Customer Experience Mapping: What Is It And How To Do It?

Have you ever walked into your favorite retail brick and mortar store and felt a disconnect between how its brand attempts to speak to you via email, catalogs and snail mail flyers, compared to how its in-store experience interacts with you?  

Does this store’s call center customer service representatives utilize the same personal care and attentiveness that an in-store sales person would?  

Often there is a huge difference between these two types of customer services. One commonality that you will find across most top-shelf or luxury brands, such as Equinox, Apple, Macys, Tesla, Tiffany & Co and Hilton, is a seamless and consistent customer service experience across all points of interaction, also referred to as touchpoints in the marketing world.

In companies that put an emphasis on seamless customer interaction - from the emails you receive to the way staff greets you in person - is consistent.  None of this harmonious approach happens by chance or accident. Your customer journey has been researched and intentionally designed - with you in mind.  

Tesla is now world-renowned for providing a customer experience that is not only holistic, but practically seamless. As you can see here, visitors to Tesla dealerships and stores can tinker with a car's features from inside the store, with a helpful expert by their side. This is a very ingenious and innovative practice for the marketplace.

From the moment a prospective customer engages with one of the aforementioned successful brands, regardless if the interaction begins in a retail store location or website, customers are treated to a unified online/offline experience.  

So the question remains: how do bootstrapped startups or smaller companies, that do not offer luxury products or services, learn to create these holistic, omni-channel experiences for their customers? You may be wondering “where do I start?”    

Implementing Experience Mapping

Customer experience mapping is a process for discovering how your potential customers or new users feel as they engage with your product or service’s sales funnel touchpoints.  It’s the research that you will prepare and scrutinize, a journey of sorts, from the beginning to the end of your potential customer’s engagement with your company.  

Utilizing this step-by-step approach to experience mapping can help you discover insights and reduce friction- all to make necessary adjustments whereby your customer’s experience can become better. Additionally, this process will ensure that all of your customer’s or user’s touchpoints function holistically in a positive manner.  

This article will cover:   

  • What experience mapping is and how it can apply to your startup

  • How to decide where to focus on improving your user or customer’s experience

  • The benefits to providing a consistent user experience

  • Key takeaway tips to help you move forward with implementing this methodology to your own company    

A Startup’s Guide To Experience Mapping   

Your brand, regardless of how many departments it has and products or services it offers, must create a customer first or centric mission, if you are hoping to have any control over your customer’s experience.

You can also think of this path as making each touchpoint that your customer interacts with feel holistic and part of cohesive and whole process. Creating branded experiences that actually fulfill customer desires is crucial in order for the customer to get value out of engaging you.

 So where do you begin?  

First Step: Understanding Your Customer’s Journey - Tasks & Actions

Map this out:

What is your average customer or user’s very first interaction or experience usually look like? To even begin to answer this, you must first try to understand the buyer’s journey. Start by mapping out everything your customer does during an entire engagement with your brand, services or products - be sure that you are including actions and tasks.  

For example, if you were a mortgage broker, one of the first interactions that your potential customers might have with you is when they search online, or pick up a flier for a home listed for sale in their neighborhood.  

Or, say you just opened up a new store and a new customer chooses to engage as they walk by it. Alternatively, you may have a portable speaker e-Commerce website and, during one of your ad campaigns, someone searching for speakers clicks on one of your ads.     

What the Actions & Tasks Process Looks Like    

To begin to support the action and tasks process of experience mapping, you must analyze your customer’s journey by asking questions and using your customer’s feedback as a guide to your mapping. You will want to study your customers behavior across the entire user experience. Personas, interviews, observation and surveying may be used in this step.  

This can be completed by interviewing your current customers, or market research with people who fit your target demographic and target customer profile but have not yet bought anything from you, yet.  This step can even include past customers and polls or surveys on product pages where people drop off.  

If, for some reason, you are unable to conduct any interviews, then you need to schedule a meeting with your customer service and sales teams to see if they can fill in some of the gaps for you with their existing knowledge.   

Remember, this is a cross-functional collaborative process designed to truly map the variety of different pathways, your customer’s journey may take.  

Secondly, during this actions and tasks process, you need to discover what activities or actions your customers attempt during their engagement with your product or service. Keeping with the retail store example, perhaps a customer’s first interaction with your store is simply walking by it. This is where you are analyzing and getting a thorough understanding of all interactions or touchpoints that your customers may have with your brand, across all types of channels.  

Maybe you discover, that some other customers do not necessarily first engage with your actual brick and mortar location. Maybe some customers find out about your business through receiving your “New Store Opening” snail mail flyer, via email or even seeing your ad in a magazine. You want to know this information and you will want to capture and record all of this in your customer’s journey log.   

Next step : Find Out What Your Customers are Thinking and Feeling  

As you finish the initial framework of mapping the entire buyer's journey, you now are ready to start attaching emotions to their journey. Call this the “thinking and feeling” phase. It may seem a little strange for you to try and think about this touchy, feely part, or to try and guess what your customers are thinking or feeling - but remember that you should have surfaced and retained their emotions or reactions during initial surveys or interviews.  

So, let’s not diminish the importance of asking questions in customer interviews which will surface some of these emotions. The emotional aspect of the customer’s journey is very important. You may discover that there is an easy, cost-effective way to manage your customer’s expectations and ultimate satisfaction with your brand by just discovering one or two common gripes or objections that a majority of your customers share.  

Just as Google has a “Needs Met” criteria in their Search Quality Guidelines, these questions are where you can discover your customers’ ups-and-downs, as well as what were their expectations or needs are and how how all of this information can come together.  

You should start to think about customer experience mapping as telling a story.  

Every story has a beginning, middle and end; recalling that compelling stories have some meat or substance to them. So, the story is not just the actions and tasks of the protagonistright? Your customer’s experience with your products, services or brand is not any different.

Tell a couple stories about your customers or, invite your customer service or sales reps into a meeting again and ask them to surface more feelings and thoughts about your customers’ sales processes or journeys. Documenting the data from your interviews and surveys in conjunction with your customer facing departments is the most effective way to capture this information.  

Another reason for going through this process or exercise is that it will give you the context from which you should be treating or speaking to your potential or new customers.

If you find that during one of the sales funnel stages your customers appear uncertain or worried about taking the next step toward purchasing, your reply tone should be reassuring and your explanation should speak to the features and benefits to purchasing your product. You also could ask one of your customers the following: "Hey, I want you to imagine that you are about to buy this (product or service). Please tell me 10 thoughts that you are thinking about right now. Please say - out loud - everything that you are thinking, when you see this page.”  

If the client seems happy, then you should be happy, as well.

Third Step: Touching All The Customer Touchpoints


Touchpoints are any interactions and communication between your potential customers and your brand, products or services along the conversion path. These interactions take place at particular moments in your customer’s journey (which is occurring more and more in the  digital world) and they are driven by the context of that interaction.  

Usually, the intention of the interaction is for your potential customer to meet a specific need that your product, service or brand could, would or should satisfy or meet. If your brand does everything online, then typically- particularly in analytics- you would set up an attribution model to assign credit for sales and conversions to marketing touchpoints along the conversion paths.


Say a customer finds your site by clicking on one of your AdWords ads. He then returns one week later by clicking over from a re-targeted ad on a social network. That same day, he comes back a third time via one of your email campaigns, and a few hours later, he returns again directly and makes a purchase. With offline sales, make sure to keep track of all tangible things and people that customers see, touch and interact with - and especially if they say anything.  

Does your restaurant use Square for payments? Is there a self checkout register or kiosk at your brick-and-mortar store location? Are you expecting your customers to fill out forms in person, online or both?  

You may find out that there is friction or dropoffs in these sign-up experiences. For instance, you may discover that your customers feel you never have pens that work, or that the checkout time on your e-Commerce site has too many steps, or there are a limited number of store associates.  

Waiting and loading times can have affect on the customer experience.    


(The Apple Store is one such place that's been designed to be an overarching experience that delightfully connects from the moment you initiate an appointment, to the moment you walk in the store and your geniuses are awaiting to assist you every possible way.)

Continue Touching Your Touchpoints and Mapping Them

  1. Remember touchpoints are attached to an activity and task and probably already have feeling and thoughts attached to them. Touchpoints are anything that can be designed, whether it is in person or online. Touchpoints are not elements you have no control over, such as the weather or traffic.

  2. Whatever your touchpoint discoveries are, make sure to find a way to improve them. If your startup is trying to sign up users to take a free demo or trial, take a look at the process; could you decrease the number fields required in your forms for completion or perhaps have less steps involved for them to start using it? Say your business has a retail location with a waiting room, and people report back to you that they are bored while waiting for their appointments. Maybe you could add more reading materials, coffee or a television that moves the needle in the customer’s experience?

  3. In this process, you may discover common issues or themes that begin to arise, or perhaps common words or phrases customers are using to describe interactions. Record all of these comments and thoughts in your customer experience map. These common themes could lend themselves to major insights into how to remove bottlenecks and optimize your customer acquisition funnels better.    

Fourth Step: Setting the Stage

During this fourth step is exactly where you want to take a step back along with a good long look at the entire customer journey. What do you see? If we continue to use the storytelling analogy, you probably see some chapters emerging in the beginning, middle and end. This is a natural segway into the next step in the journey process: segmenting the customer journey into stages.  

Similar to chapters in any good book, this exercise helps you better chart the customer journey so you can see what stages need the most attention in development and better help processes for your customer. Ask: are there any stages that are not converting prospects through to next funnel stage? Are there more low points in the beginning of any engagement or interaction?  

You can label these troubled spots as opportunities and insights, and offer light suggestions or solutions to subsequently test under each stage. This step will help your customer experience map more than just an experience - it will make this whole process a strategic sales tool.   

Naming the stages:

Consider naming the chapters of the customer journey. This will help with understanding the process more thoroughly. If we continue to use the retail store location as an example:

Stage one: could be labeled “Window Shopping Downtown” or “Searching Online for a Product your Store Sells.”   

Stage two: could be titled the “In-store Experience.”   

Stage three: could be referenced to as the “Review Process.”  

Stage four: “Using, Testing or Trying the Product.”  

Subsequent journey chapters could then follow.  

A similar process is beneficial for an online digital shopping experience, such booking an RV resort reservation, getting an airline ticket, booking a hotel, buying on Amazon or completing any other type of purchase.

As you may see, the buyer’s journey has many options and take several directions. What you need to ensure is that each stage represents all the - actions, tasks, feelings, thoughts - which then equals the touchpoints with which your customer engages.

You may be asking, how does this whole process really get implemented and completed? We have covered the basic formula of customer experience mapping. Now, let’s use a real world example and map it so we discover and identify opportunities for improvement.    

Real Example of Customer Experience Mapping                       - The California DMV -  

Since this a post for entrepreneurs in the Startup Grind community, most of us have had (well let's say it like it is), “a not wonderful experience," with the California DMV.

The question then arises: has the DMV tried to improve its processes?  

Let’s take a look and start by qualifying the DMVs “behavior.” Our research indicates that, over the last five years, California’s budget cuts have resulted in shortened DMV open hours, pushed many services to the online, and sometimes inaccessible realm and reduced the number of full time staff available to DMV “users.” All of these changes were done with the intention of digitally automating some seemingly less complicated tasks in order to save money and allow for more budget cuts.   

Shown here is the California DMV's” Book An Appointment” feature. As you can see, it's not offered in other languages, and doesn't indicate wait times on the homepage, or inside the feature.

The Waiting Line

One thing that the California DMV has always tried to improve [or stay consistent with] is its notorious waiting times. The ability to make an appointment in advance (an online booking page appears) feature is one method that California has used to try and improve this problem.

Let’s see how the customer experience mapping technique could have made this process better.  

Currently, if you own a smartphone or laptop, merely booking this appointment is the only way to make your DMV experience slightly more bearable. This appointment is supposedly helping you avoid the hardship of waiting for countless hours just to renew a license or re-register your vehicle, etc.

You may be surprised to know that there are some people who do not even know you can book an appointment on the website.

These people remain among those who are still experiencing extraordinarily long wait times.

So let’s begin the customer experience mapping process!  

Experience Mapping of the California DMV    

What happened (Activities & Tasks):  

  1. You received a letter in the mail from the DMV: your license or registration is going to expire, so you need to get it renewed. You probably will need to take a new photo and collect supporting documentation.

  2. You head over to and take advantage of the book an appointment page feature.   

Thoughts & Feelings:

  1. Getting a notice in the mail from any government agency can make you feel a little anxious, or even annoyed.

  2. You now start thinking “When am going to find the time during the busy schedule that my startup demands? How am I going to just hang out at the DMV for half a day?”  

  3. You hope that booking the appointment online will make the process faster and run more smoothly.   

Touchpoints:  Notice of the License Renewal letter. Online Book An Appointment Feature.

Discoveries & Insights:  

  1. Non-English speakers are not able to book an appointment unless they can read and type in English. 

  2. Booking an appointment online does not absolutely guarantee you a shorter waiting time or provide a parameter for actual wait time either.    


  1. The DMV could offer different language options (especially Spanish) for notices, renewal letters, as well as the online booking page feature.  

  2. The DMV could provide drivers and other customers with an estimated wait time of service or estimated wait time based on the number of appointments for the day, so at the actual time of the booking, customers can have at least a vague understanding or guestimate of the wait time they could potentially experience.   

  3. Once you are inside the actual building, the DMV could display an estimated wait time for those with and without an appointment.    

  4. The DMV could text notifications to let you know when it will be ready for you after you’ve checked in for your appointment, comparable to what Apple does at all it’s busy locations


  1. Booking the appointment at the DMV.  

  2. Going to the appointment.   

  3. Getting your picture taken and paying/producing supporting documents when necessary.     

  4. Exiting the parking lot experience.    

  5. Receiving the renewed license or registration in the mail.

At this point, the DMV’s marketing team, or equivalent, might attempt to tackle certain opportunities and create new strategies to address and tackle issues in order to ease the customer’s experience.

Recapping the Blueprint: Map your Customer’s Journey

As you can see, mapping a customer’s journey can bring to light so many useful insights; insights that can help your product, your service, your brand or business. Ways that will just, overall, provide a better experience for your customers - experiences that could not only yield higher ROIs and greater customer loyalty, but also yield better reviews, testimonials and social proof.  

All of these elements and details are fodder for an improved overall experience with your brand for potential customers. Even if your services are 100 percent required for survival, like getting your drivers license renewed, it’s still imperative to provide an exemplary experience.

So Now What?

If you are now literally chomping at the bit and ready to try the customer experience mapping process out on your brand, here are some more helpful tips to move you along:

1. Remember: the journey always represents and is meant to benefit the customer. Focus on discovering, at each stage of the journey and at each touchpoint of all channels, your customers’ feelings - what they’re thinking and what they’re doing.

2. Don’t forget: about the context of each stage. What touchpoint are customers experiencing at each stage? What channels are they interacting with? What places do they go, and when, and who do they experience along the way: your employees, your online help desk, your in-store greeter? Uncover all the activities and tasks that bring customers to your brand, from their first engagement to the end of their engagement.

3. Make sure: to note all touchpoints, activities and feelings, and begin to translate those ups-and-downs and highs-and-lows, into insights which then become opportunities for improving the overall experience. Remember: once you to start identify those opportunities to address any pain points or friction in the journey, you can start creating strategies to solve them.

4. Pro Tip: in regards to the people (touchpoints) your customers interact with along their journey with your brand, make sure to map their relationship to these people and the timing of the interactions. This will all help give you a 360-degree view of your brand’s entire omni-channel experience.  

5. Lastly: don’t forget to collaborate with all teams in your organization. Gather as much data and insights from these teams and departments to help get you started and craft a customer journey that’s spot-on from the beginning, middle, to the very-end.

Takeaways: How Does this Help your business results Bottom Line?    

Remember that, for some brands, improvements in customer experience can easily translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars of incremental annual revenues. From the moment your users first interact with your product or service, they begin their customer journey.  

Experience mapping captures the customer’s experience across touchpoints and identifies doings, thinkings and feelings. Looking through your customer’s lens helps your organization identify opportunities, many previously unknown or overlooked, and reinforces a customer centric approach (human centered methodology) within your company.