Customer Journey Mapping: 15 Plot Points Needed in Any Map

Customer journey mapping is perhaps the clearest way to discover what your customers want and how you can make them happy. But creating this type of visual depiction is not always easy. It requires a wealth of data and keen intuition to truly get inside your customers’ heads.

October 03, 2018

Customer journey mapping is perhaps the clearest way to discover what your customers want and how you can make them happy. But creating this type of visual depiction is not always easy. It requires a wealth of data and keen intuition to truly get inside your customers’ heads.

So if you’ve decided to start customer journey mapping, you’ve probably started asking a few questions. Where’s the starting point? How do I know where my customer will go next? Who is this customer, anyway? All good questions, and thankfully, there are a few specific plot points that will form the frame of any good customer journey map.

What is Customer Journey Mapping?

Customer journey mapping is the graphic portrayal of your customer’s experience across various touch points during their interactions with your business. Some of those touch points may be:

Every channel makes a different impact on the customer experience, as does the reason for the interaction. Before starting the process of customer journey mapping, you must understand why the interaction began in the first place and where it is likely to go next.

A customer journey map contains many of the same elements as a traditional map. Just as you’d use a road map to find plot points to guide your path, customer journey mapping utilizes 15 elements to discover how your customers feel and where they’re likely to go next.

1. Map Layout

Maps come in many forms. Some show topography, landmarks, navigational cues or other key information. The actual design of your customer journey mapping project can wait, but make sure to identify the most important information for your business from the get-go. Know what stats take priority for your organization.

Ultimately, there are many different ways to visualize this information. Here’s one example:

Customer Journey Mapping: Map 1

Source: — The above customer journey map, shared by Paul Boag at Boagworks & Boagworld, is a simple graphic representation that emphasizes what a customer thinks throughout the process. This is a great format to incorporate real-life quotes from customers.

We’ll show a few more examples throughout this post, but there are plenty of ways to represent the data you collect. But all the examples in this article have one trait in common: they show movement forward. The customer journeys from one touch point to the next, and your map should represent that. Just be sure to choose the right data sets to emphasize the information you find most important.

2. Legend

Any good map has a legend to help viewers understand what they’re looking at. The same is true with customer journey maps, but the legend may take on a different look. Instead of having a sidebar or compass rose, customer journey mapping should use design elements that are easy to understand at first glance. In a line graph, for example, don’t just make every touch point grey. Consider making positive touchpoints green and negative touchpoints red, as those are common colors used to express “good” and “bad.”

3. Customer Identity

Customer Journey When Things Go Wrong screenshot

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Now, to make your customer journey map applicable in the real world, you need to identify the customer taking the journey in the first place. Add a sidebar or header onto your map explaining who the customer is, including information like:

  • Mood at the start of the journey
  • Economic/social class
  • Gender
  • Experience with technology

Your map can get more specific than this, in which you’ll need to create more maps for each specific group. Or you can be more broad and cover every customer at once. However, the more specific you get, the more actionable insights you’ll uncover for key customer groups.

4. Customer History

In addition to knowing who the customer is, you need to know their impression of your company and why they feel that way. List out important factors, like the length of their relationship with your company and if they have had problems with your product or service before. Again, being more specific requires building more maps, but it will generate more insights.

5. Starting Point

Whether it’s a question, problem or a new sales opportunity, clearly state why the interaction started in the first place. All of these possibilities may begin with a phone call to your contact center, but the customer’s mood will impact the journey. Be aware there may be multiple starting points, like in our customer journey flowchart to the right, which outlines the customer journey when a problem occurs.

6. Defined Borders

While you may have multiple starting points at the beginning of your customer journey map, do not add new entry points as you go. This map is meant to show step-by-step how a certain group of customers interacts with your business. If your starting point is the IVR, the next step may be in your contact center. Another customer may start the interaction in the contact center, but adding that customer to your journey map at this stage only mucks up the picture. These two customers are on different journeys, and you should have two different maps to reflect that.

7. Customer Expectation

Now that you know why the interaction began, describe what the customer expects at each stage in the journey. That’s what allows you to color code each touch point as red or green — i.e. “good” or “bad.” Pay attention to where you are meeting and falling short of expectations throughout the journey, not just at the end.

8. Performance Indicators

Instead of just saying “this touch point was good” and “this touch point was bad,” add key stats and indicators to back up your statements. The map below shows exactly how to incorporate performance indicators and other data into your map.

Customer Journey Mapping: Map 2… — This line graph map, shared by and attributed to Heart of the Customer, makes it easy to see where the customer experience improves and where it falls short throughout the journey. This style of map makes it easy to identify points to improve going forward.

The box in the bottom-right corner of the above journey map shows what factors customers find important and whether they were satisfied with the current offerings. You could also include data like self-service success, call length or callback percentage, depending on what your company finds most valuable.

9. Timeline

Any good customer journey map should have a timeline, but it doesn’t always have to be an explicit part of the design. Generally, a company must know how long the journey lasts. And it may be smart to point out any long gaps, if any. For example, if a customer is seeking technical support from her cable company, the gap between scheduling a roll out and the arrival of a technician may be several days. The customer’s mood can change in that time, so keep that break in mind or create two separate journey maps to reflect each of these experiences.

10. Contingencies

Even in your well-defined customer group, not all journeys will be identical. Creating a single line from touch point to touch point is easy to read but not always realistic.

Customer Journey Mapping: Map 3… — This map by Kerry Bodine & Co. emphasizes the customer mood. In essence, it’s a line graph, but this emphasizes the customer instead of the business.

This customer journey map includes two contingencies. Above the broken red arrows labeled “Wait/Wonder” are thin gray arrows labeled “some went direct.” This is still quite simplistic, but it clearly distinguishes the paths and shows how the customer journey can be improved at two touch points.

11. Pain Points

Customer journey mapping is not a tool to make your company look good. The greatest value comes from finding places to improve. Include touch points where your customer experience needs to improve. That gives you actionable insights to make the journey even better.

12. Points of Failure

No one wants to think about their failures in business, but it’s an important step in customer journey mapping. Many journey maps, including the three examples we shared earlier, show a single line with a defined, usually positive end point. That’s fine for showing how you want the interaction to go, but it may be more helpful to show how your interactions actually end now. That brings us to the next point…

13. Various Endpoints

Not all endpoints are complete success or failure. And not every customer needs to reach every touch point. Discover where customers stop the interaction, and label that as a possible end to the journey. Then decide whether that endpoint yields a positive or negative outcome. Check out this infographic, The Customer Journey When Things Go Wrong, for an example of a customer journey with multiple endpoints and points of failure.

14. Definition of Success

Finally, you’ve reached the most enjoyable part of customer journey mapping: highlighting your successes. Or at least focusing on the success you hope to have. Obviously, you want the customer to be happy at the end of the interaction, but get more specific than that. Decide how you will score customer satisfaction and what score is acceptable. Or determine the next action you want your customer to take.

15. Future Paths

Honestly, this one isn’t necessarily required for customer journey mapping, but it could be all it takes to take your map from good to great. By identifying future paths, you acknowledge that the customer’s journey continues after the interaction is over. A customer’s interactions with your brand don’t exist in a vacuum. That experience will affect the customer’s perception far down the road. Identifying future paths helps you prepare for the next question, problem or opportunity. Plus, you might find options for proactive communication to keep the interaction alive and further grow customer loyalty.

Finding Treasure with Customer Journey Mapping

If you’ve never created a customer journey map before, just include these 15 points to create a document with actionable insights for your business.

Customer journey mapping is an important piece in creating exceptional customer experiences, which is what we strive for at Intrado. If you’d like to learn more about customer journey mapping or our customer experience approach, call or text us at 800.841.9000.

But if you prefer reading, then check out these five customer experience factors to fix in your business today. Start making every touch point in your customers’ journey a positive one.

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