Customer Journey Mapping with Cynthia Watson

“Often, as an entrepreneur, we fall in love with our idea. And of course everyone’s going to love it, but we have trouble narrowing down who our target market is. We want to serve everyone, and then we serve no one. Customer Journey Mapping helps us take off our “expert” hat and co-create/experiment with different target markets. It’s a rapid, oftentimes low-cost, easy way to try out ideas before you invest a whole bunch of time and money.”

Cynthia is the CEO—that’s Chief Evolution Officer—at Vivo for Healthier Generations, a not-for-profit recreation centre and innovation lab in Northeast Calgary. With an annual revenue near $10 million and a 195,000 square foot facility, Vivo is a giant among social ventures. But, according to Cynthia, Customer Journey Mapping is an essential tool for social entrepreneurs at any scale. It’s a framework that puts you in your customers’ shoes, forcing you to evaluate your own assumptions and explore customer-oriented solutions.

But what is the Customer Journey Mapping process? And how can you apply it to your business? Luckily, Cynthia graciously agreed to walk us through the process:

1) Review goals

What is your product/service’s “why”?

What are you hoping to get out of the process?

Vivo originally started out as a place—Cardel Place for Community Sport and Recreation—and at our 10th birthday, the board said, “It is really about selling memberships? Or is there a higher purpose to what we should be doing?

We were operating a facility, and that was our “why?” for the longest time. But then we shifted into this bigger cause: What does it mean to raise healthier generations?

2) Gather Research

Who/what should you include in the process?

What could your research methods look like?

We involve customers themselves, staff members at different levels in the organization—because they all have different parts to play. But then there’s also the inanimate things, like a phone or a parking lot. There’s that physical space that people interact with, too.

We might ask customers to participate in a focus group, we might interview them. We might just be sitting in the lobby and watching people. The difference between market research—you survey a hundred people and get ten truths—and inspiration research, as we call it—you can watch ten people and get a hundred insights.

3) Touchpoints

Where do your customers interact with your product/service?

We get everyone to brainstorm and record touchpoints on sticky notes. Because we don’t typically break down an experience in chunks like that, it really causes people to look at the details.

Touchpoints — where do Vivo customers interact with its product/service?

Parking lot:

  • Stall widths
  • Curb cutouts?
  • Signage

Fitness classes:

  • Instructor intro
  • Class locations posted?
  • “Homework” for next class?


  • Signage for pedestrians, cars
  • Public transit?


  • Newsletter
  • Phone
  • Social media
  • Front desk


4) Empathy Map

Develop a “persona” for each type of customer, and walk through their experience from start to finish.

What are their needs and wants?

What are their high points and their low points?

What motivates them?

Example: A mom with a stroller

  • How easy is it for me to get my kid out of the car—are the parking spots big enough?
  • Can my stroller actually get onto the sidewalks easily?
  • Do I have to go to one end of the building to drop off my kid? And then all the way back to get changed?
  • When I come in from the parking lot, am I greeted at the desk?
  • Do I know where my class is?
  • Did the instructors introduce themselves?
  • Do I know what’s happening next in my class?
  • Are there announcements at the end of my class?
  • Are there exercises I can do at home?
  • Do I have enough time to socialize with the other participants?

5) Evaluate. Iterate

Once you’ve identified pain points, how can you test your solutions?

What are those ways that we can learn and fail fast?

The current front desk at Vivo is actually a prototype. The desk was downstairs before. And for people that were new to Vivo, there was no welcoming presence if they needed to ask questions or if they were curious.

So we said, “Let’s test!” Rather than spend $250,000 right off the bat, we wanted to test what it would be like to have a desk upstairs. So right now, it’s just a tradeshow booth that we rigged up.

I’m glad we did because the staff have told us:

“It’s too small!”
“We’ve lost a bit of control in terms of security.”
“People whose passes have expired are just walking through.”

The next prototype is going to happen after about a month. And then that design is going to help inform our expansion and re-orientation. Throughout the process, we’re learning: Should the desk be facing the doors? Is it OK on the side? How are people going to be using it? We could have just put a desk in there and not really cared about what happened, and then we would have wasted our money.

This prototyping cycle can be as long or as short as you make it. Like what would happen if we put decks of cards on the tables? That’s a 30-minute thing. You can rapid-prototype ideas that way, or sometimes it’s a long and thoughtful process—like with the desk. It’s probably a 90-day iteration turnaround. You’re testing and prototyping all the time.

Take Action:

  • If this process resonated with you and you’d like a more detailed explanation, click here.
  • To read more about Cynthia and her work at Vivo, click here.
  • Click here to check out the Social Entrepreneur’s Toolkit for more tools, tips and tricks developed by and for social entrepreneurs.