5 Must-Have Elements for Customer Journey Maps

Man holding a picture of a question mark in front of his face.

A well-crafted customer journey map rallies your colleagues around the customer’s needs, engages the executive leadership team, and primes your organization to change. It shows you where to invest your limited resources to create the greatest impact on customer experiences and business objectives.

But if you’ve never created a customer journey map before, it’s hard to know what to include. Many of our clients feel like they’ve only got one chance to get this right or they’ll lose the trust and engagement of the executive team.

To make matters worse, the internet is littered with unhelpful templates and bad advice causing most customer journey maps to fail.

While there’s great freedom in how you visualize your customer’s journey, these 5 elements must be on your map.

1. Customer Persona

If it’s not about a customer, it’s not a customer journey map.

The first element you must show on your map is a customer persona—a prototypical representation of a segment of customers who have similar goals, needs, values, and experiences.

We place the customer persona in the top left section of the map, so it is the first thing the reader sees.

Use personas to show how different customer segments face different problems. For example, customers of fiber internet who work from home experience an outage differently than customers who use their internet to binge-watch Real Housewives after the kids go to bed. For the work-from-home customer, an outage hits them in the wallet with missed deadlines, lost wages, and burnt PTO days.

Make sure to create your personas based on research, not your imagination. “To effectively drive decision-making using CJMs,” says the XM Institute, “companies must first develop rich, detailed personas that are based on in-depth qualitative customer research.”1

2. Customer Goal

The second element you must include on your customer journey map is the customer’s goal—what your customer is trying to accomplish on this journey.

It’s critical to understand the customer’s goal because that’s how the customer will measure the success of the journey.

Always show the customer goal from the customer’s perspective, not your company’s perspective.

“Completing a customer service call in less than 3 minutes” is a company goal. The customer’s goal is likely to complete whatever job they were trying to do before they encountered the issue that led to the customer service call.

For complex journey maps and end-to-end experience maps, you may include intermediate goals for different phases of the journey.

3. Customer Actions

Your map must also include the customer’s actions—the activities the customer does as they attempt to accomplish their goal.

Again, these actions are from the customer’s perspective, not your company’s perspective. The processes your company follows can be captured on a process map.

Sometimes people get stuck trying to visualize every possible sequence of customer actions. It’s not important to create a flow chart of every possible customer behavior. Instead, create a list of actions that most customers could do. Call attention to activities that change the customer’s experience in a meaningful way.

Don’t forget to include actions like waiting—everything the customer is doing in their pursuit of their goals, even if it’s not a direct interaction with your company.

4. Thoughts & Emotions

The heart of a customer journey map is showing the thoughts and emotions of the customer as they go about their journey to accomplish their goal.

When colleagues understand what customers are feeling and why, they’re able to empathize with them. If you want to transform your organization to be customer-centric, employees must be able to understand how their actions impact customers’ thoughts and emotions.

How do you know what customers are thinking and feeling? Don’t put your customer hat on—you have to ask customers themselves when you conduct your qualitative research.

Great questions are:

  • What were you thinking when you…?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • What else was important to you when…?

When creating the map, label the different Customer Actions with emotion words and customer quotes that indicate what they’re thinking and feeling at that moment.

5. Moments of Truth

“Moments of Truth” are critical moments in the customer’s journey that have a disproportionate impact on their experience—the make-or-break interactions where customer loyalty is forged or eroded.

We highlight these Moments of Truth (MoT) on the map with different colors or special symbols to call attention to them.

How do you determine the MoTs? Once again, your customers tell you about them. Near the end of customer interviews, I ask a few questions to help pinpoint these moments in the journey.

  • Thinking about everything you told me, what was most important to you?
  • What parts of your experience were annoying or challenging?
  • What was the moment where you changed your mind?

The Moments of Truth are important because these are the steps in the journey where the company needs to take action—either replicating the positives or fixing the negatives. When you understand the entire journey, you can stop playing Whac-a-Mole with CX pain points and focus on the moments that matter most.

Additional Elements for Customer Journey Maps

While those are the essential components of compelling customer journey maps, there are additional elements you can include on your map.

When deciding what to include on your map, ask yourself: does this make the customer’s story clearer and easier to understand? If not, save it for the appendix, PowerPoint, or a supplemental report.

Here are some options for additional elements you can put on your map:

  1. Friction Points: moments in the journey where the customer experiences significant “friction”—high effort or negative emotions
  2. Quantitative Data: metrics that measure the customer experience, customer behaviors, outcomes, sentiment, or other numerical data
  3. Opportunities: Ideas or recommendations for how to use these journey mapping insights to improve the customer experience
  4. Company actions: What is happening within your company that is driving the customer’s experience, turning the journey map into a “service blueprint”

You have freedom in the design of your map. Don’t simply fill in the boxes in a template you downloaded from the internet—invest the effort to create a compelling visualization that will resonate with your audience and catalyze change in your organization.

  1. Rodstrom, J., & Lucas, A. (2015). Maximizing Value from Customer Journey Mapping: 23 Best Practices for Driving Action from Customer Journey Maps. ↩︎

Free Journey Map Review

Want help with your customer journey map? Let’s review your map together in a confidential 45-minute virtual meeting. Bring whatever you have, even if it’s not finished or perfect. I’ll share best practices and recommend the next best action for improving your map.

Created with the Vistio Knowledge Collective.

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