In response to these pressures, businesses across every industry are investing billions in efforts to attract and please customers. Creating truly satisfying customer experiences is the first and constant goal of digital transformation, and the experience map has emerged as an essential strategic tool that serves as catalyst to this goal. As a self-evident artifact that points to an actionable plan which spans all channels, the experience map is essential to remaining agile and responsive to customer needs.
In Centric Digital’s playbook, we follow a granular, iterative process to contextualize where companies are, in their current state, as a prelude to deep transformation. Customer experience, represented as the outermost layer of our nested analytical framework, is taken into the full range of interactions between a company and its customers. The customer’s point of view is depicted and run through several narrative use cases, which are illustrated towards the purpose of building a strategy. Here’s a look at why Centric Digital focuses on the experience map to crystallize the cloud of information that both comprises and obscures the overall customer experience.
What is an Experience Map?
It is a graphic model for presenting the multi-dimensional customer experience, with an abstracted process baked in that illustrates that model in action.
The finished map is a strategic tool, a rich visual artifact that captures and summarizes key aspects of the full cloud of possible consumer interactions. It chronicles the customer journey by running a persona through an abstracted story, providing specific insights along the way. The customer journey is put forth as an aggregated view of generic customer experiences, which represent people attempting to fill the need that brought them to the company and achieve a definite result.
An experience map is printed out in a large format canvas – often in excess of four feet in width – and posted physically. This monumental presence is also given life online, and can be shared in every digital format through and beyond its completion.
The versioned collaboration that results in a complete experience map provides value through organizational knowledge. Cross-organizational collaboration gives a fuller portrait of customer behavior across all channels and touchpoints, which can then be synthesized into personas. These personas are given a story to grow empathy and understanding for the customer, and the ideas and experiences that can be extracted from that story build a sense of mission as an organization descends into the dense challenge of providing a rich customer experience.
Steps towards an Experience Map
The act of creating the customer experience map is itself a formative component of the digital transformation process. Advances in technology and changes in customer expectations emphasize the interconnectedness of channels and touchpoints that customers turn to in their cycle of need. Smart organizations have realized failure to address this interconnectedness is a major competitive risk, and are willing to break down their internal silos and request 360-degree participation within their organization to complete the satisfaction of customers’ goals. Towards this end, they undertake four steps in the creation of an experience map:
- Discovery: What is the state of current customer behavior? Which channels do customers use, and where are the touchpoints? During this step, a variety of quantitative and qualitative information sources may be referenced, on the basis of individual company profiles and business models. Customer demographics and web analytics provide some essential data, often supplemented with a survey administered to a sufficient sample group. There is also a meaningful level of depth in conversations with customers, especially if the researcher guides these conversations through the use of a prepared set of open-ended questions. Subject matter experts breathe life into these data points, identifying known terrain in the customer experience while managing any knowledge gaps that might persist through its development.
- Pathfinding: Key insights discovered from the big picture are discussed among all participants, jointly manifesting a model of the customer journey. This pathfinding usually features an in-person experience mapping workshop, involving a group of central stakeholders in the change process. A structured procedure is put forth to maximize the usefulness of the session. The result of this part of the process will be a rough draft of the map, utilizing organizational elements such as sketches or stickies on a white board.
- Narration: Now that we have built a persona, we need their story – how would we tell the customer’s story, and how do the emotional peaks and valleys of this story inform the technical touchpoints? Emotions are a key component in experience mapping. What is the customer hearing, seeing and thinking, what feelings are being generated and what device are they using, and in what setting? This step centers on unifying the rough outline with an arc of coherent narrative, giving form and purpose to the customer journey. Superfluous information is removed and relevant details are prioritized for inclusion into the story.
- Activation: Once the map has been completed, it is now ready for use as a finished tool. As the carefully marked path is followed, it organically reveals new ideas for enhancing customer experience, which can be integrated with disruptive opportunities and strategies for digital innovations. The finished map should be brought into the mix, pervading the company’s digital strategy conversation. It will be presented at meetings, slid across executives’ desks and given out as hard-copy flyers. The map is a valuable tool meant to unite the organization in approaching the complexity of customer interaction, that will have a central role throughout several steps of Centric Digital’s playbook, though companies may find themselves executing experience mapping on an iterative, “a la carte” basis to fully realize their enterprise-level self-awareness.
These steps above are guided by three primary reference points, which in turn generate their own questions. These primary reference points are:
- Actions: What actions does a customer need to take, in order to complete the operation or purchase that they have in mind? What specific behaviors are common to these transactions?
- Thoughts: What does the customer think about during their experience with the company? What did they expect when they began the interaction, and how does the actual outcome of their contact compare with those expectations?
- Emotions: How does the customer feel at different points in the course of their journey?
Why are Experience Maps Important to Digital Transformation?
Each industry encounters its own unique challenges in pursuit of their customers’ experience, but all industries seek actionable improvements. Before they can transform and improve things for their customers, companies have to clarify their current status quo.
- Retailers must respond to a shopping environment that is increasingly immersive – where customers expect personalized high-touch contact, regardless of location. The barriers between in-store and remote shopping are dissolving.
- Financial institutions are contending with regulations conforming to an earlier era, while new fintech platforms emerge that can cut through traditional operations. In response, legacy institutions are buying or partnering with these agile fintech startups to redefine their offerings to customers.
- Healthcare providers are under pressure from multiple directions to develop patient-centered care protocols, while at the same time adapting to changing insurance economics and increasing regulation.
A lack of attention to the key element of customer experience in any of these industries – or indeed in any other available, including B2B, utilities, transportation, government and more – are like a stuck anchor, dragging the organization back from competitive status.
Experience Mapping Supports Essential Contextualization
Centric Digital’s emphasis on its detailed, reproducible benchmarking process is focused on occupying a holistic view. Customer experience mapping contributes to this holistic view, because the customer journey progresses laterally through the entire landscape of function and role. Inhabiting the customer viewpoint prevents individual constituencies within an organization from seeing their functionality in an isolated context. The map, as a graphic medium, enables people to explore a complex detail-cloud while also maintaining an overall top-down view of the entire journey.
Where Does Mapping Fit into Digital Strategy?
Each step of building the experience map is drawn from a page of Centric’s playbook for digital transformation. The quantitative and qualitative scoring framework that underlies our benchmarking process dovetails with the experience mapping procedure, which reveals high and low points in the emotional journey that customers take when interacting with a company. These mileposts represent future gaps and opportunities that will drive strategy. The map also identifies the point in the customer journey that serves as its fulcrum: the moment or sequence of moments upon which winning or losing the transaction pivots. A set of digital initiatives target these moments in a precise manner, yielding maximal ROI and the most robust strategy for digital transformation.