Understanding Your Customers' Journey: Improve the Way You Help Your Customers

Customer journey mapping is a method that can be used and leveraged to understand a customer’s path or experience throughout a specific job or specific task they are looking to complete.

8 min
December 17, 2018
Andrew Verboncouer
Partner & CEO

What is customer journey mapping?

Customer journey mapping is a method that can be used and leveraged to understand a customer’s path or experience throughout a specific job or specific task they are looking to complete.

Many times, the customer journeys we map cover the entire process of a user discovering, deciding, and becoming an active user of a specific business’s service or software.

Customer journey maps are a story told from your customer’s perspective.

Examples of customer journey maps

Here are some examples of customer journey maps. They can be very basic with clear swim-lanes, remember it’s all about the data and making sure you’re capturing the right information.

A couple of these are more design heavy and are visual representations you can use to tell your customer’s story throughout your company, in your marketing, as a poster on your office, etc.

Why should I use customer journey mapping?

Improve the understanding of the people you serve

You should use customer journey mapping as a pillar of understanding your customer’s needs, pains, gains, motivations, questions, and anxieties. Customer journey mapping done correctly can help uncover insights for your entire team - from the CEO all the way to customer support, and often times - data collection comes from your company’s closest interactions with your customers.

Improving the product experience

It’s easy for product teams to think about specific outcomes and the value our product provides, but we can really improve our understanding of the people we’re serving along the entire journey, from realizing they have a need, to speaking their language, and delighting them along the way.

It’s about the entire journey, not just the outcome. Even though we understand the high-value outcome, the entire journey matters.

Customer Journey Maps are important because they allow your entire product team to understand the context of users, where they’ve come and what they’re trying to achieve. They also allow you to speak your customer’s language and how they talk about their struggles, emotions, and motivations.

We recommend continuously revisiting and revising your maps as you uncover new insights and data around your customer’s experience. You can also check out our article on UX audits to create actionable plans to fix bad ux.

Helping sales teams improve their process

For sales and management teams, maps are important because they give an overview of the customer’s experience and how they move through the funnel. They also allow you to identify new opportunities and gaps in how you’re serving your customers - allowing you to add more value and differentiate in a multi-platform world.

Different maps for different users and journeys

It’s important to understand that one map doesn’t represent your customers’ journey. Your product or service likely serves multiple users with different experiences, journeys and desired outcomes.

As an example, if you’re creating customer journey maps for Starbucks, you’d want to create different journey maps for the experience of their different types of offering which would include; the in-store journey, the drive-thru journey, and the mobile app journey.

In each one of the journeys above, there are different types of users that have wildly different experiences with the offering. Take the in-store journey for someone visiting Starbucks for the first time for example, they have so many questions and anxieties.

  • Where do I stand?
  • What should I order?
  • Wait, a tall is actually the small, then what’s a grande?
  • I don’t know what my drink is called here…
  • What happens after I order?
  • How much!?

In addition to different use cases and journeys, you also need to design for first-time users and power users. Being informational and clear with direction for your users through messaging, labeling, flow design, etc will help first time users - but make sure not to focus solely on them that it takes away from a power user’s experience. In applications, an example is tour points that once completed are hidden until re-prompted by the user.

How do I get started with customer journey mapping?

Use the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) to create your first map for your largest impacting journey and then diverge into the edge cases from there, creating more niche cases.

Start with an internal brainstorm and lay out the key steps and process of your journey. This will give you a base to build upon and add essential data along the journey.

To map effectively before you start collecting data, you’ll want to decide what data points are important to you.

Here are some examples of what you may want to include on your map. If your offering is designed to be used in the physical world - capturing your user’s senses is important - because you can design around that and impact their experience.

  • User (if multiple user types are involved)
  • Task/Activity
  • Questions
  • Insights / Notes to Improve
  • What they Think & Feel
  • What they Hear & See
  • What they Say & Do
  • Emotion

Compiling & collecting data for your map

After you’ve set out which data points and items to track, you’ll want to begin planning out your research.


Qualitative data is more about understanding the perspective of the human, their behavior, and the why that led them to perform the action.

Internal team audit

It’s important for your team to reflect on your own product’s performance. This allows your team to identify where you see pain and frustration in the process. Lay out your overall journey step by step, and then do an emotion/feeling audit at each step.

As an example of the Starbuck’s example above, you may think waiting in line is a poor experience, but your data may later reveal that customer’s really don’t mind it and it doesn’t negatively impact their experience.

Although keeping lines short and your operational efficiency high, it may not be the biggest opportunity for you to impact your customer’s experience and provide more value; whether perceived or actual.

Customer interviews

Get out and actually talk to customers!

Inquire about their process and what lead them to the decision to ‘hire’ your product.

When conducting interviews, what you ask and how you ask is really important. Learn more about interviewing your customers, get specific scripts and frameworks from our Startup Guide: Learn how to effectively communicate your product’s value through customer interviews.

User observation

Talking with your customers is great, but it’s important to watch what they do and not only listen to what they say they do.

Customers have great intentions and want to give you feedback on how you can serve them better, but there can be observation bias and apprehension to avoid “looking dumb.”

When it comes to observing people, make sure they are comfortable and know that you’re not grading them, you’re grading the product and how well it serves and communicates to them.

User-assigned journal studies

User-Assigned Journal studies are a great way to gather steps, thoughts, questions, of a group of people without doing repetitive observation on a large number of users who perform the same task. You’re looking for patterns in the steps, in the thought and decision-making process, and in the questions users need answers to in order to proceed. If you’re conducting a journal study, to make sure your users take notes as they go; hold an initial training and briefing meeting, create a short document they can revisit for a refresher, and lay out the frequency and way the data should be submitted for review.

Jobs to to done (JTBD) switch interviews

Jobs to be done is a methodology focused on uncovering a person’s motivations, pains, gains, and unpacking their path to or away from your business. In JBTD interviews, your goal is to take a customer back to the point of purchasing, and then back through their decision making process, what research they performed, what they perhaps heard or were recommended about your product, etc.


Quantitative data is all about measuring what happened or happens from a factual standpoint; the raw numbers behind an activity or preference; how many times, how long does it take, etc.

Analytics & metrics

What are your users doing and how often are they doing it? With analytics and metrics, you get a plethora of data, but it’s only as good as the insights you can derive from it. Make sure you have systems set up that measure a user’s time in a particular flow or set of steps, and match that up with their journey through your app.

Tools like Google Analytics, Intercom, AppLink, Mixpanel, Full Story, and many others are a great idea to see the data behind how your users experience your product.

Structured surveys

Gathering data in the form of structured survey is a good way to wrap your arms around the breadth and depth of a particular statistic. It’s important to remove bias in the process and make sure your questions are clear. You can vary between yes/no answers as well as multiple choice. Both Q/A combinations will give you the ability to draw valuable insights.

Task & process measurement

How long does it take users to complete X? How many times are users doing Y every day? Where are the biggest opportunities for process improvement and waste reduction? Combining process measurement with Analytics & Metrics as well as Observation is a great way to make sure you’re covering all aspects of the process and making sure you’re capturing what the user does before they experience your product as well as after.

Products, people, and experiences change, your maps should too!

As environments, technology, and your users change, you’ll want to make sure your customer journey maps are representative of the current world in which they operate. Versioning them with dates and version numbers is a good way to keep track of how the way you serve your customer changes over time.

Always remember that customer journey maps are educated guesses based on the data available, so as new data and insights are uncovered to you and your team, revisit and revise them often.

As with many types of research, your data is only as good as the analysis you can make with it. Analyze your data for the patterns and insights, and understand that there may be gaps you need to fill in with improved or new features.

Increasing visibility and data will help you decrease your assumptions.

Let's map your customer's journey

If you’re considering creating a customer journey map for the customers you serve and you’re not sure where to start, we’d love to learn more about your business and how we can help.

Customer journey resources

UX Audit Process to Fix Bad UX

Learn everything you need to know about UX audits and get access to our free UX audit template, report template, and checklist.

Customer Journey Maps and User Flows - FigJam Template

Take user stories and themes from your UX design research and rapidly begin to create customer journey maps and app user flows diagrams.

Actionable UX audit kit

  • Guide with Checklist
  • UX Audit Template for Figma
  • UX Audit Report Template for Figma
  • Walkthrough Video
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