Everyone is talking about the importance of understanding the customer experience. You may think your product or service is great, but if the customer experience is different from their expectations, you have a disappointed or possibly angry customer. Recently, there has been a movement to “map the customer’s experience.” I applaud this movement, and suggest that it goes when step further.
Too often the process improvement methodologies that are being used are internally focused. They ask the questions, “How can I reduce my costs?” “How can I improve my quality?” “How can I reduce my inventory?” While the customer experience map will show us what the customer is doing, it does not ask the questions, “How can the customer reduce their costs?” “How can the customer improve their quality?” “How can the customer reduce their inventory?”
Customer experience mapping creates a graphical depiction of the steps that a customer goes through when attempting to buy or use a product. It creates a process flow map that shows each step, each branch or decision, and the possible end-points – be they satisfied customer, disappointed customer, confused customer, or angry customer. Analyzing this map will identify opportunities to improve the customer experience, and therefore customer satisfaction, with your products or services. This map is a powerful means for communicating to an organization the customer experience and can be the impetus for major changes in product or service performance.
One problem that I have seen with how this technique is often employed is to map only the customer steps and to ignore the steps on the part of the seller. Just like ignoring the steps on the part of customer and only looking at your internal steps will lead to sub-optimization for the customer; only looking at the customer steps can lead to sub-optimization for the seller. I believe you need to show both. Then the impact of improvement decisions will be better understood. However, while this focuses on process improvement it misses the opportunities to create value.
In my experience, there is another layer of information that can be added to the customer experience map that magnifies its importance. This is when the map includes not only what the customer is experiencing, but also whether that experience is adding value for the customer. This goes beyond just mapping “what” the customer does, it also maps “why” the customer does it. And understanding the “why” will lead to important insights on how your product or service can be redesigned to make the customer’s job easier or productive. That creates real value for the customer – and they will pay for that.
When our process improvement activities include improving both my outcomes and the customer’s outcomes, the process improvement becomes a value creation activity. Religence, a customer relationship consulting practice headquartered in California, has fine-tuned their customer experience mapping technique to include these value creation tracking elements. They, not surprisingly, refer to it as Value Creation Mapping.