Customer Experience Mapping

Obtaining customer feedback is often done through surrogates such as sales and marketing personnel or third parties. Seldom do the people responsible for process improvement have access to direct customer feedback. This resultant information is not actionable.

A problem with surveys (i.e., indirect feedback as opposed to in- person surveys) is that the customer message is diluted. Customers are also inundated with requests for feedback from many sources. A large supplier may use several surveys requesting feedback from the same customers too frequently. There may also be issues with the phrasing of questions, their delivery, or the dilution of sample sizes over products, services, and respondents. The analytical results from poorly designed surveys will not be useful for driving process-improvement actions. As a result, there is a heavy reliance on information gained passively from product returns, warranty issues, and other feedback systems rather than direct customer feedback. But imagine using a method that enables a process-improvement team to work directly with customers to identify key touch points and performance gaps.

Customer experience mapping (CEM) is another translation method wherein customer feedback is translated back through a process to identify improvement opportunities. CEM is a joint supplier-customer workshop in which the key touch points between suppliers and customers are mapped to identify gaps at various touch points. Touch points are embedded within the higher-level steps associated with the sale, purchase, delivery, and use of products and sendees. A CEM is built with these steps listed in a sequence (Figure 3.12). Then the goals of each step are listed from the customer’s perspective. In this context, the “customer” is a persona representing a part of the organization (e.g., purchasing, production, and other functions using the product or service). Goals are the persona’s expectations relative to the dimensions of pricing, time, and quality. Beneath each step are operations needed to complete the setup and meet the goal. The team identifies barriers to excellent customer experience for each step and its operations. Then it creates actions to eliminate the barriers to excellent customer experience. The advantage of the CEM approach is that customer needs and expectations (i.e., the goals) are more clearly understood through joint team interactions and consensus.

A CEM can also become a long-term road map or model to continuously improve the customer experience by integrating the information into a supplier’s formal “voice of” programs (e.g., VOC, voice of partner, and the voice of field). These “voice of” programs capture metrics that measure customer relationships from perspectives of loyalty and transaction experience using interviews, electronic surveys, and analyses of returns, allowances, warranty information, and other methods discussed earlier. An effective CEM program helps validate information collected through passive data collection methods. Ideally, in aggregate, the information


Customer experience mapping.

will enable an organization effectively focus its continuous-improvement efforts to improve total customer experience.

CEM is a powerful method to bring customers and internal stakeholders together to understand how the customer walks through the process of discovering, purchasing, and using an organization’s products and services. The experience is from a customer’s perspective. The goal is to understand where a customer’s experience touch points match to identify where the customer experience is exceptional and where there are gaps. This allows the organization to create projects to eliminate those gaps, to strategically align with the customer’s teams to measurably improve their experiences, and to drive innovative solutions to exceed customer expectations. Innovation solutions enhance an organization’s competitiveness. Operations benefits from the unique perspectives identified during the workshop.

The workshop planning process begins by identifying the objectives and deliverables, including the scope (i.e., what the workshop will do and what it will not do). The participant list and logistics are finalized with facilitator. Next, the planning team identifies personas associated with predefined use cases. Personas include the interacting customer and stakeholder roles at touch points throughout a use case process. The personas have different experience expectations. A common use case is the process of purchasing a home and applying for the loan. A second use case would be renting an apartment. You can envision how these use cases would unfold using previous experience. The personas would be easy to identify, too: a real estate agent or landlord, a bank manager, and others. Relative to business processes, some customer personas include a purchasing manager, an accounts payable team, and the people using the product or services. Personas from the supplying organization include the sales team, production and service teams, the invoicing team, and others depending on the use case. The use case in which personas interact is also called a process. An example use case is the sales process, where customers obtain product or service information as solutions to meet the customer’s needs. Another use case is invoicing a customer and acknowledging payment. A third use case is servicing a product at the customer’s location. Workshops should be focused on use cases and the relevant persona should be invited to build the experience map.

After the use cases and personal are identified, an initial CEM is created for the basic steps of the process. Typical steps are researching the product or service and making a purchase decision. Other steps include onboard- ing, using, and renewal or disposal/termination of the product or service. Associated with each step are sequential operations that provide measurable outputs that complete the step and move the customer to the next one. In the workshop, the customer or supplier may add operations that exist or delete ones that do not exist. These operations, after discussion, are tagged as meeting requirements, exceeding requirements, or not meeting requirements (i.e., pain points). The supplier’s team usually creates the initial map using previous information from the customer’s voice of surveys and internal stakeholder feedback. The initial map will not be completely accurate, and it will be updated during the workshop. A word of caution: CEMs must be completed by actual customers and not only by internal stakeholders.

As the joint supplier/customer teams work through the use case, operations that increase friction and customer frustration (i.e., gaps in the process) are identified for action and prioritization. Prioritized actions will be grouped into common root causes or solutions (e.g., policy, automation, communications, training, process simplification, and other categories). Gaps and actions should be measurable and should have benefits for their elimination. Benefit examples include higher revenue, fewer returns, and less wasted time for the personas involved in resolving issues. This is also a good opportunity to challenge assumptions made by both teams, asking, “Do we need to do this operation that way? Where is value best added by each persona for the use case?”

As the workshop proceeds, previously internally focused operations will be refocused to look externally from the customer’s perspective to improve their experience. Innovative solutions should be investigated to reduce non-value-adding operations or rework loops. These insights will position the supplier as a strong partner to the customer. Projects will be created internally at the supplier’s and customer’s operations as well as at their interface. When the workshop and its deliverables are complete, several important post-workshop activities need to be done.

First, all of the gaps, actions, and recommendations should be organized into common groupings, known as workstreams, based on the likely root cause or solutions (e.g., policy, automation, training, etc.). Second, a sponsor, workstream lead, and team members need to be assigned to the work- streams. The lead will meet with the sponsor and team after the workshop to create a project plan. This plan will be reported out in a few weeks to the overall project manager and core team. Reports will periodically reoccur. The workstreams will then be placed on an improvement roadmap with key deliverables and actions measured and tracked to completion.

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