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Customer Journey Maps: The Top 10 Requirements

Updated: Apr 3

Customer Journey Maps: The Top 10 Requirements

1. Represent Your Customer’s Perspective

Customer’s Viewpoint

A great customer journey map must represent the experience as your customer sees it, not the way you think they see it. That means it will often include aspects out of your direct control, such as social media influences, web searches, and steps your customers take before you even enter the picture.

B2B Software Example

For example, while studying the software purchase process for a large B2B client, Heart of the Customer – much to our client’s surprise – discovered that the vast majority of clients and prospects relied extensively on their own networks to create their list of vendors, ignoring conference trade shows, Google searches, and other more traditional forms of marketing.

While those channels were employed later in the purchase process, our discovery revealed that if the company didn’t win at “word of mouth,” they lost before they even knew they were in the running. This invaluable insight allowed the company to avoid wasting resources on programs that weren’t really impacting their results – or their bottom line – and instead concentrate on more effective relationship-building efforts.

2. Do Your Research

Use Several Different Research Methods

You can’t rely on internal staff to build an accurate customer journey map. (Unless you employ a lot of mind-readers, in which case, go right ahead!) Depending on the scope of the customer journey map example, you’ll need interviews, ethnographies, surveys, and/or other types of customer research to figure out what’s really going on. Start with qualitative research, as your customer touchpoints often involve interactions and emotional responses that will be a surprise. We always begin there, then for some projects, follow up with quantitative surveys to confirm the results.

Talk to Customers

Talk to your customers. There is no substitute for having conversations with customers. Producing a map without talking to customers is what we call a hypothesis map. It is based on the hypotheses of the internal employees.

When I was at a large HSA company running the customer experience program, we led the nation in sales, but we also led the nation in churn. When I asked around, I found out that none of the people making decisions about the HSA product had ever talked to a customer to validate the customer’s journey. They said, “We are customers, so we do not have to talk with anyone else.” They were the strangest customers ever. They thought about HSAs all day, every day. No real customer experience matches that. When we talked to customers about their top pain points, we found the biggest driver of dissatisfaction was the inability to log in to the site. The internal group would never have considered this, as logging in was easy for them.


Some companies bring in customers to work hand in hand with employees to build the customer journey map, but care must be taken in that scenario to avoid the bias that results from a small or tainted sample. This approach typically works best with B2B companies that want to focus on a specific journey, such as customer support. In most cases, it’s best to do customer research first, then build on the information gathered.

3. Recognize and Represent Customer Personas

Different customers have very different customer journeys. For instance, while mapping how consumers purchase health insurance, we found that while one segment of customers spent only a couple of hours on research, another invested six weeks and used completely different tools. A great customer journey map doesn’t lump those two segments together because the result wouldn’t accurately reflect the experience of either.

When doing customer journey mapping for a large retailer, we found that customers were segmented by need rather than by demographics. The average customer, coming in on the way back from work to grab a few things for the evening had unique needs and a different customer experience than one who had a sick child at home and needed medicine late at night. Other customers came each week to hunt for deals for their necessities. Each customer needed different things from their customer journey. To design the future state, you must uncover the differences so you can design to meet the specific customer needs.

Naming Drives Empathy

The solution is to identify the qualities and journey experiences of customers within a segment, and then use that data to build out a persona that represents that segment and brings their experiences to life. Naming the persona or personas allows employees to connect with their customer’s needs. Here are some examples of some personas, see if you can relate to any of them.

VP Vince — VP of Technology and Operations. He is tasked with implementing software that will transform the company’s business. He is focused on aggressive growth, modernization, automation, and innovation.

Cautious Carter — A buyer new to the Florida real estate market, relocating for a job and family. His goals are to find a realtor that is an expert in the Florida market to enable him to make a wise investment in the right property.

Security Driver Faye — A married woman in her 30s looking to purchase the right employee benefits. She wants to achieve peace of mind even if it costs a little more.

If you have already identified segments, use those in your research. If you haven’t, use your qualitative research to uncover different personas, which you can refine in the quantitative phase.

4. Include Customer Goals

Healthcare Customer journey goals

A great customer journey map illustrates what your customers are trying to accomplish at each stage of their experience and reflects whether those goals evolve as the journey progresses.

For example, when studying a healthcare journey for a hospital, we found that in the early stages, one persona focused extensively on understanding everything involved with the journey, whereas a different persona was just focused on getting through the process as quickly as possible. That revelation made designing cost-effective initiatives to meet the personas’ needs much easier.

Jobs to be done (JTBD) in a customer journey

The “jobs to be done” (JTBD) concept is a framework that helps businesses understand the underlying motivations and goals of customers when they “hire” a product or service to fulfill a specific job or task. It focuses on the progress a customer wants to achieve rather than the specific product or solution they are using. When applied to a customer journey map, the JTBD concept can provide valuable insights into understanding the customers’ goals at different stages of their journey.

5. Focus on Emotions

It’s impossible to overstate the importance emotions play in any customer experience, whether B2B or B2C, because emotions are the key motivator behind every decision we make. Even when it comes to the largest organizations, ultimately, every decision is still made by a human being.

The Science of customer emotions

In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman identified that the overwhelming majority of decisions are made automatically, based on an emotional reaction.

This includes customers’ decisions to renew or abandon their ScoreSense® subscription. Those with a positive emotional experience are typically more likely to renew — and pay for — programs than those with a neutral or negative experience.

Qualtrics’ XM Institute reports that when an emotional experience is positive, 90% of customers are promoters, whereas when it is negative or neutral, only 22% survey customers are.

More importantly, when problems occur, 74% of those with a positive emotional experience will forgive you, whereas only 19% of those with a negative or neutral experience will.

Spotlight the emotions

Great customer journey maps spotlight these emotions. I’m not a fan of using the smiley and frowning emojis prevalent in many existing customer journey maps, but the information does need to be conveyed somehow. Heart of the Customer always uses professional designers, but there are now so many graphic tools and options readily accessible to anyone with an internet connection that using smiley faces seems needlessly inadequate and, frankly, a little lazy.

SAAS Software Customer Journey Design by Emotions

In our work with a large SAAS software company, we noticed a set of eight emotions customers kept expressing about their experiences. These included emotions such as pride, confidence, frustration, and exhaustion. These were laid out on the customer’s experience journey map at the different phases.

We helped the company tie these emotions to some specific customer behaviors. Customers that expressed confidence were 50% more likely to purchase additional modules. For customers that expressed exhaustion during the later stages of implementation, the likelihood of purchasing went to almost zero.

This software company redesigned the future state so that when customers expressed confidence, a sales rep would reach out to see how best to get the next sale. When a customer expressed exhaustion, the company provided ‘free’ professional services resources to help reduce the exhaustion and in-service of the customer purchasing more in the future.

Take advantage of color, style, and graphic elements to put viewers of your map in the shoes of your customer and convey how customers feel throughout the journey.

6. Indicate Touchpoints

One reason many clients choose to create a customer journey map is to better understand the order and type of each and every touchpoint – those times when your customer and your company interact – including those over which you have little direct control, such as the online research or referral from a friend that might lead a customer to your website early in their shopping journey.

“External” touchpoints are often some of the most important parts of the customer journey and are key to understanding the friction that occurs.

Types of Touchpoints

Advertising touchpoints: These include various channels such as TV commercials, radio ads, online banner ads, print ads, social media ads, and sponsored content.

Website touchpoints: Interactions that occur on the company’s website, such as landing pages, product pages, checkout process, customer support chat, and user account pages.

Social media touchpoints: Engagements that happen on social media platforms, such as Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram stories, YouTube videos, and customer comments or messages.

Physical store touchpoints: For businesses with physical locations, these touchpoints include in-store interactions, such as browsing products, talking to sales associates, making a purchase, or participating in events.

Customer service touchpoints: These touchpoints encompass interactions with the customer service team through support channels, including phone calls, live chat, email support, self-service portals, and support tickets.

Mobile app touchpoints: If the company has a mobile app, interactions within the app, such as signing up, navigating the app, making purchases, receiving push notifications, and using app-specific features.

Email touchpoints: Communication that occurs through email, including welcome emails, newsletters, transactional emails (order confirmations, shipping updates), and personalized offers.

Offline touchpoints: Any touchpoints that happen outside of digital channels, such as direct mail, brochures, catalogs, physical events or conferences, and product packaging. 60% of all customer touchpoints often occur in this group.

Word-of-mouth touchpoints: These include recommendations or referrals from friends, family, or colleagues, as well as online reviews and ratings on platforms like Yelp or Google.

Post-purchase touchpoints: Touchpoints occur after the customer purchases, such as post-purchase emails, product usage instructions, customer surveys, and loyalty programs.

Talk to Customers to get it right

Internal journey mapping done without capturing the voice of the customer is unlikely to take these customer steps into account – and therefore unlikely to be able to address and improve them – yet another reason involving real customers in your mapping efforts is so important.

7. Highlight Moments of Truth

Just as not all maps are created equal, not all interactions in the customer journey are equally important. Great journey maps reveal those Moments of Truth that have a disproportionate impact on a customer’s overall perception of the journey, and in doing so, pinpoint the key opportunities where your improvement efforts will provide the greatest return.

The outcome of these critical interactions might well determine whether a customer stops doing business with you or is so delighted they recommend you to their friends, family, and social media connections.

Healthcare Example

For one healthcare client, Heart of the Customer’s research revealed that problems during the hospital check-in process tainted the entire patient experience, even for patients that were otherwise quite satisfied with the care they subsequently received. In that circumstance, directly putting resources toward providing better care – a seemingly obvious way to improve customer satisfaction – would have little impact on loyalty. Removing the initial friction during the check-in process, however, increased customer loyalty and care ratings (for the same level of care) because it changed customers’ perception of the care received.

Manufacturing Example

Here is a two-part Moment of Truth from a manufacturing company. First, the customer changes the delivery date or quantity, thinking, “Things have changed. I need to adjust the quantity.” The customer is feeling anxious. Second, the manufacturer changes the delivery date. The customer is now thinking, “Not again! Why does the manufacturer keep changing the date?” The customer is feeling powerless. One or both could happen.

We had measures to show the first scenario, where the customer changed the date, occurred 25% of the time. The second scenario, where the manufacturer changed the delivery date, occurred 20% of the time. Do you think we needed to improve the journey around those experiences? I’ll give you a hint…they were both far below the emotion line.

The moments resonated with employees, but the data created urgency.

For the first moment, we obviously needed to be nimble with the shifting customer needs. But for the second moment, we were REALLY negative impacting customer satisfaction with unreliable delivery. (By the way, showing up early with shipments is almost just as bad as showing up late.)

8. Evaluate Your Brand Promise

Done right, journey mapping can reveal how your brand promise aligns with the actual customer experience you’re providing, as well as how to fix issues if you’re falling short.

Do you sell your process as being effortless? Highly personalized? Affordable?

A great customer journey map will show whether your customers believe you’re delivering – and if they think you’re not, how much their disappointment might be costing you in lost sales or increased expenses.

9. Measure Time

The length of a customer experience provides important context. Does a typical call last 30 seconds or 10 minutes? Did shoppers take an hour or a week to decide on a purchase? A great journey map recognizes that this information is essential and is built around it.

Financial Services Example

We mapped a journey for a financial services company. We mapped the onboarding journey for someone opening one of five different types of financial accounts.

The timing for each stage of the customer journey was important, like how the time between creating the account and signing the paperwork was negatively affected by the fact that 60% of customers needed to call customer service. The most crucial time was time to fund the account. If it took more than four days to fund the new account, the chance of funding went down by 75%. This outcome was bad for both the customer and the company.

10. Ditch the PowerPoint

The overarching themes of the story told by a journey map should be immediately obvious. But a great journey map is designed to be pored over and studied, with the nuances revealed in the details. Too many journey maps are created only for presentation on a screen, communicating basic information through concise bullet points. A great customer journey map defies those limitations.

Desktop Publishing Software

Use a desktop publishing application and a professional designer to create your own customer journey map, so you can dive deeper and more freely and effectively convey the richness of the customer experience. These tools allow each customer journey map to be bespoke and not rely on a generalized customer journey map template.

Customer Journey Mapping Software

The last few years have shown an explosion of software tools to help with customer journey map creation and customer journey management. Tools like Inspire Journey from Quadient and SuiteCX walk the line between being able to tell a story with powerful visualization and the need for advanced desktop publishing skills.

A Customer journey map template IS A no-go

Each journey is unique and has its own touchpoints, phases, and Moments of Truth. When you start with a customer journey map template, you lock in your expectations and often will miss a touchpoint because it does not fit the template being used.

If your business would like help navigating customer experience in 2024, get in contact with us to discuss further:

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