illustrates how activities by a customer trigger service processes and vice versa: how internal processes trigger customer activities.

Frontstage refers to people and processes with which the user has direct interaction, and backstage represents people and processes invisible to the user.

Use when: There is a need to comprehend the organization's perspective, including organizational or procedural changes.

Source: Nielsen Norman Group

Journey map best practices

The top three best practices when it comes to creating journey maps are:

  • Back it up with research insights
  • Collaborate with your customers, team and partners
  • Iterate for deeper understanding

Research

In general, research is an essential part of any journey mapping process. Be it conducting customer interviews, looking into website analytics, conducting usability tests – research helps take over the customer perspective and gain a better understanding.

Collaborate

Experiences are complex and so can be the teams and processes that are creating them. To gain a holistic understanding of experiences and background processes, it’s valuable to get other people on board to share their feedback– might it be customers, partners, or team members.

Iterate

Services change, and so do the journey maps. A journey map that is valid today might be outdated in a week after some changes in the product or market. Therefore, journey maps should not be seen as long-lasting deliverables, but as living documents that grow together with the service. Start with an assumption-based draft, back it up with research, gain better understanding, find and fix the most important pain points, then repeat and optimize.

What’s the future of journey mapping?

The customer-centric mindset has come to stay.

Customer journey maps will further become a high-potential tool to help us make services that meet customer wishes and expectations. This relatively young approach is still developing , and so is the UX tool being used.

Here are three journey management trends that we’ve uncovered on the market:

Journey maps become the hub for customer experience insights

In the future, journey maps will act as hubs for all CX data. They will provide the entire organization with condensed knowledge and help to focus on the essential information. Thus, they will play an essential role in preventing us from being overwhelmed by the multitude and complexity of data.

This is not a job that an Excel sheet could complete, so we will need to put dedicated software in place that makes these insights easy to understand, and easily accessible to everyone. Such software will consequently assist micro CX management and help us plan and implement experiences in much more detail.

Journey maps will assist management decisions

We see journey maps being used at all organizational hierarchy levels, including people in diverse roles and of various backgrounds – and increasingly also by top management.

Eventually, journey maps will be artifacts that help with real-time CX management, supporting immediate action based on performance indicators.

Journey maps will bridge qualitative and quantitative insights

Becoming a CX data hub, journey maps will increasingly interweave with CRM solutions ( e.g. for relationship management over NPS) and other customer management tools. Collecting data of different types and from different sources, future journey maps need to find the sweet spot: we can’t only rely on great data feeds, we’ll also need to understand things that can not be measured so easily simply by looking at qualitative data.

Also, we’ll need to push for more value creation by better understanding what’s happening between touchpoints (which is harder to measure). Journey mapping software will be essential when it comes to visualizing and managing these experiences.

Journey map examples

Examples help visualize challenges, that’s why we collected a few customer journey map examples for you to check out:

HR customer journey map

In human resources there are different fields that benefit from journey mapping. Here are two examples: a recruiting journey map and an employee journey map.

Omnichannel customer journey map

Nowadays, almost all experiences are impacted by multiple channels – just like this omnichannel customer journey map in e-commerce shows.

Banking customer journey map

Even traditional services like the banking sector are focusing more and more on customer experience – here’s an example customer journey map from banking.

SaaS journey map

Most of us are dealing with software every day and we know how annoying pitfalls can be from our own experience – such journeys can be improved with journey mapping like, for example on this SaaS journey map.

Free customer journey map templates

Time to get started? A customer journey map template will help you create your first draft.

Pen-and-paper customer journey map templates

We have an available collection to find personas, stakeholders and journey map templates for free

Digital customer journey map templates

Service blueprint

Connect customer interactions with backstage processes in a classic format

Visualization of a service blueprint.



Communication journey

Connect customer interactions with backstage processes in a classic format

Visualization of how a communication journey could look like.


Empathy journey map

Visualize what customers think, say, do, and feel, as well as their pains and gains throughout their journey.


Visualization of how an empathy journey map could look like.

Comparison journey map

Compare the journeys of different personas in one map (customer segments, customers and employees, etc.).

Visualization of how a journey map could look like when comparing experiences is the main goal.

You can download a blank template


… or create your journey map with Smaply!

Customer experience case studies

There’s no service field where journey mapping isn’t relevant – that’s why the variety of projects is huge. Here are a few great case studies from different sectors that show how journey maps helped improve people's experiences in different industries and contexts.

Journey mapping in telecommunications

Case study: How Deutsche Telekom embedded journey mapping into the organization

The company promoted internal CX navigators to take care of shifting the culture. A bunch of willing employees, empowered with new tools and mindsets, supported from the top down, helped infuse the company culture with service design.

Journey mapping in healthcare and social services

Three case studies about journey mapping that resulted in social impact

In this article we showcase some of these great examples where service design tools and approaches are being used to create positive ripples that impact individuals, communities, and even whole countries. It covers three case studies from New Zealand, the Netherlands and Zambia.

Journey mapping in a restaurant

Researching the customer journey in a restaurant.

In this case study, the author investigated customer experience in a restaurant setting and derived recommendations for management.

Journey mapping in public services

Case study: How Chile’s government improved citizen and employee experience.

This case shows how a consultancy agency together with a local governmental institution in Chile worked to understand and improve the customer as well as the employee experience.

By including both the internal and external view, they succeeded in visualizing service gaps within the user journeys and started implementing change within the organization.

For more inspiration, check out our collection with customer experience case studies.

And now, what's next?

Now it's time to get your hands on: Sign up for Smaply and create your own journey maps!

Sign up for Smaply, it's free!