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Journey Mapping Smaply

A step-by-step guide to creating customer journey maps

5. March 2018

A step-by-step guide to creating customer journey maps

Have you ever wondered what information you can and should use to create a comprehensive journey map? This article introduces you to the most important details of a journey map and explains how adding different lanes can help you illustrate experiences.

Visualizing a complex thing like customer experience is challenging and many people feel lost when they need to make a decision on how to illustrate important moments of the customer journey.

However: it’s much easier than you’d expect if you know how to get started.

Journey maps can be enhanced by a variety of optional visualizations, so-called lanes, to create depth and meaning. In this article you get to know a few of the lane types that help you highlight specific aspects of a customer journey and create a comprehensive customer journey map.

Defining the persona

Each journey map needs to be based on a specific persona – i.e., the main actor of your story. Start by clearly defining who your persona is, what her expectations and needs are. That might strongly influence how to interpret the journey maps that you are creating.

The persona Tess

Here’s an in-depth article on what a persona is and how to create a persona.

Stages and steps

Stages and steps define the basic structure of an experience. What are your persona’s experiences along the service?

A step is like the title of an experience. In a journey map, each step is written in one horizontal row. Various steps can form one stage and group them into different phases. For example, the illustration below shows five steps a customer undergoes in order to get to his favorite café. The five steps can be categorized into two stages: ‘Getting to Café Bean’ and ‘Experience at Café Bean’.

A journey map with 5 steps and 2 stages

We also distinguish between steps and touchpoints. Touchpoints are moments of direct or indirect interaction of the customer and the company. For example, when customers get aware of a need, they might not think of a specific provider, yet. However when they stumble upon an advertisement on the newspaper, they are in touch with the company. Hence, every touchpoint is a step, but not every step is a touchpoint.

After having defined the sequence of steps, various visualizations add the actual content to the journey map – the experience and story of the persona with all its facets.

Frequently people are insecure about how detailed a journey map should be, how many steps it should include, or if they should rather start on a high level or a more zoom-in level. We suggest to start with a high level journey map to get an overview on the entire journey. Afterwards you can create zoom-in journey maps for each single steps, i.e., create a detailed journey map for single steps. For example: What happens in the step ‘Heads to Café Bean’? How does Tess actually go there? How easy is it for her to find the café? If she goes there by car, how is the traffic situation? How is the parking situation?

Avoid creating journey maps consisting of too many steps – it’s very likely to loose the focus then.

By the way, here’s an article on how to create zoom-in maps in Smaply.

Text and descriptions

A simple text lane allows you to describe each step in more detail. You can add various text lanes according to a project’s needs: add a to-do list, write up research insights for each step, all notes about what other sources and documents are relevant.

A text lane used to add a detailed description of each single step.

You can use text lanes for descriptions, but also for many other types of information to add to a journey map: you can rename them and use them for pain points, KPIs and other numbers, ideas, or jobs to be done. Also, you can use them to place the links to zoom-in maps.


Storyboards visually represent the sequence of steps through icons, photos of real-life situations or enacted situations, screenshots of
interfaces, or just quick scribbles visualizing specific situations.

Visuals for each step help not only to understand the context of each situation, but also gives a comprehensive overview of the whole journey and quicker navigation.

Often, the steps of a journey map and a quick storyboard is all you need to create a journey map that is comprehensive and engaging.

Use a storyboard to add any type of illustrations you have

Channel overview

A channel lane gives you a comprehensive overview particularly for high-level journey maps. Specifying the channel (e.g., face-to-face, telephone, online, etc.) a customer uses at each step helps us understand cross-channel experiences and potential gaps regarding cross-channel experiences.

By looking at both online and offline channels, you make sure to include all aspects of your customer’s experience, who also perceives your company as one entity and does not differentiate between different channels.

Moreover, a list of alternative channels allows you to compare experiences between different channels.

For example: it could be a very different experience to purchase a ticket online, on a website or with a smart device, depending on how well the platform is set.

A channel lane with three channels. Blue dots show at what step a channel influences the customer experience.

Emotional journey

An emotional journey reveals obvious gaps within a customer experience, but also possible workarounds by both customers and employees. Emotional journeys are graphs representing a persona’s level
of satisfaction at each step.

You could for example use a simple 5-point scale from very negative (-2) to indifferent (0) to very positive (+2).

For example: a standard customer service might be indifferent, a super kind customer service might be perceived as very positive and result in high satisfaction.

An emotional journey starting with negative values and improving along the way.

Dramatic arc

A dramatic arc is a graph showing the level of a persona’s engagement, arousal or importance at each step on a 5-point scale from very low (+1) to very high (+5). There are moments of “thrill” (i.e. high engagement) and moments of chill (i.e. low engagement) – and both can be positive or negative.

Dramatic arcs help us to reflect on the pace and rhythm of an experience. They can be used to analyze an existing experience as well as to plan a future concept along a desired dramatic arc.

For example: a low dramatic arc when purchasing a few standard pencils might be good, a low dramatic arc when sitting on a rollercoaster not.

A dramatic arc illustrating an increasing engagement along the journey.

Backstage processes

Backstage lanes show internal activities that are not visible to the user. These internal activities are, however, crucial to deliver a high quality product or service. They also illustrate the resources an organization
needs to invest into maintaining a certain quality of a service.

For example: a customer is calling an organization’s service center. The customer might only experience the personal interaction with the agent, and how well his problem is solved. The organization, however, will have
to work on several other steps while they handle the call. Steps like: the digital client database, the logistics department, an external transport supplier and so forth.

A backstage lane illustrating the influence of four different stakeholders.

Files, attachments, research findings, further information

You can use a file lane to attach relevant documents to your journey map. Be it internal company documents about your workflows or assets generated in a workshop, files can help you provide additional context for each step.

Backing up a journey map with additional data and research findings makes it trustworthy and easier to base decisions on the insights.

Need some examples?

Check out this specific example of Tess’ coffee journey, or our collection of example journey maps, for different industries, including a range of lanes and focusing on various topics.

The perfect reminder you can put on your desk is our customer journey map cheat sheet.

Katharina takes care of marketing and communications at More than Metrics. With her background in business and psychology she loves both logical as well as empathic thinking.
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