Journey Maps

Mapping the customer 's journey is a popular design thinking method. Journey maps show the steps that a customer goes through as they interact with a product or service from start to end. As a graphic facilitation activity, journey maps are great ways to build empathy, achieve a beginner's mindset, identify opportunities, and harvest the knowledge of the group. They are a great way to help see other sides of the beachball. There are plenty of journey map templates available, but all you really need to design a journey map are stickies and markers.

A journey map has five major elements: 

  • Major steps: the six to ten categorical steps a customer takes as she interacts with a product or service,
  • Sub steps: six or less parts of each major step,
  • Pain points: moments of customer dissatisfaction in the journey,
  • Pleasure points: moments of customer satisfaction in the journey, and
  • Moments of truth: the three or fewer make-or-break sub steps that can color how a customer sees the entire journey.

Start by showing an example of a journey map. My favorite example is going out to eat.

Example of a journey map. Major steps at the top, sub steps below. Pain points, pleasure points, and moments of truth are tagged throughout. 

Example of a journey map. Major steps at the top, sub steps below. Pain points, pleasure points, and moments of truth are tagged throughout. 

Then, in groups of four to six, have participants practice designing a journey map of their own from a shared experience. Air travel is a good experience to bring up pains and pleasures.

Coach participants to not capture every possible variation of what a customer MIGHT do, but rather what they MOST LIKELY would do. For example, although it's possible that someone MIGHT book a flight through a travel agent, it's MOST LIKELY they would book online, so participants should choose online booking as a step. A journey map is not a comprehensive process diagram.

After participants are comfortable creating a journey map from a shared experience, they are ready to design a journey map relevant to their own business. The real richness of a journey map occurs as participants discover insights from examining the steps from the customer's perspective. 

As they work, there will be a temptation to include "behind the curtain" processes, that is, the parts of the process that are invisible to the participant. In the case of air travel, behind the curtain processes are air traffic control, or aircraft maintenance, or the database that holds your personal information as a traveler. Don't include behind the curtain process. Although participants may spend their entire careers thinking about these processes, the purpose of a journey map is to experience the journey from the customer's perspective. If participants really can't let go of behind the curtain processes, draw a line below the lowest sub step, have them capture the behind the curtain process at a high level below that line, then move on. 

A journey map is a great starting point for process improvement. In addition to resolving pain points, maximize pleasure points, and make sure that moments of truth don't sour the whole experience. In addition to identifying opportunities, a good follow up is to design a to-be journey map that improves upon the as-is journey map.

I first saw journey mapping from Jeneanne Rae of Motiv Strategies at a DC:DT meetup in January 2016. Since then, I've seen journey mapping methods shared by the LUMA Institute, Ideo, and at design studios around the world.