Connecting User Experience to the Customer Journey, Part I

“Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” ― Jean-Luc Godard

September 9, 2015 | Mara Low

"Customer Journey" above a green landscape leading to a castle

Storytelling lies at the heart of the human experience. It is the mechanism by which we understand and connect with ourselves as humans and with the world around us by conveying complex events, places, and emotions through the use of words and images.

At TBG, we use the art of storytelling—for instance, in the form of personas and customer journey maps—as tools to help our clients step back from the purely transactional aspects (the buying and selling) of their business and instead focus on its transcendent purpose (helping people). 

The more accurate and detailed the stories we tell ourselves are about potential users, the more effective the experiences we build for them become.

While these techniques are perhaps most frequently associated with retail/eCommerce industries, it is also highly applicable to our clients in healthcare, government, education, nonprofit, and arts and attractions industries.

Developing Your Characters

Just as character development is essential to a good novel or film, so too are user stories to developing an effective digital strategy.

To understand your users, we employ both quantitative (analytics assessment) and qualitative research (interviews and surveys) in order to understand who your customers are and how they engage with your business. We then piece together stories in the form of user personas which are fictional characters that represent the different user types that might engage with your brand, service, or product in a similar way.

Example: User persona developed by TBG for one of our healthcare clients

Name: Sherri Williams

icon of woman


  • Prospective Patient: Diganosed
  • Age: 42
  • Focus: Second Opinion
  • Location: Philadelphia, PA


  • I have been diagnosed with arterioslerotic vascular disease. My surgeon says I am not a candidate for minimally invasive surgery because my arteries and heart are too small. I want a second opinion, and I don't have time to wait.


  • Learn about the benefits and risks of minimally invasive surgery versus traditional surgery
  • Learn about survival rates
  • Read about the latest research advancements in minimally invasive heart surgery
  • Learn about physician years of experience with minimally invasive heart surgery. Assess physician credentials.
  • Read or watch stories from patients who have undergone heart surgery at Penn Medicine.
  • Request an appointment for tomorrow.

Mapping the Customer Journey

Once our characters have been developed, we need to place them in the context of time and place—this is where customer journey mapping comes into play.

A journey map tells a customer’s story from initial contact through various stages of engagement with your brand and provides a foundation on which to build a multi-channel digital strategy that meets your users’ needs and furthers your business goals.

Customer journey maps may take a variety of forms, but generally deal with the continuum of customer experience, focusing on high-level engagement points such as:

diagram of the customer journey

This continuum provides the framework for our story’s plot. Now we need the setting in which your customer’s story will unfold—basically all the places a customer might interact with your brand. The channels for these touch-points vary from business to business but generally include Web (your own properties and third-party sites), email, social media, advertising, telephone, and face-to-face interactions (storefronts, word of mouth).

Sample Customer Journey: Prospective Patient Seeking a Second Opinion

sample customer journey chart

Looking at this customer journey map, you can start to see how this type of exercise is useful in helping determine where and how to reach your customers with messaging that is relevant to them depending on where they are in their decision-making process. Of course, the devil is in the details of how this is accomplished—both substantively, and in terms of project efficiencies. In Part II of this series, we will explore specific tactics to develop strategies, design, and continuously improve user experiences to support the customer journey and drive conversions.

About the Author

Mara Low

I am the Manager of Digital Strategy & Optimization with TBG. When I’m not crafting user experiences, you’ll  likely find me fire hula hooping, hiking, or creating up-cycled art.

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