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Customer journey mapping in 2 and 1/2 days

How to create a customer journey map that improves customer success.

Last updated

19 Jul 2023

Reading time

12 min


Person using a compass finding their way through digital paths.

There’s a common saying that you can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes—and that’s exactly what customer journey maps do: they help you put yourself in different customers’ shoes and understand your business from their point of view.

Why should you do it? How should you do it? Find the answers in this guide, which we wrote after interviewing 10+ customer journey experts who shared methodologies, dos and don’ts, and pro tips with us. 

On this page:

In later chapters, we dive deeper into customer journey analytics, workshops, and real-life examples.

Start mapping your customer journey

Hotjar lets you experience the customer journey through their eyes, so you can visualize what’s working and what needs improvement.

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map (CJM) is a visual representation of how customers interact with and experience your website, products, or business across multiple touchpoints.

By visualizing the actions, thoughts, and emotions your customers experience, a customer journey map helps you better understand them and identify the pain points they encounter. This is essential if you want to implement informed, customer-focused optimizations on your site.

#How the Hotjar team mapped out the ‘customer using a heatmap’ journey using sticky notes
How the Hotjar team mapped out the ‘customer using a heatmap’ journey using sticky notes

Mapping the customer journey: narrow vs. wide focus

A customer journey map can have a very narrow focus and only look at a few, specific steps of the customer experience or buyer’s journey (for example, a product-to-purchase flow on a website), or it can take into account all the touchpoints, online and offline, someone goes through before and after doing business with you. 

Each type of customer journey map has its advantages:

  • A CJM with a narrow focus allows you to zero in on an issue and effectively problem-solve 

  • A CJM with a wide focus gives you a broader, holistic understanding of how customers experience your business

#A customer journey map example from Airbnb, starting when a user needs to book accommodation and ending after their stay in an Airbnb property
A customer journey map example from Airbnb, starting when a user needs to book accommodation and ending after their stay in an Airbnb property
#A customer journey map example for a theater company that investigates a theatergoer’s journey, from booking a ticket online to attending a show
A customer journey map example for a theater company that investigates a theatergoer’s journey, from booking a ticket online to attending a show

Regardless of their focus, the best customer journey maps have one thing in common: they are created with real customer data that you collect and analyze. The insights are usually organized into a map (hence the name), diagram, or flowchart during a group workshop, which is later shared across the entire business so everyone gets a clear and comprehensive overview of a customer’s journey.

How to create your first customer journey map in 2 and ½ working days

The process of creating a customer journey map can be as long or short as you need. Depending on how many people and stakeholders you involve, how much data you collect and analyze, and how many touchpoints there are across the business, you could be looking at days or even weeks and months of work.

If you’re new to customer journey mapping, start from a narrower scope before moving on to mapping every single customer touchpoint

Here’s our beginner customer journey mapping framework to help you create your first complete map in 2 and ½ working days:

Download your free customer journey map checklist (as seen below), to mark off your tasks as you complete them.

#A visual recap of your 2 and 1/2 days working on a customer journey map
A visual recap of your 2 and 1/2 days working on a customer journey map

Day 1: preliminary customer journey mapping work

On your first day, you have three essential tasks:

  1. Define the goal and scope of your CJM

  2. Collect customer data and insights

  3. Invite your team to a customer journey mapping workshop

Step 1: define the goal and scope of your CJM

Clarifying what part(s) of the journey you're looking at, and why, helps you stay focused throughout the mapping process.

If this is your first map, start from a known issue or problematic area of your website. Keep the scope small, and focus on anything you can break down into four or five steps. For example:

  • If you have a high drop-off on a pricing page with five calls-to-action, each of which takes users to a different page, that’s enough for a mappable journey

  • If your purchase flow is made of five self-contained pages, each of which loses you potential customers, that’s a good candidate for mapping

✅ The output: a one- or two-sentence description of what your map will cover, and why, you can use whenever you need to explain what the process is about. For example: this map looks at the purchase flow on our website, and helps us understand how customers go through each step and the issues or obstacles they encounter. The map starts after users click ‘proceed to checkout’ and ends when they reach the 'Thank You' page.

Step 2: collect customer data and insights

Once you identify your goal and scope, the bulk of your first day should be spent collecting data and insights you’ll analyze as part of your mapping process. Because your map is narrow in focus, don’t get distracted by wide-scale demographics or data points that are interesting and nice to know, but ultimately irrelevant. 

Get your hands on as much of the following information as you can:

  • Metrics from traditional analytics tools (such as Google Analytics) that give you insight into what’s happening, across the pages and stages your customer journey map covers

#Website analytics from tools like Google Analytics are foundational to mapping customer journeys
Website analytics from tools like Google Analytics are foundational to mapping customer journeys
  • Data from analyzing your conversion ‘funnels’, which record how many visitors end up at each stage of the user journey, so you can optimize those steps for potential customers and increase conversions

  • Behavior analytics data (from platforms like Hotjar) that show you how people interact with your site. For example, heatmaps give you an aggregate view of how users click, move and scroll on specific pages, and session recordings capture a user’s entire journey as they navigate your site

  • Quantitative and qualitative answers to on-site surveys relevant to the pages you’re going to investigate, as customer feedback will ultimately guide your roadmap of changes to make to improve the journey

#Get real-time input from your website users with Hotjar Surveys
Get real-time input from your website users with Hotjar Surveys
  • Any demographic information about existing user and customer personas that helps you map the journey from the perspective of a real type of customer, rather than that of any hypothetical visitor, ensuring the journey makes sense for your target audience

  • Any relevant data from customer service chat logs, emails, or even anecdotal information from support, success, and sales teams about the issues customers usually experience

✅ The output: quantitative and qualitative data about your customers' interactions and their experiences across various touchpoints. For example, you’ll know how many people drop off at each individual stage, which page elements they interact with or ignore, and what stops them from converting.

💡Pro tip: as you read this guide, you may not yet have most of this data, particularly when it comes to heatmaps, recordings, and survey results. That’s ok. 

Unless you’re running your CJM workshop in the next 12 hours, you have enough time to set up Hotjar on your website and start collecting insights right now. The platform helps you:

  • Learn where and why users drop off with Funnels

  • Visualize interactions on key pages with Heatmaps

  • Capture visitor sessions across your website with Recordings

  • Run on-site polls with Surveys

When the time comes for you to start your customer journey mapping process, this data will be invaluable.

Step 3: invite your team to a customer journey mapping workshop

In our experience, the most effective way to get buy-in is not to try and convince people after things are done—include them in the process from the start. So while you can easily create a customer journey map on your own, it won’t be nearly as powerful as one you create with team members from different areas of expertise.

For example, if you’re looking at the purchase flow, you need to work with:

  • Someone from the UX team, who knows about the usability of the flow and can advocate for design changes

  • Someone from dev or engineering, who knows how things work in the back end, and will be able to push forward any changes that result from the map

  • Someone from success or support, who has first-hand experience talking to customers and resolving any issues they experience

✅ The output: you’ve set a date, booked a meeting space, and invited a group of four to six participants to your customer journey mapping workshop.

💡Pro tip: for your first map, stay small. Keep it limited to four to six people, and no main stakeholders. This may be unpopular advice, especially since many guides out there mention the importance of having stakeholders present from the start.

However, when you’re not yet very familiar with the process, including too many people early on can discourage them from re-investing their time into future CJM tasks. At this stage, it’s more helpful to brainstorm with a small team, get feedback on how to improve, and iterate a few times. Once you have a firm handle on the process, then start looping in your stakeholders.

Day 2: prep and run your customer journey mapping workshop

On workshop day, you’ll spend half your time prepping and the other half running the actual session.

Step 1: prepare all your materials 

To run a smooth workshop, ensure you do the following:

  • Bring stationery: for an interactive workshop, you’ll need basic materials such as pens, different colored Post-its, masking tape, and large sheets of paper to hang on the wall

  • Collect and print out the data: use the data you collected on Day 1. It’s good to have digital copies on a laptop or tablet for everybody to access, but print-outs could be the better alternative as people can take notes and scribble on them.

  • Print out an empathy map canvas for each participant: start the workshop with an empathy mapping exercise (more on this in Step 2). For this, hand each participant an empty empathy map canvas you can recreate from the template below.

#Use this empathy map canvas template to kick-start your customer journey mapping workshop
Use this empathy map canvas template to kick-start your customer journey mapping workshop
  • Set up a customer journey map template on the wall: use a large sheet of paper to create a grid you'll stick to the wall and fill in as part of the workshop. On the horizontal axis, write the customer journey steps you identified during your Day 1 prep work; on the vertical axis, list the themes you want to analyze for each step. For example:

    • Actions your customers take

    • Questions they might have

    • Happy moments they experience

    • Pain points they experience

    • Tech limits they might encounter

    • Opportunities that arise

#An example of a customer journey map template with different stages and themes
An example of a customer journey map template with different stages and themes

Step 2: run the workshop

This is the most interactive (and fun) part of the process. Follow the framework below to go from zero to a completed draft of a map in just under 2 hours.

Introduction [🕒 5–10 min]

  • Introduce yourself and your participants to one another

  • Using the one-two sentence description you defined on Day 1, explain the goal and scope of the workshop and the activities it will involve

  • Offer a quick summary of the customer persona you’ll be referring to throughout the session

Empathy mapping exercise [🕒 30 min]

  • Using the personas and data available, have each team member map their observations onto sticky notes and paste them on the relevant section of the empathy mapping canvas

  • Have all participants take turns presenting their empathy map

  • Facilitate group discussions where interesting points of agreement or disagreement appear

Customer journey mapping [🕒 60 min]

Using Post-its, ask each participant to fill in parts of the map grid with available information. Start by filling in the first row together, so everybody understands the process, then do each row individually (15–20 min). At the end of the process, you should have something like this:

Looking at the completed map, encourage your team to discuss and align on core observations (and take notes: they’ll come in handy on your final half day). At this point, customer pain points and opportunities should become evident for everybody involved. Having a cross-functional team means people will naturally start discussing what can, or cannot, immediately be done to address them (35–40 min).

Wrap up [🕒 5 min]

Congratulations! Your first customer journey map is complete. Finish the session by thanking your participants and letting them know the next steps.

Final half-day: wrap up and share

Once you’ve gone through the entire customer journey mapping workshop, the number one thing you want to avoid is for all this effort to go to waste. Instead of leaving the map hanging on the wall (or worse: taking it down, folding it, and forgetting about it), the final step is to wrap the process up and communicate the results to the larger team.

  • Digitize the map so you can easily update and share it with team members: it may be tempting to use dedicated software or invest time into a beautiful design, but for the first few iterations, it’s enough to add the map to your team’s existing workflows (for example, our team digitized our map and added it straight into Jira, where it’s easily accessible)

  • Offer a quick write-up or a 5-minute video introduction of the activity: re-use the description you came up with on Day 1, including who was involved and the top three outcomes

  • Clearly state the follow-up actions: if you’ve found obvious issues that need fixing, that’s a likely next step. If you’ve identified opportunities for change and improvement, you may want to validate these findings via customer interviews and usability testing.

4 benefits of customer journey mapping

In 2023, it’s almost a given that great customer experience (CX) provides any business or ecommerce site with a competitive advantage. But just how you’re supposed to deliver on the concept and create wow-worthy experiences is often left unsaid, implied, or glossed over.

Customer journey maps help you find answers to this ‘How?’ question, enabling you to:

  1. Visualize customer pain points, motivations, and drivers

  2. Create cross-team alignment around the business

  3. Remove internal silos and clarify areas of ownership

  4. Make improvements and convert more visitors into customers

We’ve done a lot of customer journey work here at Hotjar, so we know that the above is true—but don’t just take our word for it: all the people we interviewed for this guide confirmed the benefits of journey mapping. Let’s take a look at what they shared.

1. Visualize customer pain points, motivations, and drivers

It’s one thing to present your entire team with charts, graphs, and trends about your customers, and quite another to put the same team in front of ONE map that highlights what customers think, want, and do at each step of their journey.

I did my first customer journey map at MADE.COM within the first three months of joining the company. I was trying to map the journey to understand where the pain points were.

For example, people who want to buy a sofa from us will be coming back to the site 8+ times over several weeks before making a purchase. In that time, they may also visit a showroom. So now I look at that journey, at a customer’s motivation for going to the website versus a physical store, and I need to make sure that the experience in the showroom complements what they're doing on-site, and vice-versa, and that it all kind of comes together.

The map helps in seeing that journey progress right up to the time someone becomes a customer. And it also continues after: we see the next touchpoints and how we're looking to retain them as a customer, so that they come back and purchase again.

Spencer Wong
Head of Digital Experience,

A customer journey map is particularly powerful when you incorporate empathy into it, bringing to light specific emotions that customers experience throughout the journey.

#In this CJM example from the Hotjar team, we dedicated two rows to happy moments and pain points in the journey
In this CJM example from the Hotjar team, we dedicated two rows to happy moments and pain points in the journey

2. Create cross-team alignment around the business

The best, most effective customer journey maps are not the solo project of the user experience (UX) or marketing team (though they may originate there).

Customer journey maps are a quick, easy, and powerful way to help everybody in your business get a clearer understanding of how things work from a customers’ perspective and what the customers’ needs are—which is the first step in your quest towards creating a better experience for them.

Our first goal for preparing a customer journey map was to improve understanding customers across the company, so that every employee could understand the entire process our clients go through.

For example, people from the shipping department didn't know how the process works online; people from marketing didn't know how customers behave after filing a complaint. Everything seems obvious, but when we shared these details, we saw that a lot of people didn't know how the company itself works—this map made us realize that there were still gaps we needed to fill.

Marcin Migas
UX/UI Designer, Senetic
<#Hotjar’s Director of Product Mohammed Rizwan presenting CJM insights to his team
Hotjar’s Director of Product Mohammed Rizwan presenting CJM insights to his team

If we discover that customers have a pain point in a specific section of the map, different teams can look at the same section from several angles; customer support can communicate why something is not possible, and engineering can explain why it’s going to take X amount of effort to get it done. Especially in cross-functional teams where we all come from really different disciplines, I find these maps to be an incredible way for us all to speak the same language.

Julia Feld
Head of Product Design, Babbel

3. Remove internal silos and clarify areas of ownership

As a company grows in size and complexity, the lines of ownership occasionally become blurry. Without clarity, a customer might get bounced like a ping pong ball across Sales, Success, and Support departments—not great for the seamless and frictionless customer experience we all want to offer.

A central source of ‘truth’ in the form of a customer journey map that everybody can refer to helps clarify areas of ownership and handover points.

We were growing as a team, and we realized we needed to operationalize a lot of the processes that, before then, had just been manually communicated. We did it through a customer journey map. Our goal was to better understand where these hand-off points were and how to create a more seamless experience for our customers, because they were kind of being punted from team to team, from person to person—and often, it was really hard to keep tabs on exactly where the customer was in that entire journey.

Mellisa Halim
product Marketer, Miro

4. Make improvements and convert more visitors into customers

A customer journey map will take your team from 'It appears that 30% of people leave the website at this stage' to 'Wow, people are leaving because the info is incomplete and the links are broken.' Once everyone is aligned on the roadblocks that need to be addressed, changes that have a positive impact on the customer experience and customer satisfaction will happen faster.

The customer journey map brings it all together: it doesn't matter who you've got in the room. If you’re doing a proper journey map, they always get enlightened in terms of ‘Oh, my word. I did not know the customer's actually experiencing this.’ And when I walk out of the session, we have often solved issues in the business. Accountability and responsibilities have been assigned, and I find that it just works well.

Shaheema Adams
CEO, The CEX Lab
<#Shaheema (right) working on a customer journey map

Shaheema (right) working on a customer journey map

Collect the right data to create an effective customer journey map

The secret of getting value from customer journey mapping is not just building the map itself: it's taking action on your findings. Having a list of changes to prioritize means you can also measure their effect once implemented, and keep improving your customers' experience. 

This all starts with collecting customer-centric data—the sooner you begin, the more information you’ll have when the time comes to make a decision.

Start mapping your customer journey today

Hotjar lets you experience your customer’s journey through their eyes, so you can visualize what’s working and what needs improvement.

FAQs about customer journey mapping