Experience Mapping - A tool for understanding and mapping customer experience
Customers are increasingly choosing products and services based on the quality of the experiences they have with them.
Experience Mapping is a tool developed by Adaptive Path. Here I have tried to simplify the concept so that it can be applied in your business environment.
An experience map is a strategic tool for capturing and presenting key insights into the complex customer interactions that occur across experiences with a product, service or ecosystem. At the heart of an experience map lies the customer journey model, an archetypal journey created from an aggregate of all customers going from point A to point B as they attempt to achieve a goal or satisfy a need.
The activity of mapping builds knowledge and consensus across teams and stakeholders, and the map as artifact allows you to create and support better customer experiences. In short, experience mapping is a journey that can involve and
impact your entire organization.
These experiences often break down when they span multiple channels. As a result, organizations need a holistic, humancentered view of the experiences they create. In short, they need a map.
Advances in technology and changes in customer expectations are placing more emphasis on the interconnectedness of channels and touchpoints that support customers attempting to satisfy their goals and needs. Smart organizations have realized a lack of interconnectedness is a major competitive risk. A few examples:
- Retailers are grappling with new customer behaviors that have changed the very essence of what an in-store experience is and can be.
- Healthcare providers are seeking new ways to provide patient-centered continuity of care while maintaining quality and minimizing cost.
- Financial institutions, in response to growing regulation, are adopting new cross-channel service approaches to differentiate their brand and products.
New challenges require new approaches. Organizations are recognizing the need to think holistically, but they are struggling to do so. Projects often focus on individual touchpoints, technologies and features, without a clear picture of the total customer experience, and ownership exists for touchpoints and products, but not for the customer journeys that cut across them. This verticalization of functions and roles within organizations prevents individuals from collaborating, and prevents them from seeing how their work fits within the overall customer experience.
A failure to examine the customer experience holistically and in context can lead to failure in meeting your customers’ needs. Making sound decisions and investments requires a solid understanding of those needs, associated behaviors, and underlying motivations. Experience mapping is directly aimed at grappling with and conquering this type of complexity.
Some key Definitions
- Touchpoint: A point of interaction between a person and any agent or artifact of an organization. These interactions take place at a certain point in time, in a certain context, and with the intention of meeting a specific customer need.
- Channel: A medium of interaction with customers or users. Print, the web, mobile, voice calls, and brick and mortar locations are all common channels for reaching out to and interacting with customers. A channel defines the opportunities or constraints of a touchpoint.
Uncover the truth
You want to tell a story, but it has to be a true story.
The research and discovery process is an essential investment to ensure that your experience map captures the full customer story. Not everything you find will end up in your experience map, but the value at this stage is developing a firmer understanding of both the customer experience and the context around it.
As you work toward this understanding, look at a variety of information sources. For early stage discovery, call center logs, customer satisfaction surveys, or existing personas could be excellent resources. Your research should collect insights that add breadth and depth to the existing knowledge you uncover,and for this, talking to customers is indispensable. Leverage your existing research and subject matter experts, but never rely on just one data source. Triangulate your problem space to get the full picture, and let the process tell you if you still have knowledge gaps. In order for others to buy into the story your map will tell, they need to know it’s an authentic story built from strong insights based on real data. As you collect your data, don’t expect it to be organized. Research and discovery is all about assembling the parts that let you build a strong foundation for your experience map.
The Building Blocks of Experience Mapping
Human experience is complex, and mostly intangible. Yet the challenge of experience mapping is to uncover, little by little, critical information about your customers’ experiences. Through trial and error, we’ve developed a simple framework to guide the discovery and research work required in the experience mapping process. We call them building blocks. The key building blocks are
but to understand the full context of customer experience, we also consider Place, Time, Devices, and Relationships. Don’t forget Channel and Touchpoints!
Many insights can be drawn from reviewing web analytics and digging deep into data sources that reveal what current customers are doing when they interact with your organization. Paired with customer satisfaction data, you can spot issues in your customer funnel or see which channels and touchpoints generally get higher or lower marks. In addition to analyzing existing data, you may find it useful to create a survey targeted at existing and prospective customers. A survey can answer basic questions, help validate what you learn in qualitative studies, or yield insights that help prioritize the focus of your customer interviews. It may also make stakeholders feel more comfortable that the experience map is based on a large enough sample size of customer data. I’m a big fans of quantitative research when it comes to experience maps. However, customer conversations and observations are your primary tool to learn, identify patterns, and capture the richness of human experience.
Having conversations with customers is a common and reliably successful method used to gain insights for an experience map. You’ll want them to focus on a story that is relevant to the product, service, or problem area you are investigating. When possible, interviewing or observing customers in their natural setting will provide you with the richest data.
Following a directed storytelling technique that guides the conversation with a series of open-ended questions is a goos idea. Your goal is to encourage the paticipant to share their story. Foster an engaging conversation, rather than pointed questions, and focus your observations on the experience mapping building blocks. Remember that the core building blocks are Doing, Thinking, and Feeling.
Try to get a sense for the customer’s lasting impression of the experience, and make sure to document with rigor. Combined with the findings from your discovery process, and any additional qualitative data you’ve collected, your customer conversations and observations will form the backbone of the story your experience map will tell.
Chart the course
The Anatomy of an Experience Map
The components of this framework are: the lens, the customer journey model, and the takeaways.
- The lens is an overriding filter through which you view the journey, such as a persona, more general experience principles, or a value proposition.
- The customer journey model depicts the range of interactions customers have across channels, touchpoints, time, and space in pursuit of satisfying one or more needs.
- The takeaways summarize key findings from the experience mapping process.
The moment you conceive of a plan to map the customer journey, you need to chart a course to actionable results. The takeaways signal which way you are recommending the organization head next. Your takeaways could include:
- Strategic insights
- Design principles
Takeaways are typically added to the map late in the process, once you have begun to pivot from understanding the current state of your customer experience to envisioning the future state. There are different takeaways you could include, but they should answer the questions “So what?” and “What now?”
The rough map
After the dust has settled, you should have a pretty good grasp of your customer journey model and many insights to consider including in your experience map. Your next step is to clean up the outputs from your session. Don’t let too much time go by without sharing what you have modeled. Building a draft version of your map will take some time, because you are beginning to think through your story in its basic, outline form. Once you’re done, share it with others. Make sure you can walk through it from top to bottom and end to end. Explaining your draft map aloud will help you identify what’s important and what’s extraneous. Iterate in sticky-note form until you feel the basic spine of your story is there but don’t make it perfect just yet. Much of your editing will happen when you move from stickies to sketching.
Tell the story
Making it real A good experience map has a lot in common with a good poster. What makes a good poster? Above all, hierarchy. Your map should make a strong statement immediately, but work on multiple levels. A way to determine the right hierarchy is to consider what would stand out when viewed from different distances and for different lengths of time. What would stand out after one quick glance? After one minute? After ten minutes? What should stand out from across a room, and what is OK to be discovered after closer inspection?
Turning your map into a compelling visual story means thinking through both the work you’ve done and the work you want to inspire. Here are some suggestions for how to reach the end of your journey successfully:
- Have a point of view. Can you summarize the key points you
want someone to walk away with after viewing the map? What story do you want them to tell to other people?
- Consider your audience. What kind of details will help them
best understand the story? Which insights are essential for
them to make good strategic and design decisions?
- Design for impact. What immediate next steps do you want your map to initiate? What other uses of the map are you hoping to encourage in the short-, mid-, and long-term?
Your goal is to craft a communication piece that can stand on its own, inspire new ideas, and have longevity as a strategy and design tool. In the end, every map is unique.
Sketching your story
Sketching is a great tool for generating ideas and exploring approaches to visualizing your map. Your final visual should convey the essence of the story immediately, so if you can’t sketch it, you may not have your story yet.
As you sketch, experiment with how the different building blocks could drive the narrative. A few examples:
- Take Feeling and draw the emotional journey of your customers.
- Try using your customers’ actions (Doing) across time as the spine of the story.
- Choose Place and organize your key insights by decision points within a physical context.
Then layer other building blocks and data onto that foundation. The key is to realize ideas quickly, iterate your story and visual model, and keep at it until a compelling narrative emerges. To tell a great story, you’ll need to focus, communicate hierarchy, sketch fearlessly, and try to keep it simple. When it all comes together, it’s time for the final payoff: using your experience map.
Use your map
It's a catalyst, not a conclusion
Understanding the complexity of your customers’ needs is an ongoing challenge, and embracing that complexity necessitates new tools and new ways of thinking. As you use your map to develop and support the future of your product and service offerings, remember that the map itself is just a part of a larger journey in modernizing your organization’s approach: from reductionistic to holistic, from touchpoint to ecosystem, and from transactions to relationships.
Insights to Action
Use xperience maps to apply systems thinking toward generating new ideas and concepts collaboratively with your teams. The resulting ideas better account for the relationships between customers and the broader ecosystem of channels, touchpoints, places, and other people. It helps stakeholders feel confident that the strategies derived from their work will benefit both customers and the organization.
Just as no two maps are alike, there isn’t a single approach to using an experience map to generate new ideas. Here are three examples of how an experience map can be put into practice. What these methods have in common is iterative collaboration with stakeholders. Always remember: it’s not a solo journey.
Issue/Opportunity Identification and Prioritization
Using the structure provided by your map, chronicle issues or opportunities for addressing customer pain points at each stage of the customer journey. Prioritize according to business and customer value. This method helps you quickly work with stakeholders to identify high-value areas of opportunity.
Using your map and simple storyboard templates, along with additional tools like personas or experience principles, use rapid ideation to generate stories of future experiences. This approach provides stakeholders with a forum for ideas grounded in the insights of your customer journey.
Future Experience Mapping
Using the map as a reference, define the ideal customer journey through mapping out what customers would ideally do, think, and feel as they interact with touchpoints on the way to satisfying their needs. This method encourages cross-functional collaboration to define cross-channel experience principles.
Hope you find this helpful.