What you can learn from walking a mile in your customer's shoes

How to use the Customer Journey Map to identify business opportunity.
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Christopher Bartlett

December 1, 2016
7 min read

They say ‘the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’.

And that thousand miles, inclusive of the first step your customer takes with your business or product, can be understood by understanding your customer journey.

Customer Journey Mapping helps you to effectively work on your services and create a healthy future for you and your company.

Undertaking the exercise gives you an understanding your customer's story, their context in the world and how they interact with an experience in the form of a solution, product, service or system.

If you haven't worked though the process of defining what your business does, who your customer is or how your business gives value to your customer, I suggest you work through the business model canvas, persona development and the value proposition canvas exercises before undertaking the process of Customer Journey Mapping.

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What is a Customer Journey Map?

A Customer Journey Map is a tool used by user experience designers that enables a business to improve their customer experience.

The tool documents the customer experience through the customer's perspective in relation to the business, helping a business to best understand how customers are interacting with their products or services and how a business can identify areas for improvement to create more value.

A Customer Journey Map template. Image: SEED

How do I develop a Customer Journey Map?

There are a number of different elements to work through when developing a Customer Journey Map.

You will always have some assumptions.

I suggest you work through the steps below and continually revisit them and come back to the map as a reference point.

1. Research, research, research

Any Customer Journey Map is purely theoretical until it has been validated through data, this is one of the hardest parts of understanding a customer experience.

I suggest, as always, to conduct extensive research throughout the exercise.That is before, during and after to weigh the outcomes correctly.

Some tools I suggest to use are; 

Customer interviews, contextual inquiry, customer surveys, review customer support logs, web analytics, social media analysis, competitor analysis and customer observational mapping.

The list goes on and on.

The point of this is to remove assumption and have correct data. Be aware of modal bias and looking for answers that you want to hear. 

A great product designer will use the scientific method and utilise critical thinking to bring about the best results.

2. Define the customer

Firstly, we need to define the customer, find out who they are and what their wants, needs and motivations are.

I suggest developing personas to help represent a group of potential customers that you have identified for your business or product.

‍To understand how to develop customer personas you can read this guide on persona development.

For this example, we will call our customer Russell.

Russell is a 30-year-old man who works as an electrical engineer.

Russell is a smart guy and is good at his job. He knows what he wants and what he doesn't want.

He genuinely wants the highest quality items and is happy to pay for them.

Russell needs supplies to perform his job such as wires, tools and components. These are usually provided by his employer, but from time-to-time he has to go to an external supplier to find what he needs.

Russell is motivated by doing a good job, he feels a sense of mastery from his work which in turn gives him fulfilment.

This is why he wants the best quality products; anything less reflects on his work and his sense of mastery.

Russell needs supplies to perform his job like wires and components. Photo: Facebook/Jaycar Electronics

3.  Define the customer job 

The customer journey takes place while the customer is attempting to do a job.

A job is a task that is either functional, emotional or social that helps the customer achieve a goal.

This job is the experience we are mapping in relation to our business.

How did we help the customer complete or fulfil their goals by completing the job that was required.

An example job could be; purchasing take out, buying a car or topping up a public transport ticket.

But what about Russell?

Russell's goal is to display mastery in his work and to do this he has to complete the build of an electrical circuit.

Unfortunately he doesn't have the correct part needed to complete the job, so he's going to have to purchase the part from a supplies store.

The job is: Purchase the part from a supplies store.

4. Understanding the journey

Like every book, every customer journey has a beginning, middle and end.

These are defined as before, during and after the Customer Job is completed.

Russell is on the job site and he is going to have to travel to the store (before), purchase the part (during) and return to the job site (after).  

The start of the journey begins at the first committed action taken towards completing the job.

However, along the way there are a large amount of actions or touchpoints that are going to happen which are all part of the Customer Journey.

The Customer Journey ends when the job is completed and the customer’s state resets to normal.

The journey begins at the first action taken towards completing a job. Photo: Twitter/Fairfax

5.  Define the touchpoints

A touchpoint is the description of an instance or action a person makes while trying to achieve a social, emotional or functional job.

Touchpoints are seen as an action a user takes from their context and can be related back to the interactions they have with a company, through the company's customer relationship and marketing channels.

An example touchpoint could be: To call the delivery store, search on Google for car dealerships nearby or stand in line for an hour to pay for your public transport ticket (high pain).

For Russell to complete his job and complete his goal there are a number of touchpoints through which he will move.

I have mapped some examples below.

The map can be as high level or as low level as you want. The more detail you go into the more time and resources it will take to map.

Having a detailed map is helpful as it will help you to identify opportunities for improving the experience for your customer.

For the purpose of this document I will keep it high level.

Before

  • The customer searches on his phone for the nearest electrical part supplier.
  • The customer finds an appropriate supplier and gives them a call.
  • The customer calls the store supplier.
  • The customer asks if they have the needed item and the supplier confirms they do.
  • The customer leaves the job site in his car and travels to the store.
  • The customer arrives at the store parking lot.

During

  • The customer exits his vehicle and enters the store.
  • The customer first orientates himself and looks for a sign to the electrical parts section.
  • The customer finds directions and proceeds to the service desk.
  • The customer greets the staff and request the part.
  • The staff member says ‘I will have to locate it’.
  • The customer waits while the staff member locates the item.
  • The customer looks at other items, more time passes.
  • The staff member returns with the item.
  • The customer pays for the item and spots an additional item that he needs to grab.
  • The customer purchases the second item and heads for the door.
  • The customer exits the store and the alarm goes off.
  • The staff check his bags and finds that the security tag has not been removed.
  • The staff member ushers the customer towards the door and says he may leave.

After

  • The customer gets in his vehicle and leaves the parking lot.
  • The customer travels to the job site.
  • The customer exits his vehicle and continues with the task he was doing.

5.  Map the experience through pain and gain

Each step the customer undertakes has an influence on the their experience.

This can either be a painful experience or gainful experience.

Now that you have mapped out the individual touch points for the journey, it’s time to understand the experience from the customer's perspective to map the positive and/or negative impacts the customer felt.

We suggest you look into Empathy Mapping to understand a deeper experience the customer goes through when undertaking the journey.

Let's look at an example using the touchpoint: The customer exits the store and the security alarm goes off.

Russell was exiting the store and was thinking that he was glad that he got the part he needed to complete the job.

But, when the security alarm went off he felt a rush of adrenaline and was disoriented at what had happened.

He could see the staff moving towards him suspiciously and heard the alarm. He stopped and said aloud in his whimsical, disarming voice “I didn't do it”.

The staff’s reaction to Russell was not positive which in turn caused him pain.

This gave him a negative experience as he left the store. He had nothing to gain from the staff being suspicious.

Understanding and mapping the Customer Journey from end-to-end will help you identify opportunities where you can increase the experience your customer has.

It’s my suggestion to first identify the most painful experiences in the journey and if possible solve those first before moving onto the next.

Firstly, identify and solve the most painful experiences in the journey. Photo: Twitter

6. Weigh up the frequency

You should also weigh up the frequency and regularity of each touchpoint and decide whether they are a regular occurrence or an outlier.

For example, the alarm going off is an outlier of the regular customer experience.

Although it may be painful, it's isolated to one in every 100 customers.

If we look closer at the journey and look to resolve regular pain, we can see there may be issues with staff locating items for customers. It was noted that the customer waited for a long period of time while a staff member found the item.

If this is a regular problem the impact of this could hit every customer, making this an ideal target to solve.

This could be solved by having an up-to-date computer inventory which had the location of the item and availability.

If this is a problem, then it could be identified as a high opportunity for gain in the customer experience.

Tools to use

Whiteboard.

Whiteboard markers.

Butchers paper.

Digital templates.

Most practical process

First sketch out the Customer Journey Map on a whiteboard or butchers paper and refine, before adding to the above template.

From the digital template you can build some really solid infographics.

Related content

Empathy Mapping.

Understanding Value.

The importance of understanding your customer.

How to: Business Model Canvas.

How to: Idea Validation | Introduction to Pretotyping.

Christopher Bartlett

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