5 Essential Components of Effective Customer Journey Maps

By Kathleen Hoski and Phil Goddard

Journey maps are emerging as a key tool for managing enterprise customer and user experience programs. If you’re new to customer experience you may be wondering what a journey map is, while more experienced UX/CX pros often have strong positions on what a journey map is and is not. In this post, we’ll take a look at 5 key components that will ensure your journey mapping project is a success.

What is a customer journey map?

Customer journey maps are a compact visualization of an end-to-end customer experience. This visualization empowers your business to make value-driven decisions based on a customer experience model of performance.

Common questions about journey maps include:

  • Are customer journey maps strategic or tactical?
  • Do they illustrate cyclical or linear customer experiences?
  • Can they apply to all customers or more narrow customer segments/personas?
  • Should they look like grid maps or do they have to include highly visual depictions of the customer journey?

Customer journey maps can be any of these as long as they include certain essential components. The bottom line is that they should help stakeholders deepen their understanding of their customers’ behaviors, thoughts, and feelings across touchpoints in their journey and they should be actionable. Building your customer journey maps with these key attributes will help to ensure that they meet these goals, making them central components when developing an experience strategy for your organization.

5 Key attributes of effective customer journey maps

1. Build from a customers’ point of view, not an internal business point of view.

The key distinction between a customer journey map that is built on an internal business point of view vs. a customer point of view is that an internal business point of view will use business processes, systems and people as the foundation of visualizing the journey. Then, typically, they will layer the customer into this foundational view.

In contrast, a journey map that is built from a customer’s point of view will use the customer’s experience as the foundation of the journey map. Rather than thinking of the stages and steps of the journey from a systems or business process perspective, the journey is based on what the customer does. This extends to what they think and how they feel, as they interact with your brand across multiple touchpoints and/or relationship stages.

It’s surprisingly easy to recreate the system’s point of view as the customer’s experience. The best way to avoid this common error is to choose an experienced CX consultancy, and to conduct research to create an unbiased understanding of the customer’s journey.

An example of a journey map based on a customer’s perspective.

Customer Journey maps should be designed with specific customers in mind and, ideally, based on a deep, research-driven understanding of your customers’ experiences. Whether you are modeling an experience that applies to all of your customer segments or personas, or a specific personas, the journey map should clearly communicate which segments or persona’s journey are being modeled. In essence, the journey map should be built on a real understanding of their behavior, thoughts, and feelings throughout their journey. Journey-mapping initiatives and persona management programs should be concurrent, since journey maps set the stage for driving results using personas.

We recommend starting your journey map by building a hypothesis customer journey map based on employee knowledge of their customers and leveraging existing customer data—both qualitative and quantitative. Depending on the scope and potential impact of the journey or experience you are mapping, and the richness of the data you have available to you, the hypothesis journey map might be all you need.

However, if your existing customer data doesn’t include recent research that captures customer’s experiences across touchpoints, their goals, needs and expectations, and their perceptions of their experiences across those touchpoints, then you run the risk that your hypothesis journey map is simply a model of internal ideas about the customer experience. This model could very likely have biases and misunderstandings embedded in it.

Activating CX or UX improvement projects based on internal biases may not generate the desired ROI and increased customer loyalty you desire. Journey maps based on recent customer research eliminates hidden biases and create greater confidence in your map as the decision-making tool.

2. Capture customers’ perceptions of their experiences relative to their goals, needs and expectations.

Journey maps should have a purpose and should be actionable.

Actionable journey maps clearly identify both positive and negative customer emotions throughout their journey and put them in context of customer behaviors, goals, and expectations. Businesses use their data to identify opportunity areas and to assess the impact of current and future CX/UX investments.

For example, key pain points can be evaluated by assessing the cost and effort of eliminating the pain point relative to the value a more positive customer experience will have on the business. Similarly, current investments in positive movements in the customer journey can be assessed to determine the optimal level of ongoing investment.

A journey map can identify pain points and help align with business priorities.

Both qualitative and quantitative research help to uncover customers’ experiences and their emotional states throughout the journey. Qualitative research approaches like contextual inquiry and ethnographic research are especially effective at capturing customers’ actual behavior and their emotions. Leveraging voice of the customer (VOC) data from call centers and verbatims from customer satisfaction surveys are also useful for identifying customer emotions.

3. Illustrate the customers’ current or future journey across multiple touchpoints rather than focusing on a single touchpoint.

Many enterprises are organized in silos – with each silo focusing on optimizing specific channels, touchpoints, and/or aspects of the end-to-end customer experience. It is not uncommon for each group or function in an enterprise to design and measure customer experiences independently of each other. But customers think of all their interactions with a company as connected.

This assumption of connectedness impacts customer expectations and drives the need to intentionally orchestrate customer experience across touchpoints. Effective customer journey maps help businesses:

  • See potential gaps in their customer’s experience between touchpoints
  • Assess the impact of these gaps
  • Provide insights into how to optimally orchestrate the customer experience across touchpoints to drive business value.

Effective journey maps illustrate the customer journey across multiple touchpoints.

Customer journey maps are an effective tool for visualizing a holistic customer experience across channels and touchpoints. Journey Maps that do this well become key strategic CX planning tools. They help businesses identify and prioritize areas for investment across silos in an enterprise.

We’ve seen lots of tactical, single-touchpoint, UX-focused customer experience maps. These more tactical maps drill down on specific tasks related to the interaction with a single touchpoint. Unlike traditional task analysis, these experience maps layer in customers’ thinking and feeling into the task flow, and by doing so, become actionable decision making tools. Just like with customer journey maps that model the customer experience across touchpoints, these tactical maps help identify key pain points that can be evaluated and prioritized for improvement.

The question remains if these more tactical maps should be called journey maps. Or, is there value in distinguishing between journey maps that visualize the customer journey across touchpoints and channels and those that provide a more tactical visualization of the customer experience within a specific touchpoint? It may make sense to refer to single touchpoint maps as experience maps, rather than journey maps. We expect that the terminology will evolve as more and more companies embrace the experience mapping approach.

Either way, we encourage you to leverage customer journey maps that model your customers’ experience across touchpoints as a strategic planning and prioritization tool. We also recommend leveraging more tactical UX experience maps as part of a user-centered design approach. When done in conjunction, these strategic and tactical maps can be used as governance tools to measure impact of investment over time.

Journey maps can be linked in a hierarchy – where the highest-level journey map identifies areas for investment across the customer journey, and the lower-level journey maps focus on specific areas of the journey for CX improvement.

Another useful way to leverage experience maps—whether they model the journey across touchpoints or focus on a single touchpoint—is to model the future state experience. Future state maps become the blueprint for improvement projects.

4. Incorporate performance indicators.

A key function of customer journey maps is to identify critical opportunity areas based on an understanding of your customers’ perceptions of their experiences. Performance indicators provide the evaluative framework for making journey maps actionable.

Many customer journey maps leverage qualitative insights to visualize customers’ emotional highs and lows. Visual indicators that indicate positive/neutral/negative or exceeds/meets/does not meet expectations are commonly used. This generalized approach to performance indicators can be used effectively to identify and evaluate opportunity areas.

Example showing commonly used journey map performance indicators.

Since qualitative research is typically conducted with smaller sample sizes, quantitative research with a large sample size can bolster confidence in the qualitative insights. And quantitative research provides an opportunity to capture experience metrics for specific journey stages or touchpoints. By integrating quantitative CX metrics into customer journey maps, they become useful as a tool to measure CX improvement initiatives over time. The same quantitative measures can be captured after an improvement project to measure the impact of the change.

Some helpful metrics you may want to include in your customer journey maps include:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) or other customer loyalty measures
  • Customer Satisfaction Measures
  • Quantitative assessments of the primary emotions your customers are experiencing at specific stages or touchpoints in their journey
  • Measures of effort
  • Measures of importance, helpfulness, etc. of a specific touchpoint

The metrics you collect and include in your journey maps should help you measure the health of your customer experience, now and in the future. And in doing so, they should empower your stakeholders to make value driven decisions based on a model of customer experience performance.

5. Visualize the customer journey to optimize stakeholders’ understanding, engagement, and decision-making based on the journey map story.

What makes customer journey maps especially powerful is the ability to layer other relevant information into the map along with the foundational journey elements and the ability to visualize your map in a way that will inform and engage your target audience. In fact, multiple versions of a customer journey map might be the most effective approach to meet the needs of different stakeholder audiences.

Example of a complex journey map that layers emotions, expectation ratings and opportunities along the customer’s journey.

For example, you might best engage your executives by including key performance metrics in your map. In fact, a customer journey map is an especially effective way to contextualize the performance dashboards often presented to executive leaders with the real customer experience across touchpoints.

Other stakeholders might benefit from information like a detailed view of the “behind the scenes” people, processes, and systems (often referred to the “back office or “back stage”) involved in delivering the customer experience at each touchpoint, so they can gain clear visibility to how the domains they have control over is contributing to either positive or negative customer experiences.

There are a lot of potential options for what might make sense for your stakeholders. Remember, a primary objective of your customer journey maps is to make them actionable for your stakeholders. Consider both what data you decide to incorporate into you journey map and how you visualize it to maximize its effectiveness for your stakeholders.


Effective customer journey maps are both art and science. Ensure you optimize your investment in customer journey maps by incorporating these 5 essential components. Collaborate within your organization to bring together the best thinking about qualitative CX/UX insights, quantitative CX/UX insights, strategy, and design. Be sure to leverage visual designers who are skilled in data visualization to make your journey maps engaging and actionable.

Get help building your journey map with our Digital Experience Solutions.

Interested in creating journey maps, personas, and more, with a direct link to your underlying research data? Learn how you can create and share all of your UX and CX assets using UX360.

Image credit: “Pie chart” by OpenClipartVectors licensed under CC0

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