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A Customer Journey Map Is a Story

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 08/05/2015

A question I get asked a lot is, “What exactly is a customer journey map?” Considering that my official title is Mapper-In-Chief, it seems like I would have a short, clean answer ready and waiting. Or at least a short overview, with the caveat, but there’s more to it than that. In reality, though, I only have the caveat, and not the actual answer—because there is, in fact, more to it than that.

A journey map can mean a lot of different things. Despite the word “map” in its name, a journey map doesn’t have a set design or layout—in fact, design plays a critical role in creating the map. Because what it’s mapping is the customer and their emotional journey—a highly individual process, and one that defies a set template. It is the customer’s needs that drive the action of the map, and therefore by nature, each journey map is an individualized diagram of a customer’s interaction with your company.

This Amanda map was inspired by a customer journey map I put together for a health insurance plan, representing users with a specific need and outlook. This map humanized the customer experience by highlighting the fact that, though the provider gave plenty of plans to choose from, this variety was overwhelming instead of useful: what seemed like a logical and helpful set of options from the provider’s point of view is shown to be unhelpful when our journey map gave greater insight into the customer’s emotional response.

Beyond the Visual

What a customer journey map is, then, is a story. Propelled by emotions and reactions, each different but each representing a journey from beginning to end. Not only do these stories bring together the customer’s experiences, but it helps companies internalize the customer’s true needs: linking together customers’ reactions and emotions to form a story—a journey map—makes the customer’s experience immediately understandable. Once the customer’s emotional response is understandable, then they can be used to help companies better serve their customers’ needs.

A journey map is about people. Through the story of the map, the customers a company serves become people again, not merely boxes or statistics. Through the story that a journey map tells, companies can learn from their customers, and customers have a way for their needs to be heard by the companies they interact with in their everyday lives.

As you can see, there is, in fact, more to it than that.

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