10 Steps to Mapping the Customer Journey

Jeff Sauro, PhD

Think about the last time you bought a new computer or rented a car.

What were all the things that went well and what seemed like torture?

What impact did that experience have on your likelihood to make a future purchase or recommend the product or company to a friend?

Understanding the process people go through when engaging with a service or product provides a wealth of information to sales, marketing and product development teams.

A customer journey map is a natural extension of the sales and marketing funnel but has an impact beyond the marketing or sales teams. It’s a document meant to unify fragmented efforts and, most importantly, identify points of friction and opportunities for improvement. Finding and fixing the pain points in a customer’s journey isn’t just about damage control, it’s about the innovation that comes from fixing the pain.

While you can map just about any sequence of events, a journey map is ideal for any process that has a lot of steps or opportunities for friction, failure and improvement. For example, you can map the journeys of:

Here are 10 steps to take to building a journey map :

  1. Find the data: The journey map should be based on what actually happens and not on what you or the organization wants to happen. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your experience to start sketching the journey. It means that you should validate and acknowledge your assumptions where you can so others can confirm or correct them. Look for existing data already collected or 3rd party reports on demographics, competition and benchmarks before starting a lengthy research endeavor.
  2. Pick a persona: There will likely be different journey maps for each persona or customer segment. However, many maps will likely have overlapping stages. It’s usually easiest to pick one persona, map that journey and then look for duplications and consolidate the maps later.
  3. Determine the stages: Stages are the major phases your persona proceeds through as they interact with your product or service. A good place to start with is the phases from a sales or marketing funnel and then expand to include the usage and post purchase phases. For example, here are the major phases for customers purchasing a consumer electronics product like a laptop.
  4. Define the steps: The steps are the more granular progressions the customers take as they proceed through the stages. Below is an example of steps a customer would likely go through when considering the purchase of a new laptop.
  5. Identify the touchpoints: A touchpoint is a physical or digital interaction a customer experiences during their relationship with a product or service. Common touchpoints are:
    • Websites
    • Sales People
    • Stores
    • Advertisements
    • Emails
    • Twitter
    • Customer Support Calls
  6. Touchpoints are often the focal point for where an experience can go from pleasant to painful.

  7. Find the pain points : With the touchpoints, stages and steps defined you should identify what isn’t working well. I refer to this as customer friction. For example, while I was working at Intuit we used a technique called a Follow-me-home. Volunteer customers let a product manager and UX researcher observe them at home or at work. During some of these follow-me-homes, the Intuit teams noticed merchants would check-out customers using their Point of Sale cash-register, then manually import the transactions each day into QuickBooks. Even though the customers didn’t explicitly say this was a point of friction, it was clearly not a pleasant or efficient experience.
  8. Define the metrics for each stage: It’s likely that there are metrics being collected already for most customer stages. Most industries also have third party research providers who offer valuable competitive information in reports and benchmark analysis. For each stage you’ll want at least one good metric that’s meaningful to the customer and business. Below are the stages for the consumer electronics customer purchasing a laptop along with some metrics to quantify the quality of the experience.
    • Awareness : Brand recognition and market share (percent of time your brand and product come to mind without promoting relative to competition)
    • Consideration: Feature and concept association (percent of positive or on-target brand associations)
    • Preference: Brand and product preference (customer satisfaction ratings with brands and products)
    • Action: Usability Scores, Cart Abandonment Rates
    • Loyalty: Net Promoter Scores, Likelihood to Repurchase
  9. Improve and innovate: Use the pain points and metrics to help identify opportunities for improvement. After consolidating data from the Follow-me-homes, the Intuit design teams came up with QuickBooks POS which eliminated the painful step of importing data and led to a successful product. That’s how pain points are opportunity for innovation.
  10. Assign accountability: The parable of the tragedy of the commons tells us that if everybody owns a process, then no one really does and it gets neglected. Have teams and individuals accountable and responsible for defining the metrics, methods and actions for improving the experience.
  11. Periodically validate: New products are developed and features move from being delighters to being expected. An outdated journey map may be worse than no journey map at all. With the accountability teams in place, be sure there is a regular audit or mechanism whereby data and assumptions are updated regularly.
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