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Dan Nagornov

How to define customer journey stages


Stages are the backbone of any customer journey map. And this is what you start building your journey map from right after creating a customer persona. However, a customer journey is usually more like a flow than a staircase — it may not always be that obvious how to divide it into particular journey map stages.

Let’s take a look at a few ways to define your customer journeys stages and map them out on your CJM.

Define the scale

First off, define the scope of the journey that you will focus on. You can either zoom out on the overall journey and go with the universal high-level stages for any product or service: awareness, consideration, preference, action, and loyalty. Or you can dig a little deeper and focus on more specific parts of the customer journey. This might be the most problematic area of the service that needs to be improved in the first place or the part you know the most about. For example, if you have a retail store, you can zoom in on the delivery stage, map it out and see how you can fix or improve it.

Group customer journey stages by touchpoints

Now that you’ve defined the scope of your journey map, it’s time to identify its stages. One way to do it is to take a closer look at the touchpoints that a customer goes through along the way and try to arrange them into groups according to their similarity.

Let’s take a customer journey in a travel agency as an example. Imagine yourself as a client who wants to go places on vacation. Then think of all the possible touchpoints that you are likely to go through when using the services of a travel agency. Having a list of the touchpoints, you can easily come up with the names for the stages of a customer journey.

  • Search results, Google ads → Research
  • Agency’s home page, visiting pricing and other pages → Choosing
  • Phone, email, contact form → First contact
  • Trip proposals, booklets, and brochures → Selecting a trip
  • Payment form, contract → Paying for the service
  • List of necessary docs → Collecting the docs
  • Agency's support line → Support
  • Feedback form, email → Feedback

Use customer goals

You can think of a customer journey as a set of subgoals that customers are trying to achieve in order to satisfy their ultimate goal — why they decided to use your product in the first place. You can put yourself into your customers’ shoes and try to point out what those subgoals could be when interacting with your product or service.

For example, once customers have selected a travel agency, their next goal is to choose a suitable trip package, which signifies the beginning of a new stage in a customer journey.

Using customer goals for creating satges in customer journeys

Click on the image to view it in full size

Use affinity mapping

An affinity map is a tool for organizing complex data into groups and subgroups. It allows structuring a broad range of ideas so that you can analyze them more effectively. Here is how you can use it when drafting the customer journey stages.

  1. Brainstorm. Think of all the real or hypothetical actions that customers will have to perform on the way to their end goal.
  2. Record. Write down each customer action on a separate sticky note. Randomly spread notes on a large work surface so all notes are visible to everyone.Affinity diagram in customer journey mapping
  3. Analyze. Look for actions that seem to be related in some way and place them side by side.
  4. Categorize. From these relationships, try to define categories and think of a name for each one of them.Using affinity diagram for creating stages in customer journeys

Having categorized all the customer actions, you are likely to end up with ready-made customer journey stages for  your map.

To help you out with identifying the stages, we have created a page with CJM templates for a wide variety of businesses, starting from coffee shops and ending with banks and universities. All the templates already have a number of stages that can give you a clue of what you can do in your own journey maps.

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1 year ago

Have heard of two out of three approaches, but the one with using goals to define customer journey phases is a fresh idea. Do you have any advice on how to figure out the right goals and not confuse them with actions?

Sofia Grigoreva
Sofia Grigoreva
1 year ago
Reply to  Tallulah

Hi Tallulah, great question! You can try the five-whys method. Start by formulating an action statement and then ask “Why?”, as in “Why does this persona want to …?”. Take the answer and repeat the process four more times to understand what underlining goals and benefits are hidden beneath. Then, following the technique in the blog post, you should be able to determine the stages of a customer journey.

1 year ago

Great tips! We usually define customer journey stages in a team workshop: get together and write out everything that the customer does on sticky notes, and then rearrange them on a white board and try to group accordingly.