…Employ the right mix in methods and approaches to capture your customer’s feelings ‘outside-in’



There is no doubt that customers will normally have a slightly different view of the company concerning experiences and key priorities. There are even cases where customers have the same interaction point but their specific experience of that interaction may vary. For example, when you have to go through check-in, security, lounge, boarding the plane, travel and collect your luggage, the passenger experience will not be the same clearly, as the business traveler gets more preferential treatment than the one in the economy class. Note that the Customer Journey Map helps the company to understand the customer journey and what is important to customers on their journey. Getting your team behind a well-thought-out process is key to identifying your customer’s needs ‘outside-in’ more accurately.

One recommended approach is to create maps to help you visualize experiences with complementary techniques ranging from designing individual experiences, analyzing context and goals in customer encounters, and modelling future states. Some of the techniques to use to model future states include (and are not limited to) storyboarding, scenarios, storylines, and design maps as well as user story mapping.


Storyboarding allows you to design all of the parts of the end-to-end customer experience. It usually highlights where exactly they will be having the experience and ensures that touchpoints are not overlooked. As a modelling tool, it helps you put personas to action, taking various constraints and contexts into account. It is said that if an alignment diagram is a map then storyboards are specific routes through that landscape. It will usually be created during a team workshop. They are collaborative documents that anyone can contribute to and are usually informal. When done they become the language of the team and function as a shared reference. Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb discovered from reading the biography of Walt Disney, how Disney’s creation of a storyboard produced his first feature film, Snow White. It inspired them to create their own storyboards illustrating and imagining what their guests and hosts experience while using their service.


They observed two benefits from the practice. First, it helped to better understand their customers’ experience visually, “As opposed to working out of a spreadsheet or a Google Doc” instead they could create characters and start to understand the personality of the characters. Second, it allowed them to imagine even the smallest details. By mapping out your customer’s journey through this process, you can better identify potential pain points and anticipate their emerging needs. Storyboards overall are a type of storytelling. You don’t need to be an expert illustrator to create storyboards. Sketching basic shapes and stick figures is all that is required to get started.


They are a detailed description of an intended experience from an individual’s perspective. They go hand in hand with storyboards but are text-based rather than illustrated. A typical scenario is a situation that could involve an upset customer. This would require that you look at all your processes and identify moments that could have caused an upset to a customer of yours. Again you may play a scenario where you are dealing with an angry customer something that every seasoned business has to deal with. To prepare your team for these scenarios you must support your team in developing customer management skills through role-playing from encounters usually culled from past experiences. So in this scenario, you have got an angry customer with whom you are communicating on phone or in a website live chat. A recommended approach when you have an angry customer negatively addressing you is to use a simple acronym HEARD.

The HEARD technique goes as follows;

  • H: Hear –Let your customer know they are being heard. Be patient, and don’t cut them off;
  • E: Empathize –Having empathy in business pays off in all relationships—practice understanding and compassion when listening to your customer’s grievances;
  • A: Apologize –Even if you were not at fault, after empathizing with the customer, you should be able to sincerely apologize, don’t inconvenience the customer;
  • R: Resolve –Come to some sort of common ground with the customer. Ask how you can help. Find a way to make things right—whether this means you give them a discount on future purchases or a free product and,
  • D: Diagnose. After the issue has been resolved and both parties are amicable, get to the bottom of the issue. Who or what caused this to happen? This way, both you and the customer benefit from new information that can prevent it from happening again.

Well if nothing at all thinking through this process may help calm your nerves as you need to manage your emotions in a manner that will not put the customer off and annoy them any further. Scenarios give personas a voice and set them in motion. They enable you to focus on edge cases exploring specific experiences including some extreme situations, in effect, they help to validate an idea.


Storytelling does not only aid you in communicating a vision, it helps to make sense of complex problems. According to digital product strategist Donna Lichaw, author of The User’s Journey: Storymapping Products that people love (Rosenfeld Media, 2016), you can use the principles of storytelling to guide the design of products and services. He uses what he calls The Narrative Arc.

The structure above can be traced from the time of Aristotle. It is a timeless form used to tell stories over thousands of years and across cultures. The elements of the narrative Arc are explained as follows; Exposition: Good stories establish the context and introduce the characters and situations at the beginning; Inciting incidents: This is the point where something goes wrong or there is some change to the situation; Rising action: A good story builds over time, Intensity and action increase as the story unfolds; Crises: The story culminates at the point of maximum friction. It’s the point of no return; Climax/resolution: The climax is the most exciting part of the story and the point at which the audience realizes that all might be well again. This when the problem that was surfaced at the inciting incident is resolved; Falling action: But wait, there’s more. After the climax, the story comes back down in action and begins to end; End: This is the very end of the narrative. Typically there is a return back to the original state.

The rationale of the storyline is not storytelling, but rather building products and services as if you are crafting a story. Apply the narrative arc to the design process itself. To do this Lichaw recommends first mapping out an ideal journey against the narrative. Then design your product or service based on that flow. Following this process aligns teams to a common purpose and yields more engaging services in general.

Design Maps

This involves the use of coloured sticky notes and a whiteboard used to map an ideal experience. They can be used in workshops to envision a future experience. The four basic elements depicted in this map are blue for steps, green for comments depicting feelings, actions, and pain points, yellow for capturing questions a team has about the experience highlighting gaps in knowledge and assumptions about the proposed experience and pink for capturing ideas on how to provide a better service. Note that no design happens by accident. Essentially it is about thinking through by asking simple questions that will trigger issues, challenges, gaps, and so on concerning the experience of your customers. By challenging what we accept as the norm we are better able to create new and differentiated customer experiences that can change the way we think and see the world.

The key is not to rule out any one technique over another, they complement each other to help you develop an unbiased view of your customer personas.

User Story Mapping

This is a method favoured by software developers as it breaks the product down into small chunks called user stories. The goal is to approach the task not assuming everyone has the same view of the final product. According to Jeff Patton author of User Story Mapping (O’Reilly, 2014), user story mapping can be explained simply as follows, “If I have an idea in my head and I describe it in writing when you read that document, you might quite possibly imagine something different … However, if we get together and talk, you can tell me what you think and I can ask questions.” The understanding is that by visualizing the problem you work collectively towards a shared understanding.

It is typically done offline utilizing sticky notes and a whiteboard. It is used to illustrate how user stories relate to one another in an overarching model. Working this way enables the team to grasp the entirety of the system. Developers need to understand what their users are trying to achieve and should collaborate in building the stories that capture those users’ needs. Jeff Patten recommends a 6-step process in leading the story mapping exercise; Frame the problem — who is it for and why are we building it; Map the big picture — focus on the breadth, not the depth; Explore — go deep and talk about other types of users and people, how else they might do things and the kind of things that can go wrong; Slice out a release strategy — focus on what you are trying to achieve for your business and on the people your product will serve; Slice out a learning strategy — use the map and discussions to find your bigger risks, slice your map into minimum viable product experiments; Slice out a developmental strategy — focus on building things early that help you learn to spot technical issues and development risks sooner.

There is no one best fit with the models and methods in designing and evaluating customer experiences ‘outside-in’. There is a wide scope for choice therefore to help select the best approach you must consider the types of models that describe an experience. These are models of individuals, context and goals, and future experiences. It is recommended that at a minimum you use one of each, the caveat though is that you need to exercise some caution to avoid what experts refer to as model proliferation. Kalbach advice, always keep the intent of mapping in mind: to tell the story of interactions (past and future) to align your team.

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



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