ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Find YOUR North Star

Navigating the Customer Experience Through the Use of Journey Maps

Over the last two decades, the user experience movement has not only changed the way that the world has interacted with technology, but how we now interact with businesses. It is one of the driving forces behind what Forrester has now termed the Age of the Customer. The one area it’s barely had an impact on, however, is the business phone system.

Until now.

A Brief History of User Experience

Don Norman coined the modern term of “user experience” back in the 1990s to describe the overall end-to-end thinking that Apple was pursuing back then. He “wanted [the term] to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design graphics, the interface, the physical interaction and the manual.” It remained a loosely defined term until the first decade of the 2000s, when the emerging world of mobile applications and web applications began to differentiate themselves as providers of a better user experience.

During this time, “user experience designer” or “user experience architect” became job descriptions that defined a user-first design philosophy. This meant that practitioners would spend more time analyzing the needs and behaviors of users in order to design an easy-to-use system that satisfied customers.

You can now see the full effects of the user experience movement everywhere--it has reshaped our laptop, mobile, and web experiences as well as our interpersonal experiences. We now use social media or text messaging to interact with friends at increasing volumes across all age groups. The way we now purchase products, get restaurant recommendations, choose a taxi, or even choose a spouse have been impacted by user experience.

Businesses have used websites, web chat, mobile apps, social networking, email, videos, to transform the way that customers interact with them. Strangely enough, one of the last communication technologies that has been largely overlooked by the user experience movement is the corporate phone system, specifically the classic IVR and contact center.

That is about to change as customers have become accustomed to better user experiences, are increasingly frustrated with the phone while simultaneously becoming more in control of the brand reputation. Just as businesses now differentiate themselves on user experiences of their websites and apps, they are now differentiating themselves on the user experience of their communication channels.

Achieving a Better User Experience

NPS scores have shown businesses that poor customer experiences have dramatic effect on the bottom line. Contact centers have responded to this power of the customer by increasing their strategic drive to offer channel preferences to their contact center. This is paying off big in improved customer satisfaction and more self-serve options.

Channel preference is not just about trying to replicate the same experience across any and all channels--it’s about providing the right experience for the right persona at the right time. A company can use several different tools to determine that, including usage/call logs, surveys, and direct interviews. This gives insight on generally what type of channel customers prefer for particular tasks. A more strategic tool that companies can use to improve the customer experience is the journey map.

History of Journey Maps

Journey maps  emerged around 10 years ago after the successful adoption of customer personas in the industry. Businesses had begun to develop customer personas to better understand their prospective clients. Once businesses had established personas, their next need was to understand the major ways  these personas interacted with their business, so that they could better support and tailor the customer experience to these types of people. Journey maps emerged as the way to articulate the highs and lows of all the contact points related to the user experience.

In addition to understanding customers’ wants and needs, journey maps were also useful in identifying tasks that a customer wanted to accomplish. The maps often expose the emotional highs and lows that a customer will go through to accomplish those tasks. Journey maps ultimately help a company to plan on how best to help the customer accomplish those tasks in the most satisfying way possible.

How Journey maps fit within contact centers

The phone has often been overlooked by user experience professionals, partly because it is not a visual medium, which UX is rooted in. It’s also partly because the contact center is rarely connected to the marketing or product department, which is where UX has typically emerged from.

Over the last 5 years, UX has begun to reshape into the profession of Service Design (the general term for shaping the end-to-end customer experience). The phone channel falls into the end-to-end movement since customers will often look up a company’s number and call them. As such, it is receiving a new level of scrutiny about where it fits into the bigger picture. Journey maps are being used to place the phone channel (both IVR and agents) at specific points/places in the customer journey.

A journey map reveals the three major things customers want:

  1. “What do would I like to accomplish?”
  2.  “How easy or how difficult is it to accomplish?”
  3. “How satisfied was I in the way in which it was accomplished?”

Journey maps typically look at all the touchpoints on a customer journey, which then allows the organization to place a single channel (i.e. phone) within the context of the entire experience.

When used to analyze the phone channel, a journey map shows what tasks customers wants to carry out with IVR vs. what they want to carry out with an agent. It also shows what tasks they want to accomplish through text messaging ITR or text chat--this helps the contact center redesign the IVR to handle tasks potentially overlooked previously. Finally, the journey map shows what tasks started on one channel (i.e. web) and carried over to another (i.e. phone).
How to build journey maps

In order to create a compelling journey map, you need to start with research to understand the collective touchpoints that your customers have with you. You can build this list by looking at the primary services that you provide your customers.

Start by writing down what you offer, then plot what you provide to a customer from beginning to end--in short, the complete customer lifecycle. For example, if you sell a product, the customer would first start at discovery of your product, then move through a research phase, perhaps a hands-on demonstration, and then a purchase. After that, they may need to contact you to set it up, troubleshoot or fix it through warranty. Finally, they will hopefully recommend it to others and purchase from you again. (You can also plot where the majority of people go to a competitor or where they seem to drop off).

After you review at what your offerings, you can then reach out to your customers to get their view on how they move through the lifecycle. If you have all the time in the world, you’ll be able track all individuals throughout the entire lifecycle. If you don’t have that long, tracking multiple people at multiple points throughout the lifecycle works fine.

The best way to gather customer feedback is to interview them. Interviews come in many fashions: you can talk directly to customers, use surveys to get feedback on each touchpoint, or do journal studies with a small group of people throughout major points in the process.

Once you have collected all the responses, you will go through a process called “coding.” This is where you analyze the responses and break them down into categories, keywords, and align the responses with touchpoints. This will reveal patterns in how people feel about your current touchpoints and where they augment those touchpoints with their own. For example, they may hear about your product not from a Google search or a recommendation, but because a competitor listed you in a comparison.

Those interviews also will reveal what the customer thinks about each touchpoint. Each of these touchpoints probably occurs on different channels. They might research online, come into a store for a demonstration, purchase via phone or online, or call for troubleshooting. The voice of the customer often reveals what channel they prefer and how they feel about a particular channel.

You generally only need about 20 participants to clearly find consistent patterns or consistent variability. More is fine, but 20 will give you a lot of useful, actionable information. Once you’ve interviewed your participants, work with a designer to plot the customer lifecycle, keeping track of channel preferences vs. channel options and the emotional satisfaction of those touchpoints.

The results of a journey map

Many user experience articles focus on the technical implementation of journey maps, but they often overlook the fact that technical implementation can’t be achieved without the organizational buy-in and funding. Journey maps are really meant for strategic buy-in. They help you create a solid foundation for your channel preference discussion, then ground that discussion in the voice of the customer (which will reveal where you can place your improvement dollars). Journey maps also reveal where you are strong against competition and where you can innovate.

Secondly, journey maps help you identify which tasks are best suited for which channel. Some tasks might work best on a specific channel, but there might be lower cost or emerging channels that haven’t been considered.

Finally, journey maps bring an organization together to solve customer problems. Decisions are so often made based off of internal resources or internal divisions, but the customer-first approach of journey maps puts that aside and brings the customer directly into the board room.


More from Lance Christmann