How to use Customer Journey Map – different shades of a single tool. Part 2


customer journey map


In the previous section we discussed the basics of Customer Journey Map, which allowed us to better understand its main idea. We know why and when to use it. However, how to do it well from the very beginning?

Where to actually start creating Customer Journey Maps from?

In fact, start by involving all the necessary people in the process – mapping e.g. the recruitment path requires conversations not only with the recruiters, but also with HR department. Try to make any contact, even if only by e-mail.

The beginning is also the moment when you need to identify the above-mentioned goal you want to achieve with this tool. Determining the main reason and structure of mapping will allow you to focus on what really matters in the research and avoid multiplying unnecessary information. How can you identify them? Answer the following questions:

  • Who will use this completed Customer Journey Map for further actions?
  • What business goal is the created map to support?
  • Whose experience will be important – namely the path of which person / group of people we should present? Whose path should we present and whose experience will be valuable?

These three questions, seemingly simple, can very clearly set the main goal that should be with us when working with the tool … unless it turns out that another solution is better for reaching the desired goal. 

However, if you still decide to use the selected tool and know what effect you want to achieve, you should develop a Customer Journey Map structure before you start mapping information. 


First, you need a background of the story – a specific person (proto-persona, persona), a description of his/her story, on which the map (scenario) will be based and what goals and expectations the user wants to achieve in the experienced process. The goals can concern both the entire process as well as individual moments in the user’s path.

Before you start working on a detailed user path, you should also specify the general scope of the field of view, also called steps in the user path. The basic range of steps should be divided into “before”, “during” and “after”. For example, when running online workshops, the before stage includes all activities related to organizing, inviting, joining. The workshop itself will happen in stage two – “during”.

How to determine the ranges for our case yourself? First of all, as always, focus on the final goal. The goal sets the path and the actions taken on it. To make it easier to find the ranges, use the three parts mentioned above and consider what is happening in each of them in general. If necessary, name them precisely and divide them into smaller ranges. For example: for the stationary electronics purchase path, instead of 3 ranges, we can even mention 6: Discovery, Testing, Purchase, Use, Contact with support and Return (e.g. for other devices). In the above example, the “before” stage itself has been divided into 3 smaller ranges, which better visualizes the division of the path in further actions.

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    The last step in determining the structure is to recognize which information are going to be mapped. Once again, returning to the initial question, why do we actually do it and what is our goal. The mapped information should also help us to achieve the identified business goal for which we are creating the map and bring it closer to the user in this process. For example, when designing an application for those training at the gym, it may be important to map, for example, the type of gym equipment needed for training to find the most commonly used gym equipment.

    Gaining information

    We already have a structure and a clear goal set for our efforts. To make the map useful, we still need to get the information to be placed on it 🙂

    To this end, when starting research, you should focus on the existing data first. You should gather everything: references, already done surveys, interviews, quantitative data, data from previous experiments…but not everything needs to be analyzed. Analyze information that will bring you to your goal first. Building as broad a perspective as possible is important, but a completed map focused on the main goal will be more valuable than an extensive one without half the necessary information.

    Before you start with qualitative research in the form of e.g. observations and interviews with users, you should put hypotheses concerning the user path and initial assumptions on the map. This will allow for identifying areas we should focus on during further research, due to excessive accumulation of risky hypotheses or complete lack of information.

    There are many ways to validate these hypotheses and gather data from users. The easiest and best known method is to learn direct opinions and stories during the conversation. Interviews or discussions in a group not only help us gather information according to the questions prepared – we also have the opportunity to ask further questions should we have any doubts and observe users’ behavior. Thus, we can also draw conclusions from the user’s behavior or even from the way they speak on specific subjects. Field studies – direct observations and contextual studies – are just as valuable in terms of information. If time is limited, it’s worth using dairy studies or very similar workbooks. Both methods require users to complete and write down specific information about the process we are examining on a daily basis. Although this makes it impossible for us to interact directly with the user, aside from the preparation of exercises and recruitment, we focus only on analyzing the results that users complete individually. 

    Remember that if the developed Customer Journey Map is not based on research, but only on assumptions and hypotheses, we should not treat it as the main and reliable path. A poorly mapped and used map can make the situation of the team or product worse if it is based only on assumptions!

    The final step that is left after the research is the final visualization. As in any stage – the form the final visualization should take depends on the goal and the people who will further use it. The tool is meant to support the process, not to be another task done. Even the best collected data and lessons learned can be completely useless when the final map turns out to be unclear to the team that is going to continue working on the product.

    What if we had done research before we even came up with Customer Journey Map? This situation is, however, very common, especially when it comes to short research processes. This activity still enables to identify the path, but there is a risk that some information that turned out to be necessary during the process of setting the goal and structure of the map will be missing, thus causing further research rounds or risk of misinterpretation of the process. 
    That’s why planning action goals is necessary in order to optimize the time as much as possible and to spend it on things that will actually lead us to our goal.

    Other tools in the Customer Journey Map development process

    Customer Journey Map is not the only tool to visualize information about the user and their path. According to the design process, we distinguish 4 main tools to visualize the user’s path, the purpose and duration of which are slightly different.

    • Empathy Map
      Usually used right at the beginning of the activities, allowing to build empathy and a general understanding of the user’s behavior. It also works well as a tool for organizing information collected during interviews with users! Don’t hesitate to use it in the entire process, but remember that it won’t give you very detailed values.
    • Experience Map
      In most cases it’s the second stage, right after Empathy Map. The main task of this map is to map different concepts of user paths without getting into details such as contact points or emotions. Creating several versions of the path enables a more holistic approach to different user behaviors and choosing one of them to expand knowledge through Customer Journey Map.
    • Customer Journey Map
      Both of the above tools are the basis for further work on Customer Journey Map. However, as already indicated before, Customer Journey Map can be used at almost any time, based on the details and goal we want to achieve.
    • Service Blueprint
      Usually it’s one of the last steps towards a detailed visualization of the relationship among a large number of elements in the service – user, other people, product, etc. Performed after Customer Journey Map.

    Is it necessary to use all tools in the order presented above? Of course not! Everything depends on the goal, budget, time and work system of other people involved in the project. Also, creating physical artifacts doesn’t always need to happen – but it’s important to be aware of their existence and common dependencies, so that you don’t get involved from the very end 🙂


    Keep in mind

    Regardless of how much experience we have and what we want to use this tool for, there are three main principles to follow, which can be universally applied to all other research activities:

    1. Always set a goal at the beginning of your work, which you must achieve by using this tool.
    2. The final User Journey Map must be based on real events and information from the user. However, use this tool also for mapping hypotheses, bearing in mind that moving any information to the tool doesn’t automatically make it true.
    3. Before you start visualizing the results, find a proper form that is clear to all interested parties. 

    Sticking to these three simple principles will not only save a lot of time during the research and verify the choice of tools, but will also help you remember the final goal on an ongoing basis, for which all these actions are taken.

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    Agnieszka Zygmunt
    Agnieszka performs analyzes, conducts research, and experiments. She specializes in Product Discovery research and helps create solutions focused on the real user needs.

    She takes a holistic view of the design process accounting for t all factors that may affect the final user experience. In her work, she combines her analytical skills with a high level of empathy and love of science.

    Co-creator of the Proste Rozmowy podcast. Privately involved in non-profit projects supporting those who need it most.

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