customer journey map

How to Create a Customer Journey Map and Improve CX

Lola BarbierLast updated on January 2, 2024
9 min

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This article is part two of a series on customer journey mapping. The first article looked at the usefulness of the process for your business. This second one explains how to plot a successful customer journey map and how to use it to your business’ and your customers’ advantage.

1. Know where to start

Your customer journey map will be rooted in your customers’ actions, behaviors, challenges, and needs. In order to gain predictive understanding of customers’ actions somewhere down the line, you need to first observe them.

However, it can be tricky to figure out where to begin if you’re starting from scratch. There are several ways to proceed in order to get your strategy off the ground. If you already have sufficient customer data at your disposal, you can already have a concrete understanding of customers’ interaction with your business and product. If not, you can start drawing a map based on your internal perception of your customers’ process.

No matter which option you choose, your draft will be amended, revised, and edited as you learn more about your customers and their journey. That’s completely normal. The important thing to remember is that no two customer journey maps are the same: the goal is to draft one that works for your business and your customers. Therefore, the approach matters less than the map’s impact.

2. Identify the stages

Now that you’re off and running, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. The first step to drawing up a customer journey map is defining its stages. These milestones might look like a variation of the following:

customer journey map

The x-axis of the customer journey map represents the benchmarks the customer successively reaches. This journey begins right before a prospective customer becomes aware of your brand and goes beyond the point of purchase.

Customer retention and the mitigation of customer churn are crucial concerns businesses can’t afford to ignore. That’s why mapping the customer journey takes into account post-purchase engagement, hopefully to the point of advocacy.

For the purposes of illustrating this article, we’ll take the example of an SaaS company providing marketing automation services. Let’s call them For Instance Inc. since they will serve to illustrate the conception of a customer journey map.

3. Identify customer touchpoints

Next, you need the y-axis of your customer journey map. Think of where and how customers and prospects interact with your brand over the course of their journey.

In the case of For Instance Inc., they have a website which they’ve made mobile-friendly, as well as live chat, phone, and email service and sales channels. They also carry out support and marketing over social media, and update their blog with content aiming to both draw in prospective customers and retain existing ones.

customer journey map

So far, the customer journey map is rather lacking in the journey department. That’s the next step.

4. Identify the actors

If your map is going to be useful and actionable, it needs to be applicable to the behaviors and actions of real customers. A customer journey map will track the progress of customer personas. Each persona will represent a real segment of your customer base or target demographic.

How to create personas

Customer personas are semi-fictional in that they are imaginary people who stand in for a real customer segment. Flesh out customer personas through careful analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data. The creation of customer personas is a very broad subject. Nevertheless, here are some pointers to get you started. Once again, we’ll use For Instance Inc. as reference:

  • Who are our existing customers (age, gender, profession, etc.)?

  • Who do we want to attract as leads (same questions apply)?

  • What are their goals with regard to our product (what are their marketing automation goals)?

  • What are their challenges (which problems can we solve for them)?

  • Which values do they embrace (how can we relate to them on an emotional level and engage them)?

  • What are their pain points (what issues do they run into with our product and service model)?

  • What are their skills (how comfortable are they using our product)?

The answers to these questions are to be found in monitoring data, both qualitative and quantitative. We’ll go back to this a little ways down the line. In the meantime, let’s look at how to weave your customer personas into your customer journey map.

Place personas on your map

The first complete persona created by For Instance Inc. is Paige, the 26 year-old CMO of a startup. Paige’s organization is still quite small, and she’s the only person on the marketing team. She wants to grow her team in the future, and automate certain tasks in the meantime.

customer journey map

Paige comes across For Instance Inc. through a Google search. She then makes her way to their features page to learn more about how their product can help her with her marketing strategy. She’s got limited manpower, but she’s tech-savvy and discerning. She’s got precise questions about the lead-generation aspect of For Instance Inc.’s product, so she gets in touch with a support representative over live chat, who directs her to a salesperson. The salesperson answers her questions, and sets Paige up with a free trial and a first onboarding session so she can try out their product.

Once her free trials draws to a close, the salesperson gets in touch with Paige, and she becomes a paying customer. Paige is then onboarded over email and over the phone so she can have full mastery of the product. Then, Paige is targeted with blog content and promotional emails so she always knows about new features and possibilities. In the meantime, Paige has grown her team, and she is presented with a premium membership and additional features. Lastly, Paige is approached by the salesperson and asked to provide a success story for For Instance Inc.’s website.

And thus, the ideal journey of a customer segment is mapped out. If only every customer experience was that seamless! The goal is to make that experience a reality.

5. Identify pain points

If you’re looking to smooth out and expedite your real customers’ journeys, your map should highlight your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Pinpointing junctions which confuse, irritate, or push your customers to churn will ease the overall journey. You should also keep track of areas in which you excel; celebrating small victories is both great for morale and the first step to replicating them.

customer journey map

For Instance Inc. used the same data that helped them map out Paige’s journey to zero in on her pain points. Paige found them through a Google search, but they weren’t her first choice originally, since their google rankings aren’t stellar. For Instance Inc. is low on the first page of the search for “marketing automation service”. Consequently, they need to improve their ranking since, even though they managed to convert Paige, it was very likely that she would have gone with a better ranked competitor instead. For Instance Inc. is missing out on a large pool of prospective clients.

On the other hand, Paige got a lot out of her onboarding sessions. For Instance Inc. noticed that ever since they assigned a specific member of the sales team to call up every new customer and walk them through using their product to meet their specific goals, product adoption has gone up and churn has gone down. That’s cause for celebration!

6. Incorporate your KPIs and involve your team

As we mentioned in an earlier section, a customer journey map should be based on data, both anecdotal and analytical, and continuously reinforced by data.

This is true for creating customer personas. Monitor the way customers use your product, how they find and consider your brand, how they interact with your website and service channels, etc. Look at where your customers come from using Google Analytics, how long they spend on your website, and how they move from one milestone to the next. Also poll your customers directly and incorporate their feedback in the creation of your personas through customer surveys.

It’s also true when it comes to adapting your customer journey map over time. Your customer journey map takes into account personal motivations and behaviors, but it should also be based on the hard data that justifies and represents those behaviors.

Dave McClure’s precise and comprehensive AARRR startup metrics model is a perfect example of how to base a customer journey map on hard data. In his own case study, McClure demonstrates how the meticulous measurement of acquisition and retention KPIs delimitates journey stages and highlights pain points.

customer journey map

AARRR exemplifies using user data to identify and remedy to failings in your service and sales model.

Assign ownership of tasks

Once the first draft of your customer journey map is complete, you’ll know which areas of your strategy need improvement. Research shows that allotting 1% of the sales budget to product design and development results in a 3-4% increase in revenue per year. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to involve your team and give conscious thought to the customer journey.

Let’s refer back to the last table. It highlights certain hiccups in For Instance Inc.’s strategy which might not have been obvious without the AARRR metrics model. Look at the conversion score at the research stage. It’s a commendable score. For Instance Inc. has worked hard to make their website inviting and intuitive, and as a result, 70% of visitors stay on their website and look around. It’s a great start to a happy customer journey.

On the other hand, the percentage of signed up customers who regularly engage with their content (blog, newsletter, promotional events) is comparatively low. That means it might be time to reevaluate their marketing strategy in order to better retain their customers with targeted content.

Challenges of plotting a customer journey map

Like any customer retention strategy, developing a customer journey map requires dedicated effort and isn’t without its pitfalls. Here are some frequent mistakes and obstacles on the road to a successful customer journey map.

Choosing form over value

The example of For Instance Inc. is just that: an example. Your mileage will vary, and this article is in no way the only way to achieve a successful customer journey map. No two maps will look the same, since no two companies are the same. Plot your customer journey map to serve your own purposes and achieve your own goals, regardless of the visual form it takes.

Creating too many personas

Burdening your map with an overload of personas is a terrible idea for several reasons. First, it can become overwhelming and draw you away from your target demographic. If you’re trying to cater to too many customer personas, you might lose track of your goals and spread yourself too thin. Second, you’ll get bogged down in details and fail to truly account for your real customers’ motivations. Lastly, by overly diversifying your personas, you’ll run the risk of basing your characterizations on gut feeling rather than on solid data.

Not accounting for external influences

The customer journey doesn’t exist in a vacuum. External factors will affect your customers, and it can be difficult for your personas to reflect that. Customers can be swayed one way or another by peer reviews, social media, and competitors. Unexpected turns of fate are bound to occur over the course of a customer’s journey, and your strategy should try to account for those.

Planning for a linear progression

Indeed, the customer journey looks straightforward and immuable once set on paper, especially given the effort you put it to map it. However, as your operation grows and your customer base expands, your product will change and so will the customer journey.

Not only can customers enter the map at any stage of their journey, but a customer may not exactly stick to one persona’s characterization. Your journey map needs to be flexible and regularly updated in order to remain relevant and useful. Implementing a customer feedback loop can ensure that you always stay close to your actual customers and amend your map as necessary.

Thank you for reading this series on customer journey mapping. We hope it was profitable to you. Feel free to let us know how you map your own journey in the comments!

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Published on March 27, 2017.

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