We’re in the age of the customer, and not only is the customer always right, but she has more power than ever to impact an organization’s bottom line and reputation. Successful enterprises understand this, and more and more CIO’s are implementing user experience as a strategic goal to gain an edge. Customer experience metrics have become a large part of measuring an IT team’s success while organizations focus on customer facing touchpoints to gain more insight into the how their customers perceive them.
Customer experience is not what employees of a company think it is. Customer experience cannot be controlled. Customer experience is what the customer perceives. We cannot control people’s perceptions, but we can influence them in a positive, consistent, and repeatable manner.
Enter customer experience maps, also referred to as journey maps, touchpoint maps, or moment-of-truth maps:
An experience map in its simplest form is exactly what it sounds like—a map, or a flow, depicting the experience a customer goes through to complete a process, such as purchasing something you offer.
The godfather of management and self described social ecologist Peter Drucker succinctly stated the obvious when he said “the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.” Things that make you say duh, but sometimes we need to be struck bluntly with the obvious in order to see the forest through the trees again.
Business Value + Customer Value = Win.
A correctly laid out experience map ultimately helps us discover those “ah-hah moments” or “moments-of-truth” which help us connect business value to customer value. The key is in seeing the world from your customer’s perspective, which is far more than the few minutes they’re submitting an order on your site. As a matter of fact, the customer’s end-to-end experience could cover a period of days or even months.
I think back to last time my wife and I upgraded our phones. That experience began before we were even eligible to upgrade. First I saw umpteen commercials and other advertisements (touchpoints) for various phones. For weeks prior, I researched several websites (touchpoints) to validate our thoughts on various models, to include my cellular provider and various businesses both in person (touchpoint) and online (touchpoint). I read reviews, analyzed specs, watched video reviews, and talked to different colleagues at work about their phones and what they liked about them (touchpoints).
The model we decided on was not an easy thing to find. It was the holiday season, and everywhere we went or called seemed to be out of stock. However, through a certain retailer’s website (touchpoint), we learned that a nearby store had exactly two models in stock. At that moment I reserved them through said website and within the hour, my wife and I were standing in the store (touchpoint) ready to pickup our new phones.
Our experience didn’t end when we left the store, however. To the contrary, a few days later, I received an email (touchpoint) from the retailer enticing me to write an online review about my recent purchase. Later I received marketing emails (touchpoints) from the retailer regarding mobile accessories, although I’m not completely positive that it was due to my recent purchase, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
What I wanted to illustrate was “my experience” and the various touchpoints where I either directly or indirectly interacted with the business. It is within those touchpoints, or interactions, where the greatest opportunity to delight and satisfy the customer exists.
An experience map illustrates the holistic journey a customer or user experiences with your product or service in order to create a better understanding of their interactions at various touchpoints throughout said journey. After the experience map is complete, it should be able to stand on its own without explanation with the ability to be shared and understood by individuals across your organization. And the most important aspects of it are that it needs to be actionable and serve as a catalyst, something we can design around. It is in no way, shape, or form intended to be a conclusion.
Why? Why do we want an experience map?
Understand that in larger, complex organizations, “corporate silos” exist (even in smaller outfits this happens), where it becomes a challenge to see outside of the silo in which a team is working to recognize the user’s holistic needs. This all too often leads to a failed attempt to provide a satisfying overall experience for your customer. Experiences have much greater chances of breaking down when they cross multiple channels or ecosystems. It’s unfortunate when projects focus on individual touchpoints and features without considering the overall user experience.
You call customer service. An automated message prompts you to enter your phone number, account number, and some other input to indicate why you’re calling. You’re waiting on hold for a few minutes until you can talk to a human being. When that happens, the first thing they ask you for is your phone number, account number, and how they can help you. Worse, they have to transfer you to someone else who then restarts the same line of questioning. Even worse, the next time you need to call, you’re dreading it because you’re anticipating the entire sequence happening again.
I didn’t even factor in the inconsistency between one support agent to another, leaving you wondering what experience you’re going to get this time.
According to an annual benchmark of the quality of customer experience delivered by large U.S. companies in 14 industries by Forrester, “The Customer Experience Index, 2013,” 61% of brands still rate “OK” or worse.
Okay, so you’re sold on the value of experience maps. How the heck do you make one? And when?
An experience map can serve multiple purposes. For instance, it obviously would help your organization plan customer experience projects, but additionally it should be used to communicate with peers and leadership throughout your organization. A great time for one would be during the early stages of design when you’re looking to understand the expected path and outcome of various decisions. Another time to create one would be when you want to share important insights with stakeholders or to communicate broadly across the company about planned customer experience improvements.
Experience Map’s Five Dimensions:
- Lens — Persona’s perspective (may require multiple maps for each persona). Think of 3-5 key findings or guiding principles such as the reasons a customer does business with you over another option or competitor.
- Journey Model — The customer’s transition from phase to phase, switching between channels, and her actions needed to connect to our system.
- Qualitative Insights — Doing (the journey), thinking (what does it cost, will this work), and feeling (satisfaction, frustration, confusion).
- Quantitative Information — Statistics such as the percentage of customers/users who encounter a given touchpoint or the volume of channel switching at a given touchpoint.
- Takeaways — Opportunities, pain points, and calls to action
They may not fit into every organization’s grand scheme. However, keep in mind that some of the most successful organizations have adapted and gained that competitive advantage by making the commitment to align stakeholders across the holistic customer experience ecosystem. Companies such as Apple, salesforce.com, and Starwood Hotels do a great job of this. USAA has already identified around 100 key experiences related to customer journeys such as purchasing a car or preparing to deploy abroad.
Regardless of what approach you take, you want to make sure you don’t go from market leader to follower from one year to the next. You need to be adaptive, and one very important key for that is seeing the world through your customers’ eyes.