Last updated Jul 2020
A field guide to customer journey mapping
Evan Roxanna Ramzipoor,
Author & Contributing Writer
Evan Ramzipoor is a California-based writer and author who has been featured in McSweeney’s, Salon, and others. Check out her work at erramzipoor.com.

Introduction to Customer Journey Maps

Customers are the lifeblood of your business. To build great products and deliver excellent services, you must learn to empathize with them – their needs, wants, pain points, and experiences. In other words, you have to see your brand the way your customers see it. But how do you do that?

To truly delve into the mind of a customer, many business leaders use customer journey maps. But for every person who uses a customer journey map, there are half a dozen people who are intimidated by them. It’s understandable – when you’re already pressed for time and resources, the last thing you want to do is learn how to use a new tool that may or may not be helpful.

Customer journey maps are worth the time investment. In fact, they’re some of the easiest and most powerful tools you can use to empathize with your customers. In this series, we present a quick, digestible guide to customer journey mapping.

Keep reading for an introduction to customer journey mapping, or skip to:

How to Make a Customer Journey Map | Customer Journey Map Examples

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of how a customer interacts with and experiences your business when they are trying to achieve a goal.

When building products or services, it’s helpful to create personas to understand your target customers so you can best market to them. But personas don’t give you the whole picture – what happens after customers get the product? What experience might keep them coming back over time? Customer journey mapping fills in the rest of that picture.

Just as a persona is a stylized depiction of who your customer is, a customer journey map is a stylized depiction of your customer’s experience with your business, from the first interaction to (hopefully!) a long-term relationship.

Try Miro's free Customer Journey Map Template to make one for yourself.

What’s the difference between a customer journey map and a user story map?

Although customer journey maps and user story maps resemble each other, their functions are slightly different.

User stories are used to plan out features or functionalities, typically in an Agile model. In a user story, you describe a feature or functionality from user perspectives. That way, you can understand what the user wants to do and how that feature can help them accomplish it.

Typically, a user story takes this form: “As a [type of user], I want to [goal], so that [benefit].” For example, “As a UX designer, I want to sketch on an online whiteboard, so I don’t have to be in the same location as my collaborators.”

You can then visualize that user story with a user story map. For example, if you wanted to visualize the user story above, you would start by detailing the various steps the user will take when using that functionality. In this case:

  • Sign up

  • Sketch on the whiteboard

  • Share with teammates

  • See teammates sketch in real time

Then, you would document the features required to take each step. Once you’ve done that, you would write these features on sticky notes and rearrange them based on their corresponding functionalities.

In short, user story maps allow you to plan and implement changes to the customer journey. Customer journey maps allow you to discover and understand what those changes might look like.

Learn more about the User Story Map Template.

The benefits of customer journey mapping

Many great tools can help you understand the customer journey. Why should you care about this one? Here are a few reasons why CJMs should be an essential part of your business toolkit.

Build better experiences

Customer journey mapping gives you a big-picture experience of your customer’s interaction with your brand. Think of a CJM as a map of a physical location like a city or a town. Once you have a map spread out in front of you, it’s easier to understand where you might run into roadblocks. It helps you plan ahead, and make adjustments to help customers overcome those obstacles.

Once you can visualize all phases of your customer’s journey, you can see where you’re not meeting their expectations. Armed with that knowledge, you can build a customer experience that’s seamless and satisfying. That translates into improved products and processes, more sales, faster sales cycles, and greater customer retention.

Enable customer success

For your business to succeed, your customer must also succeed. Customer journey mapping helps you see what is and isn’t working for your customer so you can set them up for success. Even a stylized picture of your customer’s journey can empower you to create, monitor, adjust, and enhance touch points.

Work better as a team

Even if your objectives are different, everyone in your organization is working toward the same goal: satisfying your customers. But it’s easy to lose focus. Engineering teams are busy coding, marketing teams are writing ad copy, sales teams are trying to sell to their prospects.… How do you all stay aligned?

Customer journey mapping is powerful because it keeps everyone focused on the customer. By creating a CJM, you can gain deep insight into what your customers want and need. For the marketing team, that means building better campaigns. For the sales team, that means deeper engagement with customers and prospects. For engineering, that means a holistic understanding of what programs are meant to achieve. Customer journey mapping makes it easy to equip every team member with a sophisticated understanding of your customers.

Set yourself apart from the competition

A recent report shows that 90% of the organizations that use customer journey mapping saw a decrease in churn and customer complaints. Customers and prospects respond positively when they feel like a brand understands their desires and pain points. The data is clear: customer journey mapping can set you apart from your competition.

Ready to learn more?

Now you have a solid understanding of customer journey mapping: what it is, why it matters, and how you can get started. In the next chapter, you’ll find a practical guide to creating a customer journey map of your own. Learn how to set objectives, create personas, build touch points, and collaborate with stakeholders.

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