What is the Customer Journey and How to Unlock it

I had an interesting conversation with a client recently about ‘naming the resistance’. We discussed how ‘naming the resistance’ to something can result in most challenges in a business (and indeed life) falling away. And once the resistance is named action often follows suit.

Know your Customer

In my experience, one of the greatest points of resistance in marketing terms for any businesses is it’s knowledge of their customer and more specifically that customer’s journey with them.

Customer knowledge is often held deep within someone’s head in the organisation. Sometimes it can be a few people spread throughout the business. At other times it’s confined to just one person. The downside is that this information often remains undocumented so that others are unable to leverage it to contribute to the overall growth of the business.

Remember, when we hold information only in our heads; what we think we know can often be skewed by our own perceptions and views. It is critical to release that knowledge and organise it into something that’s both workable and measurable.

So Let’s talk about what exactly is the Customer Journey?

I searched for a definition on Wikipedia to clarify this for you and funnily enough there’s only a definition on the German site

The Voyage of the customer is a term from marketing and refers to the individual cycles, which a customer undergoes before he decides on the purchase of a product.

From the perspective of the customer, customer journey in marketing refers to all points of contact ( touch points ) of a consumer with a brand , a product or service. These include not only the direct interaction points between customers and companies (ad, commercial, website, etc.), but also the indirect contact points where the opinion of a third party about a brand, a product or service is obtained (evaluation portals, user forum, blog , etc. .).

Customers are increasingly informed about these indirect contact points, which can not be directly influenced by the company. A thorough understanding of the entire customer journey (incl. Direct and indirect contact points) is a prerequisite for a customer-oriented sales and marketing alignment.

Lego Wheel from Shmula - Customer Journey
Example Customer Journey Map

Survey Monkey elaborates with their definition:

When a customer buys your product or service, that transaction is merely the tip of the iceberg in what is essentially a journey created by all the moments leading up to and following the purchase.

You could have great products, a nice website, speedy delivery and a dedicated customer service team, but any weak link (in what turns out to be a very long chain) could send potential customers elsewhere.

How do you improve this process? If you think about your customer transaction as a customer journey, it helps you to focus on the entire experience of doing business with you–from hearing about your product through a friend, to seeing your advertisement, to returning for repeat business. The good news is that you create and control these customer touchpoints. All you have to do is identify them to smooth out the process.”

Effective marketing, from my perspective is that view of ‘smoothing out the process’. Like many marketers I too would advocate that this journey be mapped in some form and incorporate how customers feel at each point in the journey. The map should preferably be an infographic to allow for meanderings in the journey but it can be simply a list to start with. Visuals as we know are great tools to educate and inform but we’ve got to prepare for them first.

I agree with User Experience Consultant Paul Boag when he says

“Whatever its form, the goal is the same: to teach organizations more about their customers.”

It’s interesting to note his acknowledgement of the apparent resistance to mapping that lots of organisations have and it’s something I’ve experienced myself over the years.

“Many organizations already have some information about users. In fact, you might meet resistance from those who feel that repeating this exercise would be a waste of time. This is why gathering existing research is a good start. Often, this research will be out of date or buried in a drawer somewhere.’

Knowing both means you can see where the trigger points or potential barriers are and provide for them. Some marketers call these ‘moments of truth‘ like these mentioned in the following Customer Champions article

“These “moments of truth” are opportunities for the organisation to make a good or bad impression on the customer and are key moments in the customer journey.

My recent example was buying a washing machine from a well known white goods manufacturer, which was actually supplied through a website of a high street retailer, and the after sales service being provided by a third branded party.

Although I later found out that the after sales company was actually owned by the manufacturer no one would take ownership of the total experience from what I thought I had bought, to the level of service that I did (or didn’t in this particular case) receive from the after sales organisation. They couldn’t understand my frustration!

In my experience with the white goods manufacturer, my “moments of truth” were overwhelmingly negative – not conducive to placing my custom with them next time. Perhaps what had happened was the colliding of more than one customer journey.”

Pete Abilla, founder of Shmula helps companies like Amazon, Zappos, eBay, Backcountry, and others reduce costs and improve the customer experience. He does this through a systematic method for identifying pain points that impact the customer and the business and encourages broad participation from the company associates to improve their own processes.

Have a look at the Customer Journey Map he did for Starbucks.

Starbucks Experience Customer Journey Map

He has a great template to help you get started mapping your customer journey and it is available here – customer-journey-map-template-shmula-download

I do recommend that you consider looking at this as an exercise in your business. It’s the secret to unlocking all of that useful data that only the customer can reveal to you.

Let me share a Customer Journey I’ve experienced with you.


So I’m a big lover of Canva and this is my customer journey experience of being  onboarded to Canva’s new Canva for Work. I’ll note it here as a series of numbered steps and we’ll leave it to Canva to figure out the infographic 🙂

  1. I received an email from Melanie from Canva thanking me for the amazing feedback on their Magic Resize feature. You know I don’t remember giving any feedback – I could have… but I really don’t remember.

    Step 1 Canva for Work Customer JourneyStep 2 Canva for Work Customer Journey

  2. I liked what I read in the email – it sounded so like me so I clicked on the video in the email and it brings me to Facebook.

    Step 3 Canva for Work Customer Journey

  3. Wow that really sounds like me so I click to sign up.

    Step 4  Canva for Work Customer Journey

  4. And I’m taken to the Canva site where they talk about Canva for Work

    Step 5  Canva for Work Customer Journey

  5. They ask me to sign up for a 30 day free trial.

    Step 6  Canva for Work Customer Journey

  6. STOP because I don’t want to waste my time with a 30 day free trial. I think – “so how much is this thing?”
    I know I’ll google it.Step 7  Canva for Work Customer Journey
  7. I choose ‘Announcing Canva for Work’.

    Step 8 Canva for Work Customer Journey

  8. Then I click Canva.com/work. And now I pre-register. Sorry no image here. But then I get this screen.

    Step 9 Canva for Work Customer Journey

  9. It says Share + Get Early Access. So I do and I share it on Twitter, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn just so I can get early access.. I want to be one of the first.
  10. Then I go back and confirm my email address.

    Step 10 Canva for Work Customer Journey

  11. I’m in… now I’m wondering will I stop there and start inviting friends. I hesitate – it’s too much. Back to work. But here’s the rub; I still don’t know how much it is!

    Step 11 - Canva for Work Customer Journey

  12. 2 Weeks later – I’m in and I have to say I like being told I’m one of the first.

    Step 12 Canva for Work Customer Journey

  13. Oh yeah – it’s a 60 day trial and after that it’s $12.95 per month. At this point I don’t even care. It was a product I wanted. The real question now is will it live up to expectations. I’ll let you know.

    Step 13 Canva for Work Customer Journey

So while this is not yet a Customer Journey Map, it does start to give a sense of each step that I moved through in one aspect of an overall map. I was the right customer type in that I wanted the product and I did ultimately buy the product.  Can you see where my moments of truth were?

As a marketer observing this I would have to ask

  1. Could Canva have gotten me through this journey faster?
  2. Do they know what my moments of truth were?
  3. I can also see from my inbox that I would have received a lot more emails than the ones I responded to. Why did I respond to the ones I did?
  4. My answer to the above question is that ‘They just fit’. The subject line responded to a direct need I had. How much testing was done to test those subject lines? Was I sent all of them? It certainly feels like it.
  5. But right now I don’t care. I’m off to test Canva for Work and I’m happy about it.


Don’t assume you know everything you need to know about your customers. Start by Profiling them and then map their journey.

Recommended Resource

Check out this Customer Experience Journey Mapping Toolkit by DesigningCX. It contains everything you need to get started.

Let me know how you get on. If you spend the time you’ll reach your customers faster and keep them for longer.

Finola Howard is a brand and marketing strategist who is passionate about the impact that great marketing can have on business success. She sees marketing in a broader more strategic sense and works with businesses and entrepreneurs who want to grow. Click here to get Finola’s articles sent direct to your inbox.

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