Customer Journey – Design Thinking Tool

Design thinking helps solve complex problems through a non-linear process that is based on understanding of customers or empathy, further used to question assumptions, reframe the problem, and then generate an innovative solution, validated with users.

Successful solution is preconditioned by deep understanding or empathy for the customer. Great tool for establishing deep understanding of the customer, or insight into experience of the customer upon meeting a certain product or service is customer journey map.

The customer or user journey map is a visualization of the process a customer/user – a certain persona goes through towards accomplishing a goal. Most often, it is an interaction with a product or service that spans over time. It is a journey, as the overall experience, spanning over time is mapped step by step, or “dissected” in order to recognize and investigate in detail specific steps, thus clarifying potentially interesting areas.  

How to map customer journey?

First of all, it is necessary to determine the journey, or the scenario that needs to be mapped – what is the beginning and what is its end. One scenario, or journey needs to have a clear goal from the customer’s perspective, so accordingly it needs to be defined when the journey starts and when it ends. E.g. whether certain purchase begins when the customer enters a shop or a web-shop or the journey begins earlier, with the advertisement of that product on social media. Answers to these questions must be provided by the very customer. As there may be different answers coming from different customers, it needs to be defined whose journey it is mapped – who is persona journeying. In some cases, it is possible to have other actors in the process, so they need to be defined.

When it is clear who is taking the journey in question, where it starts and where it ends, one step at a time needs to be captured, defining activities and their circumstances. Examples include: where is the step taking place, is it initiated by the customer or another actor, how much time it takes to perform the step, is the customer aware of the next step, does a step include some documentation or specific systems support, waiting time, etc. Depending on the customer journey and needs, this data can be visually organized in different ways, but frequently grouped into phases. What is important is that steps are detailed (the devil is in the detail, they say, no matter how trivial they seem at first), they are organized in a logical order and, most importantly, they are resulting from customer research – they came from observations, interaction with the customers or testing.

Customer journey mapping examples: www.nngroup.com; www.interaction-design.org

An additional aspect of the customer journey map are emotions. Every step of the journey, depending on the step and the circumstances is added an emotional aspect, e.g. a smiley. This way problematic areas are easy to spot.

Depending on the journey mapped, as well as the end goal of mapping, the map can contain other information. It is often transformed into a blueprint, that maps, in addition to the customer journey also activities “behind the curtain”. They include everything invisible to the customer, internal processes that needs to be performed, in order to proceed to the next step of the customer journey “in front of the curtain”. Blueprints help identify challenges with internal processes that cause bad customer experience.

Mapping customer journey is an excellent team exercise that helps team members understand both overall customer experience, but also details behind the specific steps that make out the whole experience. An experience with an existing product or service can be mapped in order to improve it. This creates a common empathy for the customer. Mapped customer journey can, further be used to communicate recognised problems and investigate solutions. It is, also possible to use the same tool to devise, design customer journey for a future product or service. In that case this exercise is useful to throw light on all specific steps in order for the team to plan for a really good experience.

About Milena Medjak 6 Articles
Milena Međak is business analyst focused on the experience, currently exploring analysis within agile software development in Endava. As an accomplished service design practitioner, she has hands-on experience in CEM and customer-facing processes. Milena believes in holistic customer-centric approach and practices design thinking (and doing) in all her business and private endeavors.

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