Customer Experience Mapping

Seeing Your Business Through the Eyes of Your Customers

What do your customers experience?

© iStockphoto/arekmalang

What does your organization look like from the outside?

When customers call you, what do they experience?

When they make a purchase, what information, support and follow-up do they get?

And when they have a problem, how do they get it resolved to their satisfaction?

Does this leave them wanting to do business with you in the future, or vowing never to buy from you again?

The chances are you know part of the answer to these questions. But even in small companies, the full picture may be scattered across the organization and amongst various members of your team. What's more, your customers' real experience may not be anything like as good as you think it is.

If you want to know exactly how customers experience your business, Customer Experience Mapping (also called Customer Journey Mapping) is a powerful tool. Tactically, it's a great technique to help you improve customer service processes and resolve recurring customer complaints. Strategically, it helps you build a better product, service or brand, thereby helping you win repeat business.

How to Use the Tool

To use this tool, follow these steps:

Step 1: Define Your Objectives

Customer Experience Mapping can be a huge and time-consuming undertaking, so it's best to work out exactly what you want to achieve before you start out. If you have a specific problem to solve, focus on that specific part if your customers' experience. If necessary, you can expand your scope later.

Whether your chosen objective is broad or narrow, define it and write it down. As you get deeper into your analysis, this will be help you stay focused on what you are trying to achieve.

Example objectives might be:

  • "To improve customer service processes across the company and so improve customer satisfaction" (broad).
  • "To reduce complaints about late delivery" (narrower).

Step 2: Outline the Key Stages of Your Customers' Experience

Next, list the stages of the customers' experience, in relation to the problem you are trying to resolve.

It's important to think about this from your customers' perspective. Although this may sound obvious, it's all too easy to start mapping customer service processes as they appear from inside your company. Some aspects of their experience may be outside your control – the performance of the postal service, for example – but these must still be identified and brought within your analysis.

Take the example of complaints about late delivery: As a customer, what are the key stages when experiencing late delivery of your product? They might be:

  • Forming an expectation of delivery schedule.
  • Arranging delivery.
  • Awaiting delivery.
  • Taking delivery (when delivery happens as expected).
  • Chasing late delivery.
  • Taking delivery (when late).

Tip:

If you're looking at the full customer experience, these stages will describe the total lifecycle of each customer's experience with your company.

This might start with customers "experiencing" your business through a general awareness of your brand or reputation. They might be aware of your publicity and media advertising. Once they are in contact with you, they'll experience your direct marketing or sales processes. As a new customer, they'll see how you deliver your product/service, and your customer services. Then they might see your after-sales or maintenance services, and so on.

Step 3: Identify Customer "Touch Points" and Map Customer Experience

Once you have outlined the stages that you want to map, you need to identify all the related customer "touch points." This means identifying and listing each point of contact that your customers have with your business, within these stages.

This is where you can start developing your Customer Experience Map.

Two good ways of doing this are to use Flow Charts   or Swim Lane Diagrams  . These help you depict how the customer experience flows from beginning to end, so that you can analyze what's happening and share your findings with other people. Swim Lane Diagrams have the added advantage of clearly showing how different people and departments interact with your customers at each point in the process.

For each stage, think about what the customer experiences. In our example, key questions are:

  • How does the customer form his or her expectations about delivery?
  • How does he or she arrange delivery?
  • What is the experience of waiting for the delivery and what information does the customer have while waiting?
  • What happens when delivery goes to plan?
  • What happens when delivery is late?
  • How does the customer chase late delivery?

Dig down deeper into each question to reveal all of the touch points. Remember that the customers' experience may not follow your intended process: Keep thinking about this from the customer's perspective.

As well as thinking about processes and direct interaction with your company, it's also important to think about how information shapes the customer experience. What information do your customers use? How and when do they use it? How does that influence their expectations and how they interact with you?

Consider the role of information in our delivery example: Where do customers find out about delivery times, who to contact in case of any problem, and so on? You might have a great customer services team, eager to deal with delivery enquiries, but if your website or order line staff are giving misleading information, your customers' experience will be one of confusion rather than of great customer service!

Even though you don't intend it, these become customer touch points too, and they are an influential part of the customer experience. Informational touch points need to be included in your list of customer touch points, and shown on your customer experience map.

Figure 1 below shows a Swim Lane Diagram for a customer experience of late delivery. This is done at quite a high level: you can break this out into finer detail as appropriate. As a result of mapping the customer experience in the example, you might realize that there is a problem with expectation setting. Perhaps the web order form promises delivery within two or three days, but owing to high demand, you know that orders are taking up to five days to be dispatched. This might lead you to amend the web order form to better manage customers' expectations, and stop the flood of calls to your customer services team enquiring about "late" delivery. In the longer term, you may want to redesign your dispatch process so that it can process orders quickly even when demand rises.

Figure 1 – Customer Experience of Late Delivery

Step 4: Analyze the Customer Experience

How to analyze the customer experience is, to some extent, determined by your objectives. Are you trying to solve a specific problem, or are you looking to improve the customer experience more broadly? Here are some questions to help get your analysis started. Supplement these with specific questions related to your specific business and objectives.

Does the customer:

  • Know what to expect and when?
  • Have the right information at the right time?
  • Know who to contact for each reason he or she needs to contact you?
  • Know what to do if things don't go smoothly?
  • Get informed sufficiently promptly if something goes wrong or takes longer than expected?
  • Get acknowledgment of orders, complaints and so on?

Do your customers' interactions with your company:

  • Work as you intend them to work?
  • Flow in a way that's logical and easy to follow?
  • Provide the right level of interaction at the right time?
  • Give the right level of information? Are you bombarding the customer with too much information, or providing too little?

Is your internal organization:

  • Efficient and effective?
  • Organized, with clear responsibilities for customer interaction?
  • Confusing to the customer because it involves too many people or departments?

Tip:

Should you involve customers in your customer experience mapping? It can be a powerful addition to the process and analysis. But think carefully about how you get them involved. One option is to ask some customers to participate in a review of your customer experience map. Alternatively, you could survey customers to find out which touch points are working well or not so well, or you could ask them for ideas about how to improve their experience.

The right way to engage with your customers will depend on the nature of your interaction and relationship with them, and also on what's in it for them, in terms of the type of improvement you'll be able to make with their support.

Key Points

Whether you want to solve a specific customer-related business problem or undertake wider customer-facing improvements, Customer Experience Mapping can help you explore, in a systematic way, what your customers experience when they have contact with your business.

You can use it to shed light on all or just part of the customer's experience, thereby helping you find out in detail what your customer service strengths and weaknesses really are.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

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