The term “journey mapping” emerged around 2009 when organizations began placing extra emphasis on making customer experience a key part of their strategic visions. It’s a savvy decision.

That’s because its essence, a journey map is a graphical representation of how customers interact with a brand. It accounts for every single touchpoint — whether it’s via email, mobile, desktop, or face-to-face interaction — and captures what users are thinking, doing, and feeling in real time.

The ability to create this snapshot of customers’ desires, needs, and reasons behind their interactions is integral to optimizing and streamlining the customer experience. When utilized correctly, a journey map will reveal users’ interests in a comprehensive, holistic manner.

Through journey mapping, organizations can discover gaps in their user interfaces and pinpoint what one could call “zero moments of truth,” when there’s a customer experience issue that needs to be resolved.

Without journey mapping, many of these zero moments of truth can be too easily overlooked.

Journey Mapping’s Companywide Role

It’s important for an entire organization to be invested in creating journey maps and understanding their importance. By analyzing the journeys customers currently take, UX designers will be able to verify, debunk, identify, and act upon new theories of how customers want to interact with their brands.

Journey maps are integral to optimizing and streamlining the customer experience

Disseminating this knowledge throughout the entire company gives everyone — from top to bottom — a better understanding of target customers’ needs. As a result, the whole staff will be on the same page while working toward the same goal.

Yet what makes journey mapping particularly useful, more so than most customer insights, is that it allows an organization to understand the emotional drive behind a customer’s engagement. When UX professionals uncover touchpoints where their UX design is slightly weak, they can then strengthen and tailor it using data garnered from real customer behavior — not self-reported surveys.

Journey mapping ensures a brand takes the necessary UX design steps that will best engage its customers.

How to Get Started

A successful journey map captures the various stages of a customer’s experience and the emotional responses he or she generates. It also identifies potential gaps between what customers expect from a business and what it actually provides for them.

Here are seven steps to get started:

  1. Personify target customers. Whether UX designers use segmentation data, lean personas driven by existing data (e.g., analytics data and previous user research), or a quantitative and qualitative study to create research-driven personas, they must not skip this step. Designers must understand what motivates customers, what they desire, what features they’d like to use, what they’re alienated by, and their primary reasons for engaging with the company, among other things. As UX designers begin mapping customers’ journeys, they should record and visualize the persona’s attributes, attitudes, and emotions through all customer or prospective touchpoints. At each point, the persona’s needs and drivers should be detailed, as should the capabilities to improve each touchpoint and the cumulative omnichannel experience.
  1. Establish guiding principles. Guiding principles are typically derived based on research and are often driven by Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. However, a quick Google search for journey mapping will reveal that many companies are missing this pivotal component. Our team typically uses abstract laddering to arrive at clear and succinct guiding principles.
  1. Plot the customer’s path. It’s important to identify the stages of how a customer interacts with a business. What are the different touchpoints, and what channels does he or she use at each touchpoint? By plotting each touchpoint, a UX professional can create a step-by-step representation of the customer’s journey throughout the brand’s omnichannel experience.
  1. Compare expectations to reality.This involves plotting the expectations customers have of the business at each touchpoint of the journey map, then identifying how the service or product meets these expectations. Does it meet all of them, some of them, or none at all? UX designers should also document customers’ emotional responses at each step of their journey. A successful journey map allows UX designers to anticipate what a specific type of customer will feel at a specific part of his or her interaction with the brand.
  1. Isolate roadblocks. UX designers should map out the points in a customers’ interaction with the brand where problems tend to arise, analyze these roadblocks, and use previous research and findings to uncover what a viable solution might be. Users should be satisfied with their entire experience, and having to deal with a rough CX doesn’t make for happy customers.
  1. Find the turning point. The next step is identifying the “moments of truth,” the crucial moments in the customer journey when customers are likely to make stark decisions about the business. At what point are they “sold” on the brand, or at what point do they become fed up? It’s important to document what triggers each of these responses and find out why this is the turning point.
  1. Take action. Once the journey map is created, UX designers can use it to analyze potential opportunities for customer service improvements. With the insights they’ve found, they can craft a list of specific, manageable actions they can take to improve, innovate, and create an overall stronger CX. An owner within the organization should then be assigned to be responsible for each action.

Although journey mapping is a relatively new way to model a customer’s interactions with a brand, it’s becoming increasingly clear that emphasizing both the “how” and “why” behind engagement yields particularly useful insights.

While there’s no surefire way to cull perfect user analytics or truly understand every single unique customer, journey mapping is a sophisticated, simple, and especially powerful tool that can help designers get there.

 

Image of boy tourist in mountains with map courtesy Shutterstock.

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