Despite best intentions and mountains of data, many organizations continue to offer lackluster experiences for their customers.
Many organizations function with an internal focus, and that becomes apparent when customers interact with their various products, services and employees. Every interaction a customer has with an organization has an effect on satisfaction, loyalty, and the bottom line. Plotting out a customer’s emotional landscape by way of a Customer Journey Map, or Experience Map, along their path sheds light on key opportunities for deepening those relationships.
What is a Customer Journey Map?
A Customer Journey map is a visual or graphic interpretation of the overall story from an individual’s perspective of their relationship with an organization, service, product or brand, over time and across channels. Occasionally, a more narrative, text-based approach is needed to describe nuances and details associated with a customer experience. The story is told from the customer’s perspective, but also emphasizes the important intersections between user expectations and business requirements.
Inspired by user research, no two journey maps are alike, and regardless of format they allow organizations to consider interactions from their customers’ points of view, instead of taking an inside-out approach. They are one tool that can help organizations evolve from a transactional approach to one that focuses on long term relationships with customers built on respect, consistency and trust.
All organizations have business goals but leveraging customer journeys as a supporting component of an experience strategy keeps customers (or members, patients, employees, students, donors etc.) at the forefront when making design decisions. They can be used in both current state review and future state visioning to examine the present, highlight pain points and uncover the most significant opportunities for building a better experience for customers.
How Do We Use Them?
Customer engagement is not simply a series of interactions, or getting people to visit a website, “Like” something on FaceBook, or download a mobile app. Genuine engagement centers on compatibility, and identifying how and where individuals and organizations can exist harmoniously together. Giving thought to how your organization/product/service/brand fits into customers’ lives is crucial.
I also use journey maps to gain internal consensus on how customers should be treated across distinct channels. Holding collaborative workshops with cross-disciplinary teams mixing people who otherwise never communicate with each other can be extremely valuable in large organizations in particular.
Illustrating or describing how the customer experience could be brought to life across channels allows all stakeholders from all areas of the business to better understand the essence of the whole experience from the customer’s perspective. How do they want to be spoken to, what are they thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, and doing? Journey maps help us explore answers to the “what ifs” that arise during research and conceptual design.
What Components Does a Journey Map Include?
- Personas: the main characters that illustrate the needs, goals, thoughts, feelings, opinions, expectations, and pain points of the user;
- Timeline: a finite amount of time (e.g. 1 week or 1 year) or variable phases (e.g. awareness, decision-making, purchase, renewal);
- Emotion: peaks and valleys illustrating frustration, anxiety, happiness etc.;
- Touchpoints: customer actions and interactions with the organization. This is the WHAT the customer is doing; and
- Channels: where interaction takes place and the context of use (e.g. website, native app, call center, in-store). This is the WHERE they are interacting.
- Moments of truth: A positive interaction that leaves a lasting impression, often planned for a touchpoint known to generate anxiety or frustration; and
- Supporting characters: peripheral individuals (caregivers, friends, colleagues) who may contribute to the experience.
1. Review Goals
Consider organizational goals for the product or service at large, and specific goals for a customer journey mapping initiative.
2. Gather Research
Review all relevant user research, which includes both qualitative and quantitative findings to provide insights into the customer experience. If more research is needed, get those research activities in the books. Some of my favorite research methods include customer interviews, ethnography & contextual inquiry, customer surveys, customer support/complaint logs, web analytics, social media listening, and competitive intelligence.
3. Touchpoint and Channel brainstorms
As a team, generate a list of the customer touchpoints and the channels on which those touchpoints occur today. Then brainstorm additional touchpoints and/or channels that can be incorporated in the future journeys you will be mapping. For example, the touchpoint could be “pay a bill”, and the channels associated with that touchpoint could be “pay online”, “pay via mail” or “pay in person”.
4. Empathy map
Empathy maps are a depiction of the various facets of a persona and his or her experiences in a given scenario. This exercise helps me organize my observations, build a deeper understanding of customers’ experiences, and draw out surprising insights into what customers need. Empathy maps also provide a foundation of material to fuel journey mapping. The goal is to get a well-rounded sense of how it feels to be that persona in this experience, specifically focusing on what they’re thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, saying and doing.
5. Brainstorm with lenses
The goal of lensed brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible in a short period of time. To gain focus as I generate ideas I use “lenses”—words representing key concepts, brand attributes or mindsets that help us look at a problem or scenario in a different way. For this exercise I recommend that the team agree on 3-5 lens words (for example: accessible, social, comforting), then set the clock for 2 minutes per lens word. Each person individually writes down as many ideas as they can think of in that time. After 2 minutes switch to the next lens word until all lens words have been used as idea inspiration. This ensures that every voice on the team is heard and generates a huge inventory of ideas.
6. Affinity diagram
This is a method to visually organize ideas and find cohesion in the team’s concepts. Affinity diagramming helps us shift from casting a wide net in exploring many possibilities, to gaining focus on the right solutions for this audience. All team members should put their ideas generated in the lensed brainstorming activity up on the wall. Have someone sort the ideas into categories and label them. As a group, begin to consider where you might combine, refine, and remove ideas to form a cohesive vision of the future customer experience.
7. Sketch the journey
Drumroll, please. This is the part you’ve been waiting for! It’s now time to put together all the pieces: timeline, touchpoints, channels, emotional highs and lows, and all the wonderful new ideas the team generated for how to improve the future customer journey. Get creative with how you lay it out—it doesn’t have to be a standard left to right timeline. It could be circular or helical. It could be one large map or it could be an interactive, clickable piece with embedded video. There are no templates, and there are infinite possibilities.
8. Refine and digitize
Journeys don’t always become a sophisticated deliverable—sometimes they begin and end as sticky notes on a wall or sketches on a whiteboard. But most of the time, when you go through the activities to arrive at a solid customer journey map, you want to polish it, leverage it in your work and share it with colleagues across the organization. If visual design isn’t your strong suit, consider collaborating closely with a visual designer who can transform the journey map sketch into an impressive artefact.
While journey maps are usually a tangible deliverable, like the one above, the process of journey mapping is what’s most important – it pushes us to think deeply about how we can use experience design to have a positive impact on our customers.
9. Share and use
It can be beneficial to maintain journey maps over time. For example, you could set a time each quarter or year to evaluate how your current customer experience matches your documented vision journeys. If your organization tracks quantitative KPIs, you can integrate these into a journey benchmarking process. Socializing journeys among stakeholders is critical in moving your organization toward action.
In addition to prioritization, the output of a journey map can serve as a backbone for strategic recommendations and more tactical initiatives.
For example, if you’re a mortgage company and you identify the closing process as a key area of frustration, anxiety and opportunity for engaging with the customer and designing for the “moment of truth”, then mark this as a high priority and get that on your strategic roadmap.
Schedule enough time to properly go through the recommended process. I’ve found that you can document a current state journey in about 3 hours, and a future state journey in about 5 hours. This makes for a full day to do both for one persona.
Make sure a good mix of people are involved in the journey map creation. It’s helpful to have stakeholder participants from many areas of the organization, as well as people of varying levels of seniority.
Once the journey maps are created, share them with zeal. Shout them from the rooftops and display them prominently in common areas.