Mapping the Customer Experience Journey


A DeepDive Discussion with Jennifer MacIntosh, OKAS Consulting, on 16 August 2012

What is a Customer Experience Journey Map?

A customer experience journey map is a document that visually represents the entire experience your customer has while interacting with your company. The customer experience is mapped with three perspectives in mind:

  1. Need – what the customer sets out to achieve
  2. Interaction – steps customer takes to reach their goal or meet their need
  3. Emotions – how the customer feels during the interaction

Here is an example of a customer experience journey map we did at Yahoo! around an issue that was commonly reported.  We prioritized this issue because of the data analysis we completed.

Yahoo Journey

What is a journey? 

A journey is a series of steps that the customer takes to achieve a goal.  An example: logging into your customer support portal and searching the knowledge base.

Why do you feel that it is important to complete customer experience journey maps? 

Going through the steps to understand and create this visual depiction of the customer experience can uncover hidden costs to both you and the customer, and may uncover opportunities for profit.

At Yahoo!, we set out to better understand the customer experience.  To do this, we analyzed lots of data to understand why customers come to get help.  The data told us that customers are coming not just to solve a problem, but to learn as well.

We differentiated customers into categories based on their level of utilization of Yahoo! products.  The categories we settled on were Tourist, Light, Medium, and Heavy.  As we looked at the data, we could see that the Heavy user utilization was eroding over time.

It made us realize how important it was to identify and serve our heavy users.  Do you know who your heaviest users are?  If you don’t, how can you understand their needs?

What are the high-level steps you took as you began doing customer experience journey maps?

Getting started is the hardest part!

  1. We began by digging through data (e.g. surveys, verbatim feedback data, utilization data) looking for patterns.  Specifically we were looking for patterns in the user profiles, user intent, and common issues.
  2. After identifying these patterns, we dug deeper into each category to learn as much as we could about the different users, what they came to do and what the common issues were that they faced.
  3. We selected our most painful journey (e.g., account access issues), and mapped the activity flow associated with that journey.  Doing this helped us understand the real customer experience with the issue or activity.
  4. Finally, we organized the Customer Experience Summit, which offered Yahoo! executives the opportunity to understand the customer experience.  This approach gave executives the chance to meet customers, experience customer challenges first hand, and hear recorded interactions with customers representing high pain issues.

Tell us more about the Customer Experience Summit.

The Summit brought customers and Yahoo! executives together.  The highlight occurred when everyone attempted to complete the steps on a few pre-defined journeys.  For example, for a specific known issue found during the data analysis, we asked participants (customers and executives) to work together to complete the steps to solve that issue.  This was a very eye-opening experience for those executives who hadn’t had the chance to watch a customer use the product.

What was the biggest learning during the Customer Experience Summit?

The Customer Experience Summit was a huge success.  It was a very powerful way to make everyone at Yahoo! really understand the customer support experience.  It also made it clear that everyone has a role to play in improving the customer experience or building service excellence.

Delivering service excellence really is a team sport.  Did you come across any executives who perhaps thought the customer experience was not part of their job but changed their mind after the Summit?

Yes, I have two examples.  The first was a leader attending from product management/marketing.  He initially asserted that the issues coming from customers were not his problem but instead belonged to Support to resolve.  In the end, after listening to a terrible customer experience on the phone, it became clear to him that he needed to play a part in fixing the issues he saw during the Customer Experience Summit.

Another example was an executive from the legal team.  He came into the Summit thinking that there was very little connection between him and the customer support experience.  However, it became very apparent to him after listening to a recorded support interaction that the support analyst was struggling to provide excellent service because of decisions that his team had made.

Tell us a bit more about your thoughts on the role of KCS and the Evolve Loop in customer experience.

The Evolve Loop is all about learning how to improve the customer experience.  Evolve Loop activities help you better understand what gaps exist in the knowledge shared with customers.  We found that it is very helpful to include as many data points as possible during your Evolve Loop analysis.  This includes analysis of your content but it might include data points from other sources as well.  For example, look at your customer survey data and your customer search behaviors to bring more depth to your understanding of the complete customer experience.  Doing this data analytics helps you better understand the experiences of your customers during the different points of their experience journey with you.  It also provides visibility into those areas of the customer experience that most require your attention.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge with customer experience mapping?

The biggest challenge we faced was to get everyone within Yahoo! to take responsibility for the role they play in the customer experience.  In a large company, it is challenging to make every single contributor feel that they have a direct connection to the customer.   There are a few reasons why internal people don’t feel directly responsible.  A couple examples include the classic “that it isn’t my job,” or ignorance is bliss (lack of exposure to the reality of the customer experience).  The best way forward is to get representatives from as many teams as possible together in a room and help them all understand that this is a team sport and that everyone has to work together to make it better for customers.

Another challenge you might encounter is that there is already a dedicated “Customer Experience” team that has been given responsibility for these activities.  If this is the case and a team is already in place, network with that team and volunteer to participate in their activities.  Being a part of that team will help ensure that you are able to insert the Support/KCS perspective into their activities.  If they are doing Customer experience journey mapping without Support/KCS, then they are missing big opportunities to ensure that the learnings that come are deep and robust.

You shared an example of a very large cross-organizational customer experience journey mapping.  What advice do you give those who aren’t able to start that big?  Where do you recommend they start? 

There are so many places to start.  Analyze the data that you do have to understand what the customers are saying about their experience with you. You don’t have to have a huge data set to do this.  Start with whatever you have: customer portal survey data, support transaction survey data, KCS content data.

In addition, identify a few places where you would like more data than you have and take the steps needed to capture it.

Make the most of what you have and don’t wait for others to do it.  Take the steps needed to understand the customer experience.  You won’t regret it.

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