The Customer Journey

Everyone is on a journey.

Some quite consciously, others perhaps unknowingly, but they still are moving, evolving, and hopefully growing.

Businesses are inevitably a part of the journey. Through their products and services, they influence the experience. Their influence might be, quite frankly for better or for worse. Or both.

All of our individual journeys are made up of numerous sub-journeys. These are the different threads of our lives made up of people: family, friends, business relationships.

They’re made up of the actual trips we take; the phases of our life from childhood to adolescence, school, work and maybe college and careers. And, some of those sub-journeys include our relationships with the companies who sell us products.

I believe it’s each of our responsibility to be conscious of our journeys and to seek to better ourselves. But it’s also our responsibility to help others on their journeys. And so, in business, part of our responsibility is when creating products and services, that we help others on their journeys: we should provide value to human beings.

It’s no coincidence, in fact, that in business, we leverage experts who actually map those relationships and call them, lo and behold “customer journeys.” And the job of User Experience (UX) professionals is to make those customer journeys great.

The Value Stream Discovery Board provides a way to view a customer’s interaction with a company. It describes the journey from the customer’s perspective. It doesn’t look only at the experience with a particular product, but rather the customer’s relationships with a company — from first becoming aware to becoming passionate.



7 States Customers Experience While on Their Journey

The states go like this:

Value stream discover board.png

First you are aware, and then you become intrigued, and trusting. Then you are convinced, go through this funky state of being hopeful, then satisfied and ultimately, passionate. (More on each individual state here.)

As you can see, this journey combines awareness marketing, with product marketing, a sales funnel including conversion, and then into product engagement, and ends with “passionate”, which some people include with product — you often hear the word delight — or is described as branding, where you hear the word “loyalty”.

You use the value stream to hypothesize the behavior you see that indicates which state a customer is in, what you as the business must DO to get that behavior, and how will you measure your ability to do so. It’s important to focus on customer behavior, because this represents evidence.

It’s not what a customer says they’ll do.

You apply the 3 E’s of lean innovation, develop empathy, run rapid experiments, analyze evidence — data + insights — to find the right actions the business must do to illicit the behavior.

We start with the behavior, because customers have a desire to respond in their way, not be forced into a traditional business-driven funnel. (A marketing or sales funnel, by definition, filters people out. You actually want to create multiple cylinders.)

The diamond nugget is the core of this behavior stream. Three essential components are necessary to build a thriving business and the rest is essentially optimization of getting people into and through the stream.


The Diamond Nugget

At the core of this journey is a diamond, comprised of 3 states: Intrigued, Satisfied, and Passionate. These 3 emotional states of the customer journey are fundamental to all successful businesses. These form the basis of everything else.


Intrigued is when a potential customer first thinks, “Hey they’re talking to me. What they’re saying is interesting.” It has two components: utility, and aspiration.

Utility is the customer need that must be fulfilled for the product to succeed. This is a promise that must be kept.

We create 3 hypotheses:

  1. BUSINESS ACTIVITY: “Intrigued” marketing that communicates the utility function by addressing a specific need: we will solve the need: __________ AND the aspiration function by inviting customer on a journey: we hope to achieve the impact: __________.

  2. CUSTOMER BEHAVIOR: A customer is intrigued when: she does ________________.

  3. METRIC: To measure behavior: we track __________.

The intrigued marketing is inexorably linked to to the next two states.


Customers are satisfied when the utility function is realized; in other words, the promise is fulfilled. Your first product version that attempts to deliver the promised value, is your Minimum Viable Product. So your 3 hypotheses might follow this structure:

  1. BUSINESS ACTIVITY: In order to fulfill the utility promise, the product must have at least these characteristics:

  2. CUSTOMER BEHAVIOR: A customer who is satisfied: interacts with the product specifically in these ways:

  3. METRIC: To measure behavior: we track what the user does over a specific time period.


Customers are passionate when they have successfully joined the journey toward achieving an emotional impact. This cannot be promised to the customer, since the success of the journey is shared. Sometimes this happens with the product itself, but more often than not is based on something else inside the business model.

  1. BUSINESS ACTIVITY: We are asking the customer to join us on a journey toward achieving the aspiration ______________.

  2. CUSTOMER BEHAVIOR: A customer who is passionate: invites others to join by ___________.

  3. METRIC: To measure behavior: we track the viral coefficient of product invites and signups.

Kids Music App Example

The value stream will differ for different market segments, so you want to segment around people who share the same need for the utility and are drawn to the same aspirational journey. Your early adopters will be consciously aware of the aspiration.

You don’t segment around demographics and you don’t create personas based an amalgamation of data. Your segment must be about real  people who have a common need and desire a similar impact on their life.

An entrepreneur in Toronto was building a music app for the iPad.

He discussed his “value proposition” like this: “If your child uses the app they will be having fun and practicing their music at the same time. So they will practice more.”

When asked why he was building the app, he said, “To save parents money.”

The first statement is a strong utility function promise. The child must practice more because of the app or the business is a non-starter.

The second question, however, was trying to get to the entrepreneurs “why”. Why did he feel driven to build a business around this concept? “To save parents money” is a pretty lightweight answer.

When pressed, he said, “Because I’m a musician.”

When pressed more, he said, “Because I want kids to grow up to love music.”

A ha! Why do you think parents pay for music lessons to begin with? Yes, there are less altruistic answers, but most parents who provide their children lessons want them to grow up to love music, too.

This is the shared journey.

The entrepreneur can’t promise that. But the journey itself that the entreprenuer, the child and the parents go on together creates passionate customers.

Taking Your Customers on an Aspirational Journey Using the Diamond Nugget

Human beings manage what they measure. That’s why the metrics you choose to focus on are fundamental to product success and scalability.

The sub-journey your customer must go on is defined as Intrigued -> Satisfied -> Passionate. How you measure those will automatically focus your team on optimizing business growth.

For Intrigued, this is typically a marketing endeavor to find the right two-part messaging (utility + aspiration) and the right channel to broadcast the message in order to find your early adopters. The behavior they exhibit depends on the channel and how they acquire the value (SaaS, retail, e-commerce, B2B sales, and so on.)

For Satisfied, this is the product or service itself. What must you provide in order to get customers to repurchase, come back, or use again the product in specific ways over a specific time frame. Satisfied is also known as “active user” or “engaged user.”

For Passionate, this is often outside the product. For example:

Is it the packaging?

Method puts soap in containers that make them want to put them on the counter instead of under the sink. Their messaging, circa Jan 25, 2002: “new all purpose, premium household cleaners that add elegance and sophistication to home and life.”

Is it customer service?

Their website, circa March 31, 2001, Zappos sells shoes online and amazing customer service: “Free Shipping & No Sales Tax! Can’t find what you’re looking for? Let be your Personal Shopper! Tell us what kind of shoes you want and we’ll find them for you!”

Is it content marketing?

In the early days, Hubspot was more famous for the blog and free tools for small business internet marketing than for their software.

The point is if that if you look at how you acquire, convert and retain customers from the business’s perspective, there’s an infinite number of “best practices” to try.

Alternatively, you can look at your ideal customer’s journey from their perspective, and this will point you to the activities and features that you must provide to fulfill their need.

This tool can help by helps you define those hypotheses and focus on the right metrics, so that your team will “manage” what they measure. In other words, they will naturally do the right things to grow that metric’s value.

Slack Example

Slack is an team collaboration tool for businesses. It has grown exponentially over the last couple of years and is used by more than 30,000 teams and valued at over $1 billion.

If they had used the Diamond nugget, it might have looked like this:


BUSINESS ACTIVITY: Marketing that communicates the utility function of real-time messaging, archiving, search for modern teams, and the aspiration function of ease of mind; “be less busy. relax.”

CUSTOMER BEHAVIOR: A customer is intrigued when: she spends 5 minutes on website


  • To measure behavior: we track users’ path through the website

  • x % visitors browse listings for 5 minutes

  • 10 % mo/mo growth of intrigued users


BUSINESS ACTIVITY: create a minimum viable product that includes basic account management, ability to post messages, and organize them in configurable channels.

CUSTOMER BEHAVIOR: A company’s users are satisfied when: they’ve sent 2000 messages


  • To measure behavior: we track number of messages sent/day

  • all users post x messages/day

  • y % mo/mo growth of satisfied companies


BUSINESS ACTIVITY: create an amazing UX, such that the product is so easy to use, users dramatically reduce use of email and text messages to communicate, relieving stress, miscommunication, firestorms and other business malaise.

CUSTOMER BEHAVIOR: A company’s users are passionate when: they invite others to join; post on social media.


  • To measure behavior: we track number of referrals

  • # of social media posts/day

  • viral coefficient

Final Thoughts

Using the Value Stream Discovery Board provides a way to view a customer’s interaction with a company in order to determine which metrics are vanity, and which actually drive impact.

When you look at the journey from the customer’s perspective, you can see when a customer first became aware that your brand even existed, all the way to the point they became passionate, and you can use this information tucked away inside the diamond nugget to build a strategy around defining and nailing those metrics that matter the most.

Slides from “Vanity VS Impact” presentation:

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