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The art of Customer Journey Mapping

Transforming customer pain points into levers for change

The best products and services can only be designed around the basic needs, motivations and behaviours of your end users, and I can’t think of a simpler, more effective and engaging way to visualise a customer experience than the art of Customer Journey Mapping. 

So, if you embrace Agile Ways of Working, methods of Design Thinking or quite simply want to find an effective way to visualise a customer experience then Customer Journey Mapping is the tool for you!

Within this post I will break down the key ingredients of a Customer Journey Map (or as I will go on to describe, ‘the Moments of Truth’)…

  • Thinking Visually
  • Creative Storyboarding
  • The art of storytelling
  • and the Desirability Factor

Thinking Visually


Telling stories is one of the most powerful ways we can engage, teach, learn and inspire but how easy is it to create a captivating story? Well let’s base this on our own experience.


My guess is that you can remember your favourite children’s book and you can probably picture the wonderful illustrations that bounced across the pages. The chances are you can remember the pictures rather than the words and this is because you navigated those pages using your visual literacy.


There are many academic studies on visual literacy one of which is by Anneliese Tillmann ‘What We See and Why It Matters’, 2012, Anneliese shared various insights from multiple sauces on the importance of visual literacy. In one statement she suggests that when children are first introduced to literature, it is often in the form of picture books. Children learn to associate the pictures with meaning because they cannot read the words on the page.

As someone who is passionate about visual thinking this really does resonate with me. As visual learners we appreciate the mental pictures storytelling evokes. So, if you want to gain a greater level of alignment with key stakeholders and breathe life into a customer experience why not say it with a picture.


Creative Storyboarding


This brings me nicely on to Creative Storyboarding. Whilst the earliest printed children’s book actually date back to the 1600’s, the birth of storyboarding dates back to the 1930s and is credited to Disney animator Webb Smith. Web would scatter rough sketches along a wall as a quick and easy way to display story sequencing before elaborating on ideas. What a novel way to collaboratively validate design ideas before investing time and effort in to costly development.

For those of you who may have dabble with a bit of process mapping the principles of storyboarding are the same. When describing a situation or process, the key thing to ask yourself is what are the most salient points you wish to communicate with an audience and what are the key milestones you need to identify along the way. From a Customer Journey Mapping point of view the Moments of Truth (more on that later).

As Scott Mcloud states within his comic novel making comics,

“Your story’s moments should be like a dot-to dot puzzle. Remove one dot and you change the shape of the story”.


The art of Storytelling


So far, I hope I have convinced you of the benefits of Visual thinking and storyboarding as key components of a Customer Journey Map but what story do you want to tell?


Kendall Haven the author of Story Proof and Story Smart, considers storytelling serious business for business.


“Your goal in every communication is to influence your target audience, to change their current attitudes, belief, knowledge, and behavior”, Kendall Haven


The value of creative storyboarding is to make information engaging and to present a simple narrative doesn’t have to be optimistic and full of joys. Steve Denning once gave a TED X talk on Leadership Storytelling and made reference to a good story being ‘authentically true’.

“Wake people out of their complacency”, Steve Denning.

I actually experienced this back in the day. Working as a Business Analyst I used a visual storyboard to present a current state process for a ‘financial assessments’ to councillors and senior managers. Exciting times! Having timed each step of the process and identifying the non-value add activities, I presented the detail in an engaging storyboard format exposing a mere .005% value add ratio in the process. I was commended for my effort’s others working in the process not so much. Now remember that customer pain points can become levers for change. So, if you’re mapping a current state customer journey be honest and keep it real.


The Desirability Factor


The fundamental part of the Design Thinking process is in developing a sense of empathy and understanding towards the people that will use/ or use your products and services but I must urge you not to look upon a little ethnographic research as a primary stage of product development.

Product Teams should continuously innovate, inspect and adapt ensuring that they are building the right thing as well as building it right. Applying tools such as Customer Journey Mapping is a wonderful way to validate design ideas and test whether a product is still aligned to the needs of your end users. As with all Design Thinking tools and techniques you should always bake in time for innovation.


“Don’t think of innovation as a checklist but tools in your toolbox”, Luke Hohman


Pulling it all together


Now that we have grasped the benefits of a visual approach to gain alignment, a storyboarding format to offer a clear narrative and understand the benefits of knowing your customers from a Design Thinking stand point, let’s delve deeper into the key factors of Customer Journey Mapping. The key objective is to portray your current or potential customer's experiences with your products and services across major and minor touch points. You can then identify the gaps between the desired customer experience and the one actually received – the “Moments of Truth”.

A fitting abbreviation when we consider the significance of a MOT. That major yearly milestone when we wait in anticipation to find out if our car gets the green light or a costly failure. These Moments of Truth are no different for our customers. An unpleasant experience is the fast feedback you need to make a positive change. Remember survival is not mandatory and happy customers will lead to loyalty, customer retention and growth.

As a true agilest at heart, another wonderful thing that I like about Customer Journey Mapping is that it provides a single end to end cross-business unit view. No more silo thinking. An opportunity to align teams on the bigger picture. From a Systems Thinking approach it’s actually a great way to consider the complexities that lie beneath the surface. By creating a current state service blue print you can map out the multitude of teams and systems that are packaged within the customer journey.


This brings innovation back into the mix as you can consider ways to improve the customer experience, improve the flow of value across the journey as well as eliminate wasteful processes. Therefore, improving the desirability, viability, feasibility and sustainability of a product or service.


This brings me to my final thoughts. The focus of Customer Journey Mapping is not the customer touch points or outputs but outcomes. Happy customers and slick internal business operations.


“The goal is to deliver the maximum outcomes, for the least effort”, Gabrielle Benefield


Sign up for the first virtual Customer Journey Mapping Workshop


If you fancy putting this in to practice by applying both Visual Thinking, Storyboarding and Customer Journey Mapping tools and techniques treat yourself to an early Christmas present and register here today.


Stuart Young

Stuart Young

Stuart is a professional Business Visualiser with extensive experience and a deep-rooted appreciation for methods of Design Thinking and Agile Ways of working. By combining both creative and analytical skills Stuart contributes to team strategic visioning workshops, planning sessions and retrospectives by offering captivating visuals that crystallise ideas and learning. Stuart facilitates a suite of Design Thinking, Visual Thinking and Agile ways of working workshops to encourage teams to work more visually, making the intangible tangible, catalysing customer centric creativity and driving product innovation. Stuart joined Radtac in 2015 where he continues to assist individuals, teams and organisations with an array of Innovation and visualisation services. Read more