This post is part of a 3-part series on customer journey maps.

Storytelling has become an increasing popular way to present research findings. You may present your users’ stories in a heuristic evaluation.

Or you may create stories in the form of personas, or tell the story of your users’ experience from usability testing.

Customer journey mapping is another story-telling technique gaining ground among UX researchers and designers.

As we recently wrapped a research project that produced customer journey maps, we are mindful of the growing interest in customer journey mapping and want to share some of the basics of the process with you.

This is part 1 of a 3-part article on customer journey mapping. This part defines what we mean by customer journey mapping and suggests ways to gather data as the basis for building the customer journey map.

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map can take many forms, but it’s likely to be an infographic that plots a particular customer’s journey along a timeline to show how your customer progresses from a desire for a solution to a problem to decision making about which direction to take to solve the problem, and to feelings about the decision after it’s made.

Once created, the customer journey map presents a picture and tells the story of the opportunities and pitfalls a customer faces in taking the journey to a decision. In studying a customer journey map, an organization can clearly see the customer’s journey, which provides a clear picture on what works well and what needs to be done better.

How do you gather the data for a customer journey map?

An effective, persuasive customer journey map must be based on real data about real users. How do you access this data?

Begin with data you may already have. What do you already know about your customers? There are many potential sources that you can tap into, such as:

  • Analytics—what do you see about user behaviors on your website?
  • Customer service—what issues are they reporting, what problems are they attempting to solve, what frustrations do they experience because they cannot solve problems for customers?
  • Sales and marketing—what does the sales/marketing staff say is their biggest challenge? Most frequent request? Reason for lost sales?
  • Social media chatter—what are your customers sharing with others about their experiences with your company?

customer experience map

What other types of data gathering do you need to add to what you already have? Some options include:

  • Surveys of existing customers to gather responses to specific questions about their experience.
  • Interviews of existing and/or prospective customers to understand their process of making a decision about your product or service. These could be your current customers, prospective customers, or customers of competitor services.
  • Usability studies of the inquiry-to-buying journey to discover what is important to them in making a buying decision.
  • Ethnography in the form of site visits to learn the environment in which users will go about making the inquiry-to-buying process.
  • Focus groups to learn what prospective or current customers consider most important in their decision-making process and the results of their decision in terms of their satisfaction level.

How many journey maps do you need?

Just as you don’t have a monolithic customer, you won’t want to create a single, monolithic customer journey map. You will most likely need to create several journey maps, based on personas of your core customers. A working number to get you started is three customer groups.

If you don’t have personas for your core customers, you can and should use the data you’ve collected to create a persona for each journey map. It’s possible to have more than one customer journey on a map so long as the display doesn’t get too complicated to follow.

Read Part 2 where we learn about creating a customer journey map using a collaborative workshop as the basis for the activity

This post is part of a 3-part series on customer journey maps.

Read Part 2
Read Part 3

Image credits: featured image– customer journey map; 2nd image Walter Lim, Flickr

Carol Barnum

Carol brings her academic background and years of teaching and research to her work with clients to deliver the best research approaches that have proven to produce practical solutions. Carol’s many publications (6 books and more than 50 articles) have made a substantial contribution to the body of knowledge in the UX field. The 2nd edition of her award-winning handbook Usability Testing Essentials is now available.