An increasing number of companies talk about being more human and user-centric in their approaches to developing products and services. This requires them to build their capacity for empathy and translate those customer insights into action. But how does one actually do that? One method is to plot out journey maps. Journey maps are step-by-step outlines of the ways people experience the product, service or experience you have developed. The Service Design Network points out that journey maps are a critical resource to documenting the "present state" of a customer journey in a range of sectors including healthcare, financial services, education and hospitality experiences. Here is a deeper dive into one particular type of journey map, "The 5 E's". You can diagram each of the following "E's" in a circular shape, or as a linear path, with specific examples for each. I tend to like the circular formation because it reminds us that the journey of our customer experiences should be a continuous feedback loop!
Long before a customer stumbles upon your website, picks up the phone or opens the door to your brick and mortar operation, they need to have some stimulus to inquire about you. How are you enticing them to learn more about your business? In what ways is their curiosity peaked? Is it through word of mouth, a provocative advertisement or a direct encounter? List the ways this happens.
Think of a vacation hotel experience. Once you have decided to vacation at a resort, how are you greeted? Does it start at the airport or at the front desk? What sensorial cues (sight, sound, smell, tactile/touch) are enlisted? The training of employees is critical at this juncture.
Now you have bought the new product or experience. Whether it is a college education or a new smart phone device quality must sustain. How is the functionality? Does the product/service/experience meet your needs on the social and emotional level as well? In fact, we can plug in the metric of meeting needs at the functional, social and emotional levels at each of these journey stages.
Now your vacation is over, or the customer has made the fashion apparel purchase. They leave your proximity- what is that experience like? Customized follow through and enlisting technology to track their next steps is certainly more possible now that big data is accessible for a range of businesses.
This is the part of journey mapping that uncovers lots of opportunity. Often businesses stop at the exit stage. But it is at the "extend" stage where it is critical to put more thought and effort into remaining connected to your customer and understanding how they experienced your product or service. Their responsiveness of course will be directly related to how effective and positive their experience was in the preceding 4 stages.
In all of these steps it is important to be brutally honest. So if the truth is that you have not yet identified a way to extend the experience, leave that portion blank. Here is where you can brainstorm ways to prototype and develop new opportunities- but don't develop these ideas in a vacuum. Reach out to real and intended customers and ASK them, talk to them, observe them at each stage. And hire service designers to help you do this work. Keep in mind that once you start incorporating journey mapping, they are as essential to understanding your end consumer as they are for understanding your own colleagues and the ways they experience work. This can be an essential step for building culture change. In many ways your employees are your first customers!