Paul McAleer

Visualizing the customer journey

Paul McAleer

One of my initiatives at Gogo is to create a cohesive customer journey map. I'm working on the assumption that end users' needs have been neglected in a lot of our internal processes, and having something tangible will help spur conversations and more importantly, help our product and marketing teams determine what to work on.

Last year I partnered with our Customer Insights team and developed an online survey and dialogue with our customer panel. This was a tremendous start. There are still a number of big gaps I'm looking to fill the rest of this year.

Once the data was back, though, the question of how to visualize this came into play and it's a piece that I'm now working on.

Version 1: Post-Its

The very first iteration of our customer journey map was physical. It used Post-Its and painter's tape and, oh yeah, a lot of window.


This is just a part of the journey. The main template came from Adaptive Path, and outlined these major components (top to bottom):

  • Stages
  • Actions
  • Context
  • Emotions
  • Needs
  • People
  • Products & Services

A later version of this added KPIs (and boy, is that interesting when you're looking cross-touchpoint.)

I also divided up the windows by customer. What you see above is most of the journey for a business traveler. The leisure traveler one was similar in some ways but there were enough significant differences to warrant a separate journey.

The upside of this format is that the journey is almost tangible. It is giant! It took up a lot of windows on our floor. However, this later drew complaints from our Creative Services team. Worse, though, the thing wasn't being used by anyone but my team. So, it failed in that sense - data incompleteness aside.

Version 2: ?

And now we're at version 2. One of our marketing managers thought the whole thing was terrific and very useful, but said he longed for a portable version. That made sense, so I started researching how others did it.

There are some good examples from Adaptive Path (surprise, surprise). I found myself focusing on the visuals. I started drawing things in Paper and Keynote but really needed to peel back to the data one more time. I felt I was jumping to the deliverable instead of looking at the problem.

You've gotta start somewhere.

You've gotta start somewhere.

And when I looked at the research again, one thing became very clear: air travel is all about time. And I mean all. There is nothing in the process that is not governed by time. People care deeply about when their flights are leaving and when they are landing. They plan their travel in advance. They get angry and frustrated at time delays. They can't wait to get to their destination. Their hotel has a check-in and check-out time. They are very time driven.

I began to explore how time is visualized. Google's first result was a good one from Flowing Data. Then I looked beyond those examples, despite their apparent high quality. What is another part of travel that involves time and adds another dimension?


So I sketched this. And I'm starting to love the idea, which means I must promptly kill it.


The basic depiction here is the physical journey one encounters during air travel. There's a lot that happens at home (or at work, or...) involving booking, but it is stationary. Then there's a path to the airport. There's a path in the airport. There's a path in the air. There's a path from the airport. Get the picture?

And, these paths are measurable in both distance and time. The distance element here is, possibly, irrelevant. But it is absolutely a key part of travel. Maps are a part of this experience, so can I make a journey that celebrates that, instead of ignoring it?

I'm going to find out. Stay tuned.