Journey map

Best practices for building a customer journey map

6th Oct 2016

Today the value of creating experiences that exceed your customers’ expectations is well known. We’re living in the ‘Age of the Customer’ and companies are competing primarily on the basis of customer experience. Understanding your customer and how they interact with your brand throughout the product lifecycle is essential to creating a market-leading experience.  

Journey mapping has become increasingly common to help companies understand existing pain points not unearthed in traditional quantitative surveys. To translate this into a competitive advantage, it’s not just about understanding the present, it’s about identifying opportunities to innovate when designing the future experiences.

It’s not as simple as to leap into customer journeys and think it will deliver an answer. You need to start with a clear hypothesis about customer behaviour, a defined journey and set of customers that are relevant to your hypothesis and most importantly, a supportive leadership team.

Journey mapping should not be done in siloes. There needs to be a clear owner for the mapping initiative who will carry out the interviewing. However, responsibility for the customer journey itself will fall across the organisation. Sponsorship should be at an executive level, but engagement from the marketing, operations and finance departments in particular, will be crucial.

Only your customers can truly tell you what your customer experience is like. You need access to customers to have in-depth interviews about their experience. Ensure the questions you define are aligned to your hypothesis and will yield the data you expect. At a major UK retailer this meant riding with delivery drivers to ask customers about their delivery experience, and at a train company this saw the team riding on trains, speaking to customers about mid-journey.

Important considerations

  • Just having journey maps is not enough. You need to use them to communicate the current experience to the rest of your business and build momentum and a case for change. You’ll need to run workshops involving everyone who has the power to change the customer journey, from operations to finance, not just the marketing team. It’s important to get this commitment from across the business at the outset.
  • Journey mapping isn’t an overnight exercise. You’ll need enough people to interview customers and map out their journeys. A lot depends on how many customers you’re going to interview, and this will be based on the size of your company and the problem you want to address. As a rule of thumb, an experienced journey mapper can interview and map-out 20 customer journeys in a week. 
  • Journey mapping should not be seen as a one off activity. Journeys should be mapped frequently to create regular loops of actionable insight. Customer expectations are constantly shifting, and this regular insight can be used to develop customer experience designs that consistently delight.  When North Highland worked with a major UK retailer to embed a journey mapping function, the company was then able to use the same methodology across all of its business units, from fitted kitchens to beauty. As a result they can now take a CX problem or opportunity and turn it into an actionable solution in days or weeks.
  • The simplest approach is to develop linear journey maps. A linear maps flows from left to right following the standard stages of the marketing funnel. Unfortunately this approach can have one major drawback: customers do not just move left to right, they go back and forth. They switch between different channels and they interact with all sorts of different people, media and content in one journey.  For example if you want to buy a new tablet you may research online, read reviews, go into lots of different shops, talk to a friend about their tablet and then make a decision before buying online or in store.

[Click to enlarge]

Journey map

Human behaviour is complex and multifaceted and this requires a whole new way of doing mapping. Take the work North Highland did with a train company – train travel is more than going from A to B, it’s loaded with emotion; be it the excitement of a weekend away with friends or the comfort of a trip to see the Parents. A good journey map captures more than touchpoints; it shows how the customer was thinking and feeling.

Here’s a simple six step guide to how North Highland uses journey mapping to create experiences for our clients that surprise and delight their customers.

  1. Collate the data. Visit your stores. Call your customers. Invite them for a coffee. Ask them to describe their end-to-end experience using open-ended questions because you want rich detail. Don’t go in blind – have some key questions lined up. Remember you want qualitative insight, so ask about their needs, wants, and motivations along the way.
  2. Map their journeys. Visually illustrate each individual customer experience. Create customer personas to bring themes to life to help your colleagues understand their customers on a personal and emotional level.
  3. Cost the touchpoints. The senior leadership will soon pay attention to customer experience if you provide a tangible cost to pain points and opportunities. You can do this by adding a ‘cost to serve’ to key touchpoints. For example, a Telco client’s customers frequently called their contact centre because of an issue with their phone signal, and by placing a cost on each call the impact of this negative touchpoint was made real.
  4. Develop qualitative insights. Deep dive into the journey maps you’ve created. Overlay multiple customer journeys to spot common pain points and opportunities. Look to determine your customers’ motivations, wants, needs and preferences.
  5. Design. Here’s where the real fun begins. Draw out design ideas that could create amazing experiences that exceed your customers’ expectations. Ban words! Just draw ideas. The reasoning behind this is to ensure people do not get too stuck in the detail and think about the ‘big picture’ behind the customer journey.
  6. Prototype. Map out these end-to-end customer journeys onto blank journey maps using the new design ideas to ensure the to-be CX would be consistent across all channels. Then to bring the to-be customer journeys to life, draw cartoon strips and storyboards.


Clare Flitton is a senior consultant at North Highland Consulting. This article was created in collaboration with Andrew Pennycuick, a consultant at North Highland Consulting.

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By EJohn Morris
10th Oct 2016 09:05

Some great insights and advice, thanks for sharing

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