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An overview: Customer journey maps

By: Nilma Perera
Date: November, 2014
File under: Articles

Experience map from Hostyn 2010

Above: Experience map from Hostyn 2010

In a previous article, I talked about how UXers no longer design a standalone product. Rather, we design services. Effective service design is all about the customer experience and involves analysing enormous amounts of data collected through ethnographic studies or contextual inquiries. We collect complex and rich information about the users, their needs and how they interact with the existing service.

But how do we present all this information in a manner that is clear and useful for us as designers – and as a means of effective communication to the business?

What are customer journey maps?

A picture is worth a thousand words. Customer journey maps document the customer’s experience, enabling you to understand not only how they interact with the existing service but identify any opportunities for improvement. They cover three concepts:

  1. Need – What a customer has set out to achieve.
  2. Interactions – The necessary steps for a customer to satisfy those needs and achieve the overall goal.
  3. Emotions – The customer’s emotional state as needs are met and goals are achieved (including satisfaction), before, during and after the experience.

This framework has become quintessential component of good design and effective communication. The detailing of a customer’s needs throughout the experience – and how each interaction impacts the emotional state (negative and positive) of the customer – enable us to not only effectively convert volumes of data in to a compelling story, but also provide a means of effective communication that can be easily understood and interpreted by your stakeholders.

How do I create a customer journey map?

The customer journey typically doesn’t have a template or a standard. Such a clean slate enables us to create a journey that is derived from our research without constraints. However, whilst it provides the flexibility and freedom to explore and be creative, it can also be slightly problematic. For example, one can spend too much time making the journey into a visual masterpiece and forget the information that needs to be conveyed. It is important to remember the customer journey is less about how ‘visually pleasing’ it is, but rather it is more about how effectively the story.

Here are some best practices to follow when creating customer journeys.

Conduct user research and create your personas: The first step is to do your user research either via contextual inquires, ethnographic studies, interviews and/or observations. Then build personas based on this research and start creating each persona’s individual customer journey.

Create customer stages or segments: Each customer journey typically compromises several segments or stages. Ask yourself what are the behavioural stages a customer goes through when choosing your product/service. Common customer behaviour stages include: Discovery, Research (compare), Choose and Purchase (commit). The customer experience in each of these stages can be very different.

Identify the customer goals: During each stage, your customer is trying to achieve a goal. Ensure you clearly identify these goals and indicate what touchpoints the customer experiences/interacts with in reaching these goals.

Identify touchpoints: Identify the different moments of interaction that you have to connect and engage with the customer. This could be via your website, front-of-house sales or a brochure. Some of touchpoints are more critical (moments of truth) than others. The idea is to identify and map out ‘moments of truth’ and work to create then more often in your favour.

Focus on emotions: Understanding emotions across each stage is critical. It helps identify any feelings or experiences that will negatively impact your product/service.

Include length of time: Consider including the timeframe of each experience during each stage or touchpoint. Length can provide important context and assist in important design and business decisions.

Bring in customer verbatim: Whilst this is strictly not necessary, it helps create a rich picture of the experience.

Include customers and non-customers: Pre-sales phases (Discover/Compare) should include non-customer journeys also, as this will enable you to find opportunities to convert non-customers into potential customers.

List the teams are involved: Upon creating your customer journey map, you’ll find gaps in what your customer needs are versus what’s available. Highlighting such shortcomings will help scope the level of involvement you require from other teams to address any issues.

What value do customer journey maps provide?

More powerful than personas and scenarios: Customer journey maps detail the flow of the customer experience, including highs and lows, critical pain points and delights of the experience.

Enables you to measure your brand promise: A customer journey map can be used to measure how your service experience supports and delivers your brand promise.

Facilitates the development of roadmaps: Mapping the journey makes clear what gaps are present, and what opportunities exist for improvement. These factors comprise the basis of a roadmap you can use for future product/service delivery.

Prioritises customer needs over the rubber duck: Journey maps also help you prioritise critical features/aspects that address customer needs – rather than features that stakeholders desire.

Brings the organisation together for a common goal: One of the key benefits of the customer journey map is its ability to identify gaps, in which you can then recruit and assign different teams to come together and work towards a common goal.

What are the challenges to be aware of?

Like with anything we do, creating customer journey maps comes with certain limitations: The process is not linear. Creating a customer journey map can sometimes be ad-hoc, with lots of gaps to start with. Things are never black or white, and the information you are trying to represent can be very complex.

Focus less on the visual look and feel: It is very easy to get carried away with the visualisation of the journey map. It is important remember it’s less about how pretty it looks and more about the information.

It is a living document, not a presentation: Ditch your PowerPoint and making it perfect. It is not a presentation; it is a document that you will append with your increasing understanding of the customer needs and interactions, and organisational changes.

 

REFERENCES

1. Flom, J., 2011, The Value of Customer Journey Maps: A UX designer’s personal journey, UX Matters
2. Tincher, J., Customer Journey Map – the Top 10 requirements
3. Lord, J., 2013,  A quick guide to customer journey mapping, The BigDoor blog
4. Hostyn. J., 2010, Visulalizing the customer experience using customer experience journey maps

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