Consulting & Mentoring

How to run a Customer Journey Mapping Workshop

We often talk about ‘customer moments’ in our design research process to help us create insights. A workshop that creates a map of the customer’s journey gives us the opportunity to find these moments - the moments that really matter in creating a positive customer experience.

I recently ran a customer mapping workshop during a week-long retreat in Madrid with a group of Creative Leaders from around the world. You can read more about the story behind the retreat here. The response on LinkedIn to the photos of the workshop has prompted me to write more about the usefulness in running a mapping workshop and also how to structure a workshop of this kind.

We often talk about ‘customer moments’ in our design research process to help us create insights. A workshop that creates a map of the customer’s journey gives us the opportunity to find these moments - the moments that really matter in creating a positive customer experience.

A good journey map can also be an invaluable template for teams to collect assumptions, data or research and share findings on one page. And most importantly, it allows all stakeholders to view their offerings from the customer perspective (outside-in) rather than just a business perspective (inside-out).

“Journey mapping is a process to help you understand a holistic view of the customer experience by uncovering moments of both frustration and delight throughout a series of interactions. Done successfully, it reveals opportunities to satisfy customer pain points, alleviate fragmentation, and, ultimately, differentiate your brand by exposing new opportunities to provide additional value to your customers.”
— Nielson Norman Group

There’s a well-known theory that the points in a journey that people remember are the Peak, and the End. The Peak being the most intense moment in a customer’s journey, and the End being when the customer is complete. So how might we start finding where these moments are?

During a recent visit to Hyper Island where I was mentoring the Digital Experience Design Masters course, this topic that raised more questions than any other: how do we find these moments, how we do format a journey map and how do we create one?

Structure of a Customer Journey Map

On the horizontal axis is time throughout the customer journey. This can be as simple as ‘Before, During, After’ or as complex as specific pages of a website.

Our vertical axis cover the information we want to map, and this can change depending on what the purpose of your map is. Defining what you want to discover at each key stage is an important part of the process and can include information such as:

• Actions - What is the user trying to achieve?
• Touchpoints - How is the user interacting?
• Thoughts/Feelings - What is the user feeling/thinking?

When we’re using a map to sort research for an eCommerce site, we’d also include some other elements that we had already collected: quantitative data - usually Google Analytics or Hotjar - is telling us about user behaviour on each page. This helps surface what is happening and also what the qualitative user tests are telling us about user behaviour on each page and give further context into why it may be happening. These would also sit on the vertical axis.

How to run a rapid Customer Journey Mapping workshop

The information below outlines the structure of the workshop I recently ran in Madrid - it should give you some tips if you’d like to run a workshop like this yourself. If we were running a workshop like this as part of a client project we’d spend much longer on this process. However for the Madrid workshop, it was a rapid run through of the process to help people learn by doing.

However, we still believe in keeping things messy and quick. The value is in the process, not in the delivery of the map. Our template fosters collaboration between different factors of user research and it also allows us to update it over time and use it as a valuable resource to refer back to.

The Madrid workshop was delivered as part of a 2-hour teaching session, so before we got to the 1-hour mapping workshop we’d been through the “whats” and “whys” of mapping covered above. If you’re working with a group unfamiliar with the process, consider how you will introduce them to the process before asking them to take part. Could this happen in a pre-workshop meeting or video call with a remote team? Either way, I’ll assume the group is aware of the context before starting the exercise.

Secondly, best practice would recommend creating one map per persona. However, in this scenario, I wanted to map the workshop attendees own journey, not a customer of a business or service so we did a collective map. What this actually allowed us to do was build a deeper understanding of the collective journey we’d been on and to highlight our biggest challenges in participating in our annual retreat.

Customer Journey Mapping Workshop


1. Get your materials

All that was needed to run this workshop was;

• Butcher rolls of paper and/or flat walls to work on
• Masking tape to create a template
• Post it notes in 4 colours. I used 1 colour per row not just to make the final map pretty, but to allow us all to review the wall and make sure we could instantly recognise what kind of note we were reviewing. Notes naturally overlapped in a few places so you’ll be thankful for this method once you have a wall covered in them!

2. Decide on your teams

If you’re working with a small and dedicated group, you may not need teams. For this workshop, I had 13 participants which would be too many for one map so I split them into teams of 4 - small enough to collaborate closely and easily participate in the conversation that naturally arose from about points in the journey. I also split the groups to maximise the diversity of experiences within each team.

3. Put up your Journey Template

Setup your templates on the wall using your masking tape, then think about what specific points you need across your horizontal axis. This could be something quite general (before, during, after) or specific to journey throughout a website  (e.g.; browse products, select products, purchase). For your vertical axis, use the correct colour of Post-it note to define what information you want to collect.

What you choose here should clearly help focus the participants onto the research and goals you want to surface and share.  Finally, make sure every table has the correct post-it notes!

Customer Journey Mapping Workshop

At Workshop

1. Introduction (5 minutes)

Run through what you’re going to do, clearly showing the time blocks for each part, and the desired goal of the workshop. In many cases, depending on what data is being brought to the workshop, you should remember this is a hypothetical journey that later needs to be proven by user research. Remember the goal is to surface problems, not solve them.

2. Set a Goal (5 minutes)

Explain what you looking to achieve with the map. Make this clear and visible throughout as participants will naturally veer off track without this.

Reducing friction in the customer purchase journeyHelp a user find information about a service

For us, by focusing on our Pre-House journey, we hoped to build a deeper understanding of our collective challenges in attending the retreat and how we overcame them. This insight can then be used as part of the planning for Design House 2019. Our goal became: How might we get more alumni to join us next year?

3. What action did the customer/you have to take (10 minutes)

Ask each team to individually write notes on what actions they (or a user) has to take throughout a journey, and then collectively post up, clustering notes together required. Start each of these notes with a verb;

Read WhatsApp invite from the organiser
Looked at Costs
Booked time off work
Filled in flights spreadsheet
Completed pre-retreat Questionnaire

For us, these were actions we each had to take to get to the retreat.

4. Challenges/Pain points (10 minutes)

Then move on to what challenges or pain points encountered as a result of these actions;

The invite to the retreat didn’t make the agenda clear
The time commitment of attending didn’t fit with my holiday allowance
The costs of coming to this retreat were more than anticipated
The flights to the location were at inconvenient times

5. Thoughts (10 minutes)

Next up is what thoughts may arise whilst working through these challenges, phrased as questions;

When will the organiser stop chasing me for an RSVP?
Is it worth the money?
Why is the airport so confusing?

6. Feelings (10 minutes)

Finally, ask the respondents to place feelings. It’s possible to include this in the previous step of ‘Thoughts’, but I learnt from this experience that a very simple feelings row separated them out very neatly.

To do this add a horizontal line in this row where positive feelings go above the line and negative below. This creates a roller coaster of emotions to highlight the peaks and trough throughout the journey.

Words; Excitement, Guilt, Confusion,
Faces; stickmen or simple faces worked well!

Customer Journey Mapping Workshop

7. Discuss and synthesise (10 minutes)

Give each group chance to review the finalised map together to try and highlight the key moment in the journey with the biggest opportunity for improvement.

This prompted to some fascinating discussions between my group, with several people voicing "I hadn’t realised that..."

8. Present and compare (10 minutes)

Ask each group to present their key finding from the map.

Customer Journey Mapping Workshop

After the workshop

Make sure you thoroughly document each map before any notes get removed! Distribute it and begin to discuss what you might do with this information. Are there any areas that stand out as needing more research first?

Further reading on this subject;

Further Reading