Mapping out customer experience excellence: 10 steps to customer journey mapping

12th Mar 2010

Customer journey mapping could hold the key to analysing and improving the customer experience. Only recently, a report from the Cabinet Office recommended CJM for authorities to provide a more efficient and cost-effective service. Arne van Oosterom outlines how it can help organisations - and lists the 10 key ingredents to a customer journey map.

A product or service is merely a means to an end. The real deeper value lies in the story attached.

I don’t want to own a coffee maker - I need to wake up early with a little help from a cup of coffee. I don’t want to use a train - I want to get home to my wife and children. I don’t want to go to a store and buy a stereo set - I just want to listen to my favourite rock music when I’m home, it makes me unwind after work.

Unfortunately, most organisations are not capable of listening to stories. And this is why the gap between "inside and outside" has grown too wide. To stay competitive and survive the changes organisations are presently facing, they need to reassess the way they are structured, function and build relationships with customers. Closing the "reality gap" between organisations and people (employees and customers alike) should be the number one priority. And for this we need a new set of skills, methods and tools.
People-centred approaches like Design Thinking, Social Design and Service Design have emerged because it provides us with useful methods and tools to bridge the gap. One of the tools is customer journey mapping. And in this article I’ll explain what customer journey mapping is, and how it is used to improve quality and foster a culture of innovation. But first I’ll explain why tools like customer journey mapping emerged and are needed.
I like the description given to it in an article by Kable: "CJM maps the route people take as they interact with services, taking quantitative measures such as number of contacts made and the time taken to access a service. What distinguishes it from data that might be gleaned from customer relationship management systems is its equal focus on emotional insights about the citizen's experience. The goal is to mix quantitative approaches with qualitative, experiential data, providing a dispassionate analysis of the issues."
Change causes friction
Thinking in journeys can be very helpful. Change is a constant. And thinking in journeys takes this into account and puts more emphasis on quality of the whole experience. Dwight Eisenhower said it like this: "planning is everything, the plan is nothing."
Only those who are adaptable survive. That’s just one of those inconvenient evolutionary things. But generally speaking, companies and governmental organisations are not designed for adaptability. They are organised in static, pyramid shaped, top-down-broadcasting models and not organised to receive feedback from the outside or the bottom of the pyramid or to use this information for change and continuous improvement. Most organisations are incapable of having real and meaningful (two-way-street) conversations with their customers.
And it’s exactly in this area where the biggest business opportunities lie. We need to design and implement systems that will allow our organisations to have meaningful and ongoing conversations with our customers, using the insight we gain to improve and innovate in an ongoing iteration. And this all starts by taking a good look at the organisation from the outside. There are no magic tricks. But it’s just common sense to start with the people you work with and your customers.
Customer journey mapping builds a mirror and enables us to question why we do the things we do. It makes things visible, which might have been right in front of us, but were so familiar we did not notice them or question them. It never occurred to us we could change them. It brings knowledge, already embedded in the organisation, to the surface and makes explicit what is implicitly already there.
It allows us to take a step back from where we are, away from our internal targets and agendas and lets us be open-minded and put our creative energy to good use. And the beauty of it: there is no lengthy report, which no one actually reads. Customer journey mapping is a creative tool and works with visualisations. It is meant to inspire, energise and kick-start good conversations and ideation. And it’s the conversation that matters - and the opinions and ideas it brings to the surface.
Building a culture of trust
Customer journey mapping is primarily used as a tool to investigate, analyse and improve customer experiences. However there is another more profound use of the customer journey. DesignThinkers, for instance, has developed a system called the Customer Journey LAB.
The Customer Journey LAB is used to facilitate an ongoing conversation within the organisation and build or strengthen a culture of mutual trust. The LAB is embedded into the internal workings of an organisation. It’s a "short iterative feedback loop" and allows for top-down and bottom-up conversations. It’s facilitated by an online LAB and offline media and events.
The Customer Journey LAB is an iterative method to build a culture of trust and adaptability, which is the most important step into building a relationship with your customer and maintain a strong, long term, almost irreplaceable competitive edge.
A quick guide to customer journey mapping
This allows us to step into the customer shoes. It shows us the customer’s perceptions and the larger context in which we play a part. It lets us be emerged in their world, their reality. Get a deeper insight into customer needs, perception, experience and motivation. It will answer questions like: What are people really trying to achieve? How are they trying to achieve this? What do they use and in what order? Why do they make a choice? What are they experiencing, feeling, while trying to reach the desired outcome?
A customer journey map is built up layer by layer. We start 'above water', with the customer and slowly dive deeper and deeper into the organisational structures and context. The tool can be used with customers or management, employees and other stakeholder or, even better, in a mix.
A customer journey map (e.g. used by front-office employees) in its simplest form will contain the following:
  1. Context or stakeholder map. We list all stakeholders and we order the hierarchy in circles of influences around the centre, where you are. When working with customers you’ll have the customer in the centre. Describe all relationships on the map by answering the question: what do we do for them; what do they do for us? This map shows you the landscape or force field you are dealing with. And you can discuss how this influences the quality of your work and how a customer benefits or suffers from it.
  2. Persona. We need a rich customer profile or persona. Describe his/her personal and business situation now (present situation) and in the future (ambitions).
  3. Outcomes. A description of his/ her desired outcome - what is he/she trying to achieve?
  4. Customer journey. We list all actions (as far as possible) the customer has to take to reach the outcome (placed in a horizontal line). Don’t start listing actions when the customer uses your service the first time. Start before the moment he/she decided to use your product or service. This way we visualise behavioural patterns.
  5. Touchpoints. Underneath every action we list all channels and touchpoints services the customer encounter. Not just yours! This way you’ll discover the landscape you are in form the customer’s perception.
  6. Moments of truth. Then we identify the moments the customer encounters your touchpoints and channels. We start focus on those (you can move them down a bit). Identify the most important 'moments of truth'.
  7. Service delivery. Underneath every touch point, we write down who delivers the service. Who is directly responsible for it (e.g. front office personal)?
  8. Emotional journey. Then give every vertical line a grade for the experience (Actions -> touch point -> who delivers the service -> grade). Don't grade the functionality, grade the work. For the emotion, how do you think the customer felt at that moment? Use a scale from 0 to 10. The higher the number, the better the experience. This can be visualised (e.g. by a line going up and down), and is very effective as a conversation starter. It can often be a real eye-opener.
  9. Blueprint. Now, to make a long story a bit shorter, we can go on listing the organisation underneath, writing down who supports the people delivering the service (backoffice), and in turn who influences the back office (we link back to the stakeholders map), until we have a complete organisational blueprint, a complete picture of the working of an organisation and emotional journey, from the outside in.
  10. Improve and innovate. Use creative, brainstorming and any other ideation techniques for the service opportunities you identified (low grades) and/or design complete new and ideal journeys or services. This usually is the moment people have the most fun. I have been surprised many times by the talent and eagerness of people to engage in this creative process. People are usual a lot more creative than you think. We just need to put them in the right situation and mood.
Don’t wait until the end to collect ideas. Write down all ideas and insights during the building of the customer journeys. These insights will be a rich source for improvements and innovative ideas. And all you need to start are some large sheets of paper, markers and a lot of sticky-notes.
We will shortly be publishing all the materials for building your own Customer Journey LAB and all the material will be downloadable with a guidebook from the DesignThinkers website
Arne van Oosterom is owner and strategic design director at DesignThinkers, a strategic design agency based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, that specialises in social innovations, service innovations, customer-centred design, marketing 2.0 and branding. DesignThinkers assists Public and Private organisations and companies in delivering the best possible service. We help them to be more Innovative and Competitive. Read more on Arne is also lecturer and Chairman of the Service Design Network Netherlands, founder of Wenovski, the design thinkers network and guest lecturer at various International institutions.

Replies (8)

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By Ol Janus
19th Mar 2010 14:35

Arne makes some great points and suggestions in this piece, not least of which the fact that we absolutely need to consider the customer story when looking at the products and services that we deliver, not to mention how they are marketed. One point I would add to those made by Arne is the underlying necessity of customer information to inform marketing decisions, without which you will be adrift from the consumer’s bigger picture. There is a huge amount that can be learnt from customer data – not just things like address details but also preferences, such as which channel each customer prefers to be contacted via – and it is this which can facilitate a purchase.

 Rather than simply offering a product because the customer once bought one a bit like it, these interactions should be about making life that little bit easier, offering exactly the right solution to a problem or desire  at the right time when it suits the consumer . To make this work the necessary information needs to be available to the relevant departments – marketing, IT etc – and accessible for it to be possible for it to be used. Although this does take time and effort, to get the right systems working in the right way, and the right information to the right people, the pay off when it is successful can be immeasurable.  

-- Ol Janus, Managing Director, EHS 4D Discovery

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By MattHedges
01st Sep 2010 18:37

Hi Arne,

Fantastic post.  I am looking to adopt a customer journey mapping approach in a project I am running.

I was intrigued to read your final comments that you would soon be, "publishing all the materials for building your own Customer Journey LAB and all the material will be downloadable with a guidebook from the DesignThinkers website". 

Could you please let me know if this is now available?  It would be a great help for me.

Many thanks.

Matthew Hedges

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By Neil Davey
07th Sep 2010 09:57

Hi Matt,

I've checked with Arne and the materials are to be published shortly.

He also said he'd be happy to send you the materials directly or send a message when it's online if you like? I'll PM you his email address if you'd like to follow up with him.

Thanks Matt,


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By User deleted
18th Sep 2010 14:13

I too would love to get hold of these. Any update on when they'll be published? 

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By Neil Davey
20th Sep 2010 10:27

Hi Ryan, I spoke with Arne about this very recently and he assures me that the materials will be published very shortly. He has offered to send the materials directly or send a message of notification when the guidebook etc is published - I can PM you his email address if you'd like to follow up with him directly about this.

Thanks Ryan,

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24th Jan 2014 06:16

Were the resources ever published? Are they available on the website?

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By Neil Davey
24th Jan 2014 16:18

If you'd like speak with Arne about accessing the resources, I can email you his contact details. 


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By Yuri Vedenin
30th May 2015 23:15

Thank you for the great article!

"And all you need to start are some large sheets of paper, markers and a lot of sticky-notes."

We also like to work with paper live, but sometimes it becomes less efficient or even unlikely possible (international distributed team, long projects). That inspired us to develop our own tool for mapping customer journeys with little efforts and in engaging format – with no need to involve designer if there’s none. You can try it out – it’s called, and I would really appreciate your feedback.

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