How to create and use a customer journey map to better understand your customers

A customer journey map will allow you to grow a better business. Oh yeah, it does. That’s because companies that cater to their customers do better. You do so, by first understanding your customer better. A journey map is one way to get a better understanding of your customers. This post will go over exactly how to create one.

Customer journey maps come in all sorts of formats. There isn’t one specific way to create one. If you do a quick Google search for them, you’ll find quite the number of variations. That’s okay, none of them are necessarily wrong or right. But, there are particular basics each customer journey map should cover. The more detail you go into, the better understanding you’d get of your customers.

What’s the point of a customer journey map?

Simply put, a customer journey map shows the different stages a customer might go through with you. It will show clearly how a customer discovers, interacts and even abandons your company. With this information being visually accessible with a journey map, you will be able to find spots in your customers’ journey and add value to them in the right places. You will no longer be guessing about features or social media campaigns. That’s what makes it a powerful tool – more on that later. First, let’s start to make your own journey map.

The basics of a customer journey map

A basic customer journey map is perfect for anyone or any team that is just starting out with these. If you’ve never really done one before this will give you a hell of a lot of insight to start with. It’s a perfect base for gaining an understanding of and empathy for your customers. The basic customer journey map is made up of four different points of information, and it will be a great point of reference for your organization’s future decision making.


Personas are the first fundamental of any customer journey map because if your team isn’t on the same page on who they are targeting, it’s all downhill from there. So, who is your customer? Your audience? Your user?

Some companies might have multiple customer types. That’s okay that just means you’ll have several customer journey maps – one for each customer type.

For example, if you have a restaurant reservation app like OpenTable, you will need a customer journey map for the restaurant owners and one for patrons making a reservation. As you can imagine a customer journey map for a restaurant and their patrons will very significantly different maps because each group has different needs, goals, and expectation.


This is where you’ll need to write out the different stages a customer goes through with your company. Write out all the significant points of interactions. They can be broken down into three areas: the first point of engagement, using your product/service and leaving your product.

Todd Zaki Warfel suggests to start with discovery, purchase, use, renew/replace phases. Once you get better at creating and using customer journey maps you will be able to get more specific with your stages.

Emotions and thoughts

Identify how does a customer feel at different stages. Are they confused, confident, happy, frustrated, overwhelmed, proud, unsure? And so on. Having multiple emotions per stage is okay. For example, two people buying a $500 online course might feel differently at checkout. One of them might feel unsure about spending so much money while the other might feel excited to get started. Having more thoughts than emotions is okay.

This brings us to the thoughts aspect. Write out as many thoughts your customers might be thinking as possible. In the above example, a customer might think “Is this really worth $500? Am I going get my money’s worth?” while the second customer might think “This is exactly what I needed! I’m going to improve my business 10x with this course!

For a freelance designer, a potential client might have the following thoughts during the discovery stage: “Oh wow, she worked with ABC before? That’s impressive.” “I have no idea what kind of company XYZ is; never heard of them…” “Is she the right investment for my business?” And so on.

Emotions and thoughts don’t have to go hand in hand, but it’s good practice to tie them together. For example, people can feel uncertain about different things in the same stage of their customer journey map. Just like someone might feel excited about various reasons and so on. Just write out as many emotions, and as many thought as possible, that’s the more important part.

Continuing with the previous example of a freelance designer, it would look like this:

  • Uncertain
  • I have no idea what kind of company XYZ is; never heard of them…
  • Is she the right investment for my business?
  • What type of experience does she have?
  • Excited
  • Oh wow, she worked with ABC before? That’s impressive.
  • She did that for XYZ?! I want those kinds of results too!
  • Damn, her articles as so thorough and knowledgeable. Imma read some more.

And, that pretty much covers the basic elements of a journey map. Next, let’s dive into more in-depth information.

The in-depth customer journey map

What I’m going to do here is identify many more points of information to add to your map. The more of these you fill in, the greater understanding you’ll have of your customers and the better the decision you and your organization will have.

Customer goal

Another thing you need to keep an eye on is the customer’s actual goal. What does your customer want to achieve at each stage? Is it one larger goal or does it different per customer’s unique problems at hand?

For example, people use Facebook in different ways. The larger goal of using Facebook would be to stay connected with friends and family. But during various stages, a Facebook customer might have different goals in mind such as to post photos or to respond to a comment.


A customer, at any point, can be taking all sorts of action. Write them out for each stage.

For instance, during checkout at Amazon, a customer might add something else to a cart, remove something from it, adjust the item’s quantity, or abandon the cart altogether.

A potential client of a freelance designer can browse the case studies, look up the companies the designer previously worked for, read their blog, sign up for their mailing list, contact them, follow them on social media, or leave their site and do nothing.


A touchpoint is any interaction a customer has with a company. It’s important to note that it doesn’t matter if a customer was shopping or not – seeing a Facebook ad is a touchpoint. Write out all the possible touchpoints a customer might have with your company before, during and after a purchase. This can include any websites, apps, social media posts, ads and so on. Touchpoints can occur in real life or online. Basically, where is your company represented? Where might your company be seen?

Pain points

John Spacey defines pain points as “perceived problems with technologies, designs, interfaces, processes, practices, industries, cities, transportation and anything else that impacts people’s work or life.”

Take a look at your customer journey map so far; study it. What pain points can you identify within your customer’s journey? What do your customers find disturbing, frustrating, urgent or uncomfortable? This can be specific to your company and its products or services as well as more general, industry-related pains.

For example, in an online course, a pain point might be understanding the course content. For a freelance designer, it might be non-technical clients not knowing how to make changes themselves in the future.


Opportunities is a list of gaps your company could be tackling. Once again, take a look at your customer journey map, study it for opportunities. You might realize that your company doesn’t have anything in place for cart abandonment. Or maybe your own Instagram could use some love and attention since many of your customers spend time there.

Additionally, opportunities can be made by addressing the pain points you identified earlier too. (That’s the whole point of identifying them!)

Get’s bring back the pain point examples. If a student is having trouble understanding the material, you have an opportunity to address it. How to address a pain point will be determined by its context. But, to keep going with the example, you could rewrite the course in simpler terms. If the topic itself is a difficult subject like calculus, rewriting is going to be less impactful than say adding a tutoring feature.

To help freelance clients make future changes, a designer could provide them with a retainer. Or, offer them a walkthrough on how to make the changes themselves as part of the services package. Again, the specific solution would depend on the type of customer.


How are you tracking your efforts? Write out a list of KPIs that are monitoring each specific stage. You will then be able to see how well, or not, your efforts are now and before you improve the different customer experiences.

How do I become unstoppable now?

A customer journey map allows you to have a better understanding of your customer, their needs, wants, pains, expectations, emotions, goals and so on. Use this information to inform your company’s decisions. You no longer have to guess what your customers are thinking or feeling or what kind of Facebook campaign might resonate better with them. That’s because companies that understand their customers can provide products and services. So, go on, and do it.

I know it sounds dumb simple, but that’s the truth. If you think I’m joking or being an ass, don’t. The #1 reason why startups fail is because they don’t understand their customers.

The takeaway

It’s unacceptable for smaller businesses like startups, freelancers, coaches or consultants to make no effort in understanding their customers; especially those who are just starting out. There are too many mediocre companies out there. Don’t be one of them.

Instead, go ahead and make a customer journey map. That’s all I ask. I promise you will be grateful for all the insight and clarity you’ll get from it.

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