Customer journey maps are a form of qualitative research that helps teams deeply understand the customer experience through sparking an empathetic response. All for the purpose of building better products and services.

Customer journey maps answer questions like who the customer is, what jobs they get done with your product, what pain points they experience, and how exactly they use your product. Exhaustively answering these questions (and others) can go a long way to helping marketing, sales, product development, and support teams identify with the ups and downs of being a customer.

Sounds great, right? Who wouldn’t want a deeper understanding the customer's journey?

Yet creating customer journey maps is hard and can challenge core assumptions about your work. They require you to step out of your day-to-day perspective and see your product through the eyes of customer — and not through the lens of the amazing feature you built, the marketing campaign you led, the knowledge base article you wrote, or the sales pitch you give.

Are you up for an adventure? Join us as we dive into customer journey mapping.

The magic of customer journey mapping comes from empathy.

Customer journey maps are a comprehensive view of customer touchpoints with your product. A customer journey map (sometimes called a “user journey map”) begins with a customer persona (i.e. an imaginary-but-based-on-reality customer) and follows that persona from the point at which they understand what your product does all the way to their first steps as a customer — and onward as they use the product.

Think about customer journey maps as stories. The main characters— the protagonists — are your customers. And really, they’re the heroes. Also realize that while we may be talking about the “customer” as a singular persona, personas are necessarily an amalgamation of a certain type of customer and if you’re into customer journey mapping, you’re likely going to have different maps for different personas — e.g. the map for a heavy, technical user might be different from a casual enthusiast.

Harry Brignull, a UX consultant, shared how to run a user journey mapping workshop (6 min read) in which he maps the experience of a user trying to record, edit, and share a video in the mid-2000s. The map (See it below) captures all the events in this journey — from recording to importing to exporting to uploading and (finally) sending the finished project to friends. Each stage is specific and you can see how the map organizes experiences by what actions the user takes, the questions they have to answer at each stage, their emotional highs and lows, and the opportunities that arise. The journey map is detailed and exhaustive.

Take a minute and read the customer journey map below — think of it as a story. Imagine the user is a girl named Maddie:

Via this post from Harry Brignull

When it comes to customer journey maps, the details matter a lot. You need to capture and record everything you can about the user experience and reflect on the ups and downs of the experience. Put yourself in the shoes of the user — how would you feel? What questions would arise? As these parts of the maps are fleshed out, you’ll inevitably think of opportunities to make the experience better. Write those ideas down — they’re you’re opportunities.

The best stories allow the reader to self-identify with the protagonist. We read a story and begin to root for the main character, hoping for their success. We all want to be the hero. Reading a thorough customer journey map might result in you suddenly noticing that you feel connected to the persona, reflecting that, “Hey! I’ve felt that way, too!”

That’s the magic happening, and that magic is empathy: customer journey maps are empathy generators that humanize the user. Customer journey maps are empathy maps. They show you things from the customer's perspective—through the customer's eyes.

When product developers, designers, marketers, and customer support professionals start to identify empathetically with the customer through a customer journey map, they suddenly have a deep-seated need to make the customer experience better.

Create customer journey maps on-demand through session replay.

What if you could get many of the empathetic benefits of customer journey maps on-demand? Perhaps you can.

For those not familiar, FullStory captures every interaction a customer has on your web site or app in order to provide a robust platform for teams across job functions to research and understand user behavior.

The enormous set of data FullStory collects is what powers session replay a.k.a. the ability to recreate a specific user’s experience on your web site or app and watch it, DVR-style.

Session replay shares much in common with customer journey maps. Session replay reproduces every stage of the customer experience online—thereby checking the box on the “Actions” piece of building out a customer journey map.

If you’ve never watched a session replay, it’s hard to explain what you’re missing. Suffice to say that watching the raw experience of a real customer interacting with your product instantly generates that empathetic magic, which is what you need to build out the “Questions” part of customer journey mapping and can even go a long way toward helping imagine the emotional dynamics — the empathy created through session replay is that powerful. Finally, just like customer journey maps, session replay can reveal opportunities across job functions (e.g. Marketing, Design, Sales, Customer Support, Development, etc.).

Individual user sessions aren’t personas — and sometimes you need personas.

The key difference between FullStory session replay and customer journey maps is that the former is based on individuals — real customers and not personas. When you watch a session replay, it’s raw truth. You know there was an actual person on the other side of the screen.

So what do you do when aggregated views of the customer are required? Personas are useful — they distill the many thousands of actual users into aggregated characters (e.g. the fanboy, the casual user, the technophile, the newbie, whatever!). Personas are useful.

FullStory can help build personas, too. For that, the Search functionality in FullStory is indispensable. Using Search, you can mine your customer experiences based on the customer persona criteria in which you are most interested. Search your users based on their persona-signaling behaviors. If you suspect that the “Technophile” user is going to spend time with understanding the nitty-gritty details of the product, you can build a segment in FullStory based on users who interact with that content. Just search based on the behavior (clicked this, went here, spent this much time on your site, etc.). You can read up on FullStory search here.

Once you’ve accumulated a sample set of user sessions that meet your criteria, watch those sessions, take notes (and collaborate in FullStory) and build out your persona. Your customer journey maps will be that much better.

“But we already created traditional customer journey maps. Is session replay still useful?”

If you’ve already mapped out your customer journeys or your team has a deep-seated process for customer journey mapping already in place, you can still make them more empathy-inducing through session replay. What more, session replay brings rigor to any existing customer journey mapping process because it allows teams to test hypotheses, refine assumptions based on new discoveries, and build additional nuance into maps.

Tap into the power of empathy with customer journey maps and session replay.

Take a look at this. It’s search interest in customer journey maps over the last seven years, give or take (U.S. data):

A look at Google search interest in “customer journey map” in the United States, Jan 2010 to June 2017.

Why the skyrocketing rise? Customer journey maps provide the power of empathy for customers to teams, and empathy is the magic that makes teams want to work harder and do more to improve customer experience.

(And interest in customer experience is growing rapidly, too).

Using session replay to compliment, supplement, or stand-in for customer journey maps is a great way to tap into that magical empathy on-demand. Perhaps the best thing about session replay (at least as it exists in FullStory) is that it can be accessed by teams across an organization, allowing each job function to focus on the specific part of the customer journey map that they want to understand.

Mapping your users’ journeys is about knowledge of who they are, what they want, and how they operate. When you have a tool that enables you to see a customer’s experience through their eyes — quite literally, as you get with FullStory — that’s a powerful addition to your process.

If you’re into customer journey mapping, how are you using FullStory? And if you’ve never used FullStory to build out personas or understand the customer journey, give it a try and tell us about your experience!