The Customer Journey Map

Collaboratively organize your ocean of data to tell the story of your customer’s journey to and bring it to life.

Diane Bowen
4 min readApr 13, 2016
Woman sitting on a rock overlooking a forest.

My phone holds a picture of my friend Anita. You might make some assumptions about her based on her great style and fabulous hair.

Now compare Anita’s picture with a feature length movie in which she is the main character. In the movie you learn she grew up in Houston, has an Italian hunting dog, and knows a lot about business.

She and her husband have been looking for a retirement venture and have bought a farm two hours from Houston. They are making plans to turn the farm into an art retreat and have begun clearing land for building.

It is unlikely that the snapshot would have revealed these details. You gained an understanding of the dramatic change in Anita’s life from the depth revealed in the movie.

A customer journey map is like that movie. It reveals what a snapshot of the data cannot.

When your data is laid out, combined, and then hung on a frame, a clear understanding of your customer emerges. His goals, motivations, and behaviors; the touchpoints with your business; when he tires of your product or service or his needs are met by something unexpected — this is the value of the customer journey map.

But where do you start? Where do you find data that is accurate and relevant? Once you find it, how do you sort through it to find insights?

The best method to build an impactful, data-backed customer journey map is to start with goals.

The customer-centered data you dive into must be put into a frame. The goals are your frame.

For example, your goals may be to identify where visitors turn into leads or to reduce churn of existing customers. Perhaps you want to understand the end-to-end experience of the customer and find the leaking buckets — the pain points; the issues your customer’s have with your product that reduce retention.

These are good goals and may be enough for you to map your ocean of data. I encourage you to look further though.

If you want to find the deeper value in your customer journey map and weave your data into a powerful story from which you can advocate for the user, include not just what your customers are doing, but what they are thinking and feeling as well.

Take time to discover success points, behavioral triggers, and anything else that plays a role in the emotional decision-making surrounding your product or service.

After identifying your goals and creating your frame, you’re still not ready for the data deluge. Your story must include a persona. Persona’s are the main characters of your story and will bring your data to life.

Build your persona from website analytics, database statistics, and through conversations with your customer support team, if you have one. Find out the customer segment you are selling to, and start with them.

If you don’t know where to start, ask your marketing department. They are probably eager to drop all kinds of customer data and insights on anyone outside their department who will listen.

Then begin to plot the stages of your customer’s journey. A time line is a great way to think about a customer journey. Yours may be circular in parts. There may be sections that do not have a clear starting point and conclusion, but your customer’s journey will always have stages.

An effective method to map your data is to go through a source and write one insight per sticky note, then once you have extracted insights from the data and have a stack of sticky notes, or maybe you have just a few, place them on the map where they belong.

After the “this is what the customer is doing” sticky notes are on the map, consider what your customer is thinking and feeling. The customer journey is an emotional one. You’ll find holes in the journey where you know nothing.

Wall covered in post-it notes grouped by the concepts of doing, thinkinig, and feeling.

This is an important moment — you have discovered what you don’t know.

Now is the time to ask your data analysts “Who has this information?” And “Where can I find this thing out?” and you probably will need to do some talking with your users.

After you have mapped what you customer is doing, thinking, and feeling within the structure of your goals, review the insights and craft the deliverable with key people in your company. Creating a shared deliverable develops a shared understanding — which makes the Customer Journey Map an artifact with power.

Together, with the advantage of a shared understanding of your customer’s journey, your teams will:

  • Develop real empathy for the customer
  • Understand customer problems
  • Envision the end state — victory for the customer!
  • Uncover opportunities for innovation
  • Enhance product quality

There is real power in taking a into your ocean of data and bringing to the surface the golden threads that weave the valuable story of your customer’s journey to and bring it to life.



Diane Bowen

UX Research Manager, motivated to invest in my team, craft exceptional end-to-end user experiences, live with integrity, and contribute joy where I’m planted.