Designing Future-State Customer Journeys
Planning the Ideal Experience for Your Customers
"The customer experience is the next competitive battleground." – Jerry Gregoire, former SVP, Dell.
Chances are, you care deeply about what your customers think about your organization, and you try to make their experience of dealing with you as good as it can be.
Perhaps you already track how your customers engage and interact with your organization, and you strive to improve those areas where their needs are not being met.
But, while you fix mistakes and plug existing service gaps, are you looking ahead to how you can design and implement a completely new customer experience?
In this article, we look at how you can use future-state customer experience mapping to create a new vision of your customers' journey.
What Is Future-State Customer Experience Mapping?
Current-state customer experience mapping (or journey mapping, as it is sometimes known) is valuable for helping organizations to understand and improve their existing customer experiences. In other words, you look at how your customers feel when they interact with you at different "touchpoints," such as online searches, telephone conversations, in-store experiences, help desk interactions, and product demonstrations.
Future-state mapping is a tool for reinventing these experiences and designing completely new ones that differentiate you from your competitors.
With it, you can envision and plan better outcomes for your customers. You can predict what they'll do, what they'll think, and how they'll interact whenever they encounter your products and services. In an era when only 37 percent of customers feel understood by retailers, ensuring that your customers enjoy a great experience with your organization can set you apart from the crowd.
How to Design Your Customer's Journey
Future-state customer experience mapping involves a different process from current-state mapping. The aim is to articulate a vision, rather than to record an existing journey, so it's less grounded in research and more driven by business strategy and visualization.
Follow these seven steps to design an experience that will "wow" your future customers.
Step 1. Form a Mapping Stakeholder Group
Your first task is to assemble a team to see the mapping process through, from discussing ideas to implementing them.
The team should have a variety of skills and experience. For example, business owners can align teams around a common vision, project managers can design and oversee individual work streams, and external customer experience professionals can help to foster a customer-centric vision. Also, remember to include people from those parts of the organization that may be impacted by the project.
Cast a wide net to draw in expertise, from subject matter experts and business analysts to star employees and customers. In particular, seek out creative people who can generate vibrant, dynamic, innovative ideas.
Step 2. Map Your Current-State Customer Experience
Your team will need to be involved in mapping your current-state customer experience before it looks at the future state. As we mentioned earlier, that means seeing your business through your customers' eyes, and you can find out how to do this with our article, Customer Experience Mapping.
The analysis that you perform at the end of your current-state mapping exercise will help you to see, for example, where you're losing actual or potential customers. From there, you can "pivot" from current to future mapping.
Step 3. Define Your Business Goals and Target Customers
Here, ask what kind of future-state map you need. For example, you may want to completely redesign your touchpoints and create a new, game-changing set of customer experiences, which you believe will win you a greater market share.
It's important to pinpoint who you're creating an ideal future for. You may plan to "up your game" for an existing customer type, for instance, or to serve an entirely new one.
It's important to take your resources, technical capability, and industry conditions into account. The future state that you want must be financially viable, technically feasible, and organizationally achievable, as well as relevant to your customers.
You'll need to get senior stakeholders to sign off any particularly adventurous or ambitious customer journey project. The consequences for you could be serious if you go "full steam ahead" without their approval and support – you may be seen as coming up with ideas that are wild or impractical, and this may leave you looking foolish.
Step 4. Generate New Ideas
At this stage, your team can start to explore new ideas in depth for your future customer experience, and to pinpoint the functional and emotional goals for each touchpoint in the customer journey.
Your objectives, and your insights into the existing customer experience, should be your starting point. From there, you can look at the new sources of customer value that you hope to achieve. Developing empathy with your customers – that is, putting yourself in their shoes – is important at this stage, so you can better understand their likely experience.
Essential to this part of the process is "ideation." This is a process of exploring ideas, suggestions and possible solutions, repeating multiple rounds of evaluation until you have identified your top ideas.
Step 5: Map Your Future-State Customer Experience
Here, the aim is to group your ideas, and organize them into a "journey" along which your customers will progress, seen from their perspective.
You need to turn your ideas and concepts into something "physical," whether that be a storyboard, model or diagram.
You can format your customer experience map in any number of ways – some approaches are illustrated on Pinterest, here. Our article on Swim Lane Diagrams can help you to create your map. You can also use online mapping tools, such as Smaply™ and UXPressia™.
Remember, though, that you're expressing a vision – one that you'll need everybody in your organization to embrace, so a good general rule is to keep it simple, and minimize your use of specialist symbols.
Step 6: Validate Your Map
To check that the future state you've devised will deliver value for your customers, you'll need them to see it and comment on it. Get their feedback on what looks good – and what doesn't – and go back to the drawing board if necessary. Our article Using Focus Groups highlights a five-step process for gathering customer feedback.
Step 7: Put Your Map to Work
You need to put your map to work for it to be more than just a theoretical exercise. Here are some tips to help you to do this:
- Build executive support. Your future state will need to deliver value for your organization as well as your customers, so it's crucial that senior stakeholders buy in to the project. You are far more likely to win their backing if they have contributed to it, hence the importance of including them in your stakeholder group or inviting them to take part in brainstorming sessions.
- Pilot your future-state experience. Trialing some key aspects will help you to gauge their practicality and effectiveness, and fine-tune your plans.
- Create new capabilities. Your future customer experience may require investment in new resources. You may need to invest in new technologies or recruit additional team members, for example. make sure that the benefits you'll deliver will comprehensively outweigh the cost of achieving them. See our article on NVP analysis for a robust way of doing this.
- Plan your roll-out. Limitations on time or resources may restrict your ability to launch a future state in one go, so set priorities based on meeting your business objectives, working within your current abilities, and delivering the most value.
Future-state customer experience mapping is a tool for elevating customer experiences from good to great. When it's done well, it can build stronger, more enduring relationships between organizations and their customers, and create greater value for both.
Your first step is to assemble a team of stakeholders to take on the mapping process. This team then maps your current-state customer experience, and from there you set objectives and generate ideas. These ideas then need to be shaped into a beginning-to-end "journey" that you can validate, trial and, finally, roll out.