This is not the Definitive, Ultimate or Exhaustive guide to customer journey mapping. It’s the Backpacker’s Guide. Because today I want you to pack light and leave here with just the bare essentials for the adventure ahead.
Mapping the full customer experience is an exercise I’ve had to redo many times at Trakio. It’s a visual process that’s usually included as part of a customer analytics strategy. But it can quickly become overly complex and capable of stalling even the most seasoned customer experience explorer.
I’ve taken all of the research I did with UX experts on LinkedIn, and the stack of PDF guides and ebooks I read, and condensed it into the bare essentials as I see it.
Here’s my Backpackers Guide to customer journey mapping:
Only The Essentials
- Benefits of customer journey mapping
- What does a customer journey map look like
- Understanding what touch points are, and the different types
- Who needs to be involved
- Drawing your customer journey map
- How to use your map
1. Benefits of customer journey mapping
Customer journey maps allow you to empathise with your customer. You can fully understand the experience they have with your brand, from pre-sale through to post-sale experience. But this always sounds a bit fluffy to me.
No matter what any UX expert tells you, a customer journey map has one purpose: increase revenue.
This is usually achieved by using the map to identify opportunities to optimise conversion rates, increase upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and reduce drop offs and cancellations.
The output might look like a pretty visual diagram, but customer journey mapping is as “hard” a business tool as any sales or marketing tactic.
2. What does a customer journey map look like?
As I mentioned before, customer journey mapping is something I do regularly. Here’s an example of a high-level map I created for Metrix.
Customer journey maps can come in all shapes and sizes, but my preferred choice is a simple flow diagram. Flow diagrams, if kept simple, are fairly intuitive for other people to understand, even if they don’t have any experience with UX.
Also, modern flow diagram tools are very forgiving for making iterations as you go along. Redrawing arrows is automatic, and moving things around the “unlimited canvas” isn’t like drawing diagrams in Microsoft Word.
However, there’s no “standard” for customer journey mapping as end outputs, so don’t be surprised to see tables, circles or “infographic style” A3 posters! My only advice is to practice function over form – a customer journey map is meant to be a functional tool after all.
The last thing you want is to have a load of sunk investment into a pretty design and then you need to totally shuffle it up after feedback from the support team. Or even worse, you make the design and layout so complicated that no one else can understand it!
3. Understanding touch points
Customer journey mapping (interchangeably called customer experience mapping) is all about making a map of all of the touch points that a customer has with your brand. A touch point is any interaction between the customer and your brand. However, notice how we use brand and not your company?
Controlled vs. Beyond Control
Touch points aren’t always under your control as a company, but that’s not to say the interaction doesn’t affect the customers experience with your brand.
I like to define these types as controlled or beyond control. Where touch points are beyond our control, such as two people discussing your product on Twitter, we should try to figure out how we can become a part of that conversation (using tools such as Mention).
Human vs. Automated
Another differentiation in touch points to be aware of is what I call automated or human.
Human touch points are opportunities where the customer is interacting with a live person. In these touch points, you’re able to empathise, be charismatic, and react in real-time to the customers needs and questions. Examples would be your account managers or (real) website chat agents. Human touch points (usually) cost money, but provide opportunities to deliver “Wow!” service.
In contrast, automated touch points are interactions such as reading a blog post or your website. While we can use technology to personalise this experience, it’s not the same as a human interaction. Automated touch points are scaleable and low cost, but run the risk of damaging customer experience if executed poorly (for example, poor design, bad recommendations).
Blocking vs. Non-blocking
Sometimes on a customer journey, there are multiple paths to take and the customer is able to take optional paths. Other times, the touch point is blocking, and the customer can’t proceed until they complete it.
A blocking touch point could be forcing all new users to go through a “Speak to sales” process. A non-blocking alternative would be if you have a “Speak to sales” alongside a “Signup for a free trial” path.
Understanding the different types of touch points in the customer journey map allow you to sort and read the map once completed, so that you can identify places you can make changes and optimisations.
4. Who needs to be involved
Customer journey mapping in larger organisations would be performed by the dedicated UX team member. However, small or large, it requires the input of multiple people in the company.
These are the people who have interactions with the customer and who are best informed to describe the customer experience.
Marketing, support, sales and success are usually the primary inputs of a customer journey mapping process. Do not try to create the map in isolation, otherwise you’ll end up creating a static document that doesn’t represent your actual customer experience or get used for any significant change in the organisation.
In practice, this can be solved by getting a rep from each team and getting everyone around a whiteboard with some pens and sticky notes – customer journey mapping doesn’t have to be a high tech process.
5. Drawing your customer journey map
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a huge fan of creating simple user flow diagrams to represent customer journey maps. My favourite (and free) tool is Draw.io but there are a few options out there.
- Draw.io – Free online tool. The company license the underlying technology to large corporates, so this tool is unlikely to go anywhere (Free since 2011).
- LucidChart.com – paid tool with plans starting at $6 per month
For an example of a map drawn with Draw.io, take another look at the one I completed for Metrix:
The idea is to make the diagram as intuitive as possible. So we flow the users journey from left-to-right. Each touch point is represented by a single box, and we add a description of that touch point inside the box.
Each possible path the user can make is represented by a directional arrow.
At many points, a customer can “drop off” from the journey. This means they just never come back, they don’t activate the software etc..
Adding a drop-off path for every possible touch point makes the map pretty cluttered, so I usually leave them out in most cases, but it’s important to not forget that these are still ‘there’.
Different Touch Points
As we discussed earlier, there are multiple types of touch points. In the example above, you can see I’ve highlighted the human touch points. This is because we were particularly interested in making our customer journey map as automated as possible (an earlier journey map for Trakio had lots of human bottlenecks and it was impossible to have a self-service experience).
There are a few places where the user can move in ‘loops’ before advancing in the journey. The most common example in B2B is blog posts, downloadable guides etc. You can see a loop in my example above where a potential customer may spend a long time on our mailing list and reading blog posts before advancing in the journey.
Customers can spend anything from days to years engaging with your content marketing before finally making a purchase. This could be because they simply don’t have the need for your product yet, or they’re still deciding if they trust your company.
6. How to use your map to make improvements
Once you’ve drawn your customer journey map, and used the input from multiple teams to make sure it’s as comprehensive as possible (without overcomplicating it), you can start using the map to identify opportunities to make improvements.
As we discussed before, we have one goal with this excercise: to increase revenue.
To do that, we want to identify areas where we can make optimisations to the customer experience.
A few examples of things you can do with your completed diagram:
- Minimising Human touch points that are causing scaling bottlenecks. Can we open up a possible customer journey that allows for self-service?
- If we’re trying to increase our price point, you could identify places to add more concierge touch points. This allows you to deliver “Wow!” customer service, which people are more likely to pay a higher price for
- Increase new customer activation rates by reducing the number of required touch points immediately after signup, and moving them to an optional path that can be taken when the customer is ready
- Increase virality by identifying places where sharing between friends/colleagues can lead to new account creation
Personally, I like to keep a ‘working’ copy of the diagram (i.e. don’t just export it as a PNG/PDF and then delete the working file). This is so that I can go back into the diagram and make colour/style changes to represent certain projects and make sure we’re all focussed one thing (customer journey maps can become quite overwhelming if they include all details, all the time).
For example, when we wanted to make Trakio a self-service product, we changed the colour of all “blocking” touch points to red. Once we’d resolved all of those, we wanted to make sure we still had opportunities to deliver “Wow!” service for higher-ticket customers, and I changed all of our opportunities to interact with the customer in green.