Customer Journey

How to Create an Effective Customer Journey Map from Scratch

November 25, 2021
12:00 am

Creating a customer journey map can be a game-changer for your customer experience strategy. This is because online and offline buying has become increasingly complex

Think of the last time you purchased an item. Chances are you didn’t buy the first product you laid eyes on – you probably spent some time researching and interacting with companies, perhaps even on multiple devices.

And this is the way most consumers behave nowadays, for almost every product or service. According to a study led by Google, if we count all the possible research and interactions before and after a purchase, touchpoints may be anything from 20 (for candy) to 500 (for flights).

Screenshot from Think with Google
Screenshot from Think with Google

That’s why if you want to use an omnichannel approach effectively, and deliver excellent customer experience across all those touchpoints, you need to understand and map the customer journey.

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of the customer journey — a view of all the interactions, touchpoints, and experiences that customers have with your brand up until purchase – and beyond.

Benefits of customer journey mapping

Companies that have built a customer journey map see a staggering 81 percent increase in customer satisfaction, based on a 2018 report. Other benefits include reduction in churn and complaints, and increase in Net Promoter Score.

Each one of the customer journey stages is an opportunity for you to stand out from your competitors by providing the right service at the right time. For example, if you know many customers check out your website before they make purchases, you’ll encourage them to buy from you if your site is easy to navigate with attractive UX.


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6 steps to create a customer journey map

Each person will go through different steps in a different order. But, you don’t have to get every single detail correct. Focus on understanding the general pain points and feelings.

Here are six steps to do just that:

1. Get buy-in from stakeholders

Sync with other leaders in your company. For eighteen percent of companies, customer journey mapping is led by multiple stakeholders. And, when multiple stakeholders are involved, 92 percent of companies report positive or extremely positive impact of mapping. This means, the help of others might make your life easier and it’ll have a positive impact on your customer service goals.

So, make sure you collaborate with other departments. For example, you may need to talk about data: a CS leader might need the marketing department's help in understanding customer behavior on social media.

Also, getting buy-in from the very top is critical. The CEO, and generally the C-suite, may have deep insight into the customers. And, if they support the process, you can more easily get the resources you need to complete it (e.g. buying visualization software).

2. Buy stuff

Literally. Try buying one of your company’s products or services as if you were a consumer who’s only slightly familiar with your brand. Research online, click on ads, use the website product search, add products to your cart. Do this from mobile, desktop, and tablet. 

While going through this exercise, note down the steps and touchpoints. Where did you go first and what did you do? Where would you go next if you were an actual customer? Here's a list with common touchpoints:

  • Social media
  • Website
  • Paid ads
  • Content on the blog
  • Physical shop

Also, note important points: what are the journey milestones? Which part of the process feels like a hassle? What’s missing that would make a customer’s journey easier?

3. Interview customers

If you want to get into customers’ minds, just ask them. About half of companies that map customer journeys use customer feedback solutions.

For example, you could prepare a short survey and offer a coupon or a small discount to those who complete it. You can use Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, or other survey tools. Questions could include:

  • Where did you hear about our company?
  • Please recall your first purchase with our company. How did you find the right product for you and what made you decide to buy it?
  • What's the most frustrating experience you had while on our website?
  • How have you interacted with our company via social media?
  • Have you ever contacted our customer support? If so, what feedback can you give us?

Another (often better) way is to conduct customer interviews or collect their feedback directly. Your customer support team is invaluable here since they have access to customers on a regular basis. Invite frequent buyers and ask them to recall and describe the steps they took to buy your products.

4. Take advantage of data

Customer data is the most reliable way to inform your customer journey map. Check out your CRM or analytics tools to discover touchpoints and patterns.

Of course, make sure the data itself is reliable and complete. According to Treasure Data, 54 percent of companies say their biggest obstacle to leveraging data is “fragmented or siloed data.” If different systems hold data from different customer interactions, then it’s nearly impossible to have an accurate view of the customer journey.

Screenshot from Arm Treasure Data 2019 survey
Screenshot from Arm Treasure Data 2019 survey

To get rid of data silos, try customer service software which offers a unified customer view (UCV). With a UCV, you can keep data from your interactions with customers, and their behaviors, demographics and information, in a single, easily accessible place. This way, you can map the customer journey more accurately – in fact, much of what you need is already displayed in the UCV.

single customer view can help with the customer journey map
Example of Single Customer View

5. Craft personas

This is a vital part of any customer experience strategy. You can create the customer journey map without paying attention to personas. But, if you do follow the persona road, you’ll have a greater opportunity to truly get into your customers’ minds and understand their wants and needs.

Based on the information you have collected,  build personas of the types of customers usually interested in your business. These are the so-called “marketing” or “buyer personas” which are based on the purchasing habits, demographics, values, and goals of your customers.

UX Persona Example
Example Persona from Ctrl Metrics

For example, if you sell design software, your personas may be graphic designers, project managers, creative directors, architects, etc. Make the personas as detailed as possible based on the information you have. Then, you can build a customer journey map for each of the main personas you’re interested in.

6. Flesh out the journey

In order to map the customer journey, use a generic template as the backbone of the customer experience. This usually revolves around the following stages (which can be even more granular depending on a business’s needs):

Steps that help visualize the customer journey map

This is just an example; you can choose a different system, like separating the consideration and research stages, merging decision and purchase, or adding stages like onboarding, after-sales customer relationship, online advocacy, and so on.

By using the information you’ve collected, start listing actions each persona might take. For example, according to research, 82 percent of smartphone users consult their phones on purchases they are about to make in-store. That means people on the consideration or research stages might start on mobile and end up at a physical store to purchase. 

While you’re drawing the customer journey map, consider also the customers’ possible:

  1. Touchpoints. Where would they go from here?
  2. Feelings. What delights or frustrates them?
  3. Painpoints. What would they want improved?

Go into as much detail as you like. You know best how much information you need to visualize.

Customer journey map template

By following the steps above, you’ll build a customer journey map. Wondering what that looks like? Here’s a basic customer journey map example for one of the personas purchasing a laptop for business use:

A customer journey map example for a persona

When adding in visits to physical locations, switching from mobile to desktop, thoughts, and motivations of the customer, and so on, the customer journey can become very complicated. This diagram may be complex, but each point should be well-thought-out and easy to decipher.

For each pain point, find possible solutions and formulate a strategy to implement them.

Customer journey mapping tools

Creating the customer journey map takes time, so a dedicated visualization tool can make it faster. For example, you could evaluate tools like:

  • Lucidchart
  • Microsoft Visio
  • Milkymap
  • Smaply
  • UXPressia

On to your (customer) journey

Mapping the customer journey takes time and effort. But, if anything is worthwhile, it is understanding your customers and what they want. Only then can you offer service that stands out and turn your customers into enthusiastic advocates of your brand.


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