Customer Experience thrives on well-thought-out strategies backed by effective execution. An overarching Customer Experience strategy initiated at the top must eventually cascade downward to avoid the culture of silos in delivering value to your customers. There must be consistency, direction, concentration and flexibility in every strategy, and Customer Experience is no exception to this ‘rule’.
A recommended approach to understanding the needs of your customers is to initiate mapping projects to bring the required formality to the process. Generally, larger organizations strive to design holistic experiences across a system of touchpoints, and thus have a greater need for a formal effort. A small business or individual will have much less of a formality designing the interface of a single product or limited range of services.
Whether the process is driven by internal employees or external consultants, the need to overcome barriers and objections must be anticipated. Therefore, using appropriate diagrams to illustrate and make a compelling case is imperative to the successful execution of strategy. The rationale of mapping is to get participation from others. Note that the objective is not just to create a diagram but to engage others in conversation and develop solutions together as a team.
The acronym ‘team’ stands for ‘together everybody achieves more’; by working collectively, you leverage the advantage of synergy. Diagrams are broadly categorized as current and future state. Begin with current state diagrams; these focus on visualizing existing experiences, envisioned future products, services; and solutions are seen as an added layer to these diagrams.
Starting a new Project
The scope of the effort varies in level of formality. A designer working alone on a single product may not need a formal diagram; the business scale thus determines the level of formality. Therefore, a large team targetting an entire ecosystem would need a high level of formality. In a large organization, you will need to convince decision-makers as well as internal employees.
Depending on whether the effort is internal or whether you choose to use external consultants, the approach may vary as the former needs to persuade and the latter needs to sell. To address possible objections, you will need to adopt a range of approaches. Primarily, you will have to deal with the type of map appropriate for the situation. In reality, you will need more than one diagram; so it is important to understand such things as the context, the audience, and the message you seek to communicate.
By mapping your customer journey, you provide great insight into designing experiences. It is recommended that you find out what competitors are doing as part of your strategy to convince decision-makers. Additionally, identify stakeholders who are influential enough to champion your mapping effort. A quick stakeholder analysis will be a useful prelude to this process. Next, run a small pilot project using simple diagrams. To sell your mapping effort to top management you will need to create a succinct statement that addresses the business problem in focus.
An example pitch could be as follows: “By visually aligning various aspects of the customer experience with business processes, you’ll be able to see how best to create and capture value across channels. It will also yield insights into innovative products and services that outperform competitors”. How about that for a pitch! Feel free to craft one that will suit your purpose as you seek to make a case for mapping your customer journey to management. The experts advise very clearly that ‘Mapping Customer Journeys provides the insight for the design of better experiences. This, in turn, contributes to revenue growth’. (Kalbach, 2016).
Deciding on a direction
Two key areas of concern to address in your mapping project are the organizational goals and the types of experiences you seek to map. Diagrams are most effective when they align with the organization’s goals. Key questions to ask at this stage include, what is the mission of the organization? How does the organization create, deliver, and capture value? How does the organization want to grow? What are the strategic goals? What markets and segments are served? What are the gaps in knowledge? Most organizations have relationships with multiple parties namely, suppliers, distributors, partners, customers, and customers’ customers. The experts’ advice here is that; to determine the experiences to map, first understand the value chain: a depiction of key actors and the flow of value to individuals.
What you seek to address in your mapping efforts is the customer value chain. There are several diagrams to map to address the customer value chain. These are the Service Blueprint, chronological in the structure used by frontline personnel, internal teams, and managers to improve an existing service or brainstorm new ones. It focuses on real-time actions and physical evidence across channels. For example, a hotel might map out the entire service experience of its check-in process. This will typically address the step-by-step process of a specific customer journey, the channel-based touchpoints, one by one, and the backstage processes, across different stakeholders and actions.
Next is the Customer Journey Map used by marketing, PR, sales, account managers, and customer support among others. It is chronological and emphasizes on cognitive and emotional states of the individual, including moments of truth (MoT) and satisfaction. A typical customer journey map will address the following: Discovery (why would people want to start this journey?), Onboarding (how do you educate customers?), Scaffolding (the regular journey of repeated actions toward a goal), and Endgame (how do you retain your customers?). You then map out the path customers would have to take to experience everything your product has to offer.
The Experience Map is used by Product Managers, designers, developers, strategists for product and service design improvements and innovation. It emphasizes behaviours, goals jobs to be done. It typically includes actions, thoughts, feelings, and pain points. It is chronological in structure. It includes your customer persona, phases of the customer journey, this is to help stakeholders to visualize the process the customer is through and the activities that sit at each phase. Additionally in identifying pain points one of the most key things to put on your map are the areas where a customer is experiencing difficulties or issues with the product or service. A shared understanding of this challenge will trigger quick responses. Also, remember to highlight what you are doing well on the map so that stakeholders appreciate the activities that are creating positive customer experiences and adding value. Finally, include which channels are in focus. It’s important to identify these changes in channels e.g. moving from mobile to email and then to the call centre for example.
Mental model diagrams serve product managers, designers, developers, and strategists. It is used to gain empathy for individuals, informs product and service strategy and innovation. In many ways, it mimics the purpose served by the experience map however its structure is hierarchical. Its focus is on fundamental innovations, feelings, and philosophies. For example, you could draw a mental model of what people do in the morning to get ready for work. Different kinds of people follow different habits, guided by different philosophies and goals. One mother might include getting the kids ready for school in her morning routine, whereas another might do more of the preparations the night before, and another might require more from her kids. Understanding the feelings customers go through is very valuable in planning how you engage them or address their needs. My experience in the supermarket in the UK where I went home with groceries for free due to a machine malfunction and Michael Gerber’s experience in an upstate hotel in the US where even his breakfast preferences and newspapers were known much to his surprise and satisfaction confirm the efficacy of this approach.
Spatial maps are useful to managers, content specialists and help employees to understand the flow of information for optimization and process innovation. It highlights the flow of information and relationships between various aspects and components of a system. Whole Foods in the US leverages an intelligent site selection model that identified market areas that would be successful for their brand. Using an illustrated map, they compiled a view of a cluster of Whole Foods store locations compared to the median household income of that particular area and this helped to identify demographic household income greater than $150K, thus informing the location of specific stores. This led eventually to Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market, an incredibly savvy market play.
Personas are a narrative description of user archetypes reflecting common patterns of behaviours, needs, and emotions. They reflect details about a target group in a way that is easy to grasp. They are generally short – not longer than a page or two. They are based on actual data. The process consists of the following steps (Kalbach, 2016).
- Identify the most salient attributes to distinguish one segment from another. You can usually find three to five attributes to focus on e.g. Background and skills, motivations, and work activities.
- Determine the number of personas that you need to represent the range of attributes included. Collect data that supports and describes those attributes. Your investigations may reveal new attributes to include along the way.
- Draft the personas based on the primary attributes. Also include some basic aspects to flesh out the personas such as demographics, behaviours, motivations, and pain points.
- Finalize the persona. Create a compelling visualization of the persona on a single page. Develop various formats and sizes for different contexts.
- Make the persona visible. Hang them up in brainstorming sessions and include them in project documents. It’s your job to make them come alive.
- Creating a persona is a collaborative process. Include others so that the resulting documents are reminders of shared knowledge.
Geff Gothelf, author of Lean UX coined this term. He described them as follows, ‘Proto-personas are a variant of the typical persona, with the important difference that they are not initially the result of user research. Instead, they originate from brainstorming workshops where company participants try to encapsulate the organization’s beliefs (based on domain expertise and gut feeling) about who is using their product or service and what is motivating them to do so.’ They are lightweight representations of actors in the value chain that don’t require you to go through a costly research process. They depict who you believe your audience is, based on what you know today. They can be created on a simple grid with four main elements.
Template for Proto-personas is simple. Use it to represent actors in the value chain you will be targeting.
|Name and Sketch: Akua
|Behaviours and actionsReads newspapers every day
Subscribes to a weekly news magazine
Watches news on TV 1-2 times a week
Gets digest news on email (e.g. B & FT)
|Demographic and psychographic details
30 years old single
Full-time Marketing Manager
|Needs and Pain points
Needs short consumable news stories
Difficulty reading news on a mobile device
Overwhelmed by sources of news
Needs to be able to track a source of accuracy
There are a range of diagrams to support us in mapping our customer experience and mapping their journeys to help us understand our customer value chain. It is up to us to determine which experiences to map, examine the various relationships in the customer value chain to narrow down possibilities and set the right expectations. You then select the diagram type that is most appropriate.
For formal efforts, define the project and summarize it in a written proposal. This should include motivations, goals, participants, resources and approximate costs of the project. Be prepared to negotiate the details of the project with stakeholders to arrive at an appropriate, well-defined effort. Informal efforts may not require a proposal or much documentation at all.
The Writer is the Managing Consultant at Capability Trust Limited a People and Learning Organisation serving the market with Talent Acquisition and Management, Leadership Development, HR Outsourcing and General HR Advisory, Training and consulting services. He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected]/www.linkedin.com/in/km-13b85717